Greetings from the Omnigraphic Blogopticon. On view are vile sticky things dragged from the attic, snarky commentary on the world at large, and all-encompassing ennui. All that and a weird rubbery smell. A horrible time will be had by all.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Danged Books

I haven't been blogging or knitting or doing anything constructive lately, due to an intravenous solution of synthesized Ennui. The Apathy fumes still wafting about the laboratory haven't helped matters.

But while I haven't been wasting bandwidth with my ramblings I have been devouring books as though they were Doritos. Books don't have much of a nacho cheese flavor but I've been cramming them in like a starving woman.

So I share my list o' literary crap. In sharing the world suffers!

Bleak House, Charles Dickens. Dickens' usual collection of suspects: comedy missionaries, dying orphans, starving poor, dead babies, random guys in shiny top hats and greasy frock coats, incredibly stupid rich people, etc. I hadn't read it before now because I assumed I'd be bored as hell with the 50-plus characters. Nope, not bored at all. Will be read again.

Titus Groan and Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake. I've already read these several times in the past ten years. Still can't quite make it through the third book Titus Alone. To read hundreds of pages of a dreary royal house slogging through the mud of endless daily ritual, then suddenly find out the world outside Gormenghast Castle has mad scientists, automobiles, and rocketships it's understandable that lots of readers don't particularly care for the third installment. I think the only way I'll finally finish it is if I don't read it directly after the first two, sorta read it on its own. I mean, I'm all about rocketships and mad scientists but Titus Alone is a bit jarring.

Tom Jones, Henry Fielding. Long-winded novel. I didn't hate it but I wouldn't say I exactly liked it, either. Feh.

Angel of the Revolution, George Griffith. Broke-ass guy invents an airship much like Robur's Albatross but with fewer propellers and sells the plans to a group of terrorists (imaginatively named The Terrorists) who plan to overthrow Czarist Russia and then the entire world. 1890s science fiction (or "scientific romance") partly illustrated by Fred T. Jane who did all those "Jane's Book of Warships" kinda things that are still being printed. Dull in spots, interesting in others. Kind of entertaining to see the entire world at the knees of a group of dullards, though I think that another writer would make better use of the material. Didn't exactly have me on the edge of my seat but I'd read it again. I'll get the sequel Syren of the Skies sometime soon, mostly because I want to see the world smashed by a comet. Comets rule.

Mason & Dixon, Thomas Pynchon. Grabbed this fancy first-edition hardback at the used bookstore and was quite surprised that I enjoyed the thing. I don't usually like post-modernist fiction but how could I not like a 772-page doorstop of a book about surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon squabbling and bickering across Pennsylvania whilst being pursued by a lovesick robotic duck, Mason's wife's ghost, and crap knows what else, all written in archaic 18th-century English. (bodices are "rendered in twain") Forgive the pathetically simplistic plot synopsis. Sort of impossible to read on the bus or at work since I had to have a decent dictionary and several maps within arm's reach and my boss & co-workers tend to yak it up big time during lunch.

A Bloodsmoor Romance, Joyce Carol Oates. I've only read a couple of her horror stories. I tend to run far far away from anything labeled as "feminist" so I've never even picked up one of her novels to read the dust jacket. This book was on the last page of my ragged paperback copy of The Shield of Three Lions, a sleazy medieval adventure about a young girl who disguises herself as a boy (complete with a fake wang) and fights in the crusades. I'd had the damned book for about 25 years and hadn't thought the stuff they were selling in the back was in any way interesting until I read the plot of this one. I mean, who wouldn't want to suddenly read a book about a young girl who gets snatched away by a guy in a sinister black balloon? Paid a whole dime for it on Amazon Marketplace when I found out it was a satire of an overwrought Victorian romance, rather than some crap 1980s bodice-ripper. An inventor has five daughters, the oldest turns into a man, the youngest does the balloon thing, one accidentally strangles her husband during an erotic asphyxiation episode, one becomes an actress and seduces Mark Twain (horribly), and the last one becomes an inventor. Oates lays on the satire so thick in some places it was nearly impossible to read so I did wind up skimming a bit towards the end. Made me laugh, though.

The Sweet Far Thing, Libba Bray. Yeah, I'd been waiting for this one. I'd bought the first two in the series when I was in the middle of moving to my last apartment and got sucked into it pretty hard. Victorian girls' school, secret coven of magical women, doorway to other realms, battles with evil things, but not as stupid as it sounds here. I'm tired. Sue me.

