Reading log: April 2009

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Books bought this month: “The Jagged Orbit,” John Brunner; “Bob Dylan, the Essential Interviews,” Jonathan Cott; “Orange County,” Gustavo Arellano; “Between You and I; A Little Book of Bad English,” James Cochrane; “Vanishing America,” Michael Eastman.

Books read this month: “Green Shadows, White Whale,” Ray Bradbury; “Greener Than You Think,” Ward Moore; “Three to the Highest Power,” ed. William F. Nolan; “The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells; “Lost on Venus,” Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Someday I’ll actually read a book the same month I buy it, but this wasn’t the month. (One of these April purchases I’ve already read in May, at least.)

Two of the above are part of my Bradbury diet for 2009. “Green Shadows” is a fictionalized memoir of the months circa 1952 that Bradbury spent in Ireland with John Huston writing the screenplay for “Moby Dick.” He incorporates his many Ireland short stories of the past into the narrative. It’s a sentimental view of beggars and the pub crowd, enjoyable but a bit lightweight.

“Three” collects three SF novellas, by Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon and Chad Oliver, who was previously unknown to me. Each piece was entertaining.

“Greener Than You Think” is a comic SF novel about Bermuda grass that overruns first L.A. and then the world, and yet it scores points along the way on race relations and gender equality (it was published in 1947 and thus ahead of its time). The newspaper editor character is a comic gem with his rapier putdowns of the clueless narrator. More about this book in Friday’s column.

As with a lot of older SF, little care was taken in the presentation; the typesetting is atrocious, with several missing apostrophes on virtually every page, making for an odd read. But the book can be found frequently in used bookstores and is worth tracking down for devotees of L.A. disaster fiction.

“Lost on Venus” is the second in Burroughs’ Venus series. The book moves at a rapid clip and was a fun read.

As for “The Time Machine,” that was the clear winner this month. Wells, I was surprised to learn, invented the concept of a time machine. I guess someone had to. This was his first book and, despite its slim length (my copy is 126 pages), it has a lot to say about class divisions and the possible fate of humanity as our hero journeys 800,000 years, and more, into the future.

An especially sobering passage: “… all the activity, all the traditions, the complex organizations, the nations, languages, literatures, aspirations, even the mere memory of Man as I knew him, had been swept out of existence.”

I read the entire book on a day-trip to L.A., blogged about previously.

I learned from Wikipedia that there’s a “lost” chapter of “The Time Machine” cut before publication, presumably because it was too shocking. You can read it here.

After three months of reading four books per month, my reading pace picked up slightly in April to five. With 17 completed in one-third of the year, I remain on track for 50.

Comments on any of these books or authors, or your own reading, are always welcome.

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  • JohnTee

    I hope this is a reasonable place to comment on your 5/15/09 column “The Inland Valley in sci-fi.” I couldn’t find any place specifically for column comments. Anyway, thanks very much for publishing this sort of enjoyable information. FYI, I was able to locate and reserve a copy of Ward Moore’s “Greener Than You Think” through the LA County Library system; it will be delivered to the Claremont Library for me.

    [Let us know what you think of it, John. -- DA]

  • A. S. Ashley

    “I remain on track for 50.”

    I assume you mean books, not your age.

    [I hope to surpass 50 on both counts! -- DA]

  • Ted

    Gustavo Arellano’s cd on tape “Ask A Mexican” will also get you laughing and confuse you in a quirky way at the same time.

  • Kristin McConnell

    Seems like you enjoy science fiction/fantasy. Have you ever read anything by Piers Anthony? His “Xanth” series and “Incarnations of Immortality” series are great. I think you’d enjoy “Xanth” because it’s a series of puns — most of which I didn’t understand as a teenager, when I read them. I think “Incarnations” series is out of print, but I have a copy of each of them! :)

    KT

    [Haven't read him, but perhaps I'll give him a try. -- DA]