[PREV - FIFTY_MINUS] [TOP]
January 9, 2007
For no good reason: continue listing
the books I've read in 2007. FIFTY_IN_ONE
But I'm starting the year late:
I still need to finish some of
my 2006 books. (I've always liked
1. Ian Fleming -- Moonraker (rr)
2. The Big Broadcast (skim) THE_VOICE_OF_DOOM
3. J.G. Ballard -- Terminal Beach (1964)
At long last, I've read some Ballard.
I've only had this book on my stacks
for three decades or so...
I don't think any of the stories
in this collection actually qualifies UTOPIA
as a "story" in the taxonomy that I
favor: problems are not solved, This, you see makes it
conflicts are not resolved... instead more *realistice*:
what we have here is a steady parade except that it isn't
of losers in the act of losing. particularly.
So call them "tragedies", Consider the title story
if you like -- I don't think "Terminal Beach", where
that really works, but it (1) it's actually rather
gets across the tone. remarkable that the the
main character has
In the absence of worms-turned, somehow arrived on the
and villains vanquished, we scene and (2) he proceeds
have some astoundingly to have many interesting,
well-crafted vignettes with albeit deranged, thoughts
really tight sketches of while starving to death --
character and place. These myself, I doubt that I
are so slickly done that they could pull this off
don't even seem slick. without any fuel to burn.
Direct comparison to some lesser
writing is probably needed to
really appreciate this --
many a more popular author can
spend paragraphs on "description"
and not pull off the sense of
place a Ballard does with just
a few lines.
4. "The Rivals of Shelock Holmes Vol. 1"
As is common with anything
revered, you occasionally hear
someone taking the line
"Holmes is over-rated". THE_CASE_OF_HOLMES
Before you go there, I suggest
you take a look at Doyle's
contemporaries and competitors.
Some of these stories are
reasonably engaging -- most
aren't -- but few of them show
the barest glimmer of Getting
"Crime is common, but logic is rare":
I think Doyle was using
Holmes to complain about
someone besides Watson.
5. Cometbus #50 THE_BRIGHT_GRAY_LANDS
6. Dave Eggers -- "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" (2000)
7. Algis Budrys -- "Furious Future" (inc)
8. Colin MacInnes -- "Absolute Beginners" (1959)
9. Galaxy Science Fiction -- September 1952
10. Astounding Science Fiction -- March 1953
11. Beth Lisick -- "Everybody Into the Pool" (2005)
13. Ross MacDonald -- "The Barbarous Coast" (1956)
14. Cecelia Holland -- "Railroad Schemes" (1997)
Teenage girl protagonist (sneer
not at the "young adult" market,
it's a living), in the old west,
gets involved with a gunfighter
dude and various machinations
involving ripping off the
railroad companies -- who are
such serious bastards, that they
deserve little sympathy for
Cecelia Holland does her ususal magic,
making "the past come alive" with
an incredible economy of words.
I particularly liked the
detail about Virginia City:
the ground under the city so
riddled with mining operations
that the city always vibrates and
15. Beth Lisick -- "Monkey Girl" (1998)
16. Katie Hafner, Matthew Lyon -
"Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet" (1996)
17. Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill --
"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", Vol 1. (1999-2000)
18. Ross MacDonald -- "Find a Victim" (1953)
A readable book that moves
along well, with half-way
plausible tough-guy detective
schtick, and a mystery with
a largely logical solution...
about it seems
the Sheriff warns
I find it off the detective
hard to but he pushes on
remember anyway -- it's
that 1953 and the And this is the fifth
Archer genre is showing Archer book in four years.
isn't signs of wear.
Marlowe: There are some
did he touches of purple
work in prose that in
the DA's context only
office? 1923 -- Hammett's first serve to confuse:
Op" story. "... something
broke like a
1939 -- "The Big Sleep" capsule behind my
Chandler's eyes. It leaked
first novel. darkness through
my brain, and
1949 -- "Moving Target" numbness through
Ross MacDonald's my body."
novel. Oh my god! A brain
Nope: he just wants
to go to sleep.
would be more
given the number
of times he's
hit on the head.)
