Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Random Interlude

My review of Michael Moorcock's newest, The Metatemporal Detective is up at Revolution SF.

Currently Reading: an ARC of Jack O'Connell's upcoming The Resurrectionist, which was sent to me by Craig Popelars at Algonquin. Thus far? Very strange and very fascinating: kind of the feel of darker early Jonathan Lethem.

Currently listening: Soma FM's "Xmas in Frisco" stream. When they say adults only, they mean it, and not everything here floats my holiday boat (like that damnable "Cat Carol"), but give me South Park's "Dreidel Song" and Ru Paul's "Santa Baby" and I'm a happy camper. Don't forget to donate a little sumpin'sumpin' to keep the music stream flowing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

For the Booklover Who Has Everything

It’s that time of year again, when we consider those nearest and dearest to us and contemplate the perfect gift to show them we care. If you’re like me, then you have at least one rampant biblioholic on your gift list, so I thought I’d share a list of books guaranteed to soothe that book-loving soul.

Number one is a gimme, given the name of this blog: Biblioholism by Tom Raabe. In this veritable bible for the book-obsessed Raabe is able to illuminate the joys and pitfalls of being biblioholic with great good humor.

Next is an old favorite of mine: Where Books Fall Open by Bascove. This is a beautiful little treasury of quotes, essays, and stories about books and reading with gorgeous art throughout by Bascove.

What could be better for the booklover who has everything than a book about all of the books that can never be had? Stuart Kelly’s The Book of Lost Books: An Incomplete History Of All the Great Books You’ll Never Read is both fascinating and a bit painful as he describes great works talked about in history that have not survived to our time.

The History of Reading by Alberto Manguel is, as the title says, a lively celebration of the written word in the past 4000 years.

Every booklover should treat themselves to Paul Collins and his tribute to the Welsh town of Hay-On-Wye, Sixpence House. 1500 residents, 40 or so bookstores, mostly used. Sounds like heaven.

If your biblioholic is a mystery lover, it would be worth your while to track down a couple of out of print gems by Bill Pronzini: Gun in Cheek and Son of Gun in Cheek. You can find them pretty cheap on Half.com, and they’re a hoot. Pronzini crafts a loving and readable tribute to the truly awful book and authors in mystery fiction and it’s hysterical. Western lovers should note volume 3 of the series: Six Gun in Cheek.

And yes, I realize my “short little list” has rapidly gotten out of control. I’m a biblioholic. Sue me. If you're good, I'll post some more suggestions, including fiction.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shameless Plug

My review of Frank Darabont's The Mist is up over at Revolution SF.

I got to go to a press screening, which was in a little metal building out in the middle of what used to be the Austin airport. There were only about 20-25 people there, most of whom knew each other. It was fun to see a movie and not have to worry about talking or cell phones and such, and for the most part these critics were able to let loose and really try to enjoy the movie. From the conversations I heard afterwards, some really enjoyed it. I did not.

But coming out of our little quonset hut surrounded by concrete and near a military base to an overcast day with, you guessed it, mist in the distance was quite an interesting experience.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book of the Moment

The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson is one of those small, perfect books that say so much more than the page space they use. Richardson takes the "one month to live" cliche and uses it to meditate on life and love and loss in a gentle and humorous way. It's sad without being mawkish, cute without being twee, and spare without being simple.

It's also gorgeous, from the cover to the interior to the font, which is perhaps not surprising, given that the first-time novelist has 20+ years of publishing experience as a book designer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coming February 2008 to a Bookstore Near You

I’ve been a reader all my life. I majored in English in college and grad school, and I’ve worked in bookstores since 1992, most of that as a buyer. I’m surrounded by books at home and work and I see new ones every day. It’s sometimes difficult to quantify why certain books speak to us; why we pick up this book, but not that one.

Other times, it’s not difficult at all:

Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll believe a word of it.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in love.

With an opening like that, how can I not climb on board for the ride? Sure, I understand that this kind of narrator turns some people off (well, I know that; I don’t really understand it). But for me, it’s the sign of an author who wants to play--who wants me as the reader to take a more active role in the story, and I love that. It’s both clever and witty (and neatly kneecaps disgruntled reviewers: I told you it was implausible people, so no complaints!) and nicely sets the tone for the tale to come.

