I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte (colubra) wrote,
I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

Books read, 2004

Some folks on my friendslist have been hunting for reading material.
I've put together the 2004 'shit I read' entries off my journal; they're all right here, now.

1: The Three Musketeers, Dumas. I'm an idiot, a jackanape, a scoundrel, a fool, an imbecile, because I never picked this book up before now. It is better than anything. Ever. Terrific fun. Apparently the recent Oxford translation is far superior to a lot of other English language versions: I can say that a lot of the construction of language seemed to be very directly French.
2: The Phoenix Guards, Stephen Brust. Brust likes Dumas. Brust is why I finally read 'Three Musketeers'. Brust is not a god amongst hamsters, like Dumas was- but he's definitely fun. He has a slightly more developed sense of the ironic, which gives the narrative a lot of piquancy.
3: The Telling, Ursula LeGuin. It's LeGuin. You can't really go wrong with short-novel LeGuin: about the only LeGuin I've less than loved was over 250 pages (this beast's about 225).
4: Pelt, Daphne Gottlieb. Daphne's poetry is fun. I'm spoiled; I've heard her read, and I know the meter and scansion of her pronunciations and whatnot, so reading her for me may be very different from someone who doesn't know her voice.
5: Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror & the Macabre, HP Lovecraft (anthology, ed. August Derleth). It's a damn shame that all the Del Rey Lovecraft is out of print, and all the Arkham House editions are long past the verge of that territory named 'affordable'. It's interesting re-reading these 15 years down the line- there's a freshness to them that I had forgotten entirely.
6: The Paths of the Dead, Stephen Brust. Brust gets better at the early-1800s picaresque-by-numbers; the sense of the ironic is considerably more developed, and the story flows a lot better.
7: The Lord of Castle Black Stephen Brust: Second part of said trilogy (third part comes to us in March, if memory serves). Same review as above, really: it's all one novel (despite being about 1200 pages total, I'd estimate).
8. Celtika, Robert Holdstock: Holdstock is a very unquantifiable author. his novel Mythago Wood is about the best possible fantasy aimed at Archetype that I can imagine: I really suspect that Holdstock must have a degree in Jungian psych.
9. The Curse of the Wise Woman, Lord Dunsany: Quite a charming little glimpse into an Ireland that doesn't exist anymore. There's a Ray Bradbury collection out there about the pleasures of working on John Huston's Moby Dick in Dublin, and this book seems to very obviously have had an influence on the Bradbury stories in that collection.
10. The Pleasures of a Futuroscope, Lord Dunsany: Not the best Dunsany (he said politely). It's a posthumous publication- and one that Dunsany apparently never tried to publish in his lifespan (see prior polite comment). There's a lot of H. G. Wells about it (it was written in the 1950s).
11. Twenty Years After, Dumas: Just when you thought that the 3 Musketeers was a standalone work, you find that no, there's more! Read this one on the plane to France, and at 4 - 5 AM when I was waking up for no readily apparent reason.
12. The Vicomte de Bragellone, Alexandre Dumas: And more! (and two more frigging books after this. Jeeezus the man wrote a lot: didn't even make it to 50 years of age). Started this one in the airport lounge on the way back.
13. The Last Light Of The Sun Guy Gavriel Kay.
Nothing more needs to be said: if you aren't reading this one yet or don't know you should, let me assure you that you need to read this one.
14. Liquor, Poppy Z. Brite
I reviewed this earlier in March, and you can read that here: summary would be 'wow what a terrific piece of food porn!' Loved this book very much. High recommendation.
15. The Value of X, Poppy Z. Brite
I read these two backwards (it's Value of X, THEN Liquor). Honestly, they actually hung together very nicely that way. This book made me tear up at one point- the bit where G-man's little brother says that they have to bring Ricky back so G-Man will be happy again. And there went the waterworks.
16. Alphabet of Thorn, Patricia McKillip
Patricia McKillip is so fun. She's a fairytale author, and her fairytales are generally very original. This one's no exception. I didn't care for it as much as the two preceding novels- but I definitely liked it better than a lot of things.
17. Dunsany Anthology (pub. 2004, Penguin Books, auth Arthur Plunkett, Lord Dunsany
I just really enjoy Dunsany's style. I swear, the man could write about a side of beef and make it sound like a romantic landscape of wonder and awe.
18. Glory Season, David Brin. Slow pace. I'm not enjoying it too much, but it was on the shelf and got read. Pretty... well, pretty bloody bad, really.
