The OF Blog: Extracts from recent reads

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Extracts from recent reads

"It's time you looked in my eyes," she answered, but she meant:  time I looked in yours.  Time for a personal act of revolt.  Time to throw your oh-so-highly intellectualized sense of chaos into a true chaos of the heart and senses.  She didn't much care anymore if he tossed her out of his life for it; she had about decided it was time for that too.  They had never understood each other.  If she had understood him, she would have known that for almost a year now, since his wife had vanished with their child in her belly, in his mansion of memory he had become increasingly lost and trapped.  If he had understood her, he would have known she was a dream-virgin when he met her, and so wouldn't have been surprised to wake one morning soon afterward and find that she had vanished too.

Only one house, number 13, has been permanently occupied throughout the war by its owner, Mr. H.G. Wells.  During the London Blitz of 1940-41 he was frequently teased with the suggestion that this might prove an unlucky number, to which he responded, consistent with a lifetime's contempt for superstition, by having a bigger '13' painted on the wall beside his front door.  He stubbornly refused to move to the country, saying 'Hitler (or in male company, "that shit Hitler") is not going to get me on the run,' and stayed put in Hanover Terrace as, one by one, his neighbours slunk off to safe rural havens and their houses were occupied by sub-tenants or left empty.

For a long time I used to go to bed early.  Though the art of reading is not widespread in these parts, I confess myself to be a devotee of the practice and, in particular, of reading in bed.  It is peculiarly pleasant, I have found, to lie with the book propped up against the knees and, feeling the lids grow heavy, to drift off to sleep, to drift off in such a way that in the morning it seems unclear where the burden of the book ended and my own dreams began.  A narrative of the manners and customs of some exotic people is particularly suitable for such a purpose. 

She was unrecognizable.  Her face had grown weathered.  It looked scorched.  Deep lines in it like the paw of an extinct mammoth.  Her gray hair - the dye once maintained so religiously allowed to grow out - standing in a misshapen frizz more like a desert plant than the hair of a human being.  At its top it was abrupt and unlevel from trimming it herself with a pair of kitchen scissors on her back porch.  She did this because she needed the money to put toward Jaime.  Her body had changed to resemble that of a female predator.  She was now lithe, her muscles lean yet bulging beneath her flesh which was drawn tight around her bones.  She looked athletic and lethal.  Her eyes seemed to have grown.  Big white things staring out unblinking in skittish alarm like something nocturnal and scrappy.

Did I mention we had a boat?  I've got a photo of her here.  She was called La Duchesse and Dad built her from scratch in our front garden.  It took two-ish years and destroyed all the rose bushes, which upset Mum très much.  But Mum only had herself to blame because she was the one who suggested Dad take up a hobby.  She said he worked too hard and needed an escape.

The little boy named Ulysses Macauley one day stood over the new gopher hole in the backyard of his house on Santa Clara Avenue in Ithaca, California.  The gopher of this hole pushed up fresh moist dirt and peeked out at the boy, who was certainly a stranger but perhaps not an enemy.  Before this miracle had been fully enjoyed by the boy, one of the birds of Ithaca flew into the old walnut tree in the backyard and after settling itself on a branch broke into rapture, moving the boy's fascination from the earth to the tree.  Next, best of all, a freight train puffed and roared far away.  The boy listened, and felt the earth beneath him tremble with the moving of the train.  Then he broke into running, moving (it seemed to him) swifter than any life in the world.

Like a great many children before and since, I was an inventor of other worlds.  Mine were rudimentary, as much worlds are when you're six or seven or eight, but they were emphatically not of this here-and-now earth, which seems to be one of the salient features of SF.  I wasn't much interested in Dick and Jane:  the creepily ultra-normal characters did not convince me.  Saturn was more my speed, and other realms even more outlandish.  Several-headed man-eating marine life seemed more likely to me, somehow, than Spot and Puff.

Now if you want, you can guess at the titles of these books (not all are available for street release), but I think it would be more interesting to see which extracts, if any, intrigue you and which you wish to see me review.  So what about it?

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