Back to Books

The benefits of the post-election lull continue, as we are all now free to turn our attention to more entertaining topics. Like books, f’r’instance!

With the abeyance of political stories, NPR makes for much more pleasant listening in the mornings. Today, I heard that M.T. Anderson, author of the first book reviewed here on the Bookish Dark, has won a National Book Award for his young adult novel The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. The synopsis alone is fascinating; we may be paying a return visit to Mr. Anderson’s oeuvre soon.

I also learned that Kingsley Amis was a great supporter of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels; he felt both Fleming’s writing and the character of Bond were sorely underrated in literary circles, due to pure snobery. In 1965, he wrote The Book of Bond, a guide to living in Bond style, though he published it under a pseudonym. (There’s helping out a writer you admire, and then there’s risking your own literary reputation to do it, apparently.) Christopher Hitchens, longtime Amis family friend, was interviewed about the book (apropos of nothing I could discern, except perhaps the nth version of Casino Royale being released this week.) I laughed out loud when Hitchens pointed out that Kingsley didn’t think the Bond lifestyle was all that terribly sexy: on his adventures, Bond generally rates just one woman, and that, Kingsley said, was about what a British man of average attraction and income might expect on an average business trip!

In my own book life, I have just been through the cataclysmic 1883 eruption of Krakatoa and its global impacts with capable guide Simon Winchester, and have now happily returned my attention to the redoubtable Mary Russell and her still-sexy-at-sixty husband, Sherlock Holmes, as they return to the scene of one of his greatest cases, the Hound of the Baskervilles, in The Moor. These books are a nearly indescribable delight to me; coming back into their story is a cool, refreshing dip for a mind over-tired from travels in the wider literary world. The friend who recommended the series to me also advised that I read no more than two in a row without breaking them up with other books, just so I wouldn’t run out of them too soon. She’s on the eighth and (so far) last of the series, so I’m taking her advice as from one who knows, but it’s not easy to restrain myself. I’d very much like to shut myself up in my room and not come out ’til I’ve finished the lot.

What books are keeping you company these days?

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5 Responses to Back to Books

  1. Ramona the Reader says:

    Thanks to Kai, I too am enjoying Laurie King’s Mary Russell character. It is so-o-o understandable why Kai is a huge fan. I just finished book one. Glad to hear there are seven to go. Before beginning # 2, I’m reading Fannie Flagg’s “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven.” Yes, it is funny, but just like her “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe”, there is also a good deal of thought provoking poignancy.
    I always enjoy your postings, Kai, but am missing messages from Countess Z. What’s up???

  2. CAS says:

    I was a fan of the Bond novels when I was younger, and also of some of the follow on fiction that others have done in the past ten years or so. Some of the best scenic pictures that I ever had in my minds eye of the Caribbean and London came from Fleming.

    The movies always were just some fun and games, and generally I used to watch them for Q. I do miss Desmond Llewellyn. John Cleese is great- but just not Q. Of course, I am a big fan of Dame Judy as well. I have not seen the film yet, but I understand from all the press that this shows the darker side of both Bond and M.

    For my book life, I have been through quite a few as of late. The latest string over the past few weeks of trans-Atlantic travel was:

    “Act of Treason” by Vince Flynn
    “Dark Water” by Koji Suzuki

    And now I am on the “The Last of the Wine” by Mary Renault.

    The Vince Flynn is just part of a series that I have been reading since the late 90’s. It centers, in a nice segue of intrigue and Bond, on a CIA operative and the head of the CIA- a successful woman named Dr. Kennedy. They are quick and easy, and appeal to men who like the Clancy genre with a little more Machiavellian edge.

    As for “Dark Water”, it is an anthology from a fascinating Japanese writer who does a lot with horror in the everyday settings of urban life in Japan. This time, he puts together a series of independent stories that raised the hair on the back of my neck. If you like a little psychological horror, this one will do well by you!

    As for my new one, “The Last of the Wine”, its part of a series that Renault writes set in Greek history. This particular one is set in Athens and follows the life of a young man and his best friend through the Peloponnesian Wars. Our main character finds himself drawn toward Sokrates, and more and more his friend Lysis. I am enjoying the writing and the period.

  3. kaizerin says:

    I second Ramona’s comments about missing hearing from the Countess. We shall have to lure her out…

    Bearsy dear, what a scattershot of topics! I think you read like I eat: I can’t stand too much of any one thing at a time, I have to mix it up. On the other hand, I read in obsessive blocks: it’s never enough to read just one book on a subject, much better to read two or three or more. And I go through phases of what type of book I’m in the mood for–weeks submerged in chicklit, then some biographies, and of course, frequent mystery or fantasy runs.

    Your gift of the Velazquez souvenir book sparked quite the art discussion in my house last night, so thank you for that. We had dueling laptops going, finding paintings we quite like and sharing them with each other. Do you know Bougereau? I didn’t know the name, but recognized the style when I saw some. Lovely stuff. Another thing M. and I have in common–we are drawn to painters with a gift for light.

    Also: one of the upcoming shows at the Portland Art Museum is on the Dutch Masters…wanna come back next summer and eyeball some Van Rijn? 🙂

  4. CAS says:

    Hi Ramona! Hope that you have been doing well! Just so that you know, I enjoy reading of about your love of books, and the poetic continuity of literary love between you and the Bear.

    Bearish: You know, I had never really stopped to think of how I get the books in the pipeline. To be honest, usually it comes from hands on browsing and shopping (quite often in airports). Well, it is either that, or from you introducing me to things that I tend to ignore for a few years and then fall in love with.

    I am so pleased that you enjoyed that little Velazquez book! On the subject of the paintings of Bougereau, I had not put the name to the paintings, but now that I have a quick look online I recognize many of them. Of the quick review of his work, I think it is “Girl Defending Herself Against Love”.

    As for the Dutch Masters, I shall have to pack up and make the trip. Of course, I also have my favourite Dutch impressionist hanging in my sitting room, and I see her waves and mastery of light every morning! 😉

  5. kaizerin says:

    CAS said:

    I get the books…from you introducing me to things that I tend to ignore for a few years and then fall in love with.

    Ahem. “Leesten to ze Bear!” 🙂

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