Diary Of A Bookseller

Diary of a Bookseller is, and I mean this in the best possible way, chick lit for guys who watched Black Books (which, the diarist and titular bookseller, Shaun Bythell, did; he even sold a book to Dylan Moran).

The recurring characters (especially his employee, Nicky) become well-realized and you end the book with a much better grasp of the day to day to realities of the business, while still watching it romanticized.

Breezy, uplifting, sometimes, melancholy, and filling without being heavy. Like I said: a sort of chick lit for book people.

Thomas Jefferson & Doctor Dolittle

While reading it to my daughter (having not realized when I began it, how mightily I would struggle to skip over and elide the racist sections; though I will give some credit for a wonderfully concise criticism of colonialism: an African king says that the last white man to come through, dug holes all over his kingdom and took all the gold and killed all the elephants and took all the ivory and then left without saying this thank you; sadly, this moment of criticism was overwhelmed by subsequent racism, often of a most crudely worded kind), I saw a passage where Dolittle consults Buffon, looking to see if a particular animal is mentioned.

Surely this was the Comte de Buffon whose theory of the decadence of American animals and men had so inflamed Jefferson and inspired some of his most interesting taxonomic efforts?

Down Among The Dead

Did you know that K.B. Wagers hasn’t finished her second trilogy (the ‘Farian War’ trilogy)?

Because I didn’t. And I made a pledge to avoid starting series that are not already finished, because I don’t want to wait for authors to finish.

Oh, and it was good. Better than the first book in this trilogy. The big reveal was telegraphed, but at least our intrepid heroine was reasonably prepared for it.

But it’s not done. Ugh. How long do I have to wait? According to her website, it’s available for pre-order, but I’m not inclined to do that. And the first trilogy has been optioned for television or movie (television makes more sense these days), so when that happens, I can act superior to fans who haven’t read the series, which is a plus. But you know what would have been better? The third book.

There Before The Chaos

It was a mixed joy to return to Wagers’ ‘gunrunner empress’ novels with the first book of her second trilogy featuring runaway princess turned gunrunner turned empress of a matriarchal and Indian influenced space empire, Hail Bristol.

Not mixed because it wasn’t good, but mixed because I grew to love the characters, especially the heroine (and narrator), and got very angry at some of the bad things that happened to her. The first trilogy was more of the Star Wars mold. First one ended in a good victory, telling a reasonably complete story; the second with an Empire still dark setback; and finally with a reasonably upbeat conclusion, following a more conclusive struggle.

This was more of… well, something else. Bad going to worse. And having already started the next book (Down Among The Dead), I know that it doesn’t immediately get better, but instead, rather quickly darker.

I will make one quibble. The aliens are not very alien. One of them, the Shen, can pass as human. And they are, apparently, very close to the Farian, one of whom featured quite heavily in the original books (and is even more important now). For some reason, I had imagined them as looking like Roger from American Dad (I have no idea why), but now that I am noticing descriptions… well, what are the odds that every advanced species in the universe looks more or less like us? I’m a churchgoing man who believes we were made in God’s image, but take that to be more a spiritual statement than as a thesis proposing that all advanced species look more or less the same.

The Epicure’s Lament

I was reading an article or review or something and this novel was mentioned in the context of other readable things that seemed interesting, so I borrowed it from the library and, yes, it is a pleasurable novel. The hero, the improbably named Hugo (improbably because the only Hugo I ever knew was a strange, distasteful fellow from college; not at all like this Hugo) Whittier.

Hugo is a sort of self aware and sexually voracious Ignatius Reilly. No, not as brilliant as that creation, but there is something similar in them. Their anti-modernism, their sense of their appetites, and their comic natures.

But, as enjoyable as the book was, it couldn’t live up to the comic conceit of its amusing (and conceited) protagonist. It didn’t blow the landing, but it didn’t stick it either (A Confederacy of Dunces nailed it). In a sense, the ending reminded me slightly of A Clockwork Orange (the book, not the movie), but instead of Alex growing up, Hugo get therapy.

