December 2022 Reading Thread

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Extollager

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Crickey, yes, we may define the upper and lower bounds of pleasantness regards the events that surround the book’s first reading. All others probably lie somewhere in between. Answers on a postcard from anyone who feels they can extend the range either below the lower bound or above the upper bound. This could become quite an interesting sub-discussion.
I still have it, the paperback edition that I got by means of a classroom "book club" in (probably) eighth grade. This would have been not just one of my first novels read, but one of the first books of any sort that I chose for myself. It looks like this:
1670365069997.png

I suppose that, around the time I got that book, my personal book library contained a few Tolkien paperbacks, a few Lancer reprints from Marvel comics, one or two of Blish's Star Trek teleplay retellings, and ... boy, not much more, aside from a few books that had been given to me at various times in youngsterhood.
[added: Oh, and I had a book called Illya: That Man from UNCLE around that time, relating to my obsession with the TV series]
 
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Vince W

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I still have it, the paperback edition that I got by means of a classroom "book club" in (probably) eighth grade. This would have been not just one of my first novels read, but one of the first books of any sort that I chose for myself. It looks like this:
View attachment 96459
I suppose that, around the time I got that book, my personal book library contained a few Tolkien paperbacks, a few Lancer reprints from Marvel comics, one or two of Blish's Star Trek teleplay retellings, and ... boy, not much more, aside from a few books that had been given to me at various times in youngsterhood.
I never owned Hound until about a decade ago, but I read a library copy when I was about 13. Now, I have the Klinger annotated set along with Penguin editions.
 

Bick

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I still have it, the paperback edition that I got by means of a classroom "book club" in (probably) eighth grade. This would have been not just one of my first novels read, but one of the first books of any sort that I chose for myself. It looks like this:
View attachment 96459
Holmes' hat doesn't look exactly like a deerstalker on that cover, Extollager (peaks too short and no ear flaps). Conan Doyle never placed a deerstalker on his head, of course (a reference to an "ear-flapped travelling cap" in Silver Blaze is the closest such description. It's interesting the image strikes the right impression on your book though - we've become very used to what Holmes should look like (Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett in a long coat and a deerstalker, basically).
 

Extollager

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I’ve begun a late Victorian novel credited to Maxwell Grey (the author was a woman whose name I forget and didn’t recognize), The Silence of Dean Maitland. I ran across a very brief but appreciative notice of it by Arthur Machen, so submitted an ILL request. It’s not going to win awards for rapid action, but I think I might stick with it.
 

Danny McG

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I’ve begun a late Victorian novel credited to Maxwell Grey (the author was a woman whose name I forget and didn’t recognize), The Silence of Dean Maitland
I've got that as an ebook in my TBR file, it's been there a long, long time.
Written by a Mary Tuttiet.

I'll be interested in your thoughts on it.....as in, read it or delete it :unsure:
 

Foxbat

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I’m still reading Eon and, since the last time I read it, the internet has come into being and that has been really helpful. Through looking stuff up, I finally understand why Vasquez wanted to measure Pi.:)
 

Hugh

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John Christopher “The World in Winter” (1962)
Good early 60s British SF. There’s no end to the cold winter. A new ice age may have started. Anyone who can has left the UK. Nigeria is full of destitute Northern Europeans living in shanties trying to find work in menial capacities. The UK currency is worthless and the government has jumped ship to the West Indies having sold off whatever assets it can. However, this is no Ballardian journey into the further reaches of the human psyche, more an examination of human relationships and survival.
 

Extollager

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I've got that as an ebook in my TBR file, it's been there a long, long time.
Written by a Mary Tuttiet.

I'll be interested in your thoughts on it.....as in, read it or delete it :unsure:
8E026EDC-28EE-49CF-8543-C7B70C19EE8A.jpeg

This edition (from the cheap reprint house A. L. Burt) sure doesn’t look like something Arthur Machen would have esteemed! It's possible that the picture was "stock on hand" that Burt slapped on the cover to entice a feminine readership without the art having been done for this book. I have a cheap reprint of a Rider Haggard novel that has a somewhat similar cover design: i.e. maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, made for that specific book. (The Haggard in question was a departure from his usual tale of African adventure, by the way, so it wasn't absurdly inappropriate.)

So far (about page 60 of this edition) it seems to be a fairly realistic novel of rural life, with leisurely narration of rustics prosing away in the village tavern, two pretty young women talking in a cosy parlor, a scene in which one of them calms an overexcited horse at the smithy, &c. If I'd just picked it up and asked myself if the Machen who did not care for the fiction of George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) would have liked it, I would have guessed he would not -- so it is going to be interesting to observe when it is that the novel seems more in line with the doctrine of Machen's Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature (which doesn't mention this novel).
 
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Extollager

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About 100 pages further on, yes, The Silence of Dean Maitland grips me, with characters who interest me and whom I care about. As far as theme, one could say it deals with the way guilt and secrecy may flow beneath superficial good behavior and within someone who seriously aspires after rightness of life. It seems to me a good, not great, read so far. Folks who stick solely to genre fiction (modern mystery/crime fiction, in this case) may find it too slow-moving. For sure the author is interested in more than working out a plot. If I were to invoke a better-known novelist, I might, at this point, tentatively say it's as if Anthony Trollope set himself to tell a story of an illicit sexual entanglement (not described) that, suppressed by the parties involved, catches the innocent too in its consequences, and had employed a bit of the ingenuity of Wilkie Collins. If the book stays on the level it has reached now as I near the halfway point, it will not quite seem to be a "forgotten classic," but still a book that probably quite a few readers could find worth reading.

