Books acquired: “Orange Blossoms Everywhere: The Story of Maud and Delos Lovelace in California, 1953-1980,” Mary Thiessen.
Books read: “Alone Against Tomorrow,” “Deathbird Stories” and “Shatterday,” Harlan Ellison; “18 Best Stories,” “The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales,” Edgar Allan Poe; “Obsolete: An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By,” Anna Jane Grossman; “Betsy-Tacy,” “Betsy In Spite of Herself,” Maud Hart Lovelace; “Orange Blossoms Everywhere,” Mary Thiessen.
A new year! A fresh start! I had a busy reading month, and much of what I did was mop up a few books begun last year. The fresh start must begin in February. Also, I read some children’s books. And I thought my 2013 reading list had some whimsical choices.
As you’ll see from the above, I read three by Ellison, two by Poe. These were the leftovers from last year, all of them story collections on which I’d made some or much headway but hadn’t got around to finishing. It was satisfying to complete them.
Of the Ellisons, “Tomorrow” and “Deathbird” are classic collections, relatively easy to find at used bookstores, and worth tracking down. The Poe “18 Best” collection, with an introduction by Vincent Price, lives up to its title. It’s got all the major stories and two or three so-so ones. Some collections miss a good one or two or, more commonly, tack on an extra 15 or 20 very minor ones. “Usher” skips “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” which is among Poe’s best, and has a couple of head-scratchers.
But “Usher” does include Poe’s only novel, a seafaring tale with supernatural elements; Lovecraft’s novel “At the Mountains of Madness,” which I read a couple of years back, is an obvious homage. If you read enough, suddenly everything makes sense.
Poe is a writer I read as a boy, and returning to his work has been illuminating, as well as entertaining. He’s as good as you remember, at least until you get into the weedier stuff. And have you read “The Tell-Tale Heart” as an adult? I don’t know if I got as a boy how hilarious that story is. The narrator is a nutcase who wants us to believe he’s sane. It’s almost like Poe is ribbing his own style.
I also read two of the Betsy-Tacy children’s books, and a little book about their author, for a couple of columns I’m writing. Look for those soon. It was research, but enjoyable research. If you’ve read these, you’re encouraged to comment.
Lastly, “Obsolete,” a pseudo-encyclopedia of things passing us by, was okay, but a bit thin and strained. If I could, I’d take back the time I spent reading it. “Going, Going, Gone,” from 1994, is along the same lines and much better done.
Let’s see, the three Ellisons, and Poe’s “18 Best,” all date to my Illinois days; “Usher” was bought at Powell’s in Portland in 2010; “Obsolete” I got from Amazon a year or two ago; the Betsy-Tacys were checked out from the Pomona Public Library; and the book about their author was a gift from the Betsy-Tacy Society.
So that’s January. What have you been reading? Do you have any reading goals for the year? I’m going light on those myself after last year almost obstinately ignoring most of the goals I’d sketched out. Although I do have ideas of what I want to read, especially in the next three or four months, my only specific goals are to read Ellison’s first “Dangerous Visions” anthology, one Shakespeare play to be determined and — why not? — “The Three Musketeers.” How about that?
Next month: a few books given to me as birthday gifts…a year or more ago.