Reading log: March 2009

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Books bought this month: “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” Austin Grossman; “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” Dave Eggers; “Here is New York,” E.B. White; “The Norton Anthology of American Literature” (five volumes); “Tales From the ‘White Hart,’” Arthur C. Clarke; “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” James M. Cain; “The Tummy Trilogy,” Calvin Trillin.

Books read this month: “Let’s All Kill Constance,” Ray Bradbury; “More Than Human,” Theodore Sturgeon; “Pirates of Venus,” Edgar Rice Burroughs; “Bloch and Bradbury,” Robert Bloch/Ray Bradbury.

This is the third one of these reading logs I’ve done, following recaps of January and February. Buying-wise, this was clearly an unrestrained month, although I have excuses: The first three were birthday gifts, the final three were bought used on vacation and the Norton anthologies, found in the bargain section of the Montclair Borders, cost a combined $15.95. If I can’t find $15.95 in value out of 5,600 pages of American lit, I should quit.

As for the month’s reading, for the third straight month the total is four books finished. If nothing else, I’m impressing myself.

The Bradbury novel, published in 2003, is the third in his pseudo-autobiographical pseudo-mystery trilogy, and the lesser of the three, I’m afraid. The Bloch-Bradbury book collects early short stories by the two, writing individually. The four Bradbury obscurities were worthwhile, the Bloch stories mostly excellent. “Psycho” was based on one of his works, btw.

Incidentally, I’m devoting much of my reading time this year to catching up on Bradbury books of the past couple of decades. He was a childhood favorite and, while I’ve kept buying his books, I haven’t been so good at reading them. And he’s very prolific. I think I’ve read five since last fall and expect to read a bunch more this year. Even though a lot of his later work is for devotees only, I suppose I qualify at this point.

“More Than Human” is a classic SF novel. “Human” is about six personalities who excel in certain ways (mind-reading, teleporting, etc.) but otherwise couldn’t make it among regular folks; together, working as a unit, they could be the next step in human evolution. Technically Sturgeon’s book is much better written than van Vogt’s “Slan,” which I read the previous month, but the overall concept wasn’t really to my liking.

“Pirates of Venus” was my first exposure to ERB (as he’s known) since reading “Tarzan” as a boy. Burroughs’ Venus series of four books is considered lesser after the ape man and John Carter of Mars, but it was a lively read. And the hero attended Pomona College! At some point I’ll be writing more about that, believe me.

Anyone read Burroughs, Bradbury, Bloch or Sturgeon?

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  • Dwain Kaiser

    As wonderful as his fiction was my favorite memory of Robert Bloch was as the Toastmaster at different science fiction conventions over the years. He would have the audience rolling in the aisles. In person he was a charming gentlemen, witty & clever and always willing to spend a few minutes talking with fans. Over the years he always responded with a nice note on any of my fanzines I sent him. He always said, “once a fan, always a fan.”

    One of my former customers, Bill Crawford (long gone now I’m afraid), published Bloch’s first professional sale back in 1936. That was back in the days when the goal of most sf fans was to becoming professional writers. There is an excellent collection of his fanzine pieces called The Eighth Stage of Fandom (Advent Press if memory serves me).

    Dwain Kaiser
    Magic Door Books – Quality Used Books
    In the Heart of the Art Colony

  • Randall Volm

    David,

    I have a couple of suggestions of great books for you to read, if you are interested. They’re both very funny, and real easy to read.

    One book is called “Thirty Two Third Graders and One Class Bunny” and is written by Phillip Done. The book takes you through the entire school year, through the eyes of a third-grade teacher. I just finished reading it a week or two ago, and was able to read it in a single weekend.

    The other book is called “Cancer on $5 a day (Chemo not included),” and is written by Robert Schimmel. Now, I realize there is nothing funny about cancer, however, this book really opened my eyes about life’s trials and tribulations of people that are stricken with the disease. It, too, is equally as funny if not more than the previous book I mentioned earlier. You see, Robert Schimmel is a stand-up comedian. So you know that right from the start, it’s going to be funny.

    Enjoy!