Saturday, April 30, 2016

Incoming Books: April 29

I took my first vacation day of the year yesterday, because I guess I realized I'd better start if I didn't want to lose them. (Though the new job, along with longer hours in smaller spaces and a longer commute, also features substantially less time off than the previous job. I seem to be progressing through the classical Greek ages in my own life, and have now reached the Age of Iron. [1])

But, on this rare day off, I did get over to a bookstore, and brought home some good stuff. (At least, I hope it's good stuff -- no one wants to find the book they've been looking forward to is lousy.) And here's what those books were:

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy -- a comedic young-woman-in-the-city book from the '50s; the city in this case is Paris, and I believe, as required by the form, it's semi-autobiographical. New York Review Books republished this last decade, and I've picked it up at least half a dozen times (usually at The Strand) but never managed to buy it before now. I like humorous novels, and I want to read more books by women, and I'm contrarian enough to want to read half-forgotten books whenever possible -- so this pushes a lot of my buttons.

Flashman and the Dragon and Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, both by the inimitable George Macdonald Fraser -- the last two "Flashman" books I needed to get to re-complete my set. I will re-read the whole series through at some point, but "some point" could wait quite some time.

Great Plains by Ian Frazier -- he's a New Yorker writer than I've followed for a long time, and I'm slowly knocking off the last few books of his that I hadn't gotten to yet. The two major things in that category were his major nonfiction books of the '80s and '90s: this one and Family, which I hit around the turn of this year. This is, I think, a John McPhee-esque look at the big sea of grass and corn [2] in the middle of my country.

I Was a Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan -- BEK is a well-known New Yorker cartoonist and a successful Hollywood writer (mostly TV, I think) and has made a few odd dawn books (like Everything is Going to Be Okay) and books for kids (like Monsters Eat Whiny Children). This is his memoir, presumably of a childhood that was horrible in some way -- no one ever writes a memoir about their happy childhoods -- and which I didn't know existed until I stumbled across it in the store. (Even though our current world has much more information about books available to everyone all the time, I still miss when I was hyper-connected to the book world and knew about every book I might potentially be interested in at least six months before publication. Yup, Age of Iron once again.)

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro -- you might have heard of this one; Ishiguro is a big deal, and this was a major book last year. It's now out in paper, and I do want to read it eventually -- I've liked most of Ishiguro's books, and really loved his first few novels and the dark, difficult The Unconsoled in particular. I'm still a little Ishiguro-shy after his misfired attempt at SF in Never Let Me Go. (That book had some very good things -- it was psychologically true in a way very little SF ever gets close to -- but the SFnal aspects were so bobbled that the book was horribly grating to me.)

Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami -- Murakami's first two, supposedly much more realistic novels, finally translated into English. There was a time when I'd grab each new Murakami translation and read it immediately -- hell, there was a time when I would grab anything and read it immediately -- but the Age of Iron is upon me now, and I've got at least one Murakami on the unread shelves. (Maybe two.) This is short, though, and contains two novels, so I have hopes.

Medusa's Web by Tim Powers -- Powers is one of the great writers of our time, period. He writes novels with fantasy and history intertwined in them, and is a slow enough writer that even I can keep up with him. Some of his books -- Declare, The Stress of Her Regard, Last Call -- are as good as anyone's in the world, and the rest are pretty darn good, too. I'm hoping this is one of the sublime ones; it's been a while and Powers is usually good for one of those a decade. What is it about? I don't care.

[1] If anyone wonders why this blog is so quiet lately, I offer the following math: +1.5 hours at work a day, +1 hour commuting a day, +10 days at work = a very tired hornswoggler.

[2] I might be repeating myself there: is corn grass?

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