Monday, May 23, 2022

Reading Into the Past: Week of May 25, 1991

Here's how this is going to go. I'm going to use a random number generator to pick a year, from 1991 to 2007. I'll look up in my reading notebook to see what I was reading at that time in that year. I'll list those books here. I'll write something about what I remember about those books, if anything.

And then we'll all move on with our lives, with a new, probably not all that profound, appreciation of the vagaries of memory and the destructive power of accumulating years.


The year is 1991. See my post from 2006 for the weird quirks of my very early reading notebook (including those random numbers, which are pages, my early trackable metric), if you care. Here's what I listed as "Week Ending 5/25":

Harris, The Silence of the Lambs (386)

We all know what this is, right? "Harris" is Thomas Harris, and this is the second of his thrillers set in the Hannibal Lecter-verse. It's a very good thriller, as I recall.

My only real question is whether I read it after seeing the movie, or if I read it because I was expecting to see the movie. I know I saw the movie first-run, and that opened in February of 1991, so, on preponderance of evidence, and noting that Young Andy was 22 years old at this point, I'm going to say I saw the movie first (something which has tended to reverse in the years since).

Jennings, The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire (end, 208)

I am pretty sure this was a big, relatively serious history book about early America. I was probably interested in it because the Iroquois nation extended across the places I grew up (and have lived since then). Let me see if I can find it and validate my memory.

Looks like I remember correctly: it's Francis Jennings, the book won at least one award, and it was fairly new at the time, having come out in 1990. And it's part of a three-book series (maybe the middle one?) by Jennings about various ways Native nations coped and dealt with settlers in North America - those all adding up to "not well" in the end, but it took a couple of hundred years to get there.

Rucker, The Hollow Earth (308)

A great, though less typical, novel by one of my favorite authors, Rudy Rucker. Edgar Allan Poe adventures into the Symmesian hollow earth! This was, I think, pretty new at the time, but - from the fact that I seem to have read the finished book - I assume that I was not reading it as a potential SFBC offering. It, or Rucker, may have been just too weird. 

Ballard, The Day of Creation (254)

One of the many apocalyptic novels by J.G. Ballard, who I was working my way through at the time. (I don't think anything of his was ever considered for the SFBC during my years there; most readers are philistines, as always.)

I thought this was one of the early books, from the '60s, but I misremembered: it was his 1987 novel, so fairly new at the time. It is an apocalypse, about a driven doctor in Africa obsessed with making the Sahara bloom. I don't remember the details, but I bet he does it while drinking a lot, and downed airplanes and drained swimming pools somehow are important. My flippancy aside, all of Ballard is worth reading.

Eco, Travels in Hyperreality (307)

I read Umberto Eco's big smart-people novels - The Name of the Rose and Foucalt's Pendulum - like everyone else in those days. And I liked them, so I moved into his non-fiction to see if I could find some of the same kick. 

This collection of essays came out in 1990 - at least, the English-language edition did; I'm not sure if it was a new assemblage for the American market or a straight translation of something existing in Italian - and was marketed heavily to people like me. (It succeeded, not just with me.) My memory is that this one is his "essays about America" book, which shows marketers and editors were just as cynical then are they are now.

O'Brien, Going After Cacciato (338)

One of the great novels to come out of Vietnam, though that's about all I remember about it. The author is Tim O'Brien, and I should probably re-read it someday. (I do have his If I Die in a Combat Zone, which I think is a memoir, on my to-be-read shelves for something different, if I want that.)

Norton and Lackey, The Elvenbane (typescript, end, 454)

I read a lot of Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey in my years at the SFBC. I was not a huge fan of Late Norton: I thought her style got clotted and she spent a lot of time on tedious fantasies that didn't show her strongest writing. But she was super-popular, so I guess I was the outlier. Lackey I thought of as a guilty pleasure for a long time, I guess largely because her books were so "girly," about telepathic bonding and relationships and magical sparkly horses and so on. But, at some point, I realized there was nothing guilty about it: she wrote fun books that I enjoyed, and she did a bunch of them in the '90s. So I guess I grew up, at least a little bit.

This was planned to be a Big Deal, and I think was at least a Moderate Deal. It was the era of engineered fantasy Events, like Black Trillium, in which editors brokered treaties among big fantasy writers to have them write Even Bigger fantasies together. As I remember, this launched a trilogy, which was pleasant but not as wonderful as anyone hoped it would be. And it seems to now be out of print, in the way of all things.

Various periodicals (438)

Yes, I kept track of pages read in magazines in those days. (OK, this would also include Comics Buyer's Guide, a weekly in newspaper broadsheet format, but it was mostly glossy magazines.) No idea exactly what it was, nor would I or anyone else care.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In two weeks, I would graduate college.

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