In addition to the regular diet of Star Trek novels to help my brain decompress – Warning, that Star Trek: New Earth series isn’t nearly as fun as you want it to be – this week, I’ve also been reading Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, a book that I cannot recommend enough. Wonderfully funny, bold and just plain fucking smart, I’ve heard a lot of people here in the US describe it as “The British Bossypants,” which – Well, I know what they’re trying to say, but it does How To Be A Woman an amazing disservice. For one thing, it’s more of a coherent book than Tina Fey’s, and it also has more to say – It’s trying to educate and argue as much as make you laugh, even though it’s at least as funny as Fey’s book. I really, really loved it, and I hope that the attention it got here in America around its long-overdue launch will make Moran well-known and much-loved over here, as well as in the UK.
The plus of the quasi-vacations I’ve just had: A chance to catch up on reading (The Star Trek: New Frontier book, you’ll be unsurprised to know, was the book I read at home on the Monday I worked between trips to Washington and Southern Oregon. Decompression books are decompression books, dear reader). The much-discussed Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs book was a disappointment, in that it skipped over a lot of what I wanted to read about – His wilderness years – and made me almost immeasurably dislike Jobs even as the author fell in love with him, and the Jonathan Carroll collection of short stories that I’d been waiting so long to read also felt unsatisfying, in part because there’s such a similarity in themes and ideas that his words quickly become repetitious and dull, which should never be the case.
That Rick Bowers book about the Adventures of Superman radio show taking on the KKK, though. It’s a very quick read, but for some reason, it’s stuck in my head as something to use as a model for future projects. I just need to work out how.
The joy of a week with a day off in the middle is that you can get a lot more reading done, it seems; I’m as surprised as you are that I managed to get through all of the above in such a short time, but there you go (Then again, considering I ripped through G. Willow Wilson’s wonderful Alif The Unseen in about five hours yesterday, completely sucked in and wanting to find out what happened next, maybe it’s not so surprising; it’s a very good book, by the way. I said to Kate that it’s maybe a little too ambitious for its own good, but goddamn if that ambition doesn’t make it compelling stuff).
Both Time and Chance and What Becomes were, in their own ways, disappointments. I remember loving AL Kennedy’s fiction years ago, when I lived in Scotland, but either my tastes or her writing have changed, and this book of short stories left me unmoved and frustrated by the weight of her prose. The Brennert, meanwhile, ended up annoying me; the book, in theory, gives two different versions of the same man a chance to take the road less taken for a short while, but it felt so weirdly biased in the direction of one of those versions that I couldn’t take it seriously after awhile.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was also kind of disappointing; Jenny Lawson’s blog is hilarious, but she tries to keep up the same intensity in this memoir, and it’s exhausting – Blogging and longer-form prose are different beasts, and I found myself wishing that her editor had pushed her to slow down, and to try and come up with something less in-your-face more often, if only for variety’s sake.
Both Four Letter Word and Otherwise Known As The Human Condition were enjoyable enough; the former fell prey to the anthology problem of only being as entertaining as the participant you’re reading, as the conceit (fictional love letters) wasn’t exactly strong enough to overwhelm what might’ve otherwise felt unfinished, and the latter is something I read as much through curiosity of wanting to read more culture essays because of my Time gig than anything else, although it ended up making me want to read even more of them, which is some kind of victory.
And so, then, to the old favorites. I’ve reached the point in Rucka’s Kodiak novels where I lost interest/enjoyment the first time through (Patriot Acts, not Shooting at Midnight), but at least this time I know why – I’ll save that for a post about the series when I finish The Walking Dead, though – and the Star Trek novel was as entertaining as I wanted/needed it to be, which is damning with faint praise far more than it deserves; of all the Trek I’ve been reading lately, the Deep Space Nine cycle is the most interesting, and the most well-written, by some distance.
As you can see, I’m continuing with my Star Trek and Greg Rucka reading habits. Critical Space is a weird, fascinating read because it’s a novel that changes the Kodiak series from one thing into another, and also the format of Rucka’s novels, as well; I have to doubleback and read Shooting At Midnight again to see if he actually started it there. Fistful of Rain, meanwhile, I just loved for the Portland-ness of it all (This is maybe the third time I’ve read it, and each time I feel like I recognize a little more of the city). As far as the Trek novel goes, it’s fun enough but has a truly ridiculous ending that reads as if it is missing a chapter or two somewhere along the way. As far as cliffhangers go, though, it’s pretty fun.
Next up on the bedside table: Alan Bennert’s Time and Chance, a recommendation from none other than comics’ own Kurt Busiek, and the Shooting At Midnight that’s waiting for me at the library.
Apparently, I take more time to read good books than trashy books; the Rucka novels took a few days each – part of that, though, was also that the start of the week is heavier workwise and leaves me with less time to read – but the Star Trek book I ripped through in a couple of evenings despite it being longer than either Finder or Smoker. Go figure.
I will, at some point, write something about the trilogy of Keeper, Finder and Smoker; re-reading them this time, one right after the other, I realized that there’s a really clear narrative arc in the three books that I hadn’t realized before, with Rucka playing with expectations in the last of the three after shaping them in the first two – Plus, I had forgotten about Erika, one of the Kodiak series’ main characters, almost entirely until this re-read, and now I’m weirdly obsessed with her. So, when I have more time and/or brainspace, that’ll happen for sure.
The Trek book was… eh, pretty crappy, really; I would’ve given up more than once, but had nothing else to read and saw it through to an end that was, indeed, bitter. Normally, Peter David’s Trek books have more pace and humor to them, but this was a leaden, self-important thing that trudged on and made the reader earn every chapter up until the last third or so.
Books read in the last couple of weeks:
The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson
Alpha – Greg Rucka
Feel: Robbie Williams – Chris Heath
Fables: Peter & Max – Bill Willingham (re-reading, for last week’s Fairy Tales piece for Time Entertainment)
Star Trek: New Frontier #6 The Quiet Place – Peter David
Star Trek: Titan #1: Taking Wing – Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin
Admit it: You thought I was joking about the Star Trek books, right…? Definitely not; I can make it through one of those (one of the regular ones, at least) in a couple of nights, post-work/pre-sleep, and they definitely work in the enjoyable-enough-to-keep-reading-dumb-enough-to-decompress-the-brain scheme of things. And, thanks to the local library, I can speed through as many as I want without it costing me anything. Success!
The Ronson one was enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing; it felt like a series of shaggy dog stories as opposed to something more coherent, but I loved the Rucka book – Really, really good thrilling writing. A bit looser than his Kodiak and Queen and Country novels, but not necessarily worse for that. The Chris Heath book was… I don’t know. I feel really ambivalent about it, to be honest; it was very readable, sure, but I felt like I was being conned the entire time. For a book so lauded by British journalists and profile-writers, it felt very much like something that wanted me to buy more Robbie Williams records than anything else. In that respect, it pretty much worked; I didn’t buy any Williams, but I did get his In and Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits 1990-2010 from the library, and have been surprised by how much of it I enjoyed, even the songs I’d never heard before (Pretty much everything after I left the UK).