Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Progress Report--Week 1

It's been a week since I announced my participation in a reading challenge over on Goodreads.Com, so I thought I'd post a quick update.

Book #01 was Jeff and Ann VanderMeer's anthology The New Weird. An anthology like this really serves to make one thing clear: writers hate labels. Everyone else, though, (readers,booksellers,publishers) kind of likes them, or at least finds them useful. The New Weird is such a new phenomenon that everyone is still really wrestling with what it is, or even if it exists at all, outside of marketing departments desperate for a hook to hang a writer on. The VanderMeers have chosen to present the actual message board transcripts as writers and readers and critcs struggle to define (or debunk) the New Weird, and the pull between Art and necessity in the debate is fascinating. The VanderMeers include stories from pre-cursors of and influences on this nascent movement, as well as examples of some of its current practitioners. Any book that reprints Clive Barker's magnificent "In the Hills, the Cities" is high on my list, and the stories that follow do their influences proud.

Book #02 was the upcoming P. Craig Russell graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I loved Gaiman's story when I first read it. It managed to be heartwarming, funny, and ultra-creepy all at the same time. I would never have believed that an artist's rendition of the button-eyed Other Mother could be more unsettling than the picture in my imagination, but I was oh so wrong. Russell has done a mighty-fine job adapting Gaiman's prose into an illustrated format.

Book #03 was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore. Every time I pick up one of Moore's League books, I'm blown away. He somehow manages to make me feel smart for all of the references I catch and stupid for all the ones I know I've missed simultaneously. This mad notion of knitting together all of the fabled literary worlds and characters into one (mostly) coherent history shouldn't work, but it does. This newest bit of League history has a whisper-thin plot, but that's really just an excuse to further flesh out this amazing world and to have terrific fun experimenting with different forms and styles. Some of these experiments work better than others: I find both the Beat novels and Lovecraft's work almost unreadable; combining the two (however cleverly) didn't help; on the other hand, if Jeeves and Bertie appeared in all of Lovecraft's stories, I'd read them a lot more frequently.

Up on deck I have Ellen Datlow's original horror anthology Inferno and an ARC called The Snake Charmer.

Happy reading, and let me know how your own challenges are going.


Jess Nevins said...


Probably pointless question, but--you do know about my annotations to the Dossier, right?

Peggy Hailey said...

Oh my, yes! In fact, Rick brought his laptop to book group last night so we coupld poke around in your annotations while we discussed the book.

Peggy Hailey said...

But for those of you who may not have seen it yet, click here.

Scott Cupp said...

Well, Peggy, my progress is as follows:
1) Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. Quite a bit of fun but does drag a little in the middle.
2) Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. Gosh, wow. Oriental stories like REH and Harold Lamb used to do with pictures by Gary Gianni.
3) Z FOR ZACHARIAH by Robert O'Brien. Post Apocalyptic Edgar award winning novel by the aithor of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. How is it a mystery? I don't know, but it's pretty durn good. I'll have more in the next week or so as I have three more airplane flights scheduled and those work well for reading for me.

Peggy Hailey said...

Gentlemen of the Road was quite fun, and simply wouldn't have been the same book without Gianni's illustrations.

I'm planning an update on Thursday, but I've finished Datlow's Inferno (up and down, as most anthologies are, but some terrific mood pieces) and The Snake Charmer (ultra-fast read about a gung-ho herpetologist who died after being bitten by a many-banded krait.

I'm currently working on One Big Damn Puzzler, which is fun. The title comes from a south sea islander's attempt to translate Hamlet into pidgin:

"Is be, or no is be? That one big damn puzzler."