Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A summary of recent reading

Book 55: Books Do Furnish A Room by Leslie Geddes-Brown

Books on books, one of my favorite literary genres, play a prominent role in my recent reading. (See below) This book by Geddes-Brown is a lovely entry. Short on text, long on photographs, Books Do Furnish a Room is a visual testament to its title.

I've kept this book close to hand for several months; leafing through a few pages at a time. I'm still reluctant to put it on the shelf. Gazing at photograph after photograph of book-lined rooms and inventive approaches to the shelving of books is, well, relaxing to me. Somewhat akin to my childhood practice of curling up with the Sears catalog as Christmas approached.

Book 56: Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke

Black Cherry Blues is the third book (1989) in Burke's series featuring Dave Robicheaux. All the ingredients found in Burke's later Robicheaux novels are present here, including the over-writing, florid descriptions and passages that simply don't make much sense. Which is to say that if you approach this book unfamiliar with Burke you may like it, but if you've read most of his oeuvre it's going to be deja vu all over again.

Why do I keep reading Burke's books when I feel as if it's the literary equivalent of the hiccups? I can only associate it with the same compulsion that causes me to probe a sore tooth with my tongue.

Book 57: The Case for Books by Robert Darnton

I was bitterly disappointed by The Case for Books, which leaves itself wide open to legal charges of willfully mis-titling a book. But then naming it, Boring Academic Essays That Are Largely Irrelevant to the Current State of Affairs in Publishing might not sell any books.

The essays are devoted to books, that much is true, but also e-books and the impact of e-books upon research libraries. Most of the essays were written early this century -- yes, as much as nine or 10 years ago -- and, thus, seems to have little or no relevance to the current state of affairs.

I like books about books, but not this one.

Book 58: The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

I freely concede that most readers of this blog (all six of you) won't understand my affection for Charlie Stross's Laundry novels (this is the second and a third is due out soon), but I like them, Sam I Am. I do. I do.

As a reminder, the Laundry novels, which feature the cool, but nerdy Bob Howard, are a brilliant combination of Len Deighton's spy novels and the creepy other-worldly stylings of H.P. Lovecraft. Yeah, it's that weird.

In The Jennifer Morgue, Stross lovingly (actually he's a tad mean) spoofs the spy novels of Ian Fleming, creator of that most famous of spies, James Bond.

The super-villain is The Jennifer Morgue has cast a spell that makes it possible for only a certain archetype, a hero in the James Bond mold, to defeat him. Bob thinks he's the guy, but as it turns out he's not. I'll say no more, except that Bob is cast in another role very familiar to fans of Bond films.

It's all great fun. The soul-sucking, creepy crawlies from another dimension are cast back into the vasty deep and Bob Howard enjoys a well earned vacation. Sort of.

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