Books acquired: none
Books read: “A Journey to the Center of the Earth,” Jules Verne; “Why LA? Pourquoi Paris?” Diane Ratican; “Deus Irae,” Philip K. Dick and Roger Zelazny; and “Valis,” Philip K. Dick.
August ended with four books read. Well, technically, August ended with three books read, but I finished “Valis” at lunch on Sept. 2, so I’m counting it.
“Why LA? Pourquois Paris?” was left on my desk at work, by unknown parties; presumably it was a freebie sent to us, as it was published this year. The author is from Pasadena and has lived in Paris. She wrote chapters comparing her two favorite cities, LA and Paris, in various ways, enlivened by many pages of whimsical illustrations. Lightweight but charming. I jotted down many ideas from the Paris sections in case I visit again, as I suspect I will. The LA advice is pretty good too.
I’d read “A Journey to the Center of the Earth” as a lad but remembered not a whit of it. After reading “Around the World in 80 Days” and rereading “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” in recent years, I wanted to tackle this one too, in my childhood copy. I read it in an unusual way: a few pages in bed per night. It took me six or eight weeks this way. Normally I would never read a novel in such incremental fashion, but 1) it’s episodic, 2) the chapters are short and 3) it’s not compelling. The science is laughable — dinosaurs and an ocean-like lake under the Earth! — but the story is cute, and a little better than the other two Vernes, maybe because the narrator is likable.
“Deus Irae” and “Valis” are two latter period Dick novels, and purely by accident they made a good pairing, both being about spiritual concerns and both including, in passing, the idea of God existing in a humble brown clay pot. Also, in the first one, a character thinks he can find God by hallucinating on drugs; that idea is dismissed in one line in the second.
I couldn’t possibly describe the plot of these two books to anyone’s satisfaction, but they’re among Dick’s better books. Some say “Valis” is his masterpiece, and while it was a little static for me, it was very good.
The three novels are all purchases dating to my childhood or young adulthood. Only eight of those very old books remain on my shelves to be read. Progress.
What did you read in August, and have you read any of my four?
Next month: More progress, and almost certainly something by Robert Benchley.