Books acquired: “Best American Music Writing 2003,” Matt Groening, ed.; “The Woman in Black,” Susan Hill; “The Moveable Feast, revised edition,” Ernest Hemingway.
Books read: “The Pleasure of My Company,” Steve Martin; “This Shape We’re In,” Jonathan Lethem; “Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California 1945-1975,” AMOCA; “Aldo Casanova: A Retrospective,” Scripps College; “The Valley of Fear,” A. Conan Doyle; “The Space Merchants,” Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth; “Starburst,” Alfred Bester.
Seven books this month, all randomly chosen, although all were short, in keeping with my goal for 2012 of sticking mainly to under-200 page books.
“The Pleasure of My Company”: Narrated by a man with obsessive compulsive disorder, whose observations range from spot-on to hopelessly deluded, this short novel is laugh out loud funny as well as surprisingly sweet. Looser and more relaxed than “Shopgirl,” which was paralyzingly cautious, “Pleasure” is recommended to admirers of “Roxanne.”
“This Shape We’re In”: I’d wondered what this was after seeing the title in Lethem’s “Books by…” list. What this is is a lark, a 55-page snack involving a handful of human-like characters who exist in “a shape” that is apparently a living mammal of some sort and who navigate among the organs. Inessential, but weird and silly.
“Common Ground”: The exhibit book that accompanies Pomona’s American Museum of Ceramic Art’s wide-ranging look at SoCal’s ceramics history, this was professionally put together and beautifully photographed. I’m not a ceramics guy, but the text was informative, albeit didactic. If you’re interested in ceramics, this is a good overview.
“Aldo Casanova”: The Claremont artist mailed me a copy of this book himself a few weeks back; it’s a Scripps College publication of a few years ago about a retrospective exhibition of his work. Interesting stuff, which I read and absorbed over a lunch break. But it’s between two covers, so it counts here.
“The Valley of Fear”: I hate to disagree with Sherlock Holmes, but this isn’t nearly as remarkable a case as he keeps exclaiming. Also, Watson is barely present and half the book is a flashback. But even not-great Holmes is awfully enjoyable. (I read this on my Kobo e-reader but since I own a paperback version, I photographed that.)
“The Space Merchants”: This SF novel about a future America literally run by marketing and advertising forces was really ahead of its time and has dated hardly at all in 60 years, probably because the concept, the writing and the narration by a gung-ho adman is so gleefully cynical. It even has pro-environment themes nearly 20 years before the first Earth Day.
“Starburst”: A rock-solid collection of Bester’s short fiction, including the award-winning “Fondly Fahrenheit,” which isn’t even the most impressive story here. Not only are Bester’s plots interesting, but his prose is confident and propulsive. You can tell you’re in good hands from the first paragraph of each story.
This puts me at 18 books for 2012, and I’ve already finished one in March. (Vacation helped.) So, it’s your turn: Read anything good in February? You had 29 days, you know.