I am currently reading an intriguing fairy story called Among Others, by Jo Walton. Walton, I should note, is also well-known as Papersky on LJ. She’s also the author of the entirely chilling alternate history Farthing and sequels.
I know a lot of you are reading, thinking and talking about this book, and it’s very talk-worthy. If you have spoiler-free thoughts or comments, I’d love to hear them.
Previously read in 2012
1. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
This is another early end-of-year wrap-up… I tell you, every year, what I read.
I have one more book that I am gonna by-Chaos read this year, and it is Elizabeth Bear‘s Range of Ghosts, which can be pre-ordered right this minute for its March 27th release.
Here’s the cover:
And once I’ve read it, I will tell you things about it, because I am the very lucky woman who got a sneak preview. And also because Bear rocks, and I’m excited about it.
This was not an outstanding book-reading year for me, despite my lofty intentions. I read a lot of parts of books, for research, and feel as though I may have forgotten a book or two, but here’s everything I can remember finishing:
1. Killing Rocks, by D D Barant
2. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (blog entry here)
3. American Vampire Vol. 1, by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King
4. One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing, by Katherine Dunn
5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson
6. Medici Money: Banking, Metaphysics, and Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence, by Tim Parks
7. Deathless, by Cathrynne M. Valente
8. The Hidden Goddess, by M.K. Hobson
9. Resurrection Code, by Lyda Morehouse
10. Fall from Grace by Wayne Arthurson
11. Basilica: The Splendor and the Scandal: Building St. Peter’s by R.A. Scotti
12. American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century, by Howard Blum
13. The Brahms Deception, by Louise Marley
14. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larsen
15. Miserere: An Autumn Tale, by Teresa Frohock
16. Little Face, by Sophie Hannah
17. The Tears of the Sun: A Novel of the Change by S.M. Stirling
18. Those Across the River, by Christopher Buehlman
19. A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption, and L.A.’s Scandalous Coming of Age, by Richard Rayner
20. Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King
21. Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large, by William Shatner with Chris Regan
22. Better off Undead, by DD Barant
22. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Century – 1910, by Alan Moore
23. Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy
1. Shadowland, by Peter Straub
2. Watchers, by Dean R. Koontz
3. It, by Stephen King
4. When the Wind Blows, by John Saul.
5. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
6. The Hellbound Heart, by Clive Barker
I’d love to hear what all of you read and loved this year.
While some of you are madly writing, and writing, I am reading. I am starting with a series I love, something Kelly and I both read annually. This year’s edition of The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2011 is especially exciting because it was edited by the hilarious Mary Roach, along with series editor Tim Folger.
I have already learned exciting things about fermentation. How cool is that?
And, since these are articles, I am also going to embark on reading a novel… just as soon as I pick one out.
It was about a year ago that I got myself an iTouch, and at some point I also got the iBook app. (They were giving away Winnie The Pooh.) Then Kelly got a Kindle, so I got that app too. Once I had successfully read a few books on the gadget, I got myself a third book-reading app so I could experiment with downloading books from the BC Libraries without Walls program.
I started this phase of the experiment with Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy–the trio that ends with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I knew the database would have them all, I figured they would be fast easy reads, and I was betting I’d never want to own them. All of that, as it turned out, was true.
I have been mustering up a post about what makes a book good. Not okay, not good enough, but good. And this Larsson trilogy falls into the category of books I liked a lot that are not, strictly speaking, good. In this case, that means they have terrific stories and poor prose.
This isn’t just my opinion. Others have pointed out that in translation (and possibly in the original) these books have a clunky prose style. June Casagrande does an interesting edit on the opening passage of the third book, and Nora Ephron makes great fun of the series in The New Yorker. The points made in both articles are valid, but I have no real problem with liking a bad book (or TV show, or movie) now and then. In this case, Larsson’s protagonist and her story pulled me in. It was a tour around the bureaucratic backroads of a foreign country.
I was particularly intrigued by the weird legal situation that Lisbeth Salander is in as the series begins. She’s in her twenties but she’s also trapped in an odd sort of reversed emancipated minor status. Emancipated minors can act as adults in some cases, even though they aren’t legally of age. Lisbeth, meanwhile, is an adult in fact but a dependent minor in the eyes of the System, and she has a court-appointed guardian.
There must be a comparable structure here in Canada and in the U.S., but I have never seen it used in fiction. And it is a great obstacle for a character, especially a socially awkward one, to be stuck with–the threat of being institutionalized hovers over Lizbeth’s every move.
I liked the cluster of allies Lisbeth gathers, somewhat against her will, and the way each novel ends with a gory explosion of violence and crushing public exposure of the bad guys. I like the examination of the role of the media in making big crime stories, and the glimpse of Swedish constitutional law, and the fact that Larsson clearly had it in, bigtime, for homophobes and racists and human smugglers and guys who batter women.
Finally, I have to say that it didn’t hurt that the phrase “lesbian satanist bikers” pops up on every third page of the last two books.
My UCLA novel-writing class is in workshop at present, which really slows down my intake of fiction, so instead I’ve recently read Katherine Dunn’s One Ring Circus: Dispatches from the World of Boxing.
Katherine was one of my instructors at Clarion West 1995; she is a generous teacher, honest and full of enthusiasm and passion for writing. She brings that same fierce love to boxing, and what I loved most about this series of boxing articles tended to be her physical descriptions of fighters–there’s a painterly sensuality to the way she talks about these men and women that differentiates them from each other so clearly. It’s a nifty trick, the more so because, as someone who’s not a fan, it would be easy to just have a generic picture of some ‘fight guy’ in one’s mind while reading.