Reading log: August 2011

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Books acquired: “Ask the Dust,” John Fante; “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Washington Irving; “To the Land of the Electric Angel,” William Rotsler; “Middlemarch,” George Eliot; “The Big Book of Adventure Stories,” Otto Penzler, ed.; “Bob Dylan in America,” Sean Wilentz. (All but one were bought at the Borders closeout at Victoria Gardens. Sigh, again.)

Books read: “Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock,” Sammy Hagar; “Blood’s a Rover,” Harlan Ellison; “Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb,” Philip K. Dick; “Red Harvest,” Dashiell Hammett.

August was a hot month, but my reading pace was no more torrid than usual. All four of the month’s books involved the color red, or the red stuff that flows through our veins. That’s what I read, red.

“Red”: I began reading Sammy Hagar’s memoir because the early part covered his Fontana childhood and I thought it would make a good column. Perhaps unwisely, I kept going. Even as someone with no interest in Hagar or Van Halen, I have to admit his memoir was breezy, cheesy fun. Chapter 14, about the misbegotten Van Halen reunion tour, is hilarious. But was it time well spent? Not really.

“Blood’s a Rover”: This is an unproduced screenplay loaned to me by my friend Tom (hi, Tom), who bought it out of a stack of scripts at a Hollywood bookstore. I read it because I like Ellison’s work. It’s a sort of reboot of “A Boy and His Dog,” an Ellison novella (one of the pieces he’ll be most remembered for) about a brilliant, telepathic dog named Blood that helps his human “master” survive in a post-apocalyptic world, and that was turned into a cult classic 1970s movie. Anyway, this script, probably from the 1980s, retells and expands on the concept entertainingly.

“Dr. Bloodmoney”: Speaking of the post-apocalyptic, this is like a post-atomic version of the author’s “Confessions of a Crap Artist,” down to the Marin County setting, pastoral landscape and extramarital affairs. Of course, “Crap Artist,” being a realist novel, didn’t have orbiting philosophers, dead-ish baby brothers and rat-eating TV salesmen, like this one. I really liked both books, by the way.

“Red Harvest”: Hammett’s unnamed operative for the Continental detective agency cleans up Personville, a town so rotten it’s been dubbed Poisonville, and bends every rule in the book to do it. The web of intrigue can be tough to keep straight, but since we’re not investigating the case ourselves that’s all right; the Op’s direct narration carries us right along. Example: “It was a fairly long walk for a man who sneers at exercise.”

As for how these books came into my possession, “Bloodmoney” was purchased used an untold number of years ago (possibly as long ago as the ’80s, but I don’t remember), “Blood’s” was loaned to me last fall, “Red” was a comp copy from the publisher this spring and “Red Harvest” was bought in July at Borders VG.

September will bring two or three books with travel-related titles, one of them the Claremont: On the Same Page community reading choice, “Into the Beautiful North.”

What have you been reading?

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  • Will Plunkett

    August started school (this will be the end of week #4 already), so my reading time dropped to almost nil. Still, I did break the magical three number… by one book.

    Luncheon of the Boating Party (Susan Vreeland). Based on the Renoir painting, it’s a fictional account of how it could’ve been created. A good premise, but not very interesting, sorry.

    Grime and Punishment (Jill Churchill). Any good (read: bad) puns are always a draw for me. But this one was short and easy, not much mystery to it.

    Ascension (Christie Golden). Not a bad Star Wars novel, but it’s part of a series that’s due to end with its 7th and final book. So-so plot, but her writing style is good.

    American Nerd (Benjamin Nugent). Found it at the Dollar Tree… and I know why. Seldom do I wish I had never read a book, but this would be such a book. Not enough humor, as the title might suggest, and far too depressing.

    ["Only" four books in one month brings you back down among us mortal readers, Will, much to our relief. Thanks for contributing, as always. -- DA]

  • John Clifford

    Actually A Boy and His Dog was made into a film starring Don Johnson and Jason Robards, Jr. in 1975. Perhaps the script was an early (retitled) version for that film? Now you have to rent the film and watch it (Gotcha).

  • John Clifford

    Please ignore previous comment. I really need to read your posts when I read your posts. I see that you already mentioned the film.