19. Coin Locker Babies, Ryu Murakami. Is it just me, or is modern Japanese fiction written by people on HUGE amounts of pseudo-ephedrine, ecstasy, and Suntory whiskey? Man. Whackedout shit.
20. The First Book of Jorkens, Alfred Plunkett, Lord Dunsany. The Jorkens stories are great fun. The overarcing premise: the main character joins a club in london. One of the inhabitants of the club is Mr. Jorkens, who is a veteran of the foreign service, who drinks like a fish and is an inveterate liar. Picture a game of Baron Munchausen as written by Neil Gaiman, and you're about there. Warning: these are expensive, as Nightshade Books has printed them expensively.
21. When Gravity Fails, George Alec Effinger. I'd read this YEARS ago when it first came out and didn't get much out of it. Re-reading it happened because I'd had it recommended again recently, and decided 'what the hell, I'll read it if I can find a copy'. A year later, found one. Fun fun stuff.
22. A Fire in the Sun, George Alec Effinger. Found this when I found When Gravity Fails. Didn't like it as much, honestly, though it was fun taking apart that storyworld a bit further and seeing who these people were.
23. Powers of Two, Tim Powers (omnibus edition, 'Epitaph in Rust' & 'The Skies Discrowned'). Both decent reads; mostly just cheesy SF rather than anything like what you'd expect from a Tim Powers novel, though both have a solid basis in his themes. And it's enjoyable reading a novel Tim Powers wrote as his first published novel, which was part of Harlequin's abortive SF line. ;)
24. The Iron Grail, Robert Holdstock. Reading Holdstock is always a pleasure (and I read the first book in this series earlier)-- however, I think the dear man needs to be a little less self-referential. Obviously not part of the Pre-Joyce League.
25. Dread Empire's Fall: the Sundering, Walter Jon Williams. You can't really go wrong with WJW if you're after enjoyable braincandy. He doesn't write like a madman of style and prose, but he writes very very well. And very engrossingly. I've yet to encounter a book by him that was anything less than enveloping.
26. To Green Angel Tower, Tad Williams. Good fucking god, why did this man ever get a publishing contract again in his life, after this shit? There was enough plot in Memory, Thorn & Sorrow for HALF OF A NOVEL.
Of course, he needed to make it 2600 pages of novel. Really overwritten really overflorid really... just bleah. Editor. Hire one.
27. The Confusion, Neal Stephenson. speaking of 2600 pages of novel, here's the 2nd volume of his Baroque Cycle. For those of you who have already read Quicksilver, this book takes after the 2nd part of Quicksilver, as far as narrative speed and focus goes. Coworker and I were talking and he suggested that perhaps this trilogy should be considered as a single 3000 page novel, which is why the first 500 pages were slow and expository and teeedious. That would make sense, though I enjoyed the first 500 pages of Quicksilver, too.
28. Sethra Lavode, Stephen Brust. It's more Brust-doing-pastiche-Dumas. How could one go wrong reading it, if one likes that sort of thing? I'm loving it.
29. Guilty but Insane, Poppy Z. Brite. Fun. Warped. I'm glad I followed the advice of cheekytubemouse and dug up a copy. Amusing. ;)
30. An Exaltation of Larks, James Lipton. This book is more entertaining when you've watched Inside the Actor's Studio and hear the narrative in the voice of the man who wrote it- and who interviews the guests on INside the Actor's Studio, as wurmfood discovered.
31. Sonnets to Orpheus, Rainier Maria Rilke. Edward Snow translation of these beautiful sonnets. Good stuff. But it's Rilke: calling it good stuff is like saying the Mona Lisa is 'not a bad portrait'.
32. Elephant House, Or, The Home of Edward Gorey, Kevin McDermott. This is just photographs: pictures of the totchkes & knickknacks and such in Gorey's home, taken about a month after his passing. BEAUTIFUL photos- and a very very sad piece of work. Especially the photos of his drawing table and the little handwritten notes about forthcoming work on it.
33. Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith. Read this one when it first came out- trying to decide what I think of it now.
34. Approaching Oblivion, Harlan Ellison. I liked this book a lot when I first read it, 10 years ago. Now? Not so much. Sigh.
35. Novelties & Souvenirs, John Crowley. I am of mixed mind about this book. On the one hand, it's TERRIFIC having all of Crowley's shorts and the one novella in print. On the OTHER hand, I whine because if I'd been patient I wouldn't have bought one of the books that is compiled in here. Buy this one. These are brilliantly clever fantasy works.
