Suddenly, a rambling post appears


Today would be a lovely day to sit and read in warm winter sunlight. Unlikely I will be getting much of that done however. Or rather, what reading of fiction I might do is by vast degree most likely to be skimming of Hard-Boiled to get caught up on the rating writing backlog.

I managed to fall behind, partly on account of having had a Pazi staying with me for the past two months (and a while yet). This is a very excellent reason for falling behind, as we have been having a great time going out and engaging in various touristy activities, enjoying delicious food. At least on those occasions when I have not been swept away by the demands of work and study.

Normally it has been my practice that if I miss a rating one week or some weeks, to carry on the next time as if nothing has happened. In this case, being part-way through a large volume of short fiction, I've decided I'd rather catch up the missed entries than let them slide on later in time, since it will take a good part of the year to get through them all anyway, and correspondingly long to put up anything concerning any other books I might read.

Vacation journalling, I'm not good at that. One might or might not notice this is the third in a couple of years which is marked primarily by lacunae in this journal. Maybe, if I ever get round to posting photos, I will write corresponding accounts of how those came to be taken. Space is crowded inside and out. I've not been reading anyone else's in a couple of months either, for that same busy lack of time, so I will make a point of catching up as far back as I am able. Hopefully to have something to say in reply also - it is important, is it not, to demonstrate one's attention and empathy by at least indicating it exists.

So. Hard-Boiled: an anthology of American crime stories. Finished reading this back in the middle of May. Although I quite enjoyed a number of the stories contained here, I feel the overall genre the editors are attempting to represent is not for me. So that is useful. First stop in this reading tour, helping me refine my understanding of my own tastes and preferences. Not so fond of crime stories, especially the bleaker ones, although individual examples of course may vary. What I prefer, I suppose may be called detective fiction. A story featuring one or more characters trying to unravel and understand what has happened. To solve the crime. Most of the stories I liked best in this collection were of the detective sort. I suppose I want someone to like, someone to root for.

After reading so many examples of short fiction, I was quite craving and relieved to be reading a couple of novels next. Even ones that were sequel - Sword & Citadel - to a story I'd nearly quite in disgust last year, just because they presented an ongoing narrative. Well, I moved that one up in reading order precisely because I did not want to let it sit so long I'd forget what went before and need to read the first two volumes over again. So far my opinion of Gene Wolfe is that he is quite as skilled a writer as his boosters claim, and I do not care for what he does with his abilities. Well, so far that is one short story he has written, and one four-volume novel. It was a very religious story, in a way that irritated me by acting as if it were quite deeply rooted while actually standing atop its own head. I am sure there is plenty of subtext and allusion and other such literary qualities contained that I lacked the perception or background to find on a first reading, but I don't think I care to go through it again.

This was followed by a book I would not normally have read, but which I am glad my self-imposed strictures have foisted upon me. The Nightingale Sings by Charlotte Bingham, which I borrowed from my mother's collection. In fact, my other said she does not care for that book herself, but I rather enjoyed it. I would say the writing was not very good, nor the dialogue or plot, but I enjoyed the characterisation and my sense of what was intended to be conveyed. It made a nice change to be reading a story where the most serious thing at stake was the happiness and fortune of a single family and their employees. It made for a pleasant break from the world-shaking seriousness of what I usually read, much as Dragon's Treasure did half a year ago. Also like Dragon's Treasure, The Nightingale Sings was a sequel to a previous volume, and though both were saturated in the aftermath of what went before, I didn't feel I was missing anything by not having read those.

Given how worn out from short stories I was after reading Hard-Boiled, I suspect I will be quite eager for something substantial soon (although here I use 'substantial' to mean something like 'lengthy and undemanding'), as my current reading is The Picador Book of Crime Writing, edited by Michael Dibdin, and my next book will be The Year's Best Science Fiction: First Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois. Those will probably wear me out for a while.

(an aside: not intending to do ratings for The Picador Book of Crime Writing, as much of what it contains are novel excerpts and brief critical pieces, and I do not intend to trouble myself sorting which is which)

I really should talk about matters other than what I am reading but that is more difficult.