The story itself is everything the narrator promises (with the exception of pedestrian prose--I really liked the writing). You’ve got Edward Moon, stage magician and detective, and his silent partner in both endeavors, the Somnambulist, a giant of a man who never speaks and holds many secrets. You’ve got warm-hearted housekeepers, sybaritic layabouts, spiritualists, gung-ho police inspectors, and freakshow prostitutes. You’ve got grizzly murders, mysterious disappearances, secret societies, shadowy government organizations, the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and the shadow of past mistakes.

It’s a generous, sprawling, maddeningly convoluted story. I just finished it, and I’m still not sure exactly what happened. I can’t wait to read it again and find out, though.

One For the Good Guys

If you've never read Michael Perry's books Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At a Time or Truck: A Love Story, then you're missing out. Perry writes about small-town midwestern life with empathy and humor. He's got an "aw, shucks" writerly voice that really draws you in and gives depth to the stories he tells.

I really can't recommend him highly enough, and thankfully, I am not alone. Truck recently won the Midwest Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award. Perry had a prior commitment and couldn't attend, so he sent a pre-recorded acceptance speech:

Thanks to Carl Lennertz and Shelf Awareness for the heads up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Those Were the Days

I was talking to my friend The Nooge the other night, and he mentioned that his recent DVD viewing choices were all pre-1950s, and he was really enjoying spending time in a different era, time-travelling, if you will. I felt (as I often do when I talk to The Nooge) like I had found a kindred spirit. My movie/TV choices are more modern, but my CD collection is dominated by the singers and bands of the 20s, 30s, and 40s.

I'm not sure why these songs and singers speak to me so clearly, but my mother did play the piano, so she had songbooks with all the old standards. Maybe she used to play and sing when I was small, but I don't remember it. I do remember the car radio set unwaveringly on 102.3, the easy listening station out of San Antonio, and my absolute hatred of that station. As I got older she started playing for weddings and receptions and church functions, but although she could play a variety of styles, given her druthers, she tended towards the more easy listening side of things. But occasionally she'd play something like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" or "Darktown Strutter's Ball," and I was enchanted. I would beg her to teach me to play "St. Louis Blues," or "The Entertainer," (I took piano lessons as a child, but never practiced because I hated the songs I had to play) and she would patiently play through it until I could make enough sense of the notes on the page and where my fingers were supposed to go to sit at the piano on my own and obsessively practice till I got it right. To this day I'm a sucker for the sound of piano boogie, and when I regret not trying harder to learn the piano, rather than some songs, this is the kind of music I'm wishing I could play.

Although I still love my ragtime and boogie, I've grown to appreciate the standards she used to enjoy as well, as evidenced by the proliferation of CDs by Peggy Lee, Rosemary Clooney, and Ella Fitzgerald in my collection. I've bought tribute albums to Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. I've got Fats Waller and early Bing Crosby and enough Glenn Miller to choke a horse. I can (and often do) spend days listening to nothing but pre-1950s recordings.

I never really associated my love of this kind of music with my Mom--I listen more often and to a much wider variety than she did--but every so often I hit a song like "Goody, Goody" and all I can remember is hearing her playing that song on the Genie Magic Organ as background music at some function or another, and I realize how much influence she really did have. Even though it didn't start out that way, maybe my continued love of the genre is a way to feel close to her. She's been gone for a couple of years now, but as long as I have the music (and the Genie Magic Organ), a part of her will always be with me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Catching Up

My review of Chris Roberson's expanded version of Set the Seas On Fire is up at Revolution SF. Unsurprisingly, I liked it.

Currently Reading: The House That George Built: With A Little Help From Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About 50 by Wilfred Sheed. It's a breezy, conversational book and that makes it an easy read, but it definitely calls for a soundtrack, so:

Currently Listening: Capitol Sings Cole Porter: Anything Goes, Rosemary Clooney Dedicated to Nelson, Spotlight on Peggy Lee, Bing Crosby: The Definitive Collection, Capitol Sings George Gershwin: Fascinatin' Rhythm.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Whatever Happened To...

If you're a reader, then I know this has happened to you. You read something: book, story, article, whatever, and it's fantastic. It really blows you away. So you try to track down other things by the same author, and you eagerly await the next appearance. And wait. And wait.

Years go by, but the story never quite fades away--something always reminds you of it. You even re-read it, because by now you're wondering if maybe you were wrong, and the story wasn't that good to begin with. But it really is that good, so you harness the power of the internet to see if maybe you just missed something, but you haven't; there's nothing out there that you didn't find the first time you looked, all those years ago.

