Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reading Into the Past, Week of 1/13

I'm going to stop explaining, apologizing, and predicting at the tops of these posts, and just do then when I do them. This week the number is 12, so these are the books I was reading this time in 1996:
  • G.B. Trudeau, Doonesbury Nation (1/6)
    The then-new Doonesbury collection, back when they were short, square, and devoid of color Sundays. It's also the one with the parody of Woodstock '94 (which implies strips were being reprinted roughly a year later).
  • Andy Garcia, Awkward Universe (1/7)
    I'm pretty sure it was comics of one kind or another. Garcia did the excellent Oblivion City series for Slave Labor around that time, and I think this was either a spin-off of that or an unrelated new project. He had some real talent and ability, with a very specific viewpoint, so it's a shame that he's apparently fallen out of the comics world entirely. But it also can't be easy trying to carve an entertainment career out when you have the same name as a movie star.
  • Michael Williams, Arkady (1/7)
    I suspect it's another graphic novel, given the company, but I can't remember or Google any information about it at all. All those moments, lost in time...
  • Mike Kazaleh, The Collected Adventures of Captain Jack (1/8)
    The first collection of a pleasant anthropomorphic humor/SF comic, which I read way back before it was forgotten. I hope Kazaleh is working in animation or something similar, making big piles of cash drawing cartoons -- he was very good at it, and the direct market world never gave him much love. This series is low-key and a bit underpopulated, but the art was always snappy, and the characterizations were excellent.
  • Jim Silke, Rascals in Paradise (1/9)
    Silke is an exceptional artist in the pin-up idiom, and a passable writer when it comes to making up excuses for his female characters to get into those poses. Rascals was a retro jungle adventure, complete with spunky girl hero and lots of action. It was nothing you'd want to put on a "great graphic novels" list, but it did what it set out to do, and wasn't as leering as half of Marvel's 2007 covers.
  • Evelyn Waugh, When the Going Was Good (1/10)
    Waugh, in his first decade of book-writing, would travel somewhere cheap and knock off a travel book every time he needed money. (In another example of how Then is not Now, such books were guaranteed sellers.) He didn't have a whole lot of respect for those books, and he eventually pulled them from circulation, to be replaced with this "good parts" compilation. (The original texts are now all back in print in the Everyman's Library book Waugh Abroad, which I recommend only slightly less highly than his novels.) In 1996, I'd run through all of Waugh's novels, and this was about the only other thing in print -- I think I dug up Scott-King's Modern Europe a year or so later. When the Going Was Good is a great introduction to Waugh's travel books, and perhaps to Waugh himself. His novels are better, but Going gives you full-bore Waugh, for good or bad. (He was not a pleasant man, and that comes across much more strongly in his travel writings than his novels. But he was always an interestingly unpleasant man.)
  • Jack London, The Call of the Wild (1/11)
    I was on a classics tear that week, so I went straight from Waugh into a heaping dose of London. London is exceptionally readable, though -- the only thing that makes him "classic" is that he's a dead guy who wrote great books. Call of the Wild, like most of London's fiction, is an adventure story with depth.
  • Jack London, White Fang (1/12)
    Another damn good story about a dog wolf.
  • Jack London, Selected Klondike Short Stories (1/14)
    I'm sure "To Build a Fire" was in this; back in those days, the Library of America prided itself on publishing the complete works of notable authors, so their two volumes of London included all of his published fiction.
I was in the middle of reading the Library of America Novels & Stories volume of London's work; I finished The Sea-Wolf on the 15th and the "Selected Short Stories" section on the 16th. And, right after that, I read George Macdonald Fraser's great novel Flashman and began that series. (And then more London, with The People of the Abyss and The Road -- they were from the other Library of America London anthology, Novels & Social Writings. Ah, for the days when I'd think nothing of jumping into two thousand-page books by the same guy, one right after another, and read someone's major works in two weeks.)

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