Friday, June 24, 2005

50 in 05: Martians, etc.

Summertime! Summer is when I buy lots of books--Morrison's 7 Soldiers series, Disinfo's Book of Lies, and Chomsky's What Uncle Sam Really Wants, most recently--but the actual reading goes slowly. It's hot and I'm sweaty and I'm daydreaming of going really fast in a car that's really cool.

#17: A Princess of Mars and #18 The Gods of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Martians! These are the first books in a series that originally appeared in pulp magazines starting in 1914. Burroughs later created Tarzan, but he kept returning to these stories of John Carter, the Warlord of Mars. Carter is a Civil War veteran hailing from Virginia, and one day while on the run from Indians in Arizona, he is bodily transported to far-away Mars, called Barsoom by its natives, where he discovers he is Awesome at Everything and goes on to conquer everyone he meets and marries a princess. Huzzah!

Actually, they're pretty good. I think they would be more enjoyable when read as intended, or at least as originally published, in cliff-hanging excerpts from issue to issue. It's fun, sci-fi adventure stories for boys, before the trappings of sci-fi choked the genre into complacency. I also appreciate how BANG! the adventure begins right away--there isn't 50 pages of getting John Carter to Mars, or worry about how he got there. He's just there, and the story unfolds. Part of that is due to the format, the getting-to-the-point of it made necessary by serialization, but even that can go wrong--see superhero comics these days, and stories that are "written for the trade."

Odds are, you can find these stories cheap, too. There are something like 12 or 14 books in this series, but I've seen a collection of the first three floating around. And as good as it is, they are adventure stories for boys--after reading two I was more than ready to move on to something else for a while.

Next--Brautigan, Abortions, Steinbecks!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Moxie Crimefighter

According to Neil Gaiman congratulations are in order, and I believe him. So: congratulations to Penn and Emily Jillette on the birth of their daughter; but mostly congratulations to their daughter on being named Moxie Crimefighter Jillette.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005



The Rogue Reading, being the brainchild of one Eric S., was a lot of fun this past Saturday. Approximately 3% of the promised readers actually showed up and read, but those of us who did are the more and cleverer for it. Rumor has it the Earl of Wessex is still half-full of beer, and a post-party gathering may be required to topple him.

Summertime does strange things to a man's brain. I'm never as reflective at the end of December as I am in the beginning of June.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

50 in 05: Mystic River and Will in the World

The smell of deadlines is in the air, so I haven't been good about blogging lately. I'll try to catch up on a few of the books I've finished lately:

#15: Mystic River by Dennis Lehane: It's the sort of book that you read because of the plot, because of what it's telling, and not how it's told. But the moral seems to be that kids are killing kids because of video games. No kidding:

"Sean looked into the bloody face of Jimmy O'Shea and what he saw there scared the shit out of him. There was nothing there. Probably never had been. The kid wouldn't pull the trigger because he was angry or because he was scared. He'd pull the trigger because Sean was just a six-foot-two video image, and the gun was a joystick."

Ugh. Skip it.

#16: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt. On the other hand, this is an excellent book--the best I've read in a long time, and one of the best non-fiction books I've picked up period. It's a lot of conjecture and what-ifs, but it goes into the life Will Shakespeare led, what he was doing when he was writing some of his plays--who Falstaff was based on, at least partially, what the deaths of Christopher Marlowe and Will's son Hamnet meant to him and how they can be seen reflected in his work. Will's religion, or lack of it, his brushes with the scheming politics of his day, what set him apart from other writers, both then and now. Anyone who likes Shakespeare (and if anyone *doesn't* like Shakespeare, it's because they haven't seen it done well), or anyone who is a writer, would appreciate this book. I kept putting it down to take notes. It led me right into reading Richard III and writing a play about Los Bros Booth, Edmund, Brutus, and John Wilkes. I can't recommend this one more.