19. Bob Black -- "Friendly Fire" (1992)
20. Carter Dickson -- "And So to Murder" (rr)
In this tale, a young and naive authoress has
scored a hit with a bodice-ripper titled
"Desire". A running joke: no one can believe
this innocent young woman wrote the book.
She goes off to work in the British film
industry, circa 1938-39, and meets a
detective story writer, of whom she'd
conceived an intense dislike from a
distance. By story's end, the dislike This bears some
transforms itself into the usual. resemblence to the
opening of "The Case of
And there's something or the Constant Suicides".
other about a murder.
Entertaining. Works much
better than it has a right to.
21. The Wire, June 2007 (~20,000 words)
I decided to plow through a single issue of this
intimidating monthly, giving it a close reading.
Apparently London is very Grime-y now. LONDONS_GRIMING
Obscure music fans now lament
the passing of the age when
obscure music was hard to find. THE_ACOUSTIC_FIREHOSE
22. John Dickson Carr -- "Poison in Jest" (1932) (rr)
An odd one for Carr... not one of his
two big detectives, it isn't even his
third big one (the Bencolin he started
writing about). Instead he takes
Bencolin's Watson ("Jeff Marle"), moves
him across the pond to Carr's home town
of Philadelphia, and (eventually, a good
third of the way through the book)
introduces a new detective for him:
Rossiter, a burbling British space
cadet, all Bertie Wooster on the surface,
with a touch of Whimsey underneath.
This Rossiter schtick isn't too bad --
it's much like what Carr was to continue
to do with his Dr. Fell -- but nothing
else about this book is worth much.
I've heard it's depiction of atmosphere
praised, but to me it's a bad joke -- a By S.T. Joshi...
bunch of jittery, irritating people who
jump and scream every time a door slams. STICKS
There are pages of exposition
here, describing some element
of the setting, or explaining
the roots of a character's
quirk in their personal history.
23. Maxwell Grant -- "The Five Chameleons" (1932)
A very weak, relatively dull
"Shadow" novel. The first
third or so of it is full of The Shadow's sanctum
some heavy-handed narration is described in some
that's unfortunately detail, down to the
self-satiric... too hokey to bookcase-lined walls
imagine it used for any other and the sable carpets.
purpose, not even a Saturday
morning cartoon. Is this the first
place it's introduced?
It has it's moments, perhaps, but very few:
In earlier books
"You must not fear the truth," he declared, I just remember
in a low, even monotone. "I cannot change the "hands gliding
the past. I can control the present. I can in the darkness"
alter the future." schtick, manipulating
papers as the
-- Chapter XIII, "The Shadow Speaks" mysterious--
by author's fiat--
One thing I thought was of interest: of the Shadow
a gun battle described in such detail go to work.
that it all goes by slower than slow
motion, with paragraphs spent (There's an
discussing each small turning point unintentionally
of a fraction of a second. humorous bit
about a secret
The Lamont Cranston exit on top of
identity is not in use. a file cabinet:
The Shadow goes under the drawers
cover as "Henry Arnaud". slide out and
form a stair
A sixth chameleon. case.)
24. A.E. van Vogt -- "The Universe Maker" (1953)
25. Maxwell Grant -- "The Black Hush" (1933)
Yet another. A little less
dull in concept then the
"Five Chameleons", with
writing that's a *little* Lamont Cranston is on stage,
less ridiculous. introduced as one of the
Shadow's "most effective guises".
The sanctum is on stage Harry Vincent once again gets
again, this time with himself tied to the railroad
less emphasis on secret tracks so that the Shadow can
compartments and so on. save him.
"Blue" lights are
mentioned, and a lot of (There are no women
work goes into describing to speak of in these
the "fire opal ring". stories, so the men
have to stand-in as
There's an attempt here -- as in most search objects.)
of the Shadow novels -- of portraying
the Shadow as a man of brains as well
as action (a Sherlock Holmes, albiet
with the brains/brawn ratio reversed).
