January Reading Thread

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The Judge

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A new year, a new lot of reading!

I managed to finish a couple of books in December, The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin (a so-so murder mystery set in 1836 Istanbul with rather large liberties taken with historical accuracy) and City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky, a return to fantasy filled with his usual incredible inventiveness around a city which has very strange districts.

My reading for January, though, is to try and finish (or decide to dump...) a book I started before either of them and which I've struggled with, Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham. I've enjoyed his other fantasies but I'm finding this one -- in which a city again takes centre stage -- flat and turgid.

What are you reading this brand new year?
 
I'm busy listening to The Silmarillion by J.R.R and C. Tolkien, narrated by Andy Serkis. I like this narrator a lot. I started it in December 2023 and hope to finish it tonight or tomorrow.

I've also started what might end up being longish term projects:
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo [translated by Christine Donougher], and The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.
 
I just received a copy of Kate Wilhelm's short story collection, The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fiction. It's a curious title, as many of the stories are straight psychological thrillers. So far, I've only read "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World" (which was harrowing!), and I barely recall reading "Baby, You Were Great" in a different anthology ten or so years ago. She's definitely a very imaginative writer.
 
Finally reading one I've meant to get to for a few years, The Beetle by Richard Marsh, as found in the collection Victorian Villainies (introduction by Hugh Greene). Published around the same time as Dracula, it was as popular, if not more so, for quite some time. Poe-ishly overwrought, at times it reads almost like a parody of Victorian Penny Dreadfuls, but The Beetle seems a unique creation in a strange story. Speaking of which, Marsh was the grandfather of a later teller of strange stories, Robert Aickman, whose style was poles apart from Marsh's in this book.
 
Starting the year with some STP. Interesting Times which features Rincewind the Wizard who can't spell wizard
I love the Luggage! I don't remember this one. I did Ankh-Morpork City Watch binge last year, maybe I need to do a Rincewind binge this year? :unsure:
 
I started reading Origin by Dan Brown. I read Angels and Demons a while back and quite enjoyed it. But Origin so far is just okay, so I'll give it a couple of more chapters.
 
I'm finishing Asimov's Foundation's Edge, having reread the trilogy as the year moved up a digit.
The temporal stability of the fourth installment contrasts strongly with the sweeping historical time-hopping of the trilogy. I would prefer less mind control in the plot.
Next up: Foundation and Earth.
 
Just finished The End Of The World by Otto Friedrich, a collection of events in world history so physically and emotionally traumatic you wouldn’t be blamed for believing the world was coming to an end. Extremely interesting but after a while the unrelenting and unbearable ugliness of human nature takes a toll. Great book but glad it’s over. One small item however, a sentence towards the end of his note on sources: “All the quotations from survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki come from the brilliant study Death In Life: Survivors Of Hiroshima by Robert Jay Lifton (1967).” This may be splitting hairs or separating a blue quark from a red quark but shouldn’t that read atomic attack rather than nuclear?
 
Yours Truly, Jack the Lodger: Exploring Jack the Ripper inspired Old Time Radio shows by Holger Haase.

A short but informative e-book on the history of Jack the Ripper in radio (with brief mentions of tv and film), focusing on three primary stories --The Lodger, The Hands of Mr. Ottermole (not to be confused with Mr. Hans Moleman), and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper- which made up a number of radio adaptations as well as some periphery programs that covered the same idea. I was familiar with a few but got some leads on ones I had not known about. There's an interesting observation by the author on the evolution of Jack the Ripper in story---with the Lodger, written first, we are disturbed by the idea of the killer next door, with Ottermole, we are immersed in the details of murder and get personal with the killer and victims, and with Yours Truly (written before Ottermole), we get the same intimacy with the killer but also have the idea that Jack's evil is something enduring-- immortal.
I like to analyze things in a macrocosmic way--you could see how the thematic ideas of the Ripper killer evolved so I welcome this train of thought---it goes from the 'outsider next door' to something that 'takes over the mind of reader'--you become intimate with the killer's deeds and thoughts, and then it goes into the territory of 'an omnipresent or omnipotent condition of evil.' It goes from something alien freakish to almost god-like natural.

Anyway if you are into OTR, it is worth checking out.
 
Starting A Fever In The Heartland by Timothy Egan about the Ku Klux Klan in early 20th Century America.
 
Margaret Craven: Again Calls the Owl
A short autobiographical memoir - less than 120 pages, and large print - that is mainly focused on her childhood and the background to writing the wonderful "I heard the owl call my name" (the fictional account of a christian priest in a remote coastal village of British Columbia). I devoured this memoir, but then I loved "I heard the owl call my name" .

Philip Norman: George Harrison (2023). Biography
Disappointing. Norman has written extensively on the Beatles, including the excellent "Shout", so he must have had so much material to draw on that he could have written this in his sleep. Indeed it does appear to have been written in his sleep, sadly perhaps a reflection on his age (eighty at the time of publication). He did not have the cooperation of the family for this biography - this had also raised my hopes that it might not be one of those airbrushed heavily censored works, but there is little new here. Admittedly he faced difficulties in that so much is well-known in the Beatles story that he ran the risk of just repeating the same old same old, but I noticed some anecdotes/accounts of events were distorted or even inaccurate, alongside the occasional factual inaccuracy - and when I start to notice these it gets me worried about the reliability of the rest of the book.
However, if you know little about the subject matter, it may be interesting.
 
There's an interesting observation by the author on the evolution of Jack the Ripper in story---with the Lodger, written first, we are disturbed by the idea of the killer next door, with Ottermole, we are immersed in the details of murder and get personal with the killer and victims, and with Yours Truly (written before Ottermole), we get the same intimacy with the killer but also have the idea that Jack's evil is something enduring-- immortal.
That's not quite right. Checking ISFDB shows Ottermole was first published in 1929 and Yours Truly... was first published in 1943. Burke came to fame as a writer in the Edwardian era. I don't know if it's his best story, but Ottermole has been a favorite of mystery readers for decades; not long ago included in at least one of Otto Penzler's anthologies, I first read it in my high school's copy of 101 Years' Entertainment, an overview of the mystery short story up to 1941. It's one of those stories eerie enough to sit on the border between mystery and horror.

That it was published first actually supports your theory of the evolution of JtR in fiction.
 
That's not quite right. Checking ISFDB shows Ottermole was first published in 1929 and Yours Truly... was first published in 1943. Burke came to fame as a writer in the Edwardian era. I don't know if it's his best story, but Ottermole has been a favorite of mystery readers for decades; not long ago included in at least one of Otto Penzler's anthologies, I first read it in my high school's copy of 101 Years' Entertainment, an overview of the mystery short story up to 1941. It's one of those stories eerie enough to sit on the border between mystery and horror.

That it was published first actually supports your theory of the evolution of JtR in fiction.
That's good because it was bothering me that it wasn't as chronological as I like. :) The book may have listed the date right and I screwed up.
 
Reading this morning

Screenshot_20240103-061517.gif
 
That is a disturbing cover, mostly because that hulking bruiser of a guy has such a small umbrella.

"No! Please! Don't kill me!"
"You laughed at my brolly."
"I didn't mean to! It's just... it's so tiny! And red!"
"IT'S THE WIFE'S!!!" (Empties magazine of Glock into man's head.)
 
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