Reading log: June 2011

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Books acquired: “Surf Beat,” Kent Crowley.

Books read: “The Rough Guide to the Velvet Underground,” Peter Hogan; “Captain Blood,” Rafael Sabatini; “A Touch of Infinity,” Harlan Ellison; “Run for the Stars/Echoes of Thunder,” Harlan Ellison/Jack Dann, Jack C. Haldeman II.

June was a four-book month, with no theme, just a few things I wanted to read. I got off to a slow start, reading “The Velvet Underground Companion” (Albin Zaks, ed.) to page 57 before deciding its collection of mostly amateurish writings about one of my favorite bands was too obscure. First book I’ve abandoned since starting these reading chronicles.

Then I smoothly transitioned to my bookshelves’ third and last unread Velvets tome, “The Rough Guide to the Velvet Underground,” which was a good basic biography and discography. I bought this at Rhino Records in 2009. Didn’t finish it until June 20, which didn’t bode well for June’s reading.

“Captain Blood,” acquired from a friend in May, was timely as I’d just seen the 1935 Errol Flynn-Olivia de Havilland adaptation. The 1922 novel, about an Irish physician in the 17th century who ends up commanding a pirate ship in the New World, is great fun. The movie sensibly compressed the action and is recommended in its own right.

I closed out the month with two Harlan Ellison books. “A Touch of Infinity,” from 1960, was his first science fiction story collection. It’s never been reprinted in full, perhaps because it’s short and only passable. I bought it off eBay in 2008. It’s an Ace Double, with a second Ellison book, also unreprinted, on the other side, but I didn’t read that. (Titled “The Man With 9 Lives,” it seems ripe to be read some month with other books whose titles begin “The Man…,” of which I have four or five.)

Instead, I read “Run for the Stars,” an Ellison novella about a junkie who is implanted with a bomb against his will to thwart, or at least delay, an alien invasion. It’s paired with an unrelated, American Indian-focused SF story by other authors. Neither was all that hot. I bought this maybe five years ago at Bookfellows in Glendale and read it in one day last week.

(There was a minor amount of cheating here. A slightly shorter version of “Run for the Stars” was included in “A Touch of Infinity.” I opted to skip that and read Ellison’s 1985 revision instead, rather than read virtually the same novella twice. Sue me. Life is short and I have too many unread books to observe all the niceties.)

So, four books for June. This puts me at 36 books for the year to date. Getting to 50 by Dec. 31 shouldn’t be a problem. Do I hear 60? Or 70?

July will be devoted to books with traffic-related titles (even though most aren’t really about traffic). It’ll be like taking a road trip from my armchair.

Enough of my reading. What have you folks been reading?

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  • John Clifford

    Finally finished the Mark Twain Autobiography, Volume 1. I had read the introduction, but didn’t feel the need to read the 200+ pages of explanatory notes. Glancing through them, I feel that I got a lot of the references through context and delving that deeply wouldn’t add much.

    So now I’m reading Celebrating Ourselves African Americans and the Promise of Baseball by Pomona’s own Daryl Grigsby. A wonderful book about the game of baseball and what it meant to the African-American community from the days of slavery to today. It’s not a bunch of baseball statistics but a book that delves into the deeper meanings of America’s pastime to the African-American community.

    [Thanks, John. We won't hold your avoidance of 200 pages of notes against you. -- DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    I had a productive reading June, to make up for the rest of the years lack of books, but most of these 21 were around the 200-page mark, so they went fast. I keep getting error messages, so maybe the website doesnt believe I read this many.

    A.Allston (Star Wars: Conviction) Part of a multi-year series, it still doesnt seem to have a clear ending yet.

    J.Lester (Times Memory) A slave on her way to the Americas is carrying the spirit of an African god; this child later has the gods spirit enter other people throughout the USAs history. Very interesting young adult novel.

    I.Frazier (Humor Me) Surprisingly, a mostly non-funny anthology of contemporary writers.

    S.Spielberg (Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind) It follows the film very closely, in plot and style, something not always the case with adaptations.

    W.Faulkner (Sound & the Fury) Very thick and confusing in details, hard to follow when and who is going on.