The Shadow's mental processes
aren't just "mysterious"
though, they don't make any
sense... here in Chapter XXIII, He's figured out
we see him discard a very that the the bad
useful piece of information guys are creating
that he could've literally used blackouts using
to get a line on the problem, their super-science
and instead he magically gets ray gun from some
the "solution" using some other central location in
information that realistically mid-town Manhatten,
probably wouldn't have helped so he begins
that much. marking sites of
blackouts on a map.
He begins drawing
lines from these
anything to fix
The one case where
he has two locations
blacked out at the
same time, he
discards one as
redundant-- but that's
the one case that
can show the line of
action of the beam.
26. "The Avenger #1: Justice, Inc" (1939)
nominally by Kenneth Robeson, (Steranko says 1936,
ghosted by Paul Ernst (according apparently in error)
to Jim Steranko)
Since these were not
actually written by Lester
Dent (the author of the Doc
Savage stories), I wondered
if this one might be a
little better written.
I'd have to say that Paul Ernst
has a slightly better feel for
character than Dent (it would Even the dour-Scotsman
be impossible to have worse). guy is better realized
than any of the Savage
This story is clearly an gang.
attempt at "doing another
Doc Savage" without
getting too close to the
original. The rule of ANASTRUCTING
reversals is generously
applied: Savage was a
giant among men, so
Benson "The Avenger" is
a wiry 5'8". Doc was a
"man of bronze", so
Benson is a "grey fox"
with blue eyes and
prematurely white hair.
By the way: "Justice, Inc"
is about a stock take-over
scam, and "The Five
Chameleons" was about a
scheme for covering runs on Ah, the thirties... if
a bank with counterfeit. only we could return to
that innocent time...
27. brian d foy -- "Mastering Perl" (2007)
Not precisely about "mastering" perl --
this is more of a grab bag of things
you should know about that haven't
been written about much elsewhere.
e.g. he doesn't talk much about
using the standard perl debugger,
because that's the focus of "Pro Perl
Debugging" -- instead he talks about
alternate debuggers (e.g. pktkdb),
and makes the point that you can write
your own if you like...
Some nice stuff scattered around here
and there. For example, I hadn't
heard about DBI::Profile, which is
almost exactly what I need at the moment.
28. Maxwell Grant -- "The Grove of Doom" (1933)
The Shadow/Lamont Cranston, skulking
about keeping an eye on an insane
inheritence dispute, where different Suspense is generated
factions have brought in mobsters and by using a female pov
a mysterious menace imported from that doesn't know anything,
china that inhabits a grove of trees. or know how to do anything,
which is a slight flaw
as far as story-telling
a woman at all
the usual formula?)
29. Gary Snyder -- "A Place in Space" (1995)
30. Grant Morrison -- "Soldiers Seven"
A long series of around 30 comics.
Lots of details, but precious (Lengthy enough to count as
little of it adds up to much. a book, but I don't know
that it was substantive
enough... Should I drop
this from the list?)
Some of the better details
are the notions that in a
world of "real superheros":
(1) there would be rampant
superhero sex-fetishes But... that's already
the case, in the nominally
American comics conventions,
It's one of the things that
comics have always been about --
freaks in strange, tight,
brightly colored clothing,
showing off idealized and
exaggerated physical forms.
(2) hospitals would be innundated with
people doing stupid things to try
to become superheroes (radiation
exposure, animal bites, etc.)
I find it irritating that
it messes with "the New
Gods" material without
anything like Jack Kirby's
The temptation for the
fan is to try to infer
rules from these cases:
"No one should write
that character except
But the New Gods series
was, among other things,
Kirby breathing life THE_SOURCE
into "Jimmy Olsen".
31. John Dickson Carr -- "The Sleeping Sphinx" (1947) (rr)
Not a bad initial set-up -- though to
describe it is no doubt, to induce
ironic eye-rolling: long-lost MI5 man
returns, long presumed dead because of a Our hero, the MI5 man
story put out when he went undercover; retreats into the
the woman he'd put on hold has really been Watson role when it's
waiting for him all these years, though time to bring Fell on
there's little reason to expect this; he stage... this sort of
walks into a strange case of what may be thing really is a
murder or suicide; things look bad for dramatic flaw, no
his beloved (is she insane?) because -- matter how useful the
author may find it in
Because when you come down to regulating the flow of
it, she's been behaving in a information to the
perfectly insane way; Carr once reader.
again does a very energetic job
of arm-flapping and hand-waving Minor oddity:
to distract from the problem, This edition mispells
but this time it's much too big. "MI5" as "M15".
