The OF Blog: January 1-10 Books Read

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 1-10 Books Read

Although I plan on doing occasional longer commentaries/reviews in the near future, every now and then (likely every week or two) I'll write capsule commentaries on the books I've read. So far, 2009 has been much slower than 2008 (I think I had read about 20 books by this time last year, although I was between jobs then and thus had the free time), but I have hopes for it picking up during the summer months. But for now, the first five reads of 2009, plus two books in progress:

1. Horacio Castellanos Moya, Tirana memoria - Moya is a Salvadorean writer who is known for his snappy dialogue and hard-hitting prose. In his latest novel (came out in the autumn of 2008, I believe), he explores how pervasive a dictator's control can be when a jailed journalist's family (some of whom have long-standing associations with the dictator) is split by his jailing. Narrated mostly by letters written by the journalist's wife, Tirana memoria is a powerful novel by an author whose works I plan on reading in the near future.

2. Michael Moorcock, Duke Elric - This is the fourth of Del Rey's series of reissues for Moorcock's Elric novels, with this collection focusing more on a couple of his late 1970s short novels as well as a few Elric-related writings from the 1990s-2000s. I hadn't read the Elric stories before now, but I'm finding myself enjoying these more and more with each succeeding volume. This edition will be available for purchase in late March 2009.

3. Thomas Bernhard, The Loser - This one paragraph (spanning almost 170 pages!) story of a piano virtuoso and his effects on the narrator and a mutual friend (a suicide) is just a brilliant, brilliant work. I will have to think more on this before I could elaborate on why I believe this book is brilliant, but suffice to say I have a very favorable opinion of it.

4. Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, Two Lives of Charlemagne - As I said a couple of weeks ago, I'm planning on writing a series of posts later this year tracing the historical/literary development of one of Charlemagne's legendary twelve paladins, Roland/Orlando, and I decided to begin with Einhard's history (Notker's is a bonus read; no Roland mentions). Both Einhard and Notker have interesting styles and perhaps I'll explore this in a few weeks when I begin the series of posts.

5. Jonathan Strahan (ed.), Eclipse Two - Although I ordered this anthology back in November, it didn't ship until late last week. If it had arrived before Christmas and I had had the chance to read it, I suspect it would have placed very highly on my list of original anthologies. The stories in here are often outstanding (such as Ted Chiang's and Stephen Baxter's being but two out of many I could praise here) and I suspect Chiang will be up for yet another Hugo/Nebula for his "Exhalation."

Books in Progress:

Angela Carter, Heroes & Villains - I'm currently about 40 pages into this 1970 novel of hers. Pretty good so far.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, El Juego del Ángel (re-read from 2008) - I'm 264 pages into this book and on a re-read, it is better than my original reading of it (which I praised, for those who didn't read the review I wrote that was published on Amazon's Omnivoracious blog). I suspect there'll be a lot of people buying/reading this one after June 16, when the English translation is released in the US.

Future Plans (next two weeks):

Richard K. Morgan, The Steel Remains

Shaun Tan, Tales from Outer Suburbia

James Morrow, Shambling Toward Hiroshima

Jo Graham, Hand of Isis


Anonymous said...

Way to go, Larry! (Dammit, you beat me again - I´ve only finished 8 books so far, of a total of 14)

Lsrry said...

Uh, I thought 8 was higher than 5, Fábio, so how did I beat you? :P

Anonymous said...

I'm currently finishing off the last book (Stormbringer) in the Elric series, and I've really enjoyed the concept and story-arc of the whole thing.

Have you read The Revenge of the Rose? An Elric novel Moorcock wrote in the early '90s, it has some great weirdness to it, especially when he describes the Gypsy Nation.

Anonymous said...

Heh, I´m so wired up by this sort of "informal reading contest" that I read the post and I could swear I saw that you had already read 10 instead of 5 books! My bad (I´m also going a little crazy here with another damn translation deadline - I must learn to relax, fer crying out loud! :-)

Lsrry said...


Nope, haven't yet read that one (maybe it's in the fifth volume of the Del Rey reissues?), but I'll be looking forward to it whenever I do get my hands around it.


Ah, didn't know we're having an informal contest. If that's the case, then I'll have to pick up the pace then! And speaking of translations, I'm going to be posting a little one I'm working on now sometime in the next couple of hours.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, The Steel Remains is on your "to read" list. I got it for Christmas but haven't read yet. Will do so, so I have something meaningful say about it.

*Grin* I wonder if it's "quite good, but overhyped. What, you want to know what is actually in the book? Who cares? Its kinda like GRRM and Joe Abercrombie, but makes a big deal of teh gayz. 7.5"
[wonder where I got that impression...]

Lsrry said...

Ha! :P Shoot me if I ever use those terms, especially if it's topped off with a "rating"!

Liviu said...

Well, last year I finished about 240 books for me - not counting what I read with my son which included some Harry Potter and other Y(oungish) A stuff.

Mostly fiction (~230), about half 08 releases and 10 09 arcs, 15 ss anth/coll.

Split on genres 78 genre sf, 65 genre f, 46 mainstream fantastic, 39 mainstream non-fantastic.

It was the first year I kept records - found out about the excellent which is free and ultra customizable so all the statistics above, but it was a regular year of reading for me

This year I read 14 novels so far, 11 fantasy - one, Mortal Coils can count as mainstream fantastic and even YA, though I expect it to be shelved on sff racks in bookstores and that is my main criterion of distinguishing between genre and mainstream, so I count it as genre fantasy for now, 3 sf, but as I let books decide the tempo of reading for me, I expect my pace will slow since I do not aim for a record, just to enjoy :)

Lsrry said...


Sounds like you're off to an excellent reading start for 2009! I too am just going to go with the flow more, especially since it'll depend a lot on how much energy I have while teaching (and to be honest, I'm starting to become worried about the increased tiredness I'm having - I do have sleep apnea and I pray it isn't also a matter of diabetes affecting things). Right now, only two out of the six books I've completed (and 3 out of 8, counting the Angela Carter and the Richard Morgan that I'm in the process of reading) would be shelved as SF/F and I like that balance. Time will see how many I read this year - I suspect it'll be half to a third of 2008's.

Liviu said...

Of the books that come up later this year there is one I will most likely spend several days reading the English version, the big European bestseller, Goncourt/Prix D'Academie winner Les Bienveillantes - The Kindly Ones by (US born) Jonathan Littell, though translated from French by someone else.

It's about 1000 pages and the French edition was easy to read - though quite dark and disturbing in content, and with some scenes that haunted me for a long time - March release.

I also plan to read end to end the 7 volumes of Gene Wolfe Long+Short Sun - I read about 1 1/2 for now since I started this late in 08 due to reading Gears of the City which for some reasons reminded me of this series.

Gabriele Campbell said...

The Roland project sounds really interesting. I've spent my share of time with the Song of Roland (including its adaptations in the Karlamagnus saga, the Ruolants Liet, and some other Mediaeval versions), so I'd like to see what traces you'll find in literature.

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