Reading log: November 2009

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Books bought this month: “The Art of the Lathe,” B.H. Fairchild; “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest,” B.H. Fairchild; “Usher,” B.H. Fairchild.

Books read this month: “The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories,” ed. Ray Bradbury; “The Art of the Lathe,” B.H. Fairchild; “Richard II,” William Shakespeare; “Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow,” ed. Ray Bradbury; “Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest,” B.H. Fairchild.

2009 is winding down and so is my year of reading. Yet in November I raged, raged against the dying of the light by galloping through five more books. Why, you’d think it was March or something.

This month saw me read two collections by Claremont poet B.H. Fairchild, two fantasy anthologies from the 1950s edited by my boy Ray Bradbury and, just to mix it up, a play by William Shakespeare.

The Fairchild books were fine stuff, and acclaimed: “Art of the Lathe” (1998) was a National Book Award finalist, “Early Occult Memory Systems” (2003) a National Book Critics Circle Award winner. The working class, oil fields, the desolation of the small-town Midwest, memory, baseball, jazz, old movies and art are among his subjects. Anyone who can base a good poem on “Creature From the Black Lagoon” should earn our admiration.

The Bradbury-chosen anthologies (featuring only one Bradbury story between the two of them) were intriguing, full of surprising choices. Authors such as John Cheever, John Steinbeck, E.B. White, Christopher Isherwood and others who aren’t fantasy writers managed to have written something with a fantastic element, and that was good enough. Bradbury was obviously trying to legitimize his chosen field. Many of these stories originally appeared in the New Yorker.

Shirley Jackson, author of “The Lottery,” is represented in each book, with stories that make me want to read more by her. Ditto with Robert M. Coates, whom I’d never heard of before. His story “The Hour After Westerly,” in “Timeless,” is about a New England commuter who loses an hour on a drive home through the country and remembers none of it; he later retraces his possible route and finds hints he made quite an impression. The whole thing is tantalizingly elusive.

The “Dr. Lao” book is long out of print, although I found up a copy a few months back for $3. The “Timeless” book is out of print too, but less far, and ’70s editions can still be found at used bookstores.

As for Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” a production of that was performed recently at Pomona College and I thought I’d reread the play, for the first time since college, before seeing it. It’s one of his history plays and, while not his A material, even his B material is nothing to sneeze at.

(I wrestled with whether to count it as a book since technically I read it from an 1,800-page, closely spaced “Riverside Shakespeare” textbook of the Bard’s complete works. But one can buy any of Shakespeare’s plays separately, it took me six hours over a week to read it and I’ve read books this year that didn’t take me that long. So I counted it.)

This brings me to 55 books for the year. I’ve already finished a 56th and am expecting to end the year at 58. No point in running up the score.

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  • Jim Lugenbeel

    Looking at your reading log stirred up some old memories of the Laura Ingalls Wilder room at the old Pomona Library when it was located on the north side of the tracks. I used to go in there and read for hours, and then check out books and take them home. There was a whole series of “The Adventures of David Dunkirk” in various venues of WW2. Jack London and Zane Grey were two of my favorite authors in those days. If you know where I can find some of those books, I would appreciate knowing…. my taste today is a little more mundane, with authors such as James Patterson, Michael Connelly, John Sanford, Dean Koontz and Joseph Wambaugh among others of that genre…incidentally, the Old Pomona Library is also where I met my late wife, so it has a special place in my heart!!

    [London's books are easy to find (aren't they?) at libraries and bookstores. For Grey, better look for a used bookstore. Try the Book Rack in La Verne. As for the "Dunkirk" series, poke around online on eBay. -- DA]

  • RK

    At least here at the Rancho Cucamonga libraries, we have 20+ different titles by Zane Grey and all of the usual Jack London (plus some anthologies of his plays [didn't know he wrote any!], short stories, and even something called The radical Jack London: writings on war and revolution). Guess there was more to him than White Fang and Call of the Wild!

    [Nice to know: RC's twin libraries boast lots of London, and they're Zane-y too! -- DA]

  • http://www.hughcmcbride.com hugh.c.mcbride

    Another impressive month, DA — though I have to admit to an initial shock at seeing The Riverside Shakespeare in the photo (before reading the post). I mean, I know yer an accomplished reader, but knocking back the entirety of the Bard in 30 days would’ve had me worrying for your sanity (not to mention wondering if/when/how you found time to eat, sleep & mock the area’s various city council members).

    After having read the post, I definitely agree that “Richard II” belongs in your ledger. (And I’m sure that my approval will mean as much to you as your “nothing to sneeze at” review would’ve meant to ol’ Bill :-)

    As for your upcoming reads, the BH Fairchild collections sound intriguing. Not familiar with them myself, but you (and a cursory Google-guided glance) have piqued my interest.

    [He and I are due to sit down for an interview in the near future, the result of which may pique your interest even further. (Or, I suppose, dampen your interest.) You may see The Riverside Shakespeare in more photos in 2010 if I decide to read the rest of the four-cycle Henry plays. -- DA]

  • Bob House

    We’re going to have to start calling you “Mo,” because you are a reading “mo-chine.” Any details on “the old library” mentioned by Mr. Lugenbeel? I’m only familiar with what is apparently the “new” one, between 6th and 7th Streets.

    [The "new" one was built in the '60s; the old one was also downtown, but I'm not sure where, and was razed. Readers? -- DA]

  • Allan

    I was prompted by Ms. Lois to respond, so here we go:

    According to a 1952 City Directory (I just picked one up at random) — Pomona Public Library was at 380 N. Main. The “Library History” display a few steps away from my desk mentions that the old Carnegie library had been there from 1903 to 1965.

    Images of the old library featuring the Goddess statue:
    http://content.ci.pomona.ca.us/u?/Landmarks,2560
    http://content.ci.pomona.ca.us/u?/Landmarks,2559
    http://content.ci.pomona.ca.us/u?/Landmarks,2561
    http://content.ci.pomona.ca.us/u?/Landmarks,2568

    [Thanks to you -- and to Ms. Lois. Pomona Public Library rules! -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    I’m a little bit late to this, but… I was going to say the very same thing Hugh said about seeing the Shakespeare book in the middle of all those others and having the initial reaction of WTH?? (Internet speak for “what the heck??”).

    HEY HUGH STOP STEALING ALL THE GOOD COMMENTS BEFORE I CAN MAKE THEM.

    [I was wondering wherefore art thou, Doug. So if I'm reading your note correctly, you're complaining that Hugh's on first? Friends, Pomonans, countrymen, lend Doug your jeers. -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    Dave… funniest response you’ve ever written, and that’s a pretty high standard to reach. :-)

  • Bob House

    Saw an article in today’s NY Times that might be helpful for you and other (me included) compulsive book buyers who may have need to cull their collection.

    http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/27/books-you-can-live-without/

    [Culling books is good for the soul. Then again, so is keeping them. -- DA]