(MI = "Military
Many allusions are made
to historical crime cases,
though there are no direct
literary references, except
for one footnote:
"Oddities" by Lieutenant Commander Rupert There are some
T. Gould, R.N. (London, Philip Allan & Co. pretty odd
Ltd., 1928, pp. 33-78) coincidences
The murderer does It also wouldn't
something really hurt the story
strange: a faked much if they were
suicide is spoiled chopped out,
by the fact that which is the
they've concealed a really odd thing.
bottle of poison,
The entire plot
turns on this point.
32. Noam Chomsky -- "Problems of Knowledge and Freedom" (1971)
A book based on a pair of lectures,
loosely organized as tributes to
Bertrand Russell, who I belatedly
realize is one of Chomsky's heroes.
The first half of the book
focuses on Chomsky's speculations When I started reading
about the biological roots of the book, I didn't quite
human language abilities. grasp that the material
dates back to 1971.
The second half is Chomsky
discussing the way the American I kept thinking
view of the world is warped by "don't we have
US propaganda, with emphasis on better data on
the Vietnam war period. this issue by
I've been assuming that the
present horrible state of th Essentially,
news media is a relatively Chomsky points out
recent phenomena, post-1996 that human language
telecom act, perhaps post-9/11... follows some oddly
But Chomsky has been patiently where simpler ones
tracking problems like this for can be easily
much longer. imagined.
He suggests there
are hints here of
and "a priori"
"Since the ideology of anti-communism human capabilities.
no longer serves to mobilize the
population, there will be, it is safe I.e. children
to predict, a search for some new master language
technique of social control, perhaps a at an early
continuing effort to replace the no age, but physics
longer credible communist threat by only with much
some terrifying image of left-wing difficulty.
students allied with ethnic minorities
and Third World revolutionaries, Can we then
threatening to tear down the pillars say that humans
of civilized society. It is hardly are inherently
surprising that some of the people who linguistic,
helped convert a justified opposition but not
to 'communist' totalitarianism into a inherently
paranoid anti-communist crusade are mathematical?
now attacking the student movement
with the techniques of distortion,
innuendo, and exaggeration, and with
"Problems of Knowledge
and Freedom" (1971)
33. Michael McClure -- "Fragments of Perseus" (1983)
Slim volume of poetry by one
of the lesser known "beats". Well somewhat lesser
known. He *was* at
Few things here really grab me... the Six Gallery reading
where Ginsberg debuted
The choices made in formatting are "Howl".
mildly irritating (all lines
centered, with lots of use of
capitals and repetition for
emphasis), but then I gather that
many of these are more intended to
be performed than read.. and the
"ecstatic voice" is used almost
exclusively throughout -- perhaps
the "beatest" thing here.
But still, there are interesting phrases
here and there -- paradoxical statements
that just might be seeds of wisdom --
And what largely interests me about McClure:
Unlike many a poet, McClure does not turn
his nose up at scientific understanding,
rather he tries to embrace it, he does
riffs off of it, as in the concluding poem,
which leads off with a Lynn Margulis quote.
34. Anne Radcliffe -- "The Mysteries of Udolpho" (1794)
35. Maxwell Grant -- "Chain of Death" (1934)
Genuinely a bad book by any
standard, not just because
it's a member of the dubious
class of "pulp fiction".
Walter Gibson seems to have
been going through a bad GRANTS_TOMB
stretch around then.
One chapter goes through
the solution of a simple
cipher in detail.
On the one hand, an "aside" like this
is often more interesting than the
"main story" -- it can be the thing
that makes it work --
But Poe did this already, didn't he?
Not to mention Doyle?
