Monday, February 20, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 2/19

Every Sunday night (or soon thereafter, if I happen to be out seeing Mrs. Henderson Presents, as was the case last night), I try to remember the books I was reading in some past year.

This time, I rolled a 14, which sends me all the way back to 1992:
  • Colin McEnroe, Lose Weight Through Great Sex With Celebrities (The Elvis Way) (2/12)
    Humorous essays by the author of Swimming Chickens (though I can't now recall which of those two I read first). It's not one of the great funny books of all time, and I don't think I held onto it, but it was amusing enough to pass the time, and that's about all you can expect from books like this.
  • Dr. Seuss, The Seven Lady Godivas (2/13)
    I believe this had been recently rediscovered and republished at the time; it's an early work of Geisel's (predating his first kid's book by a couple of years) that tells the very very mildly titillating story of a gaggle of naked medieval sisters. It's very appropriate to try to remember it after having just seen Mrs. Henderson Presents, actually...
  • Alberto Vargas, Vargas: '20s - '50s (2/14)
    Vargas was one of the great pin-up artists, and I seem to recall this was a decent book of his work. I think I found it as a remainder after Christmas; for a few years in the early '90s there were a lot of instant remainders in B. Dalton in early January, and I got great piles of books cheaply that way.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction: Ninth Annual Collection (2/14)
    Every year, sometime in February, I find myself reading piles of the short fiction of the previous year. It started with Gardner's book (this was the second year I read it in manuscript). David Hartwell's Year's Best SF started up a few years later (I just read #11 this weekend, so the first one must have appeared in 1995), and I read that, too. For the last three years, there's also been Best Short Novels, which Jonathan Strahan edited for me at the SFBC (I'm still in the middle of this year's edition). Now, this year, I also have to read piles of fantasy stories for the WFA. I wonder if this is how the frog in the pot feels.
  • David Miller, Submarines of the World (2/15)
    Why on earth was I reading this? I bet it had lots of pictures. And I bet I found it on the giveaway shelf -- I have to say that Doubleday/Bookspan/Doubleday has had some of the best giveaway shelves in the publishing world, with lots of varied and interesting things discarded by one editor or another.
  • Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (2/16)
    A great book that I don't remember with great detail, though general impressions still linger. As always, I love reading novelists turning their hands to nonfiction.
  • Charles de Lint, Spirit Walk (2/16)
    Either de Lint was going through a very strong period in the early '90s or I've just gotten grumpier and older (and so haven't been appreciating the last few books of his I read). This was, if I'm remembering rightly, a big novel about art and life, and not tied into his ever-more-constricting Newford milieu.
  • David Bellingham, An Introduction to Greek Mythology (2/17)
    I'd already read Edith Hamilton a couple of times (and Bulfinch at least once) by this point, so I'm not sure why I was in the market for anyone else's introductions. Again, I bet it had lots of illustrations from the art of antiquity.
  • Norman Spinrad, Science Fiction in the Real World (2/18)
    This was a collection of Spinrad's columns about the SF field (from Asimov's, I think) in the '80s. I very rarely agree with Spinrad more than glancingly, but he's a great polemic writer, and this book is an entertaining and thought-provoking read. It stands against the field in the '80s in much the way Malzberg's Engines of the Night did to the '70s: it's the cri di coeur of a writer who is desperately trying to manhandle the SF world in an unlikely direction, to fit the things he wants to write. Neither one of them managed the trick, but they're both worth reading -- though I wouldn't rely on either as a history of the field of that time.
  • Martin Amis, Time's Arrow (2/19)
    Quite possibly his best novel, and one of the few really successful tours de force I've read. A doctor's life is told by an independent consciousness experiencing his life in reverse. It's not really science fiction by most definitions, but it is definitely a major fantasy novel and should be more widely read in the field.
I was a reading fiend back in the early '90s; I squandered my youth on words and paragraphs and avoided talking to people for days on end when I could. I think I'm better now.

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