1. Temporary Agency – Rachel Pollack
I enjoyed this from start to finish. Set in an alternate modern day New York City sometime after a neo-pagan revolution brings Bright Ones into the world, it’s a fun read that’s also a bit gross when the angels start making people tear their own skins off. Best of all the book is short, and I appreciate that.
2. Dagon – Fred Chappell
Weird, frustrating, and more than a little bit terrifying this 1968 literary novel attempts to recast the Lovecraft mythos in the mode of the Southern Gothic. It works but it’s not a pleasant ride.
3. The Desert of Souls – Howard Andrew Jones
Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser meet Holmes and Watson in 12th century Baghdad. Dig it.
4. Lois the Witch and Other Stories – Elizabeth Gaskell
More suspense than horror these stories mix Victorian morality with grim almost true crime realism. Supernatural things occur, but more often than not it’s simply circumstance that doom these stories’ protagonists.
5. Maze of Shadows – Fred Chappell (a novella)
I love Chappell’s “shadow master” stories in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. They’re a delicious mash of Vance and Dunsany (in his Shadow Valley mode). This one was another good one.
6. In A Lonely Place – Dorothy B. Hughes
A grim pulp novel about a rapist serial killer stalking 1940s LA reprinted in 2003 by a feminist press. A friend called this Jim Thompson without the laughs, and he was right.
7. Scattered Among Strange Worlds – Aliette De Bodard
Contains two stories “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” and “Exodus Tides”. Both are good stories, but “Scattered…” is a favorite from last year.
It is frustrating at times because one day you will be reading a book and thinking “This is great – This is the way to do it”, then two days later you’ll be reading another book and it’ll be doing the exact opposite thing, but you’ll think the exact same thing.
When faced with two opposite truths the issue is no longer to find the fault in one, but to decide between them. Which path will lead you to the place you want to go.
“All of the faces, young, old, male, female, white and brown and black, were part of the many faces of the great sad thing that moves itself from here to there and back again in all forms of transit. Faces staring into space, faces reading faces looking inward at the stories inside them.”
– From Russell Hoban’s Linger Awhile
We reach the place after wandering. It’s her favorite place she tells me. It wears its history like thrift-store treasures: a trellis railing from its years as a Hof bar, stained and worn coffee lounge couches with mismatched cushions, its roadstall tables and chairs. The stove’s chimney pokes out from a hole above the wooden door — shiny and silver. We sit. We order. “The table’s are big,” she says. “I come here sometimes to work.” The owner talks to someone in a room beside the kitchen. A young woman comes out and leaves. A man comes in. Sullen and alone. He disappears into the back for a bit. Another man comes in, leans over the kitchen counter, peering at the work area. We eat – beansprouts in soup flavored with pink briny shrimp the eyes still on them. The men take seats, one in the room’s corner, the other beside the stove. He spreads his legs, pointing himself right at the heat. We eat, pay, and go. “You have to be in the mood for it,” she says. I tell her I’m always in that mood.
… but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the utter lack of packing going on in our place. It’s not a big move. We’re just switching neighborhoods and going into a bigger place, but I’m getting surprisingly sentimental about this one.
One of the most amazing restaurants I’ve ever eaten in is right around the corner from our current apartment. I get all misty-eyed now whenever I walk by the place. Of course our new place is only a half an hour walk away, so it’s not like we’re moving to the moon or anything – but still, it was right around the corner.
The semester ends this week. I’m pretty happy about that.
Lastly let’s hear it for boiling soups you crack raw eggs into.
There will never be a rainy Saturday afternoon long enough for all the movies that require a rainy Saturday afternoon to be fully appreciated.