36. Maxwell Grant -- "Crime Circus" (1934)
While not exactly a great book by any
stretch, there's a huge difference in
quality between this and the previous
There are comparatively few clumsy
howlers in the writing, though there
are still some:
"LIKE other hardened rogues of scumland,
Dombo knew the menace of The Shadow." Weirdly enough,
There doesn't seem to be anything the dialog falls
particularly crazy about the plot... apart. People
we're back to skulking around in start speaking in
dive bars eavesropping on gruff unnatural ways,
gangsters, and so on. as though they
were doing a
Featured asides: a radio show where
lot of business about The Shadow goes they needed to
the circus business, undercover as a convey physical
working a little bit mind-reader, and action to the
of "carny lingo" Gibson describes listeners.
really hard. some interesting
stage illusions. In fact maybe
Stage Magic was his istic of Gibson's
real interest: Pulp writing: he
writer as day job. does dialog or
The Shadow also mix them in
turns out to be one scene.
an ace lion tamer.
And in one memorable scene, form:
The Shadow enters the big top radio play
disguised as a clown disguised and silent
as the Shadow. film.
(This "man of mystery"
is well known enough
for a third-rate clown
to expect a visual
parody will go over,
and out in the sticks
There's barely any mention
of "Lamont Cranston" in
this one, though all of the
other regular characters
(or more accurately,
regular names) are on
stage... Joe Cardonna, Vic
Marquette and two leading
members of the Shadow's
Marsland and Harry Vincent,
with the usual cameo from
Note: nicotine was
known to be very A side show act:
addictive, as of 1934. Cleed the chain-smoking
Recently I've been
listening to some radio
ads for cigarettes from
1951 -- they place so much
emphasis on being "smooth"
and "mild" (our cigarette
is the choice of actors,
doctors, etc) that I infer
they were already afraid
of a cancer scare.
Yes, Gibson's writing is definitely on form in this one:
"Burning eyes blazed from beneath a
blackened slouch hat. The mouths of
mammoth automatics loomed like
tunnels that boded death. Silent,
The Shadow had risen from the
dark. The master of vengeance had
arrived to conquer crime!"
Now that's Quality, as anyone can
see. (You *can* see it, right?
"Evil schemes had ended.
Minions of crime had died.
Their insidious leader had
perished. Justice had
gained the victory over
cross-purposes of crime.
"Justice - through The Shadow!"
37. Bertrand Russell -- many and various (inc?)
Having just read Chomsky's tribute
to Russell, I started reading through
various essays of his, some from a I offer this up
volume of his "Basic Writings", others as one of many
from online "gutenberg press" editions, reasons that this
and so on. notion of having
a quota on reading
I was wondering about books is a little
Russell's political ideas:, crazy.
like many people back then,
Russell was convinced of the Building your own
harmfulness of "selfishness", anthology of
and was dreaming of ways the selected works
world could move beyond it. doesn't count?
These days, we all tend to It has to be
sneer at the unrealistic bound into a
idealism of this sort of volume (real
thing, and wonder how all or virtual)
these socialist types by someone
could've missed the problem else's hand.
of incentives for so
One of my first thoughts: I've gotten interested
Could it be that they hadn't in dueling pundits
*missed* the problem, but they of late: Paul
had thought they had it solved? Krugman vs. David
That democratic institutions Kennedy, Peter
were adequate to select Bainhart (( sp?)),
wise and well-intentioned etc. By word count,
leaders? I'm sure this
would be another book.
It could be, for example,
that the reason it seems
"unrealistic" to us is
that we ourselves have
slid too far to see a
way through -- perhaps
democracy was working But no... there really
better back then than now? does seem to be this
The "Basic Works" includes a A lack of appreciation
few of Russell's essays on John of the difficulties
Dewey's metaphysics -- and I of "mechanism design"..
found myself wondering if
perhaps Russell hadn't missed
the point. This kind of
rigorous logical reasoning can
have a kind of smart-alecky
quality to it -- you need to
temper it with the knowledge
that logical rigor doesn't
really go anywhere either.
Not when you're working
with things without rigorous
definition -- which is the
case for anything we really
38. Kenneth Robeson -- "The Fantastic Island" (1933)
40. "chromatic" with Damien Conway and Curtis "Ovid" Poe --
"Perl Hacks" (inc)
A collection of small but useful tricks
in perl. Quite the page turner.
