Books acquired: “Anguished English,” Richard Lederer; “The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins; “Tower of Glass” and “The Man in the Maze,” Robert Silverberg; “Tarzan” Nos. 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 and “Warlord of Mars” No. 4, Edgar Rice Burroughs; “Night,” Elie Wiesel; “The Sugar Frosted Nutsack,” Mark Leyner; “Bugf#ck: The Useless Wit and Wisdom of Harlan Ellison,” Arnie Fenner, ed.
Books read: “If on a winter’s night a traveler,” Italo Calvino; “Summer Morning, Summer Night” and “Switch on the Night,” Ray Bradbury; “Like the Night (revisited),” C.P. Lee; “Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed,” Harlan Ellison; “Last Night at the Lobster,” Stewart O’Nan; “Night,” Elie Wiesel.
The days may be longer, but in March, night descended upon my reading life. Every title this month has the word “night” in it. I had enough such unread books to fill a month, and then I bought one more. Let me shed some light on the titles.
“If on a winter’s night a traveler”: A very clever meta-fictional novel about the act of and joy of reading. In some ways it’s the ultimate novel, made up as it is of multiple first chapters, and yet I can’t say I raced through it, and the conceit dragged a bit toward the end. But the ending was brilliant. I read much of this in Europe but finished it at the start of March.
“Summer Morning, Summer Night”: Most of the stories here can be found in other Bradbury collections, and the unpublished vignettes are awfully slight. That said, having more of Bradbury’s Illinois tales grouped together is welcome, and nobody writes about summers like him. Not up to the level of “Dandelion Wine,” though.
“Switch on the Night”: A picture book about overcoming the fear of nighttime via a clever, typically Bradburian premise (don’t switch off the lights, switch on the dark), with illustrations by the masterful Leo and Diane Dillon. I don’t know if it works as a children’s book or not, but as an RB fan I’m glad to have finally read it. Also, even savoring the illustrations, this took me eight minutes to read. I need more books like this.
“Like the Night (revisited)”: Fannish, but for devotees of Dylan’s confrontational 1966 tour, a useful account by one who was there, and who tracked down others who were too.
“Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed”: While less convinced of Ellison’s status as one of history’s great essayists than the editor, I’m an admirer. This is kind of a grab-bag, with the best pieces being the most surprising: a magazine profile of Steve McQueen, a first-person account of the March on Montgomery and an enthusiastic endorsement of a video dating service. Obscure (I found this copy last year for $40), but indispensable for his fans.
“Last Night at the Lobster”: An absurdly mundane premise — the last day of operation at a suburban, and snowbound, Red Lobster — becomes something low-key and heroic in this slim novel about a touchingly conscientious manager, the employees who show up, or don’t, for their last shift, and the retirees, bad parents and office group that show up for service. Carefully observed, sympathetic and occasionally hilarious.
“Night”: Spare, haunting and more terrifying than anything at the multiplex, this Holocaust memoir deserves every bit of its reputation.
As for how these books came into my possession, “Winter’s night” was a gift from a friend (Hi Mary!) about, um, seven years ago; the Bradburys were purchased on Amazon and at Bookfellows in Glendale, respectively, in the last year; “Like the Night” is a few years old and I’ve forgotten its origin; “Sleepless” came from Book Alley in Pasadena; “Lobster” was bought at Subterranean Books in St. Louis last year; and “Night” was bought at the Claremont Forum bookshop on March 27 on a whim and read almost immediately. Who knew I could do that?
As we end the first quarter of 2012, I’ve read 25 books, which would put me on track to read 100 if I thought there was any way to keep up this pace, which I don’t. Not without a lot more children’s picture books. (Recall that some of my 11 books in January were begun last fall.) But I’m doing all right. Coming up in April: books with numbers in their titles.
Now let’s turn matters over to you. What have you been reading, and what did you think?