You may have noticed the sparseness of new posts in recent weeks. It's not that I've been busier than normal per se, though the weekends have had more activities than usual since Thanksgiving. And it's not like I haven't started composing posts in my head either. Just one of those periods. Anyway, I'll try and do a big update and touch on at least some of the things I've been meaning to talk about. After today, I might be sporadic again until next week when I plan on doing my Best of 2006 posts. So, I'll stop rambling on about the blog and start actually doing something with it...
I am currently reading my 38th book of the year, which would tie last year's total if it ends up being the last one. I would like to try and get another one read but I finally realized I couldn't keep putting off all of the SF magazines that have been piling up for months - in fact, I got around to finishing the Sept. issue of Asimov's and reading the whole of the Sept. F&SF within the last week-and-a-half. And after I finish reading Crossover, I will dive into the Oct./Nov. double issues of both magazines.
The first book of November was The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. I've been meaning to read Powers' work for a number of years and hadn't gotten around to it. The reviews and descriptions of his new novel made me dive in and I'm glad I did. Very glad. It's a novel about someone who gets hurt and losing his sense of connection to the people and things he cares about the most - Capgras Syndrome. His sister is trying to help him while dealing with the fact he thinks she is an imposter. A famous doctor is in the mix too - all of them are trying to deal with who they really are. And if I haven't convinced you to read it, maybe the fact it won the National Book Award will.
Next up for me was Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo, which is pretty much as advertised - a book-length interview with Tom Petty about his life and music. I've always been a big fan of Petty and the book didn't disappoint. Even better, I used it as an opportunity to listen to his music and was reminded again how good of a songwriter he has been over the years (yes, his last 2 albums have been uneven but there are still some really good songs on them). It also inspired me with my music and the book led to the writing of my "Holding Pattern" in a very concrete way. Last week I covered "A Face in the Crowd" and it was received well. So thanks, T.P.
I followed that up with Firmin, a short novel by Sam Savage. It's the story of a rat who learns how to read and spends his time in a deteriorating area of Boston, first in a bookstore and later as a pet of a science fiction writer. A love of books, of words, propels this story long and it is very good. Anyone who is a reader will come to love Firim the rat, I think. Thanks to the Lit-Blog Co-op for highlighting this book.
I then turned to some short fiction, specifically the debut collection from M. Rickert, Map of Dreams. I've been reading Rickert's stories in F&SF for a number of years and she has been one of my favorite writers during that time period. From the fairy tale update of "Leda" to the nested stories of "Cold Fires" to the longing of "The Chambered Fruit" to the fable "Moorina of the Seals" this is a collection you need to read.
Most recently I read another Discworld book, my first this year. Reaper Man sees Death relieved of his duties and working as a field hand while ancient wizard Windle Poons has found he is still alive even in death. The stories cross, of course, in another funny fantasy romp from Terry Pratchett. After I read one of his books, I want to keep reading more. I probably will turn to another one in the near future.
I recently decided to give Sufjan Stevens another try. I picked up Illinoise last year and while I liked some of the songs, the whole thing just seemed overblown and overhyped. So, I had it on while I was in the car last week and I finally got the whole of it. I liked it. Maybe I let all the blogger hype get in the way last year. It's not my favorite album but I do enjoy the melodic sweep of the entire work.
I've had similar problems connecting the Cat Power's The Greatest, which was released earlier this year. I decided to give it a shot in the car too and I found that I enjoyed it much more than I previously had. Maybe part of my problem was that I was expecting something more along the lines of Jenny Lewis or Neko Case and this Cat Power album is not that. I will say that I loved the title track from the get-go - now the rest of the record doesn't suffer so much in comparison for me.
I guess the moral of the story is that I should always try listening to things in the car...
THE CONTINUING CASE OF COMICS
A couple weeks ago I was ready to go back to reading only trades and cutting out buying single issues except for 52 (at least until that's over in 20 weeks...and yes, I'm behind on writing about the series again). Why? Well, I have nowhere to put the single issues and don't want to go back to the bagging and boxing of years past. We don't have room and it's too much effort. But in the end, I've been enjoying buying and reading things as they come out. So, I'm not going to stress over it. Some stuff I will trade back to the comics shop, some I will keep until collected editions come out, and some I'll just give away or even recycle. But I can accept that I like buying and reading comics.
I was particularly pleased with the first issue of the new Justice Society of America that came out a few weeks ago. I've liked the heroes of the JSA for many many years, stemming from my love of All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. back in the 80s. There are only a handful of those original heroes still kicking around in the DCU (Green Lantern, Flash, and Wildcat) but they form the basis for this new team, which is made up of the children and grandchildren of Golden Age heroes or in some cases, the people who have assumed the mantle of heroes like Mr. Teriffic and Dr. Mid-Nite. This issue opens up with a reference to World War III, which appears to be an upcoming part of 52; I like those kind of teases. We meet a new Mr. America, to whom bad things are happening; catch up with Damage, Hourman, and Liberty Belle; are introduced to Maxine Hunkle, a new hero who is very excited to be part of the group; discover a new Starman who lives in a mental hospital when he's not out doing good deeds; and learn something shocking at the end (of course). All of this is followed with a one page teaser for the rest of the first year of the comic and it makes me even more excited to keep reading. That's how you do a comic book.
Grant and I finally finished watching Justice League Unlimited Season One on DVD the week after Thanksgiving. Man, what a great show.
Okay, I think this post has gotten long enough. I'll cover more in my year-end lists next week...