Robur the Conquerer, Jules Verne. I hadn't read this one in years. Not as exciting as some of his stuff, but not as tiresome as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea's fish-lists could get, plus a bonus embarrassing stereotyped screaming Golliwog-ish black manservant. When I was a kid in the 1970s I'd watched a cartoon version of Robur and its sequel, called Master of the World that really played up the creepiness at the beginning when people were finding Robur's flag on top of the Eiffel Tower and how upset everyone got when he'd fly over blowing a horn and generally creeping everyone out. This cartoon was cheaply made and I still remember how disappointing the animation was, not Clutch Cargo-style animation, but lazy animation nonetheless. I was a bit annoyed that the beginning of Robur didn't have any of that suspense that a rotten, badly-made 1970s cartoon that scared the crap out of a little girl had. Made me have nightmares and recurring dreams for decades about creepy mysterious airships hanging in the night sky.

Victorian London, Liza Picard. I've got to get her other books, Restoration London and Elizabethan London. Crammed full of all sorts of facts of everyday life in London 1840-1870, loads of stuff on the sewer systems, poverty, the Crystal Palace, servants, pets, markets, housing, etc. No readable maps, though.

Jack the Ripper, the Definitive History, Paul Begg. Not a who-done-it but facts about the cases and a social history of the East End of London. Interesting to see what has been told & retold as facts but aren't even part of the official police notes. Another book that needs a damn map.

Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson. In 1912 a huge chunk of Europe, including Britain, disappears and is replaced by a strange antediluvian world. Goes in an odd direction towards the end, one I didn't expect, but I'll definitely read it again. If I like a book it'll get read several times despite my knowing the plot already.

Mainspring, Jay Lake. My gawd I hate this motherfuckin' book. It was one recommended to me by (yeah, thanks guys) because I'd bought Darwinia. Damn if I don't hatehatehate this book. I mean, I did like the premise of an Earth winding around a giganto clockwork and a clockmaker's apprentice goes on a quest to wind the damn-fool thing up, but by the time he gets to the giant gear business at the Equator and crosses over into jungles filled with hairy little ape people I got bored as hell. Take out the clanky old technology and replace it with hairy little ape sex scenes and ya lost me. It was as though two separate stories were half-assedly stuck together with duct tape and then sold as a novel. I couldn't tell you how it ends. You can't make me read it!

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens. Pip, Miss Havisham, and more guys in shiny top hats and greasy frock coats. You know the story already but go read it anyway.

Knickerless Nicholby, and A Sale of Two Titties, Darles Chickens. *snort* I was checking to see if everyone was awake.

1984, George Orwell. I'm not even going to tell the plot of this one. If you haven't already read it, you should be horribly horribly ashamed. I've read it half a dozen times but I hadn't picked it up in years and polished it off one dreary Sunday afternoon, just to cheer myself up.

The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope. I'm not sure who the hell I'm supposed to root for in this. Rudolph Rassendyll looks exactly like the king and takes his place for the coronation while the real king is held prisoner by another heir to the throne, yadda yadda yadda. Usually the slimy ruler is backed by the evil rich guys and the peasants rise up and put their nice poor guy on the throne. Not so this one. The king is a drunk and Rudolph is rich and privileged, and the poor are unreasonable because they'd rather have their guy as king, and so of course Rudolph sides with the rich wino. Annoying. I'm sure I didn't quite tap into that sense of adventure I was meant to revel in so instead I went all subconsciously socialist.

All the Sherlock Holmes stories and books. I'd read some of these before but not in a huge wad in a weekend. The books went on a little too long but I'll read the stories again a couple dozen more times.

I think I need to get out of the house more.


Scott said...

I have no memory of that Jules Verne cartoon you mentioned. Surely I watched too, but I don't remember it. Doesn't ring a bell at all.

Severina said...

Yup, you watched it. We were across the road watching stuff on the big TV.

Asmoday said...

Augh, thankfully I found someone else who despises Mainspring as much as I do. Faithpunk, it is, and the ending is disgraceful. It has actually inspired me to take the world premise and write my own novel set on a clockwork earth...except it actually deals with the impacts of that, rather than just ignoring it completely beyond some trivial set-pieces. Oh, also, no furry porn.

Mainspring must die, die, die!