In cheerier news, someone with time on their hands and a great idea in their heads (Randy Cohen & Nigel Holmes) made this fabulous map of Literary Manhattan, “where imaginary New Yorkers lived, worked, played, drank walked, and looked at ducks.” I reserved final judgement till I found my beloved O.Henry at Number 68 (200 Fifth Avenue), and then I delighted in it unashamedly.
You will find authors from the likes of E.B. White, E.L. Konigsburg, and Madeline L’Engle to Martin Amis, Tom Wolfe, and Edith Wharton (of course). (And yes, Henry James is present, too. Among many others. Perhaps you should go play with it and see?)
I learned something terrible and sad today: One of my favorite historical fiction authors, the too-little known Judith Merkle Riley, died nearly two weeks ago. I’ve never thought she got the attention she deserved (not in the US, at least; I know her last novel was in print overseas when it was impossible to find here), even in these halcyon days when we’re glutted with historical fiction, both good and wretched. Riley always stood out for her dry, often absurd humor and the flights of fancy her novels often took: “If all the chronicles of earthly life were recorded with such drama, flair and wit, the world would be filled with history majors,” Betty Lukas wrote in her 1989 Times review of “A Vision of Light,” Riley’s first novel. That about says it.
I found The Oracle Glass in the library in tenth grade, and went looking for it again after I moved to the Mainland a year later. It took me years to painstakingly build my collection of her novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed every one of them (perhaps the later Margaret of Ashburys a bit less, but still). I kind of wish I’d written a fan letter to her, just so she’d know how very much I liked her books. And I ended up a History major, too.
As an homage, I think I’ll read a few of her books this week. Resquiat in pace, Judith.
The Runaway Princess by Christina Dodd
Avon, 1st printing, 1999
Genre: Historical romance, Regency romance, nonsense
Jacket Copy: Masquerade
English orphan Miss Evangeline Scoffield has spent her life contenting herself with dreams. But with an unforseen inheritance, she can afford one perfect summer–a summer she will spend the rest of her life remembering. She buys herself expensive clothes, travels abroad, and presents herself as a lady of mystery.
But she quickly discovers her mistake, for a darkly handsome man appears at her bedroom door, claiming to be a Crown Prince–and her fiance.
Or the Ever After of Her Dreams?
One look into her eyes, and the prince recognizes her. She is his betrothed, the runaway Princess of Serephinia. All her denials cannot change that, or alter the passion that burgeons between them. To fullfil their destinies, the prince will do anything–abduct her, coerce her, or, best of all seduce his reluctant bride into his royal world of peril, promise and passion.
Book Report: Some of the earliest adult books I read were trashy romance novels. For some reason, I found them endlessly fascinating in elementary school, perhaps in part due to the displeasure expressed by adults who caught me reading them. Forbidden fruit, and all that sort of thing. When my sister Malia would take me to work with her at Jelly’s, I’d hang out at the book counter helping out Shirley the Book Lady–and reading trashy romances (Captive Bride was one of those I read at Jelly’s!). I eventually lost interest in them, until just after high school, when I had a sort of nervous breakdown. Not that being mental was a requirement for reading romance novels, those were just my circumstances. My eldest sister Heather introduced me to Jude Deveraux, who she read voraciously, as well as Catherine Coulter, Amanda Quick, Judith McNaught, and others, and I found them pretty entertaining. But again, I pretty much lost interest again after a year or so, and went on to other things. But hey, every once in a while, I’ll feel like reading one; the trick, though, is to find one that I’ll enjoy. But the same goes for any book, really. Why does any of that matter? Because I want you to understand when I call a romance novel total crap, it’s not because I dislike romance novels in general, or think that they’re total crap, or that I think their readers are total idiots, but that that particular romance novel is in fact, total crap. And that’s pretty much how I feel about The Runaway Princess. Read the rest of this entry »
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword-and-Sorcery Hero of All Time! by Robert E. Howard
illustrated by Mark Schultz
materials originally published 1932-1976
DelRey, 1st edition, 2005
Genre: Fantasy, sword & sandals, short stories, adventure!
Jacket copy: “Between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities . . . there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars. . . . Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand . . . to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.”
Conan is one of the greatest fictional heroes ever created–a swordsman who cuts a swath across the lands of the Hyborian Age, facing powerful sorcerers, deadly creatures, and ruthless armies of thieves and reavers.
In a meteoric career that spanned a mere twelve years before his tragic suicide, Robert E. Howard single-handedly invented the genre that came to be called sword and sorcery. Collected in this volume, profusely illustrated by artist Mark Schultz, are Howard’s first thirteen Conan stories, appearing in their original versions–in some cases for the first time in more than seventy years–and in the order Howard wrote them. Along with classics of dark fantasy like “The Tower of the Elephant” and swashbuckling adventure like “Queen of the Black Coast,” The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian contains a wealth of material never before published in the United States, including the first submitted draft of Conan’s debut, “Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard’s synopses for “The Scarlet Citadel” and “Black Colossus,” and a map of Conan’s world drawn by the author himself.
Here are timeless tales featuring Conan the raw and dangerous youth, Conan the daring thief, Conan the swashbuckling pirate, and Conan the commander of armies. Here, too, is an unparalleled glimpse into the mind of a genius whose bold storytelling style has been imitated by many, yet equaled by none.
Book report: So, I dig Conan. I totally dig Conan, from the stories to the movies. (Basil Poledouris’ score for Conan the Barbarian is one of the greatest film scores of ALL TIME. I listen to it constantly. We played the “Anvil of Crom” at our wedding, in fact. That is how much I love Conan. And how much of a huge dork I am.) I love the idea of Conan, and that exotic, crazy world in which he lives. It’s totally awesome, and I want to go there–but just for a visit. Now, I’ve discussed Conan before, and the treatment REH’s creation suffered at the hands of MONSTERS in the decades following his death, so I probably don’t need to go into that again. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s once again time for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Officially, it began on the first of the month, but better late than never, eh? Since I’m ambitious, I’ll be participating in Peril the First again, which requires reading four books that fit a broad definition of scary. Unlike last year, however, I have no idea what I might read for this year’s challenge. (Anyone with a similar problem will find any number of suitable titles, either on my RIP IV list, or under horror and suspense categories here.
I guess I ought to go rummage about in my books to find something appropriate. I have a Norton Book of Ghost Stories I still haven’t read, and I have been long desirous of reading The Monk. I’ve also been considering revisiting Dracula, which I read once back in seventh grade, and never again.
Any ideas or recommendations?
RIP V Reading List