Friday, August 04, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 7/30

I rolled two dice this week and got a 5, so these are the books that I was reading this week in 2001:
  • Sue Grafton, "P" Is For Peril (7/23)
    I always enjoy these books while I'm reading them -- Grafton is one of the better mystery writers working today -- but I can't remember which one was which five years later. The titles certainly don't help.
  • Dave Sim & Gerhard, Church & State, Vol. 1 (7/4)
    Over the past decade, I've tried to catch up on the comic Cerebus several times; each time, I start at the beginning, gain speed through the really good years (High Society, this volume, most of the second half of Church & State, and particularly Jaka's Story), and then hit the brick wall that is Reads. I have five of the collections after Reads (though not the last two), and I'm afraid that I'll never get to them. Perhaps I'll try again one day, and that time actually blast through the Sucky Barrier of Self-Indulgent Wankery. Anyway, this is really good, but it's one half of a giant comics novel, and doesn't stand on its own. High Society and Jaka's Story do, though -- try leafing through them in a store and see what grabs you.
  • John Edward Dell, editor, Visions of Adventure: N.C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists (7/25)
    I think I got this as a remainder, because I keep thinking those old adventure-story illustrators are probably right up my alley. I didn't absolutely love it, butt it does have a lot of good art in it.
  • Joe Gores, Cons, Scams & Grifts (7/26)
    One of the DKA novels, a series notable mostly because it's about a realistic private detective agency (lots of people, lots of paperwork, no crusading, no solving of murders, no hard-boiled redheaded dames) doing mostly realistic PI work (a lot of car repo'ing). By this book, the realism had slipped a bit, since there's a band of almost preternaturally-skilled-at-car-thievery Gypsies running around, but Gores is still mostly trying to ground this in the real world. The earlier books were better, but this was still OK.
  • Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator (7/27)
    I don't know if it's fair to call this the point where the series got really dark -- since, of course, the whole thing started with a pretty depressing set-up and continued on as the Platonic ideal of Goth pre-teen misery -- but I still remember the climb up the elevator shaft, and that was an awfully powerful scene, especially for a kids' book. This series is sneaky and nasty and subversive in all the right ways; I can't wait until the final book this fall, and I hope the ending is as horrible as I suspect it will be.
  • Terry Pratchett, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (7/28)
    The first of the Discworld books to be officially a "YA" novel, which meant that it had chapters and didn't use the word "Discworld" anywhere. I think the discipline of chapters does good things for Pratchett, since the YA Discworld books are probably his best recent work.
  • Bob Mankoff, editor, The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection (7/29)
    A gigantic book of witty cartoons, created for the urban literatti of the past three generations. I enjoyed it; I really like the New Yorker cartoon style.
  • Gilles Neret, editor, Taschen Icons: Erotica, 19th Century (7/30)
    A small-format book, part of a large series of art books (not all porn, I think, but containing, as usual for Taschen, a whole lot of porn). Other people's porn can be a very weird thing, especially if those other people have been dead a hundred years and can't hide their stash or explain themselves. This stuff also vibrates (sometimes uncomfortably) between "fine art" and "porn," which makes it doubly interesting, Plus, y'know, boobies.
  • Daniel Handler, Watch Your Mouth (7/31)
    You know that Handler is the real name of the guy who writes as Lemony Snicket, right? This is his second novel, which does have a fantasy element which I will not spoil here. It's also a novel in large part about sex, providing us a double-theme for this week's reading. Watch Your Mouth isn't quite as successful as Handler's sublime first novel The Basic Eight, a modern masterpiece of unreliable narration, but it's very good.
  • Vernor Vinge, The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge (7/31)
    Vinge's stuff tends to leave me cold for some reason, and I'm not sure why. I particularly disliked "Fast Times at Fairmont High," the new novella here, which seemed to be dedicated to the dystopian idea that only the very smartest, fastest, sneakiest, luckiest, and best-connected few people will have any work at all to do in the near future (and that this is a wonderful thing, because we're following those stuck-up dweebs). I don't know what it is, but I just don't seem to connect with Vinge's stories; I probably need to try his novels and see if they work better for me.
Well, I managed to get this done before the week was over, which is an improvement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

then hit the brick wall that is Reads. I have five of the collections after Reads (though not the last two), and I'm afraid that I'll never get to them. Perhaps I'll try again one day, and that time actually blast through the Sucky Barrier of Self-Indulgent Wankery.

It is possible (and some would say desirable) to skip the text sections of Reads without missing any of what would conventionally be considered "story" or "plot".

Cerebus is full of astoundingly good bits mixed with unbelievably self-indulgent wankery right up until the very end, I'm afraid. Of course, mileage may vary as to which is which. Personally, I recommend stopping at the end of Rick's Story. If you squint a bit, it's a happy ending, stopping there.

[Hm, today's captcha is "uuhltgu", which seems like it ought to be the name of a Lovecraftian Thing.]

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