Monday, July 12, 2021

Reading Into the Past: Week of 7/12/00

Nothing in the mail again, no new books purchased. And I haven't been listing digital things when I get them - for example, last month I got Comfort Station by Donald Westlake from the library via Hoopla and slightly earlier I got Lawrence Block's new memoir A Writer Prepares directly from the publisher. (That is the tiniest of jokes: Block self-published.) I've already written reviews for both of those, but never said "hey, this is a new thing I am now reading."

And I'm currently digitally reading Kij Johnson's The River Bank - a sequel to The Wind in the Willows, somewhat authorized I think - which will turn up as a post here someday after I finish it. But I've mentioned my troubles keeping track of digital books before, so I'll keep them excluded until I actually read them.

So, instead, back to the random number generators of the Internet, and let's see what I was reading this week in the fabulous Year of the Future, 2000!

Scott McCloud, Reinventing Comics (7/6)

This was the middle book of McCloud's "Comics" trilogy, after 1993's still-classic Understanding Comics and 2006's more meat-and-potatoes Making Comics. I suspect it's the most dated of the three now: either this or the third had a lot of material on possibilities for micropayments and new forms of comics on the web, which mostly turned out not to happen the way McCloud predicted. I haven't read it since then, and I'm neither a serious student of new kinds of comics or an actual maker of comics, so I could well be wrong. McCloud is always interesting about things he's enthusiastic about, and he's enthusiastic about comics in a way few other people can match.

Martin Amis, Experience (7/8)

I don't remember if he used the Wilde quote ("...the name everyone gives to their mistakes") as an epigraph; that might have been too on the nose, even for Amis. This was a general memoir of his life, up to that point. (It was published that year, when Amis was fifty.) My memory is that it felt deeply honest, full of emotions dredged up and explained clearly, out of a long, messy, tumultuous life - no one on the outside can ever say if a memoir is really honest, but we can say it feels that way. I always like Amis as a writer of prose, and I usually like him as a thinker of thoughts: he's smart and disciplined and usually unsentimental. As I recall, this is one of his better books.

Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, Wheelers (bound galleys, 7/9)

This was a SF novel by the two British scientists who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on the "Science of Discworld" books, and who each wrote a shelf of popular science books separately. They later wrote a sequel, but I think that was the end of their SF career. This was a first contact novel, set in the solar system, of the imminent-danger-to-Earth subcategory: Jovian creatures nudged a comet so it wouldn't hit them, which unfortunately sent it towards a certain inner-system planet you and me hold dear. I think we did this in the club, so I must have liked it at the time and/or thought it was the kind of thing a lot of other people would like. But I don't have any independent memory of it.

Jerry Oltion, Abandon in Place (bound galleys, 7/10)

This was the expansion of a novella that I think I also read, so I will likely have only confused memories of the two versions twenty years later. It's also one of the burst of Space Nostalgia stories that popped up like fungus around the turn of the century: I disliked them at the time, and possibly dislike them even more in retrospect. This is the one with a phantom Saturn V taking off immediately after Neil Armstrong's death, and that makes me shudder just to think of it.

Robert Park, Voodoo Science (7/12)

This was a book of essays by a noted physicist (chairman of the department at U of Maryland, ran an office of the American Physical Society) about how science actually works, some recent potentially groundbreaking discoveries, and how to tell which new surprising scientific claims are likely to be true, which are likely to be exaggerated, and which are likely to be fraudulent. It was new at the time, and I think it was one of the better entries in that skeptical genre: sadly, we need new books to debunk the new frauds and exaggerated claims almost weekly these days.

Right before that week I finished Jo Walton's novel The King's Peace (the first of her Sulien books, more-or-less historical Arthurian works with, as I recall, only the tiniest bits of fantasy). And immediately after I read J.G. Ballard's Myths of the Near Future, his 1982 short-story collection.

I think of the days after my sons were born (the first in early 1998, the second at the end of 2000) as when I slowed down reading, but the evidence suggests I was still chugging along in mid-00, even with one toddler in hand and a new baby on the way. I guess it all went to hell slightly later.

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