    [Gotcha! But I do need to rent the movie anyway because I've never seen it. -- DA]

  • (hi Dave)

    Imagine my surprise at opening your blog and seeing my battered copy of “Blood’s a Rover…”

    It’s from a brilliant bookstore in North Hollywood called THE ILIAD. It’s on Cahuenga, at Chandler.

    The ’75 film version of “A Boy and his Dog” has an (alleged) Upland connection. It was directed by renowned character actor L. Q. Jones, who (allegedly) lived in Upland for a time.

    If you put Jones’ “Dog” on your Netflix list, beware. It’s fun, but surprisingly harsh and very politically incorrect…

    [I'm aware of the movie's mysoginist ending, which people have blamed on Ellison even though his story ends with an important difference. I love the Iliad, by the way, one of the best used bookstores in the LA area. Now I have to get the script back to you... -- DA]

  • Will Plunkett

    Summer is my kryptonite in Bizarro World, when it comes to books, I guess. Or would a Green Lantern comic allusion (yellow colors?) have been a more appropriate reference from this summer’s film? So I’ll accept mortal status. :-)

    There is a Red Harvest book I’ve read from Star Wars (horror, alternate reality story), but the Hammett classic is on my gonna-get-to list, too. Some summer perhaps?

  • Doug Evans

    Always enjoy this blog! Always enjoy the monthly reading logs! Always enjoy chiming in to share what I’ve been reading… EXCEPT LAST MONTH I DIDN’T READ ANY BOOKS.

    This is a first for me! At least since I’ve been posting here, and I think for a long long time before that too. But I got an iPhone for my birthday in July and I’ve been busy playing with that! And the new semester started at the two schools that I teach at… And I’m training to run the LA Marathon! …In March, but still, I spend a lot of time running? Anyway I DIDN’T READ ANY BOOKS.

    But maybe I’m being a little hard on myself! I started some books, and I can talk about them, right? For instance:

    Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, a nonfiction fiction account of some amazing tribespeople in Mexico who are amazing runners, and who maybe have lessons to teach the rest of us, runners and non-runners alike.

    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, about a retired widower in England facing changes in his life and his community. Marketed as a romance, which may limit its audience, because I would never have picked this book up on my own (it was a book club pick) but I’m really enjoying it.

    Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, a science-fiction-y homage to ’80s pop culture. I’m really liking this one. Yay to the ’80s!

    And I’m still working my way through Great Expectations as one of my one-Dickens-book-a-year project.

    So I’ll finish all those books by the end of this month! And then look back on last month as a horrible aberration that will never happen again.

    [We'll all hold you to that, Doug. Your next post might be tough for you to write, since you've already told us all the books you're working on, but I like that you shared what you're reading. This is all about reading, right? By the way, I hope you're savoring that Dickens novel rather than getting bogged down in that Dickens novel. -- DA]

  • Doug Evans

    Heh! I may just post a link back to this post when next month comes around… And, yes, still loving Great Expectations! I think I keep picking up other books to read in lieu of it just because I don’t want to reach the end.

    [As a fellow who spent 2 1/2 months lingering over Moby Dick, I understand. -- DA]

  • D.T. Shindler

    Mr. Allen: just read this old post. The script, “Blood’s a Rover,” is/was VERY different from the movie, “A Boy and His Dog”, featuring Don Johnson. The script you mentioned in your August 2011 blog was written long after the movie, and was meant to be a pilot for a television show, or perhaps just a television movie. I’ve heard that it featured a new “player”, a girl rover named Spike.

    In any case, Ellison either used that screenplay as his foundation or just built the connective tissue (between “A Boy and His Dog”, “Run, Spot, Run” and “Eggsucker”, the three sections published thus far), because he recently announced (at an event in Los Angeles, and on his own site) that BLOOD’S A ROVER, the novel, will be published within the next six months (give or take a month or two).

    Since he’s been putting out new material under the Edgework Abbey/Publishing 101 aegis, and since he was asked if _this time_ the book would actually be published, looks like you (and a quite a few other Vic & Blood fans) have something to look forward to later this year!

    [D.T., thanks for filling me in. You're right that the script I read appears to be for a TV movie or series, and yes, the duo of Vic and Blood is joined by a woman named Spike. Perhaps that will form the basis for the final portion of the novel. Great news that it will finally be published, although at this late date, I'll believe it when I see it! I do think it could be his "legacy" book. -- DA]