Saturday, April 6, 2019

What I Read: March

I read this. What a cover

My reading in March was mostly comic books and the continuance of my chronological stroll through the entire works of James Ellroy, with a couple random nonfiction titles, one of which made a deep impression, thrown in.

I finished up Ellroy's early works and his Lloyd Hopkins novels and am now into his "L.A. Quartet" series. One of the things I love about reading an author's works in the order they produced them is that periodically there is a point when the writing feels as though the author makes a significant leap forward in the mastery of their craft. The leaps could be in style, voice, plot, tension, prose, or any of a number of different literary criteria. I'm not sure I would be able to discern those leaps/improvements if I wasn't "binging" on an author and only reading one of their works once a year or so. In this months' reading of Ellroy, I see two such leaps, one of them profound, the veritable quantum leap forward, and it is exciting to me both as a reader and a writer to be carried along in the momentum of that leap. I always try to imagine what was going on in the writer's life and writing process that enabled/caused such a leap: a change in habits, a change in the time spent writing, a change in personal energy, an editorial change? Will the writer be able to sustain the new level of mastery, or will it fade--and will it fade because of external changes? Did the writer know they were hitting this groove when they were writing it? I, like most novelists, have had stretches where I lean back and say "Where did that come from? I totally nailed it!"; half the time my delusions are exposed in the editorial process, but every so often I'm right--I really did "nail it". Those moments are like magic, like being on an incredibly euphoric out-of-body experience. I wonder if it is the same for other.

I won't say specifically, where I saw these two leaps, but here are the Ellroy titles I read in March:
1. Killer on the Road
2. Blood on the Moon
3. Because the Night 
4. Suicide Hill
5. The Black Dahlia

I wrote earlier how a number of the books I snagged at the Book Barn turned out to be signed--turns out this one was too:

I wonder who the "Slash" was for?

I also read a number of comic books--or graphic novels, if you prefer--especially the week I was sick and just wanted to lie in bed reading with a cup of tea on the night table. I blame/thank Tom King and Neil Gaiman for re-sparking my interest.

6. Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus vol. 1 Wow. I have a massive comic book collection from the 60's, 70's, and 80's, and somehow managed to miss out on nearly all the 4th World stuff despite being a big Kirby fan (I have a complete run of Kamandi, to this day one of my favorite titles). Great reading when feverish.
7. Ice Cream Man vol 1. Rainbow Sprinkles by W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Mozarro and others. A sort of horror anthology comic with the Ice Cream Man at the center of the weirdness. I get Warren Ellis's newsletter and he recommended the second volume but I try to begin at the beginning
8. Animal Man Omnibus Grant Morrison, Chas Truog, and others
9. Animal Man Born To Be Wild Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch, Steve Dillon, and others
From my massive birthday haul. The mammoth omnibus, some of which I've read before, is among my favorite runs on any comic anywhere. I'd never read any of the Born to be Wild stories, which did not hit me as much, but maybe I should not have read them so close together.
10. Doom Patrol vol. 1 Grant Morrison and others
Thrilled by my Omnibus reading, I stocked up on some other Morrison titles on my kindle for my road trips, and also I've heard good things about the Doom Patrol TV show so I thought refamiliarizing myself with the characters prior to watching might be a good idea. Delightfully weird, but one thing is clear: I hate reading comic books on my kindle. Yeah, the panel by panel thing is cool, but I just don't enjoy the experience as much as with the analog versions/

Some nonfiction:
11. Traveler's Tales: Japan Donald W. George and Amy Griemann Carson, ed.
Love this series; an anthology of articles of varying lengths about culture, travel, history, etc. The Japan one I particularly enjoyed (though I think Italy is still my favorite
12. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her Melanie Rehak
My other kindle read; my hatred of reading comics on kindle is eclipsed only by my love of reading nonfiction on kindle due to the superior notetaking abilities. I, who have never read a single Nancy Drew novel (but read dozens of Hardy Boys and as many of the Three Investigators as I could) loved this book. I found the business and production aspects of one of the most successful "fiction factories" of all time utterly fascinating, and also inspiring. Books that make me want to drop them and start writing fiction are the best, and I had those moments several times while reading this on the flights to and from Seattle.

While my books did not sell in the numbers of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, they did pretty well. You can contribute to the cause by buying them HERE

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