Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Last Twelve Books

So, one of the things I do a lot is make lists. Sometimes these are useful lists, like notes re. the release date of forthcoming manga, or anime I may be interested in renting. Often they're to-do lists of things I need to take care of in a given week or day, or simply have pending. Occasionally they're more miscellaneous, like interesting and unusual names I've come across and might want to use for a character at some point, or ideas I want to weave into the next game I run. Most of these lists either serve their short-term purpose or get misplaced and lost; others vanish, only to reappear years later as strangely cryptical bookmarks.

A few lists are more in the nature of informal catalogues, like a list I made years ago of all TSR rpgs (now sadly outdated), or of Tolkien books (not by but about) that I own, or of what Dunsany or Clark Ashton Smith books I'm missing (in case I run across one at a used book store, which does happen occasionally).

By far the most useful of all my lists, and the one I've kept the longest, is my Reading List. More than thirty years ago I started keeping a list of all the books I read, writing down the title, author, and date when I read it. For example, book #1 in the list is THE SEVEN PER-CENT SOLUTION by Nicholas Meyers, which I read on 8/8-75, followed the next day by THE SAGA OF KING HEIDREK THE WISE (tr. Christopher Tolkien). Not only does this help me find a book again, but it's an incentive to finish reading one I might otherwise bog down in (books don't get added unless I read the whole thing). Despite a mishap in the summer of 1981, when I left the original list of six hundred or so books on the London underground and so had to start anew ("Series II") on August 15th 1981 (book #7 of the new list being MR. BLISS, then in manuscript at Marquette, and #8 my first reading of THE FACE IN THE FROST by Jn Bellairs, which instantly became an all-time favorite). About the only refinement I've added over the years in the date of the book's publication.

So, as a pretty representative example, here are the last twelve books I've read (along with a few comments).

II.2745. SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE by Austin Grossman [2007] (an interesting first-person account of what it's like to be a comic book super-villain)

II.2746. THE ENCHANTED CASTLE by E. Nesbit [1907] (part of my research into yet another magic ring of invisibility)

II.2747. MR. FAIRLIE'S FINAL JOURNEY by August Derleth [1968] (Sherlock Holmes pastiche, picked up as a curiosity at the Book Fair)

II.2748. TOLKIEN'S SHORTER WORKS: ESSAYS OF THE JENA CONFERENCE 2007, ed. Hiley & Weinreich [Walking Tree, 2008] (a collection of essays on JRRT's minor works, which I read & reviewed)

II.2749. ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN by Woodward & Bernstein [1974] (sometimes it helps to remind ourself of just how bad a specific point in the past was, and just how similar to the present it is in some ways)

II.2750. THE RIDDLE OF THE THIRD MILE by Colin Dexter [1983] (an Inspector Morse mystery, picked up a year ago in Oxford. These things are all over the place there, like moss on Seattle trees. Unpleasant but erudite.)

II.2751. TOLKIEN'S OXFORD by Rbt S. Blackham [2008] (an illustrated guide of places connected with JRRT; another piece read & reviewed).

II.2752. FULBRIGHT THE DISSENTER by Haynes Johnson & Bernard M. Gwertzman [1968] (Janice found this one. Interesting to find out more about someone who, when I was growing up, was nearing the end of his remarkable career in ignominious fashion, out-of-touch and arrogant --most of us in Arkansas thought Robert Redford's THE CANDIDATE was about Fulbright vs. Bumbers. History will not forgive his refusal to support civil rights or basic lack of trust in the U.S. constitutional system, but at least he stood up to McCarthy and was way ahead of the curve in opposing Vietnam).

II.2753. THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman [2008] (Gaiman is always worth reading, though here the idea -- a new take on THE JUNGLE BOOK, with the Mowgli raised by ghosts and a vampire rather than animals -- is better than the execution)

II.2754. JOHNNY & THE DEAD by Terry Pratchett [1993] (my third reading; not so good as I remembered it, but still vintage Pratchett, and I suspect an influence on N.G.)

II.2755. JAZZ WRITINGS by Phillip Larkin, ed. Richard Palmer & Jn White [1999] (Larkin was a born reviewer, opinionated and articulate, who could make even a dead art form interesting).

II.2756. TOLKIEN'S GEDLING 1914 by Andrew H. Morton & Jn Hayes [2008] (an account of JRRT's Aunt Jane & how she abandoned an academic career to become a farmer; 'Gedling' is the suburb of Nottingham where her farm lay, and where JRRT on a visit wrote what he came to consider the first poem in his Mythology. My review of this one is still in progress).

--JDR

current reading: ABBEY LUBBERS, BANSHEES & BOGGARTS by Katharine Briggs [1979]

1 comment:

David said...

Robert Redford's character in The Candidate was vaguely modeled after John Tunney (son of Gene Tunney, the boxer), who looked rather like Redford and had been elected to the Senate a year earlier, with perhaps a touch of Jerry Brown (who, like Redford's character, was the son of a former governor).

I'm afraid it couldn't be Bumpers vs. Fulbright because that didn't happen until two years after the film was released.

The Fulbright biography I read with most interest was Tristram Coffin's, because it had (at least of those I could find at the time) the most on his time at Oxford, studying with Tolkien's friend R.B. McCallum.