    S.Bee (I Know I am But What Are You?) By one of the Daily Show correspondents; very personal and often LOL-level funny.

    J.Pollack (The Pun Also Rises) A history of the misunderstood device, with a lot of cited sources; very interesting. The authors name isnt pronounced like the stereotyped joke.

    C.Castaneda (Active Side of Infinity) This is a compilation of some of his conversations with his Yaqui native spiritual guide; very Yoda-esque advice from Don Juan Matus.

    F.Dixon (Hardy Boys:Jungle Pyramid) and C.Keene (Nancy Drew:Mystery at Lilac Inn) I realized Id never read a book from either series; case closed.

  • Will Plunkett

    Part two…

    G.Cooper (Homers Odyssey) About a blind cat, written somewhat to match the Greek poets epic.

    B.Hetzog (Turn Left at the Trojan Horse) Another Odyssey-style book, as the author drives across the country looking for Greek-named locales and people.

    A.Milano (Safe at Home) The actress writes about her love of baseball.

    D.Gallagher (Mystic Knoll) This was a young adult novel using the Charmed TV show characters [has my crush on the Whos the Boss? star not fully gone away?]

    C.Moore (Fool) A very adult version of King Lear, told from the point of view of the kings jester. Funny, but quite blush-inducing.

    E.Lytton (The Coming Race) Apparently, this was one of the first ever sci-fi novels; its like Jules Verne or Jonathan Swift, but not as good.

    C.Jacq (War of the Crowns) A novel set in ancient Egypt, using historical events in a fictional plot where the wife of the murdered pharaoh successfully defends against invaders.

    M.Bond (Paddington Here & Now) The series of the bear from darkest Peru is over 50 years old. Im old now, too. Very funny, as I remember them.

    S.Martin (Shopgirl) I was looking for more humor from the comic/writer/banjo player. It was a good novella but not as funny as I wished.

    C.Portis (True Grit) Havent seen either film yet, but the novel was great. Glad I read it before seeing it.

    M.Crichton (Great Train Robbery) A historical fiction of the actual British super crime. His writing style is always excellent.

    I am close to my summer goal of 30 books. Hooray!

    [You've put us all to shame, Will. (But, really, Alyssa Milano wrote a book about baseball? And you read it? I'm not sure which fact is more remarkable.) Thanks for the recaps. -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    Hokey smoke, Will really has put us all to shame! Well, I read more in June than I did in May, and that counts for something. Books I read this past month, put in their own paragraph breaks and asterisked, as frequent reading blog commenter Hugh McBride likes to do:

    *Magician: Apprentice, by Raymond Feist — The first of a multi-volume fantasy series; chosen for a book club I’m in. I’ve sort of fallen off the fantasy bandwagon (except for my Tolkien love!), but high-school-age me was glad to get the chance to read the kind of book I used to read all the time.

    *Crashing Through, by Robert Kurson — Chosen for the other book club I’m in. Non-fiction account of a man who went blind at the age of three and through surgery regained his sight as an adult. Turns out it’s not that easy seeing things when your brain has already adapted itself to not seeing things. Fascinating topic, but over-written… the author should have been content to let the subject speak for itself instead of trying so hard to write like a faux-Hemingway. If only I were an editor.

    *Night Vision, by Randy Wayne White — Listened to on audio CD in my car. I’ve always liked White’s Doc Ford adventure series. A marine biologist who’s secretly an undercover government agent has adventures. He’s been having them since the mid-nineties. Kind of ludicrous, but fun, and White is an entertaining writer.

    *Stories from the Hugo Winners, Volume II, edited by Isaac Asimov — Picked up at a used book store several years ago. Not read for any book club; this was all for me. This is totally the type of book I used to read as a kid. This particular volume, published in 1971 (and apparently containing half of the original hardback volume) features stories by such sci-fi stalwarts as Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Harlan Ellison, and others… I loved every page. And, hey: Harlan Ellison! David’s orbit and mine combined ever so obliquely for yet another month. Also, Harlan Ellison apparently hates the term “sci-fi,” so he would hate this blog post that I’m writing here. That’s kind of awesome in its own right!