36. Jhereg
37. Tekla
38. Yendi
39. Taltos
40. Phoenix
41. Athyra
42. Orca
Years back, spooky_lemur recommended these to me. I read one and didn't think much of it.
I was a dolt. These are fun. They're popcorn: they're not Great Literature. This does not stop them from being highly entertaining.
Bears note that these are available in 3 omnibus editions now.
43. Social Disease, Paul Rudnick. How can I argue with a sendup of the New York club scene that dates back 20 years? And Rudnick is a funny funny man. I love this novel: bought a new copy of it because my old one had gotten snagged.
44. Conqueror Moon, Julian May. May is a really masterful storyteller: she's able to dive into a completely trite fantasy world and come up with a really solid, and intriguing, book. I think what makes her work is that her characters react in ways that feel familiar- as opposed to I am The Hero of Magic and Wonder- they're ordinary folks, in an extraordinary place.
45. Clamp, XxxHolic vol. 1 (manga)
This manga is an interestingly beautiful piece of work; what I find especially lovely about it is that the artwork owes a great deal to Art Nouveau, but is decidedly manga-like. It's also sorta funny.
46. Fruits Basket Vol. 1
47. Fruits Basket Vol. 2
Interesting reading- it feels a little more personal than the TV show did. I'm really pleased as punch with Bantam's new manga translation line, too: they do good work (this and the Clamp above). Thanks to fallencathedral for mentioning these!
48. Dragon, Stephen Brust: The brustilivromania continues.
49. Forty Signs of Rain, Kim Stanley Robinson: This one is probably worth waiting for the sequels. It's OK-- but the action doesn't really take off anywhere in the book, and this is disappointing. I've SEEN Robinson write good; so far, this is Robinson setting up good.
50. Wonder Bread & Ecstasy: the Life and Death of Joey Stephano, Charles Isherwood: a sort of bio sort of True Crime thing, about a relatively well-known gay porn icon. Given that I had a thing for Mr. Stephano in the worst possible way, I had to. It's actually pretty well-written.
51. Storm Front, Jim Butcher: Rather a weird thing to read while waiting for the Pride parade to commence, given Jim's own perspective on the world. Very straight fellow. Very nice fellow. This was a re-read: just needed to grab something to stay sane while waiting.
52. Song of Susannah, Stephen King: Dark Tower book 6. Better than book 5 and 4, but not, in my opinion, as enjoyable as 3. Still- darn good stuff. Some of the best writing King's done in years, in my view.
53. Conquistador, S. M. Stirling: I am reminded by this book of the words of Dorothy Parker: 'This is not a book to be set aside lightly. No, it should be thrown, with great force'. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK OH MY GOD NO. WINNER: WORST BOOK READ IN 2004!
54. Book of Days, Gene Wolfe: Generally, I don't enjoy Wolfe's short fiction. This book is QUITE an exception. I think it was his conceit of trying to write a book of short fiction that all focused around various holidays that made it work: he had an overarcing idea, and therefore, he could write.
55. Castle of the Otter, Gene Wolfe: I don't recommend this one to people who haven't already read the Book of the New Sun. I enjoyed it a lot, but I had context from having read the aforementioned quartet.
56. The Ringworld Throne, Larry Niven: Not one of Niven's better books. Re-read solely because a new Ringworld book is coming, and I realized I didn't remember a page of this one.
57. Spares, Michael Marshall Smith: I Liked Only Forward better. This one sort of derives off the same basic plot construction, which is saddening. It ties off solidly, though-- which is a problem with Only Forward's end.
58. I Am Alive And You Are All Dead: A Journey into the mind of Philip K. Dick, Emmanuel Carrere: It's a PKD bio. Of COURSE I'm reading it. It also seems to be a somewhat rather well-written one.
59. The Golden Gryphon, ed. Turner & Halpern: an interesting collection of short stories. Nothing to fall all over yourself for, but nothing that sucks.
60. On Pirates, Wm. Ashbless, Tim Powers, & James Blaylock. I love Ashbless' work, and Powers and Blaylock truly edit it well in concert.
61. The Devils In The Details, Powers/Blaylock: A limited press trio of shorts: one written by each of them, and one collaboration. Some very strong stuff in here.
62. Move Under Ground, Nick Mamatas. An intriguing and strange book- a beautiful pastiche-tribute of Lovecraft & Kerouac. Amazingly well-written, and it manages to seamlessly blend these two different voices.
