Friday, March 20, 2009


At the beginning of the year I resolved I would read some of the backlog of titles I'd collected over the last decade and dragged to and fro over the years. So far, I've been fairly good about that... okay, 50/50. I started the year with a library book; but, hey, grandfathered in, right? Then 3 out of my own collection, the last being "A People's History of the United States." This one I've interrupted twice. The first time was when a book that I'd been on the library's waiting list for a year for, "My Horizontal Life" came in. The second just last week, when I'd found out Max Allan Collins had written a novelization of one of my favorite characters from my teens, Ms. Tree.

So I'm wondering if it's bending the rules if I stop by the Friends of the Library sale going on in my local branch's basement today and walk about with a few books? I didn't spend much, but finally picked up:

- Robert Graves' "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God" - two books I've
been meaning to read since high school when I'd first heard of them. I've always
had an interest in (Greek and) Roman History. After college I also finally watched the excellent "I, Claudius" mini-series from the 70's. A program that holds up so
well I'll probably reward myself with it again once I read the book.

-J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" - yes, I'm the last
person in America to not have read these books, although this one I did listen
to as a book on tape about 6 years ago. (Jim Dale does the most excellent
narration) I have been meaning to read this series, especially after I re-read
the Chronicles of Narnia a few years ago... if I'm going to start a series, I
want to be a completest.

-"The Collected Stories of Vladimir Nabokov" -I've only ever read "Pale
Fire" and "Lolita" (a book I read as being more about falling in love with a
newly-learned language as I was told it was his first novel written in English),
and I have "Ada" on the shelf. I plan to re-read "Lolita" too, but here's a
short story collection I can get behind.

-On a lark (I swear) I also picked up something called "Sex Tips for Gay
Guys," thinking it might be good for a lark. Less than an hour later, I'm
telling a friend about my purchases to find out he used to date someone who'd
written something titled "Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man." My friend
also felt this author wasn't very good in the sack.
This, of course, has turned out to be the same author. So now, my lark is
queasy-making, as I have the foreknowledge that "Those Who Can't, Teach"
(according to my friend) and if I venture to read between the lines, I may read
someone I know.

I don't think it's bending the rules. If a book is IN my collection I can read it this year. (No more library cheats, unless something TRULY spectacular comes along... or catches my fancy. Whatever.) I'll try to give more weight to older titles... though "I, Claudius" is already calling me with it's siren song.

I have about 160 pages left in the phenomenal - but, admittedly, slow going "People's History." I just got up to Attica and the social uprisings of prison riots in the 70s. The first part of the chapter covered the rise of feminism. This book has been an amazing education and a real refresher course on American history, even as it shows me angles I was only vaguely aware of.

I'd be reading faster but I of late have mostly been tackling books only on my lunch break. I went out Wednesday night for a burrito and finished "Deadly Beloved" (The Ms. Tree book). When I go to bed I've been curling up with graphic novel collections - light reading before bed. I haven't been putting them in my "What I'm Reading" column, but I did just get through all four volumes of "Diana Prince - Wonder Woman," which is a pretty fascinating collection of a two-year span during the 70's where the de-powered Wonder Woman, stuck her in white jumpsuits, and had a shallow, kinda racist characature called "I-Ching" teach her judo. A pretty fascinating curio with fab Mike Sekowsky art and painful fashions. I also worked through the first one and a half "Library Volumes" of Mike Mignola's "Hellboy." Fabulous art in a very large-scale format, and a MUST for anyone with an eye for striking design.

So, yeah, I cheat a little on my New Year's reading vow - undocumented graphic novels and a committment to the personal library that's been... loose... but that's where I stand.

Now, what to read next? "I, Claudius" is in the running with a book called "An Arrow's Flight," a gay comedy of manners set in greek history (a toga theme?) or tackling another big learnin; tome, namely "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond. After the naughty Chelsea Handler and delicious Ms. Tree, I don't feel I need a trashy, splashy palate-cleanser post "People's History."

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