Saturday, August 31, 2013

Month in Review

Lots and lots of reading this month, but as you may have noticed, very little reviewing.  I've been lazy in that regard; sorry.  I got through nine books which may be a record.  It could have been more.  I'd read a few short story collections and I have a few waiting to be read that the library will want back sooner than later, but instead of knocking a couple of those out I really wanted something big and meaty and awesome so I started reading The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault a bit earlier than I had planned.  It's big and fat and dense in the best of ways.  I'll have somethings to say on that when it's over and done.  

The list of books read this month which were not my favorite stories committed to paper are Among Others by Jo Walton, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and The Line Between, by Peter S Beagle.  Gaiman and Beagle are amazing, but I don't feel these are anywhere near their best work.  You can check out the full review for my thoughts on Walton.

The Prophet by Kahil Gibran and Social Studies by Fran Lebowitz were an interesting pair of books to read back to back.  Gibran is a pan-genre inspirational, spiritual, self help, prose poetry, awkward narrative kinda thing full of paradoxes and lofty thoughts that may--or may not--be worth thinking about.  And Lebowitz's hysterical social commentary is dated but still relevant.  Add me to the legions that wonder how it is that she hasn't published anything in decades.   

Oh yeah that's right.  I even threw in some non-fiction this month because I'm awesome like that.

The really really good stuff I read this month were Crow by Ted Hughes, The Wizard of Earthsea and Changing Planes by Ursula K Le Guin, and Four Quartets by TS Eliot.  To this I owe a large measure of thanks to Jo Walton as every one of these books or authors came to my attention by way of reading Among Others.  She provided some excellent recommendations and I'm further encouraged to try other books she mentioned in Among Others.  Good thing I took notes!  

I can't say I understood all the poems in Crow, but if that is a style of poetry I need to know what that style is, because I loved each and every one.  Visceral, bloody and immediate would be a some words used to describe that collection.  Eliot contrast nicely with Hughes though it was harder for me to follow.  I'm the last person alive over thirty to read The Wizard of Earthsea so I won't talk about it, but Changing Planes was just plain old cool.  It's a collection of related-ish short stories.  The premise is, while killing time at an airport while waiting for your connecting flight why not visit a new plane of existence, new people, culture, society for a few days and be brought right back to your airport terminal when it's time to board your flight?  There's some real social commentary in this collection, some faux, hypothetical social commentary, and some all around great writing.  In many ways, Changing Planes felt like non-fiction.  This would be the one book I regret not leaving commentary for this month, but oh well…   
That's a lot of reading for me in one month but I honestly think I'm leaving something out.  In August, I had to actively work to not re-read Perfect Escape.    

The Decatur book festival happened this month, and it will happen for two days next month as well.  I go every year as there is always someone I want to hear speak, meet, or hangout with, but I never go to go see and do all the stuff.  I did so this year and capped the day off with a talk by Austin and Lev Grossman.  They are the most down to earth, regular ass guys you could ever expect to meet.  They're funny and approachable, and they like the same books I like; in addition to their own.  To be identical twins it's amazing how after an hour of hearing them talk I don't feel I'd ever get them confused.    

Lev has personally assured me that The Magician's Land will be out early to mid next year…'or something like that'…  'as long as I finish it.'  And while I didn't go to his reading at DragonCon (how is he reading from a book he hasn't finished, you ask) he kinda maybe probably inferred that at least one chapter is done and even being published in some form in the coming months.  Random side notes on Lev Grossman: he had to force himself to read and finish "that book by Tolkien with the rings…" because it was long and boring (we are kindred spirits), he feels Kelly Link is a secret the publishing industry has kept too well for far too long, he's a huge fan of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (who isn't?) and The Once and Future King (blah to really good…), he's not too hot on Mevryn Peake and has far more praise than I for Jonathan Franzen's fiction.   

I didn't know Austin Grossman existed until the book festival.  He is awesome.  I tried to buy his book but the seller had run out of copies.  (A mammoth oversight in my mind… come on now independent book sellers…)  In addition to needing to track down copies of his currently available You, and Soon I will be Invincible, please please please keep your eyes peeled for his current work in progress which will feature a throw down for the title 'biggest and baddest villain of all time': Cthulhu versus Richard Nixon.  Did I mention Austin is awesome?

Because that is the greatest idea ever.  

I also went to a poetry reading where I had fun laughing at a woman poet from out of town who was invited to read from her new book of poems.  For reasons unknown to herself or anyone else, she wore long corduroy pants and a sweater and looked very nice.  She remarked on the heat was and thought it prudent to only bring shorts and tee shirts should she come back to the festival in the future.  (Some of today's poets earn their rep for 'loopy.')  I also had the pleasure of hearing Thomas Lux read.  He is amazing and I'll shortly be tracking down everything he has published.  I'm not a poetry critic but I know what I like: his work is accessible, disturbing, and poignant.  

I can't say enough how much I wish I had a written copy of the poems they were reading while they were reading.  To me, poetry on the page is especially dead, with it's oft time esoteric or outright unexplainable punctuation and presentation, but when it's read by the author it amazed me how much of a narrative story was being told.  Go check out Lux; now.     

David Levithan, and more Grossman tomorrow in some very interesting panels.  And who knows who else I'll bump into?  Note to self: when rich, move to downtown Decatur.    

Apropos of red shells, I've discovered Knights and Dragons and that is how I waste all my free time.  It shouldn't be as much fun as it is.  It shouldn't be as addictive as it is.  It shouldn't crash as much as it does, but I can't stop playing.  It's like reading Graceling...   You can friend me if you like, or better yet hit me up and I'll send you an invite then you can friend me after the tutorial so can get the extra goodies.  Then we can be best of friends.  Guild coming soon.  If you have a smart phone or ipad, start playing; you'll never have another free five minutes.  XBD-WPF-VYV  Tutorial, then friend me, and you're awesome.  

Finally, the most impressive thing that happened in my life this month was the discovery by Maria and I that I am in fact, a unicorn!  (This has nothing to do with DragonCon going on in town this week either.)  While this may seem chimera (I myself thought that I would be more dragon-ish, cthulhunic, or winged Balrog type menace) it was through rather exhaustive discussion that Maria proved beyond all argument I could care to offer (which was little) that I am in fact, gorgeous, awesome, single (at the time of writing), male, and one who reads slightly more than most.  

Unicorns for the win!     


Marion said...

I found Changing Planes to be somewhat dated, myself, but I loved the play on words in the title.

Chad Hull said...

Dated? How so?

I think I liked the idea of the book better than the book itself but it was still a good read.