Reading Log: November 2013

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Books acquired: “The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister,” Chris Nichols.

Books read: “Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic,” Dan Auiler; “Henry Bumstead and the World of Hollywood Art Direction,” Andrew Horton; “The Art of Alfred Hitchcock,” Donald Spoto; “The Films of Alfred Hitchcock,” Robert Harris and Michael Lasky; “Mudd’s Angels,” J.A. Lawrence; “Casablanca,” Richard Anobile.

As a sort of hobby, I’ve been watching Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, in order, from the beginning in the 1920s to the end in the 1970s. It’s taken me roughly three years of intermittent effort, but it’s been worthwhile, as I revisited some old favorites and found some new favorites. Hitch made a bunch of so-so movies too, especially in the early days, but I won’t hold that against him.

As I went along, I read a couple of film-by-film guides, by Harris and Lasky and by Spoto. In November I focused on watching the last four movies and in doing so finally finished those two books. Huzzah! Harris and Lasky’s is okay, more of a coffee table tome, while Spoto’s is more serious.

Along the same lines, I read two other Hitch-related books, one on “Vertigo,” perhaps his greatest movie, and one on Hollywood art director Henry Bumstead, an Ontario native whom I interviewed a decade ago for a feature and who designed sets for four Hitchcock films. Those books were useful for specialists.

I rounded out the month with two other movie or TV-related books: “Casablanca” presents stills from the movie paired with all the dialogue, an interesting way to experience the movie; the “Star Trek” book is the 13th and last in the series of Bantam paperbacks that adapted all the original episodes. I would call this one a guilty pleasure except it wasn’t all that pleasurable.

I owned all the Trek books as a lad, through No. 12; a year or two ago, I found them through No. 11 at Calico Cat in Ventura, with the same covers I previously owned, and couldn’t resist buying them. I tracked down the other two somewhere since then. So I read the one I hadn’t read before and can scratch that off my reading list.

I bought Bumstead’s book from the man himself (but only read bits of it at the time); bought “The Films of Hitchcock” at the Book House in St. Louis around four years ago; can’t recall where or when I got “Vertigo” or “Casablanca,” but got them in the past decade; and bought Spoto’s book, published in 1976, in ’76 or ’77. As most of his 50-some films were unavailable to me then, only the ones that popped up TV, I read just a few of the analyses originally.

You have no idea how satisfying it is to have now read this book cover to cover after some 36 years of ownership.

I’m up to 72 books read for 2013 and am eyeing three for December. One is 460 pages, but it should be a slam dunk as I’m 380 pages into it already.

How was your November, reading-wise?

Next month: a 460-page book, and a couple more.

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  • DebB

    I hope you had a good Thanksgiving, David! This is such a busy time of year, and I think I managed to read only one book – one of my Mrs. Pollifax books. December doesn’t look any better. But I dropped a few hints over the holiday, so maybe I’ll get an Amazon gift card for my Kindle, and January will be a good reading month!

    • davidallen909

      I did, Deb, thanks. And you blow through so many books during the rest of the year that you’re entitled to read one, or none, and not feel sheepish.

  • Doug Evans

    Holy cow, Mudd’s Angels? I almost spit my coffee over my mini iPad when I saw that at the top of your pile. As big a Star Trek geek as I was/am, I never read the official James Blish (and his wife, J.A. Lawrence) adaptations. But I saw Mudd’s Angels in a discount bookstore in Long Beach just two months ago and almost bought it, figuring maybe I’d start at the last volume and work my way backwards, but eventually decided against it. And here it is in your reading log! Sounds like maybe I didn’t miss too much by not purchasing it after all.

    I read four last month!

    “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. Read for a book club. The third book by the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Not quite as good as those two, which I thought were phenomenal, but still a very good book and a lively book club discussion.

    “Inferno” by Dan Brown. Read for another book club. I described this to my friends (but not to the guy who picked it for the club) as “the kind of book read by people who don’t read books.” Not my kind of novel, but, heck, he’s doing OK even without my recommendation.

    “The Currents of Space” by Isaac Asimov. The second of his Empire trilogy, part of the omnibus I bought at Half-off Books in Whittier. Entertaining, but as I’ve said, Asimov is maybe not the twentieth century’s greatest stylist. I was amused to read online that Asimov himself acknowledged that his characters were cardboard and his prose style pretty prosaic. This book is dedicated to his son, David, with the inscription, “To David, who took his time in coming, but was worth waiting for.” Curious about whatever happened to his son, I googled his name, and was horrified to learn that he pled guilty in 2001 to possession and distribution of child pornography. I really wish I hadn’t learned that. I’d like to think there exists an alternate universe where his son inherited his dad’s smarts and continues his work educating and entertaining the public. I guess we don’t live in that universe.

    “Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice” by Stephen Baxter. Because it wouldn’t be a reading log from me without a Doctor Who novel! Sadly… pretty dull, and not recommended. Still: Doctor Who!

    When not reading the above, I continued to make my way through The Grapes of Wrath (which is really good!), so I should be able to include that in next month’s log as well… Along with Our Mutual Friend, which I’m two years behind in finishing! (Note to Doug: Maybe less Doctor Who; more Dickens.) Enjoyed reading about the Hitchcock books… Fun to think that books written thirty years ago (and more) and probably out of print are still being read and enjoyed somewhere. Happy reading, everyone!

    • davidallen909

      I knew you’d be shocked to find a Star Trek book in my pile. So was I, a little. I have another one, Harlan Ellison’s teleplay for City on the Edge of Forever, that I hope to read in the next couple of months, again to get it out of the way.

      Love your Dan Brown description!

      Asimov’s son didn’t amount to much, but his nephew is wine critic for the NYT, and his niece writes for the SF Chronicle. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) That’s also the source of this fascinating tidbit:

      “Asimov was a claustrophile: he enjoyed small, enclosed spaces. In the third volume of his autobiography, he recalls a childhood desire to own a magazine stand in a New York City Subway station, within which he could enclose himself and listen to the rumble of passing trains while reading.”

      Claustrophile! I’d never heard of that word before.

      • Doug Evans

        I wonder if Asimov coined the term “claustrophile”? He did coin “robotics” and then spent the rest of his life reminding everyone of that fact. (I kid, because I love!) His novel “The Caves of Steel” (which I re-read this past summer) is all about that… a future earth where most people in vast underground cities and only venture out into open air if forced to. According to wikipedia, it wasn’t until a reader asked Asimov how he could have conceived of anything so horrible that he realized some people might think of that scenario as unpleasant!