Reading log: January 2009

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Since I’ve written about my reading goals for 2009, I might as well share what I’m reading. If I remember, I’ll write one of these posts each month. The idea, and the form, are unabashedly swiped from Nick Hornby’s (now-defunct) books column in The Believer magazine.

Books bought this month: “Shakespeare Wrote for Money,” Nick Hornby; “Highway 61 Revisited,” Mark Polizzotti; “Exile on Main Street,” Robert Greenfield.

Books read this month: “Billy Budd and Other Stories,” Herman Melville; “The Demolished Man,” Alfred Bester; “Double Indemnity,” James M. Cain; “Bradbury Speaks,” Ray Bradbury.

I liked all four, to one degree or another. “Billy Budd…” has already been featured here. “Demolished” is a ’50s SF classic in which a man plans the perfect murder in a society where the police are mind-readers. The book holds up. “Indemnity” is lean and mean and makes me want to rent the movie version again — script by Raymond Chandler, no less. The Bradbury book is a collection of essays and, although I’m a fan, is hit and miss.

Four books in January? I might actually meet my goal of 50 books this year — or at least 48.

Incidentally, I had saved “Double Indemnity” to read someday on Metrolink, because the book is a mere 125 pages. Last Saturday I took the train to L.A. for lunch and a museum visit. I opened the book on the train and by Union Station was at p. 40. I read a few more pages on the subway. At lunch at Pete’s Cafe I lingered and read more.

After the museum I walked to Clifton’s, where I enjoyed a slice of pie and a drink and read. At the subway station I got in another four pages. At Union Station for the return home, I boarded the waiting train, turned to p. 80 and started in. When we stopped in Claremont, I had two pages left. Well, I couldn’t ask them to hold the train, so I walked to my car and finished the book in the Metrolink parking lot.

A book in a single day? Haven’t done that since I was in short pants. Credit a very short book and a very gripping story.

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  • Bob House

    Excellent article on Clifton’s in today’s LAT Food section: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-cliftons4-2009feb04,0,6044348.story?page=1

    [Yes, that was a good read. -- DA]

  • Dwain Kaiser

    It’s interesting to note Clifton’s and Bradbury in the same column. Clifton’s in L.A. was the meeting place and hangout for LASFS members in the ’40s. A much younger Ray Bradbury ate many a meal there while trying to break into the pulps. If memory serves you didn’t have to pay if you didn’t like the food… I wonder how many of L.A.’s SF authors were provided with free food during those lean and hard days.

    I’m surprised you hadn’t read The Demolished Man by Bester before, it’s a classic (the first Hugo-winning novel if memory serves). I just re-read it a few years ago and was delighted to discover how well it held up, something not always true of nearly 60-year-old SF novels.

    Have you read The Stars My Destination by Bester yet? It’s a short hop from that to reading (or re-reading) those great adventure novels by Dumas. I remember after reading the Bester I first read The Count of Monte Cristo and after that a dozen or more Dumas classics.

    Those slowed down my reading average, during High School I often knocked off three/four SF novels a day (it was all short novels in the field in the day). For awhile I kept track of the novels I read, a couple of years I broke 1,000 books a year (no wonder I didn’t have much of a social life outside of SF fandom)… nowadays I’m lucky to read a couple of novels a week. Even at that rate I’m glad I own a used bookstore.

    Dwain
    Magic Door Books

    [I'm surprised I hadn't read Demolished Man too, especially since I'd owned it for probably 25 years or more. Ditto with Stars My Destination, which I likewise plan to read this year. Right now I'm reading Slan by A.E. van Vogt. Next time I see you, you'll have to tell me how to pronounce his name! -- DA]