The Last Wish

Another Witcher novel. But actually, a collection of short stories (something close to half of the episodes of the Netflix series are taken from here) which precedes the novel I read. I feel like the novels and stories of Gerald of Rivia, the titular witcher(a sort of monster hunter; a child raised by other witchers and made stronger, faster, and less emotional through magic and chemicals) should be less interesting than they are, but also they are still missing something, though I couldn’t say what.

This stories were better than the novel I read, not in the least because the novel sometimes read like short stories forced together to form a single narrative.

I did also get the Witcher video game (technically the third one; it was deeply discounted because it’s five years old now), but haven’t gotten into, but that is perhaps more about me and my life than the game.

But while the game may get dusty on my shelves, I will read the next book of short stories about this witcher fellow.

She: A History Of Adventure

It should be made clear at the outset: this novel is not a history of adventure. It is a single adventure. In fact, it hand waves a couple of adventures that theoretically take place (the narrator literally says that he’s going to skip over the time he and his ward were held prisoner for six months by a pre-modern peoples).

And, if you are going to read this book, get used to reading She as a name (‘I handed the phone to She so that She could explain why the narrator didn’t want to talk about those six months of captivity.’). Also, is this first time the phrase ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ was used? It seems that way.

This is your classic, late nineteenth, early twentieth century adventure, as well as being a forerunner of lost world books.

The tale itself, is both fascinating and bats–t crazy. Ayesha, a woman of Arab descent has been alive for… they keep saying two thousands years, but honestly, it sounds like a lot longer when the book notes what she’s seen and who she’s met. She doesn’t use magic, but, similar to the Arthur C. Clarke rule about how a sufficiently advanced technology seems like magic to a less advanced civilization, science that feels pretty magical. She was also interested to hear that the Jewish savior arrived after she’d left the area of the Mediterranean civilizations.

Beautiful, compelling, seductive… she is a pretty cool character. Crazy and arguably immoral, but, without overstating H. Rider Haggard’s writing skills, someone who holds the readers attention.

Edogawa Ramp’s ‘Japanese Tales Of Mystery And Imagination

There’s a mystery where Rampo tries to make you think the amateur sleuth figured it all out through an ingenious interpretation of a word association test, but when you think about it, was actually just a much more simple slip up by the criminal, but Rampo (through the voice of his sleuth) is so pleased with himself, he can’t see it.

But mostly, it’s a psyschosexual romp through whatever is going on in Rampo’s head. The woman who spends years sexually torturing her limbless husband before accidentally blinding him. The man who may or may not have hidden inside of the super comfy chair of a famous writer so as to enjoy the erotic thrill of being sat upon. The woman who subtly encouraged two husbands to try to kill her so that she could, in turn, kill them in self defense. A story about a man obsessed with surrounding himself with mirrors is immediately followed by one about a man terrified of them.

While characters of both sexes engage in much villainy, the theme of emasculating wives is repeated. Sometimes it’s by blinding their helpless husbands, other times, it’s just by being more successful or famous (a female writer is more famous than her diplomat husband, yet we are let known that her work is somewhat frivolous, implying that her upstaging of her husband is undeserved). They are like the stories of Poe, if Poe had always been resentful of his wife, Virginia.

Black Mountain Poems: An Anthology

My father knew one of the figures associated with Black Mountain College. He and his older brother had been friends with Fielding Dawson, a writer. While Dawson’s poetry is not in this anthology, he is name checked in the introduction, though perhaps it would have been better for everybody had they chosen to include something by him instead of whatever Buckminster Fuller was writing that he mistakenly believed to be poetry.

Rightly, the poet who gets the most space is Robert Creeley (though none of the included poems featured the off kilter pastoralism that I associate with him). Charles Olson, featured early, was the best surprise. Of course, I know who he is, but I really haven’t read him, and the long poems with their swaybacked stanzas and shifting thoughts really are amazing and clearly, I need to read more.

Tek Kill

Do I really need to write anymore about the plots, characters, and pros and cons of (sort of) William Shatner’s Tek novels? Do I? Do I really?

No, I probably don’t.

It’s not clear why a drug cartel is going after the hero’s boss or why the hero is calm about his teenage son consistently getting involved in the machinations of drug cartels but… meh. It’s decent, untaxing fun.

And I will admit to a strange sadness at reading the intro to the next book, which announces that this (the next one, not this one) will be the last Tek novel.