Incidentally, it was filmed. It seems the movie was an early Australian production.
1670521170276.png

The novel was recently revived by Edinburgh University Press.
 
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Extollager

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The protagonist is in that place wherein Part One, Chapter 16, p. 181 of the Burt edition), he reflects: "Better, far better, it would have been to have taken the step he meditated at such dreadful cost to himself at the very first, before this fearful coil wound itself round [his innocent friend]; every moments' delay made it worse, and now there was scarcely room for fate to alter things."

I don't know if writing today very often deals with such issues of conscience. They can make for memorable fiction.

A little further on, I was much reminded of The Scarlet Letter, which Machen mentioned at the same time he mentioned this novel.

By the way, looks like my mention of Wilkie Collins gets a little incidental confirmation, since on page 184 (same chapter) there's what has to be an allusion to Collins's short story "A Terribly Strange Bed."


If I were writing a critical review of the novel, I would develop a critique of the courtroom scene. It's good but a great author could've written it better -- but it's good enough that I have not the least temptation to stop reading.
 
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Toby Frost

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I read Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies by G Peter Winnington. Unsurprisingly, it's a biography of Peake. It's very informative and well-written, even if it could have been a bit longer. My main thoughts on reading it are just how talented and unlucky Peake was: not just in his illness, but in his art often seeming to be slightly out of fashion. He was an extremely good artist and seems to have been a great poet too, although I find his poetry a little hard going. Really, Peake ought to be recognised as the second greatest fantasy author: this book goes some way to rescuing him from being just a "gothic" curiosity.
 

Randy M.

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Just started a collection of three Nero Wolfe "novelettes" by Rex Stout, Three for the Chair proving, as if it needed proof, that not everyone is as high minded this time of year Toby and Extollager. :p

And, by the way, I just finished The Final Solution by Michael Chabon. At GoodReads I posted the following:

A reread, this remains the best Sherlock Holmes pastiche I've read. Chabon conjures a British style of writing without falling into parody of Arthur Conan Doyle, and the aging Holmes is still acerbic and does not suffer fools gladly, while his moments of doubt that he retains the intellectual powers of his past humanize and soften him, and open him to an empathy with a small, lost, probably orphaned Jewish boy near the end of WWII. The multiple meanings of the title conjure both the last hurrah of Holmes, and the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps the boy has escaped, something Chabon doesn't dwell on, but does allude to and underscores in a final image of a parrot singing.

A much recommended read.
 
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hitmouse

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I read Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies by G Peter Winnington. Unsurprisingly, it's a biography of Peake. It's very informative and well-written, even if it could have been a bit longer. My main thoughts on reading it are just how talented and unlucky Peake was: not just in his illness, but in his art often seeming to be slightly out of fashion. He was an extremely good artist and seems to have been a great poet too, although I find his poetry a little hard going. Really, Peake ought to be recognised as the second greatest fantasy author: this book goes some way to rescuing him from being just a "gothic" curiosity.
I have a book of Peake's nonsense poems which is really fun. A bit Lewis Carrolish.
 

Extollager

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I read Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies by G Peter Winnington. Unsurprisingly, it's a biography of Peake. It's very informative and well-written, even if it could have been a bit longer. My main thoughts on reading it are just how talented and unlucky Peake was: not just in his illness, but in his art often seeming to be slightly out of fashion. He was an extremely good artist and seems to have been a great poet too, although I find his poetry a little hard going. Really, Peake ought to be recognised as the second greatest fantasy author: this book goes some way to rescuing him from being just a "gothic" curiosity.
I'll assume you mean "second greatest fantasy author of the 20th century" after Tolkien. That's a thesis that could be defended strongly.

Yet I have to confess I have tried multiple times to read Gormenghast a second time, and I can never keep it going. As I've said here at Chrons before, I think especially I bog down with the Prunesquallor and Irma stuff. It just isn't entertaining, to me. Even Titus Groan I've read only twice in 48 years.
 

Extollager

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The Silence of Dean Maitland continues to please. I have been reading just now about the escape of an innocent man accused of a killing. Since my wife and I often watch teleplays of David Janssen's The Fugitive, I could be expected to enjoy this kind of thing. The novel is said to be melodramatic -- fine, but the account of the fugitive's plight is rather plausible. [Update: In fact, he is recaptured and sentenced to worse incarceration than he had before.] I have decided that, unless the book falls off from the level it has attained, it is indeed a neglected classic.

Edinburgh University Press has an edition:

 
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Extollager

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Finished The Silence of Dean Maitland, and would say the final 75 pages or so were better than adequate but didn’t confirm the idea of “neglected classic.” A good Victorian novel that I am glad to have read but guess that I won’t read a second time. I’m glad that Arthur Machen’s remark put me on to it and I like him a bit the better that he thought so well of it. I think that speaks well for his values.
 
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