Recent Reading

All sorts of short stuff for today and tomorrow (and possibly Thursday and Friday as well) as I try to learn how to fingerprint people (for the Census Bureau and my training of enumerators). I guess anything is better than me turning two nice little ancient sonnets into some kind of rant (yesterday, actually developed Saturday afternoon). For now, a little check on what I am reading lately.

I havenʼt admitted yet in this forum that I am one of those people who reads lots of books at once, especially when some/many of them are short story collections, so I can read a story and drop the bok until I want to delve into that kind of writing again.

Reading Update

First off, I excitedly started rereading one of my all-time favorite sci fi novels while I took a break from studying/preparing to train (for the Census) yesterday. As my copies of Samuel R. Delanyʼs books are mostly antiques, I decided to make use of the really cheap prices most and resellers ask (eBay was just too much trouble a few weeks back) and acquire the current reprints of his stuff (some of his books anyway). And I started in on Babel-17 (my, Wikipedia has a much nicer image of the original cover than I was able to scan from my own copy, and mine is a reprint, too), charging all the way through the first part in somewhat less than a half an hour. Amusing to be reminded of why I continued so interested in phonics and linguistics (and the International Phonetic Alphabet once Marilyn Vincent introduced us to it in drama or speech class back in high school; thanks [for so very much], Vince!) as I reread Rydra Wong explaining the phonetic distinction between voiced and voiceless th (like the same distinction between v and f—the example used by Delany in Rydraʼs mouth in the book). Delanyʼs novel established in me a deep interest in the nature of language and its relationship to our ability to think. And it is still a heck of a great sci fi adventure as well, besides being elegantly well written.

(Too bad that original cover captured so little of poet Rydraʼs exquisite and fascinating beauty, and the current one — keeping in line with the rest of the Delany sequence is comparitaively dull — still better than other intermediate junk [try clicking on each of those three links to see bad SF cover art, each purportedly showing Rydra Wong, whose eyes Delany has the General think resemble “astonished wings”]).

When I first read the book in ‘69 or ‘70, it overwhelmed me, unlike anything I had read before — with the bohemian and wild Transport culture and Rydraʼs strange and agile mind. Reading today, Delanyʼs vision (in Babel-17 and in Nova) has clearly and definitely influenced science fiction since — especially modern space opera, whosee practitioners owe far more to that source than I see admitted in general.

I also reread over a week or so, finishing last night, The Maltese Falcon, and I was amazed, having read it again only a few years ago, how much more it contains than the film and how differently Huston and Bogart skewed the Spade character from Hammettʼs original. The book holds up too well to be discarded as out-of-date (and my big omnibus of Hammett books rejected as a donation by the Andrew School library a while back for being uninteresting to the kids; I find it sad that libraries have to cull the older stuff from their collections to make room for new books—even if I aspire to writing some of those new books myself). I really enjoyed The Maltese Falcon, and having read it again, I may have come up with what I wanted to say to wrap up my little series of posts about the movie. —Oh, and hereʼs a bonus from making the links today: from the Wikipedia references, here is an interesting look at one of the settings, Sam Spadeʼs apartment (and Hammettʼs).

Fritz Leiber — click for more information

Click to check out the source

I continue also with both Fritz Leiberʼs Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series and The Ornament of the World — both for pleasure and as research for the Sepharad story. I donʼt want my Nathan and Søren to just be medievalized versions of Leiberʼs great duo, so I picked up my hardback omnibus editions to recall clearly what had influenced my imagination (since picking up the Ace paperback of Swords in the Mist in ‘68) but that I wanted not to simply copy. And heʼs such a great, smooth writer; Iʼd like to avoid comparisons there at all costs. So far I am holding at “The Sunken Land” while the Census and some other things take my attention — like Hammet, whose The Dain Curse I just started last night after I finished with the falcon. Fortunately, so far, my dip into Nehwon hasnʼt made me decide my own writing is just too poor to continue (my usual reaction in former years).

In Ornament, I stalled for a while at page 59, having realized that the era I want for my stories is probably the eleventh, twelfth or thirteenth centuries, either after the Almohads arrive in Iberia or earlier during the period of the Taifa kingdoms. Fortunately my first story, tentatively entitled “Mistakes by Moonlight,” doesnʼt require me to make much about the time period clear. Now if I could just find the time or energy to finish that story…

Perhaps I should provide a glimpse here to see what you think, faithful readers. (And that would give me at least a post or two, even just the beginning of the roughest draft.)

an Almohad minaret in Safi — click for more on Safi, Morocco

I also flipped through T. Carmiʼs The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (one of the first books, a hardback, that I got while a member of The Readerʼs Subscription back in the Eighties) and another Penguin collection, The Jewish Poets of Medieval Spain (sorry, no link to that book itself, but hereʼs a list of Moorish Spanish poets), to give me some feeling for Nathanʼs character and the world of Sepharad.

And having told you that, I excise what I have written beyond those words to save for tomorrowʼs post, since this one has already gotten right at a thousand words. See you then!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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