Friday, June 20, 2014

Books Exiting the System

So, once again I've been going through the shelves and pulling off some books to get rid of. For the most part, these fall into one of two categories. Either they're books I read long ago and don't see myself re-reading, or they're books I bought on impulse years ago and am finally admitting I probably won't ever get around to. As I get older, and being mindful that my eyesight isn't good and won't get better, I find myself starting to think that there's a finite number of books I'll get to read from here on out, and maybe I shd start being a little more selective . . .

Anyway, here's a listing of the latest batch, with some thoughts on each book:

PETER PAN (the novel) by J. M. Barrie. I was never particularly a fan, but thought I shd have a copy handy for reference in case I ever needed to. Doesn't look like that'll be the case, and it's readily available if that shd ever change.

THE FAIRY OF KU-SHE by M. Lucie Chin. I picked this up when I was seeking out everything that reminded me of THE BRIDGE OF BIRDS. I see I bought this one at the late lamented Turning Page in Milwaukee more than twenty years ago and haven't cracked the cover yet, so think this is an impulse buy whose time has passed.

THE FALLIBLE FIEND by de Camp.  Extremely minor de Camp. I'd rather keep the good stuff and let this one go.

THE DREAM YEARS by Lisa Goldstein. An interesting enough read, but find I don't particularly want to re-read it, so it can go.

THE RED MAGICIAN by Lisa Goldstein. I think this was the one that made me decide Goldstein was pursuing a direction in fantasy that didn't particularly appeal to me, despite being well-written.

STRANGE DEVICES OF THE SUN AND MOON by Lisa Goldstein. Bought this when I thought I was going on a Lisa Goldstein kick, but turned out I was wrong about that.

HAWK & FISHER: WINNER TAKES ALL by Simon R. Green. Think I picked this one up off a freebie table at work, so it's not even an impulse buy. The impulse to actually read it never having arrived, it can go.

TRAVELING WITH THE DEAD by Barbara Hambly. The sequel to THOSE WHO HUNT THE NIGHT, which I found an interesting take on vampirism (she posits it's a virus). Picked up this sequel a few years later but never read it, and recently realized it's because for me that first book was sufficient: I don't want to know more about those characters; I want to leave them where they were at the close of the previous novel. So, this one can go. 

STARSHIP TROOPER by Heinlein. Read this one for book group soon after we moved out here. Didn't particularly like it. Didn't like the film supposedly based on it. Don't foresee any need to ever re-read it -- and if one arises, replacement copies will be readily available.*

AT AMBERLEAF FAIR by Phyllis Ann Karr. Picking up this one apparently seemed like a good idea at the time, but never having read it have to admit I'm never likely to in future, so it can go.

FROSTFLOWER AND THORN by Phyllis Ann Karr.  Unpleasantly kinky.

THE IDYLLS OF THE QUEEN by Phyllis Ann Karr. A murder mystery set in Camelot, with Sir Kay as her detective.**

JINX HIGH by Mercedes Lackey. The only Lackey I've read, one of the 'Diana Tregarde' series. If it'd been better, I might have read more, or indeed want to keep this one.

AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND by Geo. MacDonald. The only one of MacD's fantasies I'd never gotten to, now that I've read it I definitely don't want to keep it. When Phillip Pullman accuses C. S. Lewis (a huge fan of MacD's) of celebrating 'a culture of death', this is the kind of thing he's talking about.***

THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH, AND EVERYTHING by John D. MacDonald. Once you have the idea behind the story, you don't really need the story itself (which hardly does justice to it). Bought this one at X-Con many years ago (in fact, at the last X-Con I ever went to, right before Taum died). Amusingly, has a Pam Dauber movie tie-in cover.

DREAM SNAKE by Vonda McIntyre. A really good short story turned into a disappointing novel. I'm keeping the short story and letting the novel go.

NEVER THE TWAIN by Kirk Mitchell. Sounded like a clever premise -- a descendent of Bret Harte goes back in time to try to convince Sam Clemens not to take up writing so that his own ancestor will be more famous. But I've never been moved to read it in the more than quarter century since I spotted it on the shelf and picked it up, so think its window has closed for me. 

PARSIVAL by Richard Monaco. This one was recommended to me by a friend (Jim P., I think), but for whatever reason I've never gotten around to it, so now it's falling prey to my 'make some room' mood. Besides, having read Wolfram and Chretien, I don't really need to read a modern novelization of the story.