63. The Knight, Gene Wolfe: Eeeh. It's OK. I dunno, I like Wolfe's 'science fantasy' stuff more.
64. Malafrena, Ursula K. LeGuin: First LeGuin I've read that didn't hook me right away. This is going to be a slow one, I can tell.
65. Voice of the Fire, Alan Moore: it's INTERESTING seeing Alan Moore's eye for detail turned to the novel. VERY interesting. I don't know that I'd recommend this to someone who wasn't a fan of his graphic fiction work, but I'm definitely glad I read it.
66. XxxHolic vol. 2, Clamp: I really like the artistic style of this. Any manga that is so apparently influenced by art nouveau gets props with me.
67. Fruits Basket 3
68. Fruits Basket 4: These are much the same as the TV show, really- there's just little tidbits here and there that expand a bit more on things.
69. The Great Mirror of Male Love, Ihara Saikaku: interesting reading if you ever wondered what medieval Japanese homosexuality was like.
70. Leaping Beauty, Greg Maguire: hmn. They're OK. this isn't worth picking up hardcover.
71. Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley, Lord Dunsany. Can't go too wrong with Dunsany, really.
72. Death Poems, Thomas Ligotti: Weird little book. Interestingly written, but there's not much here you don't already know. Which is kinda the point. I think I liked it.
73. Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorow: Well, Doctorow generally doesn't suck. This isn't an exception to that generality, either.
74. Swords and Deviltry
75. Swords Against the Mist
76. Knight & Knave of Swords, Fritz Leiber: I really love the Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser stuff. This was sort of time-filing while waiting for new books to arrive.
77. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke: Fun book. Really fun book. Neil Gaiman's been banging the drum about this one and- as you'd expect- he's right. Highest recommend for 2004
78. Second Book of Jorkens, Lord Dunsany: The Jorkens books are great. NightShade Books is reprinting the whole batch of 'em in a uniform edition- including the difficult-to-find ones. Well worth picking up, this.
79. Black Sun Rising
80. When True Night Falls, C.S. Friedman: the second of these is likely to be the one book this year I do not finish.
81. Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, Stephen King: Well duh. It ties up all the loose ends neatly, packages the whole thing up, and leaves you going '...that's such an evil ending. the RIGHT ending but oh so evil.'
82. Secret Life, Jeff VanderMeer: VanderMeer is good. Nuff sed, I think.
83. Bored of the Rings, the Harvard Lampoon: I didn't have a copy anymore, and for 4 quid I found a hardcover no less. Score! Read the vast majority of this sitting in a pub in Camden Town.
84. System of the World, Neal Stephenson: well, it is the third book in the series. A lot of wind-up, and a lot of Stephenson's patented dry sense of humor that is not only geekier than you know but geekier than you CAN know.
85. Ascending Peculiarity, Edward Gorey: a collection of interviews with the fellow himself. Re-read this one because I just felt, I don't know. In the proper mood.
86. Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, Umpteenth Edition; ed. Datlow et al: This anthology is a godsend.
87. Gloriana, or, the Queen Unfulfill'd, Michael Moorcock: I love this novel. I just fucking love it. Anybody who loves Gormenghast (edit: spelling corrected) or Spencer is bound to love it too, and should pick it up sooner than later.
88. The Other Glass Teat, Harlan Ellison: Nope, still the better of the two Glass Teats, in my opinion.
89. Cat's Pyjamas, James Morrow: I love James Morrow. This anthology collects a bunch of his shorts since the last short-story-anthology he pressed; it's fun.
90. Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones: Fun read. Had read this years ago, wanted to check on it again, since there's a new movie by Hayao Miyazaki coming out that's based on it.
91. Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, Sei Shonagon: Interesting reading someone's observations on the world from nearly a thousand years ago and finding them completely contemporary.
92. In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman: Thank god SOMEBODY acclaimed for insightfulness agrees wholeheartedly with my paranoid little heart's imaginings about Sept 11, 2001.
93. Adventures in the Dream Trade, Neil Gaiman: An amusing though unessential little collection, composed of introductions to other people's work, and a big chunk of his blogging about American Gods.
94. The Iron Council, China Mieville: I'd call this the weakest of the 3 later novels he's written- and only out-weaked by King Rat, of all the writing he's done.
95. The Devil, Delfina Varela and the Used Chevy, Louie Garcia Robinson: A book about the Mission District of San Francisco in the early 80s (or as it was known at the time, La Michon), written by the latino equivalent of Tom Robbins. GREAT fun. Very amusing. I enjoyed it greatly.
