Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Reading Into the Past: Week of 3/4

This week my randomizer gave me the number 14, so I'll see what I can remember about the books I was reading around this time in 1993:
  • Chris Achilleos, Medusa (2/26)
    Achilleos is a British illustrator -- either Greek-born or just of Greek ancestry, I don't recall which -- who was quite popular in the '80s heroic fantasy boom, though I haven't seen his work (on book covers at least) much recently. This was the first book of his I saw, though I think there was one before this. He had an extensive series of paintings of women half-dressed in various historical/ethnic martial costumes, as well as quite a lot of media tie-in work -- he was (probably still is, for all I know) very good at likenesses. This is his "big book," as far as I know -- if you're interested in his work, this is the one to start with.
  • Betty Ballantine, editor, The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, Book Three and The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta, Book Four (2/26)
    (For those who care, I read Book One on 2/23 -- along with Sara Paretsky's Guardian Angel -- and Book Two on 2/24 -- along with William Poundstone's The Ultimate.) None of the books in this series had an excess of text, so "reading" them was really just looking at a lot of Frazetta art. Nothing wrong with that!
  • Carolyn McKee, editor, Let's Go 1993: the Budget Guide to Britain and Ireland (2/26)
    Planning for my honeymoon, part one.
  • Fodor's Scotland '92 (2/26)
    And part two.
  • Nigel Suckling, Heroic Dreams (2/27)
    A book of fantasy art from various artists. I think I still have it, but I don't remember it as being anybody's best work.
  • Andre Norton, Golden Trillium (2/27)
    Is the "Trillium" series the most complicated for the fewest books? (I think so.) Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Julian May wrote Black Trillium (which I never read) together -- each writing the story of one of three sisters. Then, they each went off with their separate contracts (from the same publisher) to write their separate sequels. MZB's was first, and covered all three sisters, and made major changes to the world. Norton's book (this one) followed, focused narrowly on her character, and completely contradicted MZB's book. May's novel, as I recall, tried to play nice with both of the previous sequels (which was a valiant effort, but didn't quite work), and then one or more of them kept going and it got really messy. This one is very much Late Norton in full Backwards Syntax Mode; if you like that sort of thing, you'll enjoy it, but I found a little went a long way. (And there are better Late Norton books than this, with less convoluted backstories.)
  • Martyn Dean, editor, Dream Makers (2/28)
    Another book of random fantasy art, like Heroic Dreams. Hm... was this the one that's mostly not very good?
  • Gahan Wilson, "...And Then We'll Get Him!" (3/1)
    A great collection of cartoons by one of the masters of the form. Somebody should do a "complete cartoons of Gahan Wilson." Or at least a big fat hardcover retrospective; he's definitely worth it.
  • Tanith Lee, The Book of the Damned (3/1)
    One of the "Secret Books of Paradys," about a decadent alternate fantasy Paris. Lee is an old friend of my boss Ellen Asher's, which is one reason I read these. (The other is that Lee is an interesting writer, though hugely and sadly out of fashion these days.) I can't remember what happened in this one, though I doubt it ended well.
  • Bruce Pennington, Ultraterranium (3/1)
    A single-artist collection that I barely remember. Pennington is British, and I don't recall seeing his work lately -- which could be because he's moved on to other things or just that he works on British projects.
  • Tanith Lee, The Book of the Beast (3/2)
    Another Lee book from the same series as Book of the Damned.
  • Geoff Ryman, The Unconquered Country (3/2)
    A great novella, published as a book for this edition -- the early '90s saw one of the periodic flourishings of SFF novellas as books, which never last very long -- which is not at all an allegory for Cambodia. Perish the thought...
  • Norman W. Schur, British English, A to Zed (3/2)
    A fat book, made up of a long list of words that mean something different to the British than they do to the Americans. Since I enjoy books of words anyway, and was going to be traveling to the UK, this was a joy to poke through for several months -- it was actually a Christmas present, and one of the best unexpected ones I ever got.
  • Betty Ballantine, editor, The Fantastic World of Gervasio Callardo (3/2)
    Callardo, unlike Frazetta, did not get multiple volumes. And I think his hothouse surrealism has dated much more than Frazetta's loose dynamism; I recall thinking Callardo's stuff looked awfully of its time back in 1993. (Though I must admit I haven't looked at this since.)
  • Patrick Suskind, Perfume (3/3)
    A mesmerizing, creepy fantasy novel from a German writer who I don't think we ever saw again on the shores of the land of Spec Fic. I'm not sure if I read this because it had won the World Fantasy Award -- though that might have been one reason -- I think I'd been looking for it for a few years, and it had just been republished at this point.
  • Jim Fitzpatrick, The Silver Arm (3/3)
    Fantasy art of a Celtic stripe; it was decent but not really something I loved.
  • P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Morning (3/4)
    The beginning of a huge Jeeves burst (well, almost, I read Carry On, Jeeves on 2/12) that saw me read another dozen Wodehouse books by mid-June (including one I bought in London because it wasn't in print in the US -- in those days, you planned your book-buying on an intercontinental trip.). This is one of the very best of the Jeeves books, which means it's about as close to pure joy as a piece of fiction can get.
  • Howard Pyle (3/4, author unrecorded by me or uncredited on the book)
    I don't love Pyle the way some people do, but I enjoy his work, and this was a nice collection of it.
Yes, I read nineteen books in seven days. (Admittedly, ten of them were art books, and three were guidebooks, but that's still on top of five novels and a novella in a week.) Two related things were going on then: one, I was getting married in a couple of months (late May), so I was working on honeymoon plans, and two, I was in the middle of two moves (my company was moving for the second time in two years, across town to the new Bertelsmann building in Times Square, and I was moving from my mother's house to an apartment where my wife-to-be would soon join me) so I was trying to read and get rid of books where possible. So I was on a Read-An-Art-Book-A-Day-On-Top-Of-Whatever-Else kick. (And I ended up reading sixty-eight books that March, including twenty-four novels and that year's Dozois Year's Best; I really did read a hell of a lot more before this Internet thing got going.)

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