Sunday, January 10, 2016

Constant Reader: January 1-10 2016

Heavy Water: and Other Stories by Martin Amis
Enjoyed several novels in 2015 from the younger Amis, and my captivation with his work stretches into 2016. This is a fine collection of older short stories that originally appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, New Statesman, and other distinguished publications. Many of these nine tales are way, way, off-center which is perfectly fine by me. Here’s my article on Martin Amis published at Criminal Element.

The Gun and Beyond the Door by Phillip K. Dick
Grabbed these two shorts free from the Gutenberg Project. Early—and still evolving—PKD, but the quirky genius is already on display. “The Gun” finds travelers landing on a distant planet with no inhabitants though a significant piece of tech is still active and very lethal .... Next up, a husband buys a cuckoo clock for his wife who becomes obsessed with the possible living entity in“Beyond the Door.” Both pieces have an O. Henry style ending that, like William Sydney Porter, doesn't feel gimmicky.

Carnosaur Weekend by Garnett Elliott
A reread because I’ll be proofing the forthcoming sequel “Apocalypse Soon” that continues the adventures of Kyler Knightly and Damon Cole through space and time.

To Kill a Dead Man by Icy Sedgwick
A western I’m proofing this week and that I should be releasing in the coming weeks through BEAT to a PULP. Also currently working on an interview with the engaging Ms. Sedgwick.

And Yet by Christopher Hitchens
Hitch, onetime Trotskyist, a lifelong Socialist, and mistaken for a Neocon during the Iraq War, had a way with words not just when he appeared on TV but was a dazzling stylist on the page. This smorgasbord of collected essays runs the gamut from dire warnings on why not to vote for Hillary Clinton to his unadorned respect for George Orwell. A liberal who was no ideologue and had few peers.

Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer
From the Left with Hitch to the conservative side of the aisle with Krauthammer. A pundit who quite often leads the discussion within the GOP and currently one of Donald Trump’s strongest critics. But his best essays (many of which first appeared in The Washington Post) are when he’s talking chess, baseball, space exploration, and his late brother.

Opticks by Isaac Newton
My family has been watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s narrated Cosmos and I was so intrigued by the section devoted to Newton that I decided to read one of his books. Not easy, per se, but I stuck with it because I wanted to spend an hour with this great theorist.

“First Impressions” by Judith Thurman
I’ve added Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams to my queue after reading this 2011 New Yorker piece.

Damn! a Book of Calumny by H.L. Mencken
Always heard how revolutionary a political thinker Menken had been, and he remains a very compelling read. Every other page finds a quotable that seems relevant to our modern times. However, the anti-Semitism thread running through his body of work is jarring and I’ve read elsewhere he had a racist strain that Dorothy Parker found (as I would) inexcusable. 

Of All Things by Robert C. Benchley
An almost forgotten humorist though he once loomed large on the American scene as a member, along with the aforementioned Ms. Parker, of The Algonquin Round Table. Dated in passages but still sharp in insight, especially as he pokes fun at an obsessive woman of letters when he imagines that even if she were kidnapped it would hardly slow down her incredible high word count ... reminded me a bit of certain Facebook/Twitter aficionados who don’t miss an opportunity to let the world in on the small minutia of their lives.

The Sandman, Volume 1, Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
In my top ten of the greatest graphic novel series ever produced and decided it was time for a re-read. The plot concerns Morpheus and his quest to regain his dream kingdom that has wasted away while he has been held in captivity for over a century.

Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Current read. Tyson’s style is very accessible and it's given me a platform from which to discuss scientific topics with my daughter.