41. Carter Dickson -- "A Graveyard to Let" (1949) (rr)
I've got nothing to say about this one
really, but allow me to make some
remarks for my own future reference (the
titles are often arbitrary sales labels
on these things):
H.M. plays some silly tricks in the New
York subway (triggering an unlikely riot).
A older, staid fellow stages a flamboyant Exceedingly minor:
disappearing act for no good reason. Carr was probably
There's an amateur baseball field -- H.M drunk for this one --
turns out to be a professional grade though as always he
pitcher (what?) -- and nearby there's a flaps his arms and
disused graveyard, with a tomb used as a waves his hands
hideout, where a victim of a murderous astoundingly well,
attack is found on the steps. given this weak
42. Emile Gaboriau -- "Monsieru Lecoq" (1880)
I understood Gaboriau's Lecoq stories
were supposed to be an influence on
Conan Doyle's invention of Holmes --
John Dickson Carr quotes a note from
Doyle's private journal remarking
approvingly on two Gaboriau books:
"like Wilkie Collins, only more so".
It's remarkable how strong the influence
is... at the outset we have Gaboriau
performing amazing feats of inference,
to the amazement of his partner, an
older simple-minded fellow nicknamed
Later in the book, he tests his
talents in disguise by talking to one
of his colleagues for 20 minutes,
and then revealing that it is really
himself, under the makeup.
And I must say, it's a nice change for once
to read one of the historically significant
works of popular fiction and actually enjoy
reading it for once. The young Gaboriau's
trials and tribulations as he tries to
establish himself as a police detective
are actually reasonably engaging. There
are some logical lapses here and there
perhaps, but none of the usual howlers.
The ending is actually really interesting...
Gaboriau realizes that the villain of the
story is too highly placed for him to touch
as of yet, and vows to bide his time and conceal
what he knows until someday maybe he can
do something about it.
43. Rafael Sabatini - "Captain Blood" (1922)
44. Ken MacLeod - "Newton's Wake" (2004)
An okay book, by me, but in many
ways it seems like a return to For example, we have the
"The Cassini Division". sympathetic main character
who does not appear to be
What seems to be new here, a "good guy" in any sense
to my eye, is that MacLeod (except perhaps, that
is having increasing she's capable of learning
trouble sustaining the better).
courage of his convictions
(who isn't?) and he can't And actually she
quite make up his mind if seems like a
his initial, gut-level really sloppy
hostility towards blunderer...
transhumanism really if the novel has
holds up. one big failure
as a novel, it's
E.g. sub-plots involve people working that she never
with some slightly electronicized gets a single
humans and gradually coming to the thing right.
conclusion that they deserve to be
respected as real people. Well, actually near
the end she has an
And that seems like epiphany of sorts
a bit of a slippery about it being
slope, eh? Why is possible to get
one type of electronic rich by honest
brain "human", and another work. But it's
the hated enemies of In this novel hard to imagine her
humanity, the dangerous there's a actually following
creatures on the far side second faction through...
of the Hard Rapture? of the
MacLeod sustains a of the
sense-of-reality inhabits of
through most of Jupiter of
this complicated, "the Cassini By novel's end,
multi-faction tale Division"): it's clear they're
of superscience much less hostile --
magic-physics and possibly they're
mega-computer (not even benevolent...
quite so magic)
infotech: this is
not such an easy
There's one scene that really
bugged me with it's general
insanity: the main characters
appear to have deliberately
dived into a suicide mission
without studying maps, stepping By the way:
through mock-ups, etc. there's no
the original Explicitly,
Blake quote the title
about "Newtons appears to
sleep". mean the
A common pattern is the The Toadkeeper Newton",
grand conflict that seemed to think meaning the
just kind of fizzles that was death of any
into unimportance when significant: shred of
you really see what's He complained classical
going on. The enemies about Gregory physics.
sink into a truce of Benford getting
exhaustion. it wrong. By the end
of the novel
Realistic perhaps? there's some
But after three or about a
four of those, the multiplicity
reader starts of visions,
feeling exhausted. which is
more like it.
