I'VE been realizing for the last several months that I've been becoming rather a web-head, and I've almost stopped reading books. That's bad. I love the web, and there's stuff I never would have found out about if it weren't for the web—including anime!—but if the web is very wide, it's also very shallow. There are a ton of books and ideas out there that I want to learn about. I must read more.
Thus, this is a sort of preamble to my New Years Resolutions: a list of books that have been banging on my consciousness for a while, asking to be let in, but that I just haven't gotten to, and want to, in the coming year.
The Year's Best Science Fiction, 17th Annual Collection,
Gardner Dozois, ed.
I've had this one hanging around for most of a year, and have barely cracked it. I used to read a lot of sf, in the 70's, and loved it, but I've gotten away from it recently, and I no longer have a feel for which writers are hot, and I hardly know the name of anyone who started writing less than 20 years ago. Yeah, I know, it's sad.
(at least one of) The Neon Wilderness; The Man with the Golden Arm; A Walk
on the Wild Side, Nelson Algren.
First is a short story collection, the others are novels. I've got them in one volume, an impulse buy from the Quality Paperback Book Club, of which I'm a
Algren wrote about punks, hustlers, prostitutes, addicts. He also had a two year
affair with Simone de Beauvoir, and you can't do better than that. I've had the
book in my bookcase for a while, but have never gotten around to opening it.
Justine, Laurence Durrell.
The first of the 'Alexandria Quartet' novels. I've had this one in my bookcase since—I am not making this up—the 1960's. Durrell's style is as languid and sensual as his subject matter, and maybe that is what put me off. But this is a great novel, and I suspect I'll enjoy it a lot once I've started.
The next three Harry Potter books.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm embarrassed that I haven't read this yet.
The Green Pearl, Jack Vance
This is the second of a fantasy trilogy set in the mythical island of Lyonesse, that supposedly existed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during the Middle Ages. It's out of print, but I picked up a used copy from Amazon. I started on it during my vacation, but only got a few chapters in. The first book in the series, Lyonesse, is weird and wonderful, and dark, very different from the run-of-the-mill fantasy novel. Imagine a fantasy novel written by Thomas Harris, author of Silence of the Lambs. The sense of dread that hovers over the entire book is almost palpable, and you really get a sense of how eerie and threatening it must have been to live in a medieval world where violent death was common, almost expected. Vance's villains are really villains: not romantic figures in velvet cloaks who speak elegantly, but disgusting, dirty trolls who rape and eat little girls. I read Lyonesse many years ago when it was first published, and hadn't realized until recently that there were sequels.
From what I've read of The Green Pearl, Vance's writing is, as usual, very dense, with a lot of attention, perhaps too much, to various political intrigues. But every once in a while, he catches a character or an emotion just right, so that it leaps out of the page at you.
The last couple of Vance novels I've read, written in the early 90's, were pretty bad. Vance is getting old, and I think his writing skills are going. In his prime, though, he wrote some of the best fantasy of all time, including The Dying Earth, a collection of short stories; The Eyes of the Overworld, which features an anti-hero protagonist who is both amusing and appalling; and The Last Castle and The Dragon Masters, two novellas. Look for them. I'm hoping that The Green Pearl was written before Vance's skills began to go. We shall see.
Continued next post.