Thursday, June 03, 2021

Reading into the Past: Week of 6/5/2007

I'm trying something, here, to keep content going on this blog. I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to try. I'm reading much less these days, working from home longer hours, which means I keep running out of books that I've read.

So I'm going to see if I can do a "Reading into the Past" post once a week, for at least a few weeks: they don't require me to read anything new. (But, Andy, you might say, why not just take that time for more reading and post less? I don't know why. But I do have a routine and structure in my life that's working right now, so I'm trying to keep, amplify and extend it rather than blow it up.)

This time out, I'm looking at the books I read in 2007:

Jack Ziegler, How's the Squid? (5/31)

This was a collection of single-panel cartoons by Ziegler, in what I think was a series of identically-formatted books by different cartoonists (though there were at least two Zieglers, maybe more) on loose themes. I think the publisher was Abrams, but I could be wrong. According to a quick Google, the theme of this one was "food," which makes sense.

Ziegler is a solid cartoonist with an inherently funny line and a towering work ethic. (I don't know the man; I infer the latter from the vast number of funny Ziegler cartoons I've seen over the years. You don't get that kind of output by accident.) I don't remember this book specifically, but any book of Ziegler cartoons will be fun.

Lemony Snicket, Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid (6/1)

This was a line-extension book by Snicket, which I think was primarily quotes from the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books, and I suspect was tossed into a pub schedule because one of those books was running later than expected. It seems to have been superseded by the more general (and less obviously bitter) Read Something Else. It was a quick read, and fun, but it was an ephemeral kind of book at the best of times, and is apparently deeply out of print now.

Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, Path of the Assassin, Vol. 4: The Man Who Altered the River's Flow (6/2)

I also read the next book, Battle of One Hundred and Eight Days, on the 6th. This series got published in English translation because it was related to (and by the same creators as) the very popular Lone Wolf and Cub, though Assassin was much meatier and difficult to follow. I enjoyed it without ever quite feeling like I really understood the political maneuvering or remembered who all of the feudal lords were. I'm surprised it hasn't come back in our post-Game of Thrones world; the intrigue in this series would appeal to a lot of GoT fans, and there's even more bloodshed in the Assassin books, if you can believe it.

Roger Ebert, Your Movie Sucks (6/3)

A great book of movie criticism by someone I only realized was one of my literary heroes after he was gone. (Isn't that always the way? Ebert was so much a part of the landscape that appreciation had to wait for his absence.) This is not a collection of general movie reviews, but specifically Ebert's second book of hatchet jobs, after I Hated Hated Hated This Movie. As usual, bile is more entertaining than praise: the prose can be stronger, the flights of fancy can be wilder, and ranting is encouraged when complaining about something. So Ebert's books about bad movies are probably his most entertaining, and almost makes a reader want to watch those movies to experience something like what Ebert did. (But only almost; they're clearly horrible.)

Donald E. Westlake, What's So Funny? (6/4)

This was the new Dortmunder novel in 2007, and I guess I waited to read the real book, since I didn't mark it as "bound galley" in my reading notebook. (I'd stopped doing reader's reports for Mystery Guild some years before, but I still knew the editors, and got books through either them or publisher contacts a lot of the time. I say this a lot: whatever you do for a living, you'll probably get a bunch of it free, so pick something you like.) I lost my old hardcover copy in the flood, but I have a new mass-market, in hopes of a big re-read of the entire series, someday, maybe. This is the one where Dortmunder and his crew are forced to steal a long-lost jewel-encrusted chess set, and I don't remember anything specific about the complications they go through to get it.

Scott Kurtz, PvP, Vol. 4: Goes Bananas! (6/5)

Obviously the fourth collection of the popular webcomic. I was still buying books collecting webcomics in those days - I guess we all were, since they were still being regularly published in books like this, rather than as Kickstarted collections with expensive rewards to make it worthwhile to a few of the fanatical and deep-pocketed. I don't remember at all what would have been in this book, but it's a good, funny gag-a-day strip with solid continuities, and has been for about twenty years now. If it had been in newspapers, it would be a national treasure by now. And I'm not sure that it isn't.

That's what I was reading this week fourteen years ago; I'm thinking I'll do this again next Thursday. We'll see if I do get that done.

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