45. John D. MacDonald --
"The Girl in the Plain-Brown Wrapper" (rr)
On this reading, it strikes me
that these books are all really
attempts at pushing past the DEEP_BLUE
Hence the recurrent
theme of human
feeling vs animal
lust; the repeated
insistance that Lots of not terribly profound,
human death really not terribly sophisticated
*means* something... attempts at being profound
And then there's the
solution to the mystery -- But if you need to hear
and think twice about such things, maybe
the up-coming spoiler these are good places
warning, because this is to hear them.
an eminently readable
book, complex and (mostly)
SPOILERS To my eye there's a funny
The solution to the McGee's thinking about things:
mystery involves a
drug that induces He keeps worrying about how other
amnesia, and can people would see the events of his
create a chemically life ("one-night stand") and he
induced state of keeps looking for reassurances that
lobotomy if applied there's something more than that
regularly. going on.
That, it seems to me, is
right on theme -- the
foundations of identity A woman compliments McGee's
in the physical world. sexual ability, though she
also remarks that he doesn't
know any of the little tricks.
Technique is insignificant
compared to the sincere passion
of authentic human feeling.
46. Leslie T. White --
"The Highland Hawk" (1952)
I am reading a business planning book!
Peter Schwartz is a cohort of Stewart Brand,
and one of the folks associated with
"The Long Now Foundation". I picked this
up off of the table they put out at the
Long Now talks.
It's essentially about the virtues of
scenario planning -- presented in the In effect, the message
style favored by biz books, which one is that in the absence
might both praise and condemn as "simple". of any rigorous planning
methodology, we need
It is, at least, Not Dumb, and I'll have to tell ourselves
more to say on this, I expect. stories about the
future -- with the
emphasis on telling
49. Carter Dickson - (rr) *many* stories, covering
"The Unicorn Murders" (1935) different possibilities.
This was my third or fourth time through
"The Unicorn Murders" and I still have
trouble remembering the various twists and
turns. I suspect that Carr had some trouble
also, and I have my doubts he had this one
planned out in advance of writing it. As
always, there's some impressive arm-waving
and misdirection through out, and not one
but *two* "secret passages" (in all but
name) in the floor plan, and multiple people
disguising themselves as other people
throughout, all of which provides the
necessary wiggle room to invent a "solution"
that retro- actively *almost* justifies the
50. Joyce Johnson - "The Night Cafe" (1989)
In one of the early stories in this
volume, I noted a use of fractured
English to denote pyschological meaning, You know, like, the
which reminded me a lot of stories narrator reveals a weak
in the New Yorker in the mid-80s. ego by refusing to use
the word "I" (no-person
Back tracking to the copyright narrative).
page, I see that some of these
stories did indeed appear in Crap like that.
The New Yorker.
And lest you get the
wrong impression, I do
Oh, and while I'm not claim to be
being snarky: someone who actually
Joyce Johnson was *read* The New Yorker,
a contributing I just read a few of
editor to Vanity the stories to try to
Fair when the book determine how to write
was published. New Yorker stories.
explain the New It's entirely possible
Yorker sales, as that the New Yorker
well as the was surviving on sales
glowing pull quote to hopeful writers.
from The New York
Times Book Review. EDITED_REALITY
But it turns out that
this really is a novel
with an interesting
approach to structure:
It's always, beginning
then end, and then the
middle. The story
commences only once you
know the character's doom.
A tricky business:
beginnings can be Another interesting touch:
a drag, and the usual the book veers between
advice is to skip first person and second person,
them: "start the story it's intended audience is
as late as you can". a dead man, the wild man,
fighting irish, crazy artist
dude the woman lived with for
The narrator of the book
is a relatively uninteresting
character, whose life is
There's this stuff defined entirely by her
about how she's a shy, interactions with men.
observer type -- but
she's also supposed to For awhile, I thought that
be an actress (a child this is what Joyce Johnson
star on broadway): it wanted to write about, but
seems odd because she she doesn't show any signs
seems a lot more like a of being conscious of the
writer than an actress. issue -- and you'd think
But okay, maybe the it would be on her mind,
point is she's going to since she's essentially
abandon acting and known to world as "Jack
become a writer? Um, Kerouac's Girlfriend"
no: she becomes a (or one of them, at any rate).
