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?