Personal tragedy? Career change? Writer's block? The possibilities are endless. We let our guard down when we read, allowing someone we've never met to access and manipulate our emotions. We form relationships with writers, most of whom we'll never meet, but whose latest work we look forward to with the eagerness of a lover's kiss. It's only natural to wonder what happened when the communication suddenly stops, and to mourn the loss of a relationship sundered.

But like other bereft lovers, we have keepsakes to help us remember the good times in the form of the stories themselves that touched us so much in the first place. These stories deserve to be read and celebrated and shared, even if we never hear another word from the author, so I'm going to share one of my old loves with you.

Back in the 80s, I read a lot of horror. Of course I read Stephen King (heck, everybody did), but I had just discovered Joe R. Lansdale and Clive Barker and I was seduced by the Splatterpunks. I happened upon an anthology called Silver Scream, edited by David J. Schow. It held a lot of fine stories, including Robert R. McCammon's "Night Calls the Green Falcon" and Joe Lansdale's "The Night They Missed the Horror Show." But for me, the star of the whole shebang was a gem from a guy named Mark Arnold called "Pilgrims To the Cathedral." It's funny, sad, violent, touching, and buzzing with righteous anger. I was blown away, and I've never forgotten the story or its impact on me. I looked around online and found some stuff Mark Arnold wrote for Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine and a couple of anthologies that he co-edited with Terri Windling, but nothing post-1988.

So what happened? Did he give up? Burn out? Find a new calling? I don't know, and it really doesn't matter. But I'll always have the words, and if my joy in that story has to be tempered with the realization that there won't be any more, then I guess maybe that poignancy will deepen the flavor.

Friday, November 2, 2007

New Moment, New Book

Some days, you just get lucky. In today's mail, I received this little gem, and I can't wait to give it a spin.

I am an absolute sucker for odd titles. A quick glance at my bookshelves reveals such enticing nuggets as Night of the Avenging Blowfish: A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat, Bimbos of the Death Sun, and my all-time favorite (and possibly the greatest pulp title ever): Honey From A Dark Hive. While it may be true that you can't judge a book by its cover, a great title can make someone pick up an otherwise unappealing book, just to see what it could possibly be about.

This jewel of entertaining infomation would be perfect for the book-lover on your shopping list, especially if paired with the recently released Scouts in Bondage: And Other Literary Improprieties. I know I'd squeal with glee if I got a copy in my Christmas stocking.

Random Interlude

Currently in my CD player at home: Marcia Ball, Live! Down the Road, James Brown, 20 All Time Greatest Hits, Abba, Gold: Greates Hits, The Gourds, Heavy Ornamentals, and Johnny Mercer, The Capitol Collectors Series, on repeat shuffle.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book of the Moment

I realize that, on a site called Rampant Biblioholism, one of the things I should be doing is telling you about my favorite books. The problem is, that's an ever-changing list, akin to picking out my favorite grains of sand at the beach. I get all excited about something I've read (or read about) and just before I tell you all about it, my inner crow sees something else new and shiny and I'm off on another tangent. So quick, while the bird is distracted, let me tell you about The Deep: Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss.

Those of you who know me know of my fondness for (some might say obsession with) sea creatures. One of my favorite childhood books was Jacques Cousteau's The Shark: Spendid Savage of the Sea, and there are currently roughly 12 different cephalopods staring at me from the end of my desk. When I saw this in the catalog I immediately reverted to a wide-eyed 10-year-old. I couldn't wait to actually see the book, because it sounded gorgeous. And then I actually saw the book, and realized that the description hadn't done it justice.

Even if you have no interest in ocean-going fauna, even if you are not aware of how much we don't know about life in the oceanic depths, you should take a look at this book for the sheer beauty of it. The first deep sea book I read was Deep Atlantic: Life, Death, and Exploration in the Abyss by Richard Ellis, and what drew me to the book was the crazy-cool white-on-black pictures of the denizens of the deep. To now see some of these same creatures in lush full color is amazing and just about the coolest thing ever.

My Christmas Wish List Just Got a Little Bit Longer

Thanks to the good folks over at Deep Sea News, who come bearing tales (with pictures, even!) of official currency and stamps featuring my favorite cephalapod. Sometimes I love the world.