More Reading

I cut myself off yesterday, having made the post long enough already. But I had already gotten into more recent reading, so we will continue with that topic today.

Click for an uncritical take on what made these versions great

In other reading, I have two Robert E. Howard collections going — The Horror Stories (trying to stimulate some developments in Quetzal County; letʼs see what Census work does for that) and El Borak, whose Middle Eastern adventures did spark me actually starting to write about Søren and Nathan (and I am still unsure about that second name). And de Camp and Carterʼs revising some of the El Borak stories into Conan adventures has got me to pick up the original Lancer Conan series again (currently in book 2, Conan of Cimmeria, partway through “Queen of the Black Coast”). As I keep going (and itʼs already happened once), I am going to end up reading the Conanized version of a story I have read or am reading in El Borak in its original version. Even though the current Howard experts consider the deCamp/Carter revisions bastardizations, having read them while young, I still hold them fondly in my heart.

There you have it, unimpressively escapist in content but what I am reading these days (and escaping from my new job feels just about right). Anybody need your fingerprints taken?

As fantasy series are on my mind, I realized a month or so back that I had never finished the Michael Morcock Elric collections I had acquired (having reread the original stories and novels as Moorcock had revised them about eighteen months ago), so I am most of the way through The Fortress of the Pearl, with The Revenge of the Rose to follow. I find as an adult that I just get bogged down in Moorcockʼs dreamscapes/allegories, sadly. As a youth, he was my first fantasy reading while I lived in Olivet (Elric in The Stealer of Souls and Stormbringer — both Lancer Books, now that I think about it, and both of my copies, like my original Lovecraft books [also Lancers], in horribly unreadable shape, thanks to that publisherʼs bad glue bindings), and I proceeded to snap up every Moorcock book I could find during high school and college. Maybe someday Iʼll finish the series with the new books the author has written in this century.

I still recall myself, on an evening trip to Lansing, huddled in our familyʼs car over Stealer of Souls, reading to whatever light there was, continuing in a parking lot while the family went somewhere — shopping? — without me, such was the power of encountering a (watered-down) Byronic hero for the first time. The revisions of those stories just donʼt grab me quite as strongly, and the intervening adventures off into the Multiverse between the short stories and Stormbringer, break the spell as well for me. Of course,I have grown up a little in the last forty-plus years.

I also remember reading the first of Jack Vanceʼs Planet of Adventure books on a similar but daytime trip to the state capital or maybe Battle Creek. I had never read anything quite so exotic (the result, I believe, of Vanceʼs famously esoteric style, so completely unlike the workaday prose of Asimov, until then the god of my science fiction idolatry). Vance taught me, among many things, the word “fey.” He richly deserves to share Delanyʼs company in the online essay I linked to yesterday (and just now).

I wouldnʼt encounter Heinlein, I think, until the family moved back to Iowa, and I found his juveniles in the Mt. Pleasant Public Library. I still want to sit down for about two weeks and reread all those kid/teen books. Citizen of the Galaxy, although only read once (maybe twice) still holds a place of special honor in my science-fiction rankings. But I loved all of them, with only Rocket Ship Galileo feeling too dated even in ‘68 or ‘69. Itʼs funnny these days, but thanks to Heinlein and Alexei Panshin, I found myself thinking libertarian from a leftist perspective (so peculiar for todayʼs staunch wingers of the Right) as a young man [there is a post on these themes coming one day — unfortunately for us now, after my Census tour of duty concludes].

And I seem to have wandered far from reciting what I am reading today, rolicking back into the watercolors of memory instead.

At present, I am also periodically forging my way through the new translation of Kafkaʼs The Castle (thanks to our trip to Prague and my fading concept of a huge Castle project/book/website of my own). Right now, K has just hooked up with Frieda, so I am starting chapter four — not a very impressive reread so far, but I really have jumped into fantasy in April as part of developing the new story(-ies). I first read Kafkaʼs book (and The Trial, which I thought I liked better at the time) sitting on the floor of the dishwashing room at The Copper Kettle in Mt.Pleasant — actually serving as the substitute dishwasher for my basket-playing brother Paul, who kindly got the boss to consider using me, the unlikely longhaired social reject. It may have been the first honest money I earned other than detasseling corn and bailing hay. Today I cannot recall if I started during my senior year in high school or as a college freshman; high school seems more likely because by college I was running stage lights at Wesleyan and working for Tom Thatcherʼs Where Itʼs At (un)head shop (where, as I still shudder to realize, we spent one idle late afternoon making lighter-fluid trails on the concrete floor and setting them afire: youth, a curable disease).

I have one last book residing for my reach: The Continent Makers by L. Sprgue de Camp — the short stories of his Viagens Interplanetarias series, which Iʼve dabbled in from week to month to week (and it has been four stories so far). I picked up, two years ago on eBay, all the books in the series (one which I had amazingly ignored back in the Seventies and Eighties as they came out from Ace, but then I drifted far from sci fi and fantasy into richer realms of nonfiction for many years, nearly two decades before the allure of escapism resurfaced — interestingly about the same time that I got interested again in the Grateful Dead [Jerry Garcia was a huge reader of all kinds of things, including most of what I read — a word which in this case you can interpret in either of its pronunciations, past or present tense]).

I also have H.P. Lovecraft out, along with Karl Edward Wagnerʼs Kane short stories, to try inspiring ideas (either to copy or avoid) in the Quetzal County narrative and for Sepharad. But I havenʼt read anything of either author (both in the reread category — Lovecraft in the re-re-re-re-re-re-read category, like Howard and Delany) at least since the middle of March. So perhaps I shouldnʼt count them. I also keep carrying around a translation of Villonʼs poetry — which version varies — but havenʼt made any advances on my François story in nearly six weeks (although you may be getting a taste of that soon — it being the one Janet told me was to artsy-fartsy literary to be interesting, so I would be interested in othersʼ opinions), so maybe Villon doesnʼt count either.

Th—th—thatʼs all, folks! (So appropriate, that.)

I did finish “Queen of the Black Coast” Monday night (just to keep you absolutely up to date). —At least I had fun with these two posts, including (or in particular) making and finding the cover art pictures.

I have an embarrassingly honest poem slated for tomorrow, since I should be working all I can on my Census preparations today, but weʼll see if I stay comfortable with that. It was originally scheduled for Mondayʼs post.

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

2 thoughts on “More Reading

  1. I have already been fingerprinted, so I won’t need to do it again! We all had to be fingerprinted when I worked as a preschool teacher at the YWCA. I must say I did not care for the thought of the government having a copy of my prints, though they did tell us they would only use the copy to see if we had a criminal background and then the prints would be taken out of the system…still I wondered about the truth of what THEY do or tell you they do…

    • Actually, Colleen, the Census Bureau fingerprints all new hires and even rehires every time (itʼs an issue we were just discussing, as I have about a dozen to do at my training).

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