    Oh, and hey: I have that same edition of Captain Blood! I read it several years back… I recall enjoying it a lot. Never seen the movie, though. I’d like to.

    And that’s all I read this past month… only two more than the two I read last month, but I sure spend a lot of type talking about it. Here’s to July, and the several books I’ve started already!

    [A toast to July! And Doug! And Harlan Ellison! -- DA]

  • hugh.c.mcbride

    A bit late to the party here, but wanted to log my reading list for the month, & also offer up some mad props to Will Plunkett for a stunning achievement in terms of both quality & quantity. (Faulkner, Castaneda, Steve Martin, & the Hardy Boys? Both an impressive literary scope & also the start of what would have to be one of the world’s greatest “… walked into a bar” jokes. Perhaps DA can appeal to his readers to provide the action & punchline — I CAN’T DO EVERYTHING, FOLKS!)

    OK, where was I?

    My list was, prior to my reading Will’s list, something I thought was fairly impressive. Now I’ll just say it was a decent output by my comparatively limited standards :-)

    * Hollywood And Crime: Original Crime Stories Set During the History of Hollywood — From the “truth in advertising” dept., this is a collection of original crime stories set during the history of Hollywood. An enjoyable collection it is, too.

    * Double Indemnity (James M. Cain) — A classic, which I had never read (and now have). I found it well deserving of its widespread acclaim, & am looking forward to checking out the film version (also rumored to be a good ‘un).

    * Los Angeles Noir — One of a series of location-based noir collections by Akashic books. Can’t have a noir collection without an LA entry, now can you? Interesting blend of stories from a range of authors & perspectives.

    * You’re Nobody ’til Somebody Kills You (Robert J. Randisi) — The fourth (and, in my opinion, the best thus far) Rat Pack Mystery finds Sands pit boss Eddie Gianelli lending his talents to help Frank help a friend, who turns out to be Marilyn Monroe.

    * Mildred Pierce (James M. Cain) — Another Cain classic, but one that didn’t impress me the way that Double Indemnity did. I hear Joan Crawford is something to see in the film version, though.

    * Fever (Bill Pronzini) — The 33rd book in Pronzini’s long (obviously) “Nameless Detective” series. I prefer to read series in chronological order, but his earliest entries seem to be a bit difficult to come by, so I went with what the RC library system had to offer.

    * Traveling Clothes — The second book by Pittsburgh-area singer/songwriter (and former college acquaintance of yours truly) Bill Deasey. As is the case with many of the folks who populate Deasey’s songs, this book features deep & deeply conflicted characters trying to find their way in small-town America.

    * The Dain Curse (Dashiell Hammett) – Ended the month with another from one of detective fiction’s big names. This one was a bit convoluted (and often a bit weird, too, now that I think about it), but I’m glad I read it.

    For those of you keeping score at home, this stellar 8-book month brings my 2011 total to 30 at the year’s halfway point. I’ve upped my original goal from 35 to 50.

    And, in the words of the great Forrest Gump, that’s all I’ve got to say about that …

    [Waitasec...so in June, I read half of Hugh McBride's total, rather than him reading half of my total? Good going, Hugh, and good luck on 50. As for the "walks into a bar" setup, I imagine Carlos, Bill, Steve and the gang being envious of Frank and Joe for being the only ones shelved snugly against Nancy Drew. -- DA]

  • JMac

    Aha, but what Frank and Joe didn’t know was that Tom Swift was shelved just on the other side of Nancy, and was offering her a ride in his Triphibian Atomicar.

    I’m impressed with the reading regimen of those on this blog, beginning with our fearless leader. I too love to read, but always tend to have more in queue than actually getting read. These monthly reading log postings only make things worse, as I have found several of your reviews adding to that collection. Thanks to Hugh for the Randisi suggestion. I now have Luck Be a Lady, Don’t Die ready to go.

    Jim

    [Your fearless leader thanks you for your comment. I ran into Jim a while back at San Biagio's Pizza (neither of us was injured) and he was deep in a book then. -- DA]