Books November 2013
A slow month for reading since I’ve gotten involved with Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Here are the books I managed to finish:
1. At Amberleaf Fair – Phyllis Ann Karr
A mid-80s fantasy novel set at a seasonal fair and featuring miss-matched lovers, petty theft, and magic. It’s a bit of a curiosity: a secondary world fantasy crime novel where much of the world building and conflict deals with a barter economy and the small ways magic is integrated into everyday existence. At times the styles of the crime genre and the fantasy genre clash, and too often the novel sits heavily on the fantasy side and suffers for it. Still, I enjoyed it because it’s a small scale secondary world fantasy and I’m a sucker for those.
2. A House in Naples – Peter Rabe
A 50s pulp crime novel about two American criminals in post-War Naples. It’s a quick read, full of unlikable characters, and very ugly, but it’s better than most. If you have any desire to read pulp crime, Peter Rabe should be on your list of authors to check out.
3. The Digger’s Game – George V. Higgins
Crime circa-1970s Boston, I liked it but not as much as Cogan’s Trade or The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Still, when it’s good, it’s good and sections of the novel leap off the page. I should also thank Rick Bowes for making me read Higgins in the first place.
4. How To Make Friends With Demons – Graham Joyce
I could see a person hating this book. It meanders, withholds information, and for much of it you’re wondering when Joyce is going to a) get on with it, b) tell you what it’s all about. But if you accept those things and admire how he’s doing it all, then you’ll find much to enjoy here.
5. Storm of Steel – Ernst Junger
War is good! War is great! War! War! War! Junger was a German storm trooper during World War One. He enjoyed the war on the occasions when it wasn’t making him breakdown into fits of sobbing, and this book is his memoir of his experiences. There’s a part early on where Junger enters a field hospital after a battle and he describes the doctor as having a “cold, antlike efficiency in the middle of the carnage”. The book is full of a lot of that.
The recently produced audio book version of “Storm of Steel” is utterly fantastic, thanks to the voice contributions of Charlton Griffin , a man who could make cereal ingredients sound imposing.
I’ll have to check it out. I could see the book with the right performer being utterly riveting.
Since you evince some interest in both fantasy and Herr Junger, I should suggest Eumeswil. By combining Max Stirner/Nietzschean existential nihilism and anti-modernism with weird fiction Junger hit me in the literary nuts.
I’ll try and track it down when back in the States, though it looks to be out of print.