96. Kizuna 1 and 2: Kizuma Kodaka: These are being published in English- and it's rather enjoyable reading, I find. Pretty sensual, though, and awfully queer. Not for everyone.
97. Will and the World: Stephen Greenblatt Interestingly indepth analysis of what we can factually know about Shakespeare, as well as the crazy-ass theoretical stuff people came up with in the past.
98. A History of Venice: John Julius Norwich Between the details of this book and the details in Norwich's various Constantinople histories, I wonder if Guy Gavriel Kay is ever going to acknowledge his co-author for the Sarantine Mosaic and Tigana. Sheesh.
99. The Third Man & The Fallen Idol,
100. Our Man In Havana: Graham Greene Author I'd always meant to read. Found myself in Las Vegas without reading material, picked up a couple. Enjoyable read.
101. A Game of Thrones,
102. A Clash of Kings,
103. A Storm of Swords: George R. R. Martin Re-read these on an act of faith that Martin would actually have book 4 in to his publisher soon. There was a hell of a lot of these I had forgotten.
104. The Runes of the Earth: Stephen R. Donaldson
A heck of a lot better than the 2nd chronicles of Thomas Covenant, this- he's obviously been learning a bit about how to write. Interestingly, he seems to be gleefully running through the first 6 books, grabbing loose ends that were just left laying around, and tying them up. As yet (I have not yet finished it) there is a great deal of coherency to the drama in it- and no Thomas Covenant save for the main character remembering him. Which means we get a lot more about the setting, and a lot less "WOE IS ME I AM IMPOTENT AND WISH TO FIX THINGS OH THE TORMENT".
105. The Light Ages: Ian R. MacLeod I really wanted to like this better than I did: steampunk fantasy with a victorian bend could, I dunno, have been better.
106. Furies of Calderon: Jim Butcher
First book written by an acquaintance that I have seen on an end-cap face-out at Barnes and Noble. Enjoyable high fantasy, too.
107. A Year in the Life of a Shinto Shrine: John K. Nelson
Interesting read! A good way for a gaijin to figger out what the hell place in society a Shinto shrine occupies.
108. Marlene Dietrich's ABC, Marlene Dietrich
I love this book. Not just for the recipes.
109. The Stress Of Her Regard, Tim Powers
Byron and Shelley and Keats, oh my! And angels, and giants that walked the earth. Good stuff.
110. Quin's Shanghai Circus,
111. Sinai Tapestry,
112. Jerusalem Poker,
113. Nile Shadows, &
114. Jericho Mosaic: Edward Whittemore --pretty singular stuff. I liked it.
115. The Line of Beauty: Alan Hollinghurst MAN what a heartbreakingly good novel. I loved this one.
116. Ringworld's Children: Larry Niven Definitely better than 'Ringworld Throne'. Definitely not as good as the first two, but considerably less 'not as good' than Ringworld Throne was.
117. The Doom that Came to Sarnath, H.P. Lovecraft: re-read. Old friends are like that.
118. Strange Wine: Harlan Ellison: this anthology definitely didn't suffer from being revisited 15 years later in my life.
119. The Rift, Walter Jon Williams: good mainstream thriller- Williams really does write wonderfully well.
120. The Stupidest Angel, Christopher Moore: the flyleaf comment says it all: 'A lovely Christmas story. With zombies.'
121. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu: Finally finished this beast. It's rough going. The newest translation does help, though.
122. Interior Desecrations, James Lilek: this man is just a genius when it comes to looking at past culture's detritus and finding humor.
123. The Jew of New York,
124. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, stories
125. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, The Beauty Supply District &
126. Cheap Novelties, the Pleasure of Urban Decay, Ben Katchor: I loved Julius Knipl when it ran in the local free press. I am less impressed with his other work, sadly.
127. The Peace War,
128. Marooned in Realtime, Vernor Vinge: these two are great. Nothing to just wet yourself over, but they're intelligent theoretical science fiction like nobody writes anymore.
129. Stranger than Fiction, Chuck Palahniuk: Very clever stuff. Very witty stuff. All non-fiction, too.
130. Castle In the Air, Diana Wynne Jones: AS enjoyable as Howl's Moving Castle.
131. To Reign in Hell- Stephen Brust: Eeeh. Not a necessary read, honestly> It's OKAY, really, and in some ways it's very fun- but there's nothing surprising here
132: The Adventures of Kavalier & Klay, Michael Chabon: I can understand how this book won the Pulitzer, having finally read it. I'm surprised that the Pulitzer committee agreed with me for a change, though.

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