Monday, October 18, 2021

Reading Into the Past: Week of 10/18/06

This time out, I'm looking at the books I read this week in 2006, as determined by the RNG built into Google. (And if we can't trust a piece of immediately-accessible software built by a shadowy global megacorporation, what can we trust?) Let's see if I know anything interesting about any of them.

Note: after starting this list, and typing out the titles, I realized I was doing a Book-a-Day stretch during that time, so I probably have old posts for all of these books. I'm going to still see what I remember about them, and link to the old posts, too. (Partially in horror, since I was pretty sketchy and dismissive as a writer-about-books back then.)

Cash Peters, Gullible's Travels (10/12)

My memory is that it was some variety of travel book, by a tiny press - I'm pretty sure I picked it up at work, from the fabled discard shelf - and that I enjoyed it and have never seen anything else by the author.

My old post confirms the travel book aspect: it was the culmination of Peters' career as "The Bad Taste Tourist" on public radio, in which he went to strange tourist attractions and reported on how strange they were. And the book itself was from 2003 (so maybe not immediately from the discard shelf in 2006, but maybe so) and Amazon throws up its hands and calls the publisher UNKNO. If you see this book - you probably won't; it's pretty obscure, he said in his best hipster voice - grab it, because it is a fun slice of American, heavy on the cheese, served with a great sarcastic voice.

Matt Haig, The Dead Fathers Club (bound galleys, 10/13)

For this one, I remember the cover - dark and evocative - and have a vague sense that it was a riff on Hamlet. I thought it was really good at the time, though I don't think I've read anything else by Haig since then. Note also that the title does not have an apostrophe: this is a club made up of multiple fathers, who are all dead.

According to my old post, I read it for work, and I can't recall if the SFBC ended up doing it. (ISFDB does list an edition as "Viking/SFBC," which is not how any of this works, though I think I know what they mean.) I see I was really impressed with it at the time, though the book-club crew did not agree with the original publisher about whether the book was funny or not - my guess is that it's all pretty dark, which can be funny. I'd probably find it funnier now.

Anyway, it is a riff on Hamlet, with an eleven-year-old hero whose father has just died under mysterious circumstances and whose family business (a pub; this is England) is falling under the shadow of a suspicious uncle. And I also see that Haig has written a bunch of books since, many of which sound just like my kind of thing.

Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, Lost Girls, Book 1 (10/14)

This is obviously the first third of the big pornographic comic series about Alice (of Wonderland), Dorothy (of Oz), and Wendy (of Neverland) and the things their genitals and those of some others get up to in some big hotel in...Switzerland, I want to say? probably in the teens? I had a copy of the original three-volume edition, which I had to hide - it was very pornographic, and I had young boys in the house - but it was destroyed in the flood. I think I now have the one-volume edition, quietly hiding in the graphic novel shelves upstairs. (I learned the better way to hide things from boys is to stick them on shelves in their rooms; they'll never look there!)

My old post is short, since I was saving up the larger thoughts for the third book. But we all know what Lost Girls is, don't we?

C.J. Cherryh, Deliverer (10/15)

This was a book in the series about the atevi and the humans living on their planet. I think I read ten or so of these, and that they were all organized in trilogies. Oh, and the main human character - Bren Cameron? - was always in over his head, and often injured, so he ran around frantically while aliens did things alienly and there was eventually a mostly happy ending. I remember liking these, but, in retrospect, they seem oddly formulaic.

My old post is no help: it notes that it's the finale of the third trilogy (so book 9) but says no more than that. I do see there are now twenty-one (!) of these books now.

Richard Scarry, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (read twice to my younger son, 10/16)

I'm not sure why I listed this in the reading notebook: I was reading a lot of picture books to my younger son at the time, usually 3-6 a night, from the couple of hundred we had in the house and another dozen or so out from the library at any given time. Picture books are fun! I miss that part of my life; being connected to the picture-book world is wonderful.

Anyway, Richard Scarry is one of the greats of the 20th century - his stuff may be dating now, but I hope not, since he side-stepped potential racial issues by making all of his characters random animals, so it would mostly be the Sexism Fairy that could potentially wallop his stuff - and this is one of the big books from his life. (Scarry became a brand, so readers need to look out for the books that he actually did, and avoid the ones based on TV shows based on his ideas based on books.)

My old post is actually pretty long and detailed, saying some of what I just typed above in a different way. If you have young children interested in the world, Scarry's What Do People Do All Day? is still awesome. And the kind of kids who like noisy machinery - typically boys, but not always - will love this book as well.

Ralph Keyes, "Nice Guys Finish Seventh" (10/17)

I think this was a book of quotes: probably specifically about debunking misquotes. The title is from Casey Stengel, I think, and he didn't say "last" because there were seven teams in the division at that point, and he was more specific than "last." Let's see if I remember right....

(Well, before I get to my old post, I put in the Amazon link, and the subtitle is "False phrases, spurious sayings, and familiar misquotations," so one point for me.)

My old post shows that I did remember it right: this book is the kind of thing that Quote Investigator does regularly these days, and that most people take no notice of.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Memories of My Melancholy Whores (10/18)

Well, this is mildly famous, by a guy who I think won the Nobel (if not, it was mostly because he died first; he had that level of fame and acclaim). As I recall, it was a short first-person book by an old ugly man, and it focused mostly on one particular woman, who was, of course, much younger than the narrator. I have a vague sense it was squicky, and even if it wasn't to me then, it probably would be to a large number of people now.

My old post shows me that I found it squicky then, and that it was vastly more squickly than I remembered: the old guy is 90, the girl is a specially-procured virgin of 14, and he arrives to watch her sleep repeatedly. I suppose it's meant to be uplifting that he never actually wakes her up to fuck her, or fucks her in her sleep, or...I'm sorry, my eyes will bug out of my head if I try to complete this sentence.

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