Off the Shelf: What I’ve Been Reading

The nearest town, 15 miles away, has started a library, so I paused in my various re-readings off my own bookshelves to check out library books.   I was familiar with some of the authors I began with, but it had been a long time since reading them.

Elmore Leonard–  I ran through a plethora of his books in a short time.. everything the library had.  I’ve never read a book by the man I didn’t like, whether it’s the westerns he began with, or the detective stories that later became his tour de force.  I recommend him to anyone in danger of doing some light reading.  However, I came across one that’s unlike any Elmore Leonard I’ve ever read.  The Touch.  Those of you into metaphysics and healing would probably find it of interest.  It’s the best handling of the stigmata phenomenon, guru-ism, and commercial evangelism that I’ve ever read.

Rudolpho Anaya– This guy came highly recommended by the librarian.  Sorry, folks.  I came away thinking some editor somewhere dropped the ball on the three books I checked out.  Loose sloppy writing, wordy, rambling.  I suspect editors are a lot more forgiving of ethnic writers  and mooshy metaphysical gawdawful rambling flashbacks these days than when I dealt with them as a writer.  150 pages of Rudolpho Anaya would have benefited by a lot of cutting and brutal rewriting, and still ended up with maybe 75 pages worth the time.  Maybe.

Nevada Barr– Never heard of her, but I thought I’d give it a try.  Checked out three books, made it twenty-five pages into one and declared, “No more!”

Elizabeth M. Cosin– I check a couple of these out because the first one was named Zen and the City of Angels.  I’m willing to try what I don’t know, and the name of the yarn brought back pleasant memories of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  Checked out two.  Score, zero-two.  They’ll go back in hopes someone else can struggle through them.

Poul Anderson– checked out The Stars are Also Fire because I recall liking Anderson’s work several decades ago.  The Boat of a Million Years comes to mind.  It was a fine work.  However, this Stars are Fire piece seems to me to be the work of a person who needed to smoke some weed to get his mind back, or a manuscript written early in his career, a dead turkey no publisher would touch by an unknown writer, dragged up out of the files and published as a pot-boiler hack to raise grocery and whiskey money, riding the name of the later, more competent Poul Anderson.  I’m 67 pages into it, debating with myself whether to drop the effort and read some William Soroyan off my own shelf until I get back to the library tomorrow.

I’d like to point out to you that the sentence-before-the-last in the previous paragraph is five lines long.  Count’em.  Five.

No good writer would put a sentence that long on a page where some poor human might read it.

Old Jules
Reading Increases the Imagination:

12 responses to “Off the Shelf: What I’ve Been Reading

  1. I’ve read five of Nevada Barr’s novels so far. I was initially drawn to them because I’ve hiked/backpacked the parks she uses as her settings. I’ll continue to read–and enjoy–them so that you don’t have to.

  2. Thanks Fearguth. Writing a novel’s too big a job of work for someone not to read and then enjoy. I’m glad you enjoy Nevada Barr’s.

    I’ve backpacked some of those places too and I can’t complain about the places.

    Thanks for the read, the reply, and for enjoying something I couldn’t. I’ll most likely be posting a lot of book reviews here and hope sometime you’ll find one you hadn’t encountered yet, hopefully enjoy it as much as Nevada Barr.

  3. Are you familiar with Jon Talton’s David Mapstone mysteries? If not, you might want to take a look.

  4. Thanks for the tip Fearguth. I don’t believe I’ve come across that one, but I’ll keep an eye peeled.

    There was a writer of mysteries I used to read until I read him dry … McG-something0rother, maybe McGarrity, wrote a lot of middling good books set in the high country of NM. I hadn’t thought of him in years, but you’ve reminded me now I should scout around and see whether he’s produced anything lately.

    A lot of what’s currently on my reading list came in several boxes of castaways from a lawyer friend in the Houston area. Huge lot of them are lawyer and courtroom mysteries and dramas, which I was surprised to discover I enjoyed several of. Always like finding another genre when things get critical and I enter the panic zone of having five minutes free and no book begging to be read.

    Thanks again.

  5. You weren’t thinking of Tony Hillerman, were you?

  6. Hi Fearguth: I used to read a lot of Hillerman, all of them in his earlies. But it eventually came to pass in my mind he seemed to be writing the same novel over and over. Got so I was getting too good predicting what was inside before opening the cover.

    Prolific writers tend to have that as a challenge, thinks I. Larry McMurtry’s fallen victim to it sometime in the last few decades, decided to become Louis L’Amour and write the same Great American Novel over and over changing the names of the characters and the places to make the events happen.

    I can still read a Hillerman, but I need a long interval between them.

    I’m liking you pretty well. If I was forty or so I’d ask you to marry me. But since I’m old and the new me I’ll just say thanks.

  7. Sorry, Old Jules, I’m already spoken for. My wife and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next June.

  8. Fearguth: Sincere apologies. I had you figured for the gender besides mine, and somewhat younger.

    Incidently, have you ever read the George MacDonald Frazer historical fiction series written back in the ’70s and 80s? Pretty good reads, and Frazer didn’t live long enough to repeat himself in any recognizeable way. I ask because I came across one of the later ones in the box of books from Houston and it’s been chiding me for a re-read.

  9. I read Flashman and Royal Flash back in 1982. Thoroughly enjoyed both.

  10. If CS Forrester had given Horatio Hornblower a sense of humor we could have had Flashman half-a century earlier, I reckons.

    You might consider casting around for the later ones in the series. I usually feel obliged to go through the entire Flashman series every decade or so and never fail to enjoy it every time.

  11. Not long ago I read “The Fencing Master” by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Outstanding read in translation, enough so that I read several others by him. But none as good as that one.

    Your comment on Rudopho Anaya, whom I’ve not read, reminded of a line from Annie Hall. Goes something like this: “I got kicked out of school for cheating on my Metaphysics exam. I looked into the soul of the student next to me.” Maybe he did too.


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