August Reading

Here is a list of what I read last month.


Alan Garner, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath: I stretched my reread of these two books out over the month, in preparation for Garner’s conclusion to the trilogy. In many ways these are Garner’s weakest novels; I have no idea what to expect from Boneland (at the time of writing this my copy still has not arrived); I only know that it’s going to break my heart.

Jack Vance, Dream Castles: The second of Subterranean’s early Vance collections. I’ll be reviewing this elsewhere.

William Mayne, A Grass Rope: I wrote a bit about this here. It’s beautiful, and I’m reminded that I really should try and collect all the Mayne I can.

Adam Roberts, Jack Glass: Firstly, the best cover art Roberts has ever had – after a series of really excellent covers (Swiftly, Yellow Blue Tibia, New Model Army, By Light Alone). Secondly, there is a character called Aishwarya, which is a feature that drastically improves any book. Jack Glass does this clever thing where it combines golden age SF with golden age crime fiction, and the result is something that feels familiar but really isn’t. Martin Lewis suggested yesterday that By Light Alone is going to be cited frequently in the next few years. I think this is true, but I’m also beginning to sense that all of Roberts’ work in recent  years fits together as a sort of unified whole in terms of its engagement with genre and the world. I’m interested to see both where he takes this next, and how this body of work as a whole will be studied/referred to in the next decade or so.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Michelle Farooqi, Rabbit Rap: I’ll be reviewing this elsewhere.

Anna Kavan, Ice: I wrote a bit about this here.

Jean Webster, When Patty Went to College: Webster’s best known for Daddy-Long-Legs which is either (depending on how old you were when you read it) a sweet, romantic story about a young girl falling in love with the guardian who manipulates her and deceives her about his identity or a really creepy story about a young girl falling in love with the guardian who manipulates her and deceives her about his identity. I’m both charmed and skeeved out by it; I prefer her Dear Enemy, which has intelligent adult characters getting to know each other in non-creepy ways. When Patty Went to College is an earlier work, and it’s rather dull. Patty is, within the book, one of those bright, attractive characters who gets away with thoughtless behaviour because she’s just that charming. Which is all very well, except she isn’t particularly charming. This means the whole thing is rather laboured – and when she Learns Her Lesson and resolves to be better in future it seems likely that she will be getting even less attractive.

Earl Der Biggs, Charlie Chan Carries On: I read this for an article I was writing on cruise ship murders. I was expecting to have issues with the race aspects of the book – while I’m aware that the author was liberal by the standards of his time,  those standards tended to be pretty low. I cringed frequently at Charlie Chan’s hilarious broken English and ‘oriental’ wisdom, and wouldn’t it be nice if the idiot sidekick had been a white guy? On the other hand, I do like that Chan manages to be intentionally funny and snarky even with the har har orientals can’t speak English subtext. Plus having read a book in this series means that a random reference in an Antonia Forest book makes more sense to me now. So there’s that.

Carl Hiaasen, Skinny Dip: For the article mentioned above. Hiaasen’s an odd one for me – I see (or think I do) and respect what he’s doing stylistically but it has never entertained me on any level. It’s not him, I think, it’s me.

John Mortimer, The Third Rumpole Omnibus: Because I was reading “Rumpole at Sea” for the article mentioned above, and the rest was just there and it was a nice afternoon and.

Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile: For the same article. I must get around to posting these pieces on here.

Nilanjana Roy, The Wildings: It’s possible that I’m terribly biased because Nilanjana’s a friend. But The Wildings is one of my favourite books of this year. With every excuse to be it is rarely twee, there’s an abundance of terrible punnage, and it’s in equal parts touching and dark and funny. I love that Aleph chose not to market it as a children’s book, yet I hope children will read it and be properly terrified by some of the Shuttered House scenes. To compare this to Watership Down seems too obvious, but it’s the closest thing I can think of.

Georgette Heyer, Frederica: Beth of Beth Loves Bollywood invited me to join a Georgette Heyer book club. I ended up not participating as much as I’d like to, but it did give me a chance to reread Frederica, which is always a glorious thing to do.

Valerie Krips, The Presence of the Past: I read this for academic reasons and can’t imagine that my notes would be of any interest to anyone but me. But I enjoyed it greatly, and am on the lookout for more work that discusses British history in children’s literature, if anyone has recommendations.

Jack Vance, Araminta Station: After reading Dream Castles I felt the need for more of Vance’s SF. So the Cadwal Chronicles now, and I think I’ll move on to some of the random lesser works (perhaps The Grey Prince?) next.

Eloisa James, The Ugly Duchess: I’m beginning to come around to the idea that Regency romances are not actually set in Regency England. By which I mean that the authenticity critique is pointless; characters will talk about events that take place in ‘fall’, there will be historically implausible (so I’m told; but I don’t wish to underestimate anyone’s ancestors) sex, women will regularly be allowed to do things that only very lucky/exceptional women would have got away with at the time, and things like slavery don’t really exist. There are probably some parallels with steampunk here. I also find interesting the tacit agreement among many of the writers in the genre that it is the same world – there’s a level of intertextuality that is fascinating. The other comparison I’d make is with the Lovecraftian mythos, but there’s a whole other essay there and about a paragraph of it is already sitting in this blog’s drafts. Anyway, l enjoyed this new Eloisa James book, and its occasional Americanisms and historically unlikely fashion did not bother me in the least.

Ranjit Hoskote and Ilija Trojanow, Confluences: I wrote about this in this weekend’s column, and will post a link here when I put it on the site.

Anne Carson, Antigonick: I spent a good part of July and the first half of August with this book in my head. I wrote about it here, but it hasn’t felt like enough. A wonderful book, and a beautiful object.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>