Monday, November 29, 2021

Reading Into the Past: Week of 11/29/91

No new books arrived this week, so I'm diving into my archives to list things I read in the past. The RNG sent me way back to the beginning of my reading notebook this time, so here's what I was reading this very week thirty years ago:

Dave Sim, Jaka's Story (11/24)

I've attempted to re-read Cerebus - of which this is the fifth volume - a few times since 1991, but this looks to be the last time I actually got through to the end of the what had been published to that point. (I was planning another re-read before my 2011 flood, which destroyed those books along with several thousand others.) A couple of years ago, I read the first two volumes, Cerebus and High Society, and I do have vague plans to get to at least Church & State and this book again...slightly hampered by the fact that I don't have copies of those. More speculatively, I do want to read the whole thing, even the tendentious stuff I didn't manage to get through before, eventually.

But there are a lot of things I hope to do "eventually."

Jaka's Story is probably the last really good part of Cerebus, and arguably the best story of the series. Unlike High Society, I don't think it stands on its own: you need to read up to this point for it to work. (And it's just over the two-thousand page mark, so I can see that might be a deal-breaker for some people.) When I read this again, I want to see how much it's really about consequences and aftermaths; when I read it before, I was a lot younger, and I don't know if thought that way yet.

Dave Sim, Melmoth (11/24)

And then this was the probably brand-new collection of Cerebus, retelling the story of Oscar Wilde's death through a fictional Widean character in Sim's fantasy world. (Yes, Sim was always hugely self-indulgent; every last thing he learned or cared about came out in Cerebus in nearly real-time. Before he went sour, it was exhilarating and fun. Afterward, it was just sad.)

This is one of the quirky middle-region bits of Cerebus: not clearly one of the heights (Jaka's Story, High Society, arguably all or parts of Church & State) but not one of the depths (Reads most obviously from the stuff I actually got through, though I hear parts of the end can get as bad or worse). It probably would stand on its own, oddly enough, since it has very little to do with the actual story of the larger series and is mostly Sim-does-death-of-Wilde. So it's possibly of interest to big Wilde fans.

Cynthia Manson & Charles Ardai, editors, FutureCrime (bound galleys, 11/25)

This was an anthology of stories, probably packaged by someone, that I read and that the SFBC  and offered soon afterward. (I'm not sure if I bought it; I started acquiring the fall of '91 when my boss Ellen was on a long vacation and Word Came Down to increase the number of new books in the magazine we thought we'd just finalized. As I recall, I handled a lot of small things for the first few years, and this probably counted as that.)

From ISFDB, I see that this was an all-reprint anthology, which was my guess. And the ToC is pretty good: "Barbie Murders," a strong recent Effinger story, plus a lot of other good stuff. This is massively out of print, but probably worth picking up for SF short-story lovers who happen to find it.

Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale (11/26)

I periodically think about re-reading this book, since it was that good. (I also periodically think about reading other Helprin books, but I think I've only hit maybe one in the decades since.) It's a historical fantasy novel published as mainstream, by a writer possibly better known as a right-wing crank, though his fiction is generally (I think) still very respected.

I may be burying the lede there: in memory, this is one of the massive, overwhelming fantasy novels of the world, up there with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Little, Big and similar brain-changers.

Bob Thomas, Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast (11/27)

I'm sure I got this from work, and read it mostly because it was full of nice pictures, and was up-to-date at that point. Disney has put out similar books many times since then: my guess would be a new one for every "major" movie in the past thirty years. I have no specific memory of it at all, though the cover is vaguely familiar.

Chris Achilleos, Sirens (11/27)

Achilleos was - and may still be; I'm out of touch with that end of illustration these days - a famous and regularly working illustrator, based in England, whose work had a lot of attractive women wearing not all that many clothes and brandishing various implements of destruction. Unlike say Boris Vallejo, Achilleos was not mostly a book-cover artist, and did a lot more historical work (well, at least vaguely historical, since Boudicca or whoever would inevitably have her tits out while fighting the Romans).

This was the big book that helped make him famous in the mid-80s: it collected his mature work in a classy package.

I read his later book Amazonia a few years back, if you want my more-contemporary thoughts on Achilleos. (TL; DR: he's really good at what he does, but his stuff leaves me cold for reasons I don't really understand.)

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