*photographer* -- like
her father -- because
her boyfriend gives her
I think Johnson
took the "don't This is a book
write about with some
writers" rule moments, but it
too seriously. never seems to
get off the dime. (whatever
It's a bit of a
drag -- everything
has to be downer,
you see, because
you can't have
in the fiction of a
published by The
I had this funny feeling
after reading it: where
should I shelve this book?
There's nowhere in
particular that I want
it to be. Should I get
rid of it?
51. Maxwell Grant - "The Black Falcon" (1934)
Maybe Grant was hitting his stride
at this point... this is another
one I would rate as being above average...
for a "Shadow" novel.
But then, about a third of the
way through, there's a turning
point where it takes a dive.
Chapter XIII: "The Mustache Twirls"
And there's an awful lot of
superhuman prowess displayed
in the fight against supercrook
52. C.S. Forrester - "Sink the Bismarck!" (1959)
Very slim volume, targeted at the Y.A. market
I suppose. Essentially a newsreel with no
dialog, a real-world game of "battleship"
as each side tries to piece together
clues about what the other is doing,
make guesses about intentions, and decide
what to do accordingly.
Forester plays this up as
a turning point in WWI:
if the Bismarck escaped,
history would have been
53. G.K. Chesterton - "The Man Who Was Thursday"
Methinks Chesterton -- who essentially
specialized in parables if not
sermons-in-story-form -- is at his best in
This novel becomes a bit of a monotonous
drag, as we go plodding along awaiting
the next great twist -- most of which are
obvious after the first few of them
indicate the direction he's going.
54. E.E. "doc" Smith - "The Skylark of Space" (1928) (rr)
55. John Dickson Carr - "In Spite of Thunder" (1960) (rr)
56. Rafael Sabatini - "The Fortunes of Captain Blood" (1936) (rr)
57. Ian Fleming - "Doctor No" (1958)
One of the alt.gothic gang mentioned
that this was one of his favorites,
so I decided it might make good
Actually, it's so close to the film
version -- which was the first of
the Connery Bond's -- there isn't a
lot of point in reading it, except
to note the small differences that
Fleming had quite an obsession
with torture going in those days.
Quarrel is treated with some
condescension, but is handled
far better than in the film,
where he's jeered at for There's a bunch of stuff
being a cowardly drunk; in about "chigroes", i.e. chinese
the book version his fears negreos, in the book, all
are entirely reasonable -- removed from the film.
and he goes along bravely,
but requests a life insurance The film has things
policy be taken out on him so adjusted so that
his family will be cared for. there are a few
more fight scenes,
(Also, the film and an additional
contains the flirtation (the
immortal line corrupt secretary
directed from character has a
Bond to Quarrel: much smaller role
"Fetch my shoes.") in the book).
Honey Rider's butt is
described as "boyish",
"In combat, like it or which I think is also
not, a girl was your the case for another
extra heart. The enemey of the Fleming Bond
has two targets against heroines...
(A point Noel Coward
-- p 93, Chapter 9 "Close Shaves" commented on).
58. John Dickson Carr - "The Eight of Swords" (1934) (rr)
Begins in a comical mode,
and it's clear it's
going to be a battle
of the blue noses
against the red noses.
Then, half way through, it
gets grimmer, and there's the Just at a guess, Carr
mystery-novel author on stage made the mistake of
keeps complaining about the reading a review of
absurdity of insisting on one of his books.
"probable" plots in fiction.
This story is unusual
There are too many characters in that the kindly,
on stage, and Carr tosses one doddering old Doctor
of the more minor ones to the Fell seems like an
wolves as the murderer, ominous, threatening
leaving the reader feeling figure in many places.
vaguely cheated (but what
But at least this time Fell's
explanation for why it had to
be this person (or someone
similar) seems reasonable.
[NEXT - RAKED_OVER]