Books acquired: “Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews,” Sam Weller; “Motherless Brooklyn,” Jonathan Lethem; “Dress Her in Indigo,” John D. MacDonald; “The Invisible Man,” H.G. Wells.
Books read: “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury; “From the Land of Fear,” Harlan Ellison; “The Fortress of Solitude,” Jonathan Lethem.
Our theme, such as it is, this month is the letter F, with one to three of ‘em in each title (including implied F’s in Four-Fifty-One). Would’ve been better had I finished four or five, but I could only get through three. Hey, at 500 pages “Fortress” is one of the longer books I’ve tackled this year.
“Fahrenheit,” which I’ve read twice before, was a must because it’s Pomona’s choice for its Big Read citywide reading program. “Fortress” was chosen because not only have I meant to read it for a few years, but its author is a big deal who’ll be teaching at Pomona College starting in January, and if I’m going to interview him (as I hope to), it’d be nice if I’d read his most famous novel. I rounded out the month with “From…Fear,” an Ellison collection that’s been sitting on my shelf a while.
“Fahrenheit 451″ only improves with age. In the 1970s, when I first read this 1953 novel, it simply seemed like a science fiction story. I read it again circa 2004 when the book’s wall-consuming televisions began to seem less fanciful. That’s even more true in 2010; ditto with the “seashell radios” everyone sticks in their ear. Bradbury even posits a future in which women routinely give birth via Caesarean section to avoid trauma, which I believe has also largely come to pass. I still prefer “The Martian Chronicles” and have to say that in its hard edge and action “Fahrenheit” is unlike almost anything Bradbury ever wrote. But it’s for the ages.
“The Fortress of Solitude,” published in 2003, is a semi-autobiographical novel about a bohemian white kid growing up in a mixed-race Brooklyn neighborhood in the 1970s amid Marvel comics, gentrification, funk music, stoop ball, graffiti and drugs; the story then propels forward into 1999 to deal with the aftermath. Densely written, obsessively detailed and literary, it’s probably too weird for the average reader, but I liked it and expect to read more by Lethem (such as “Motherless Brooklyn,” which I’ve already bought).
“From the Land of Fear,” from 1967, is an SF-oriented collection of stories by Ellison, including “Soldier” in two versions, as a short story and as a teleplay Ellison wrote for “The Outer Limits.” Some good stuff, but it’s one of his weaker books.
These three constitute books 43, 44 and 45 for me in 2010. My goal of 50 is within striking distance.
For those who want to know where these books came from, this copy of “451” was bought at Brand Books in Glendale around Labor Day, “Fortress” came from the Book Rack in Ventura in 2008 and “Fear” has been in my possession long enough that I can’t remember where it came from!
Anyone read any of the above? Surely some of you have read “451.” Or share what you’ve been reading. It can have any letter in the title you like.