THE JADE ENCHANTRESS by E. Hoffmann Price. Having read this more than a decade ago and not remembering a single thing about it, and given how much I disliked the other Price I recently re-read, can't face the thought of re-reading this one too. Off it goes to hopefully a more appreciative home.****

RED MARS by Kim Stanley Robinson. Another I read for book group. I rather liked this one --KSR has some interesting ideas, and is good in presenting them --  but never moved on to the second and third in the series, and don't feel any particular desire to re-read this one, so it can go.

THE FALL OF HYPERION by Dan Simmons. Interesting book, also read for book group.  I admire Simmons's ambition for drawing upon some of Keats' lesser known work for his inspiration, but I was fine with just reading the first book and not pressing on to the second and third of the series. And now fourteen years later realize I have no particular desire to re-read the one either. So it can go.

A WIND IN CAIRO by Judith Tarr. I enjoyed some of Tarr's work, but not this one (about a rapist redeeming himself after being transformed into a stallion). If I were to get in a Tarr-reading mood, I'd rather re-read ALAMUT, her best work (of the half-dozen or so I've read).

AGENT OF BYZANTIUM by Harry Turtledove. Enjoyable enough, but not memorable.

THE CASE OF THE TOXIC SPELL DUMP by Harry Turtledove. Faux-hardboiled detective story, read for book group. From what little I remember of it, kind of like Turtledove's equivalent to CAST A DEADLY SPELL or Hambley's BRIDE OF THE RAT-GOD.

THE OLD GODS WAKEN by Manley Wade Wellman. A 'Silver John' novel. The short story collection was great, but the novel's terrible: a dull, overlong mess.

DARKER THAN YOU THINK by Jack Williamson. Recently read, after having it on the shelf for years. Awful. Originally published in UNKNOWN; I can only assume the magazine version was shorter and therefore better.

*my notes say I bought this on my first ever visit to Borders in Tukwila, the same month I moved out to this area from Wisconsin
**she does a good job with Kay, Gawain, and Mordred, but a terrible job with Arthur, Lancelot, Gareth, and especially Merlin; her Guinever is essentially invisible
***a library discard from the Milwaukee public library, just to give some idea how long I carried this one with me through move after move before finally getting to it and finding out how bad it was.
****bought this one on a rare trip to in interesting old bookstore in Auburn with Dale D. (Hi Dale!)


David Lenander said...

I think _At Amberleaf Fair_ is a worthwhile read--an interesting take on a less-violent society, the mystery being investigated doesn't define the real genre of the book, it's a sort of thought experiment, one that might have been inspired by Margaret Meade's take on the Arapesh, applied to a society a bit more in the Western European, and one that might serve as a model for us. I think it stands out as Karr's best book, you might want to read a few pages, just in case, before you pass it on. There are other short stories associated with the world and main character, though I'm not sure I've read more than one or two of them. Otherwise, I either haven't read the book or I either agree with you or can see where you're coming from. _Peter Pan_ is the same book as _Peter and Wendy_, right?
--David Lenander

David Lenander said...

that is, "Western European tradition" rather than the New Guinea social milieu of _Sex and Temperament_.

David Bratman said...

I read "Never the Twain" and remember being irritated by the scene where the protagonist forestalls Mark Twain from writing "Huck Finn" by copying out the text and having it published under his own pseudonym. (He picks "Ernest Hemingway," a name that would mean nothing to anyone at the time.)

The problem is - I think this is set before "Tom Sawyer" as well - is that the book "Huck Finn" can't exist without "Tom Sawyer". It says it's a sequel on the first page.

I pointed this out at the time, and was taken as saying that you can't read "Huck Finn" without reading "Tom Sawyer" first, but that's not what I said at all.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear David (L)

Thanks for the comments re. AMBERLEAF FAIR. I've read four of Karr's books and only liked one (THE KING ARTHUR COMPANION), thought one was okay (IDYLLS OF THE QUEEN), and actively disliked the other two (LADY SUSAN, her terrible continuation of a piece of Jane Austen juvenalia, and FROSTFLOWER AND THORN, which is unpleasant and kinky). I'll hang on to AMBERLEAF FAIR for a while to at least give it a skim before it goes, but I think she's just not the author for me.

--John R.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear David (B)

Your point is well taken, except for the Harte descendent's plan to work he'd have had to prevent or co-opt the publication of THE JUMPING FROG: from that point on Twain clearly had the jump on Harte. By the time HUCK FINN was published almost twenty years later Harte had clearly fallen far behind.

And you're right that HUCK FINN is presented as a sequel to TOM SAWYER. I suppose one author could write a follow-up to another author's book, but it's my impression that TOM SAWYER was the more famous in Twain's time. Maybe the author needed to absorb a little more of the actual history before writing his time-travel novel.

--John R.