Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The pile, she grows.

Something I try and avoid is piling up too many books in the "too read" pile. I am basically a childish type, who bristles under the yoke of authority: that's why I never got on with the idea of canon - regardless of any politically tinged rhetoric about dead white men and critical shibboleths, it's more of a matter of "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me".

With The Pile, the "you" in that statement becomes me. I become my own oppressor! How ironic!

So, here's the pile, as it stands:

The problem is that there are just too many books I want to read and they are too readily available. Everywhere I go I seem to be falling over good books begging to be acquired! Where do they all come from? Well, for some classic "boring crap about me", hit the link!

PostScript Specials

I finished Night's Black Agents about a month ago, and have just finished a similar volume, Elizabeth's Misfits, which I'll blog about soon. Last in that pile is The Penguin Book of Ghosts which I'm about half way through. I've only been reading it at night before I go to sleep, making my way through a few pages a night and what's more, it's been put aside from time to time in favour of new comics day and Fortean Times. I very much want to read it though, but it's probably going to be with me until March, at least.

Amnesty International

Back in November, Amnesty International held their annual book sale fund raiser at St Margaret's Church in Blackheath, and we did our bit for world peace by loading up on cheap books. It's a brilliant treasure seeker's sale, with roughly categorised piles of books heaped on the pews, and on trestle tables at the sides and down the aisle. It smells of old church and musty books, an irresitably bookish scent that's like blood in the water to the likes of me!

It's best to get there early, before the books have been picked over too much. Maneuvring around the other book buyers is a bit of an art, and weasling around for that vital volume is part of the fun. It's always a terrific selection, too: I'm not sure where they get them from, but there's always more books that I want than I can justify buying.

It's not the money so much as the rationing reading time, but, even so, the kids chose so manylast time that I had to exercise some restraint as cash was limited. My final selection was:

Puckoon by Spike Milligan - I have very fond memories from when I read this when I was kid... it's short, I could probably read it in a day. Maybe I'll have a chance over Cristmas.

Collected Ghosts Stories of MR James - very interested in this, but I think it's going to have to wait until I get down to the dregs. I've read a few of the stories already, and I might make the kids sit down and listen to one on Christmas Eve... actually, the kids will probably be okay, it's the wife I'll have to get stern with. (Seems to be absent from above pic: spooky or what!)

Inside the Wicker Man by Allan Brown- I head about this "making of" book on the radio and it sounded like an interesting story. Unsurprisingly, the movie's a big favourite of mine. I wasn't interested enough to make the effort at full price, but at £1.40 it's worth a punt.

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayer - This Lord Peter Whimsey mystery is a bit of an indulgence! I love Sayer's light tone and the intricate structure ot her mysteries is entertaining and instructive. It's another that'll probably end up being endlessly deferred until I find myself without anything else to read... I guess these Amnesty books are what you might call my emergency stash.

The Latest Amazon Order

I rely oN chance for a lot of the books I read, but these are the ones that I actually consciously decided to pursue rather than rely on fate to put them before me.

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke - Is it wrong that I love whacky Nazis? I'm generally pretty bored by WW2 and all that jazz, but the wilder shores of right wing beliefs are always of interest to me. I'm not sure why, ghoulish fascination, I think.

Nemesis vol 2 by Pat Mills et al. - This one will be a bed time read, so it's waiting for me to finish the Penguin Book of Ghosts... but I'm quite keen to get to it, so the ghosts may find themselves set aside again.

Red Plenty - I got this in time for our Christmas writers' get together so I could ask Francis to sign it... then I forgot. I've been keen to crack on with this, so other books have been put aside and I'm reading it now.

Lends From Friends

I try and avoid borrowing books, and actively resist having them thrust upon me! I have mY own reading agenda, and yes that includes random finds at book sales and in the Postscripts catalogue. However, the last month or so has seen me accept several books on loan. 

Two vols of Sinister Dexter by Dan Abnett et al - My friend Jon forced these on me when I saw him a few weeks back, and they are waiting their moment. In order to get them back to him in a timely way, I'm probably going to have to read them before Nemesis. I've enjoyed previous S&D collections, but Nemesis is NEMESIS, you know? Sigh!

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen - we had a book swap at our writers' Christmas get together and I snagged this. I haven't read The Corrections, but both sound like the sort of literary fiction I like - big books about big themes and emotions. I'll probably go for this one after I've finished Red Plenty... or maybe Black Sun. Oh, decisions, decisions...

A London Child of the 1870s by Molly Hughes - This is another writers' Christmas book swap one. I'm interested in true life stories from the past, so I thought I'd pick this one up as it was on offer. It looks quite short, and is a long way from my usual territory of freaks, weirdos and the occult, so I'm hoping for an illuminating change of pace.

That's it, ten volumes. Assuming a bit over a week for each, that's about three months worth of reading right there! That's one of the reasons I hate building up a pile: my future is mapped out for me. For three months there are no surprises coming, no more delightful finds in second hand shops or remaindered bookshops, no scope to suddenly think of something I'm interested in and dive in.

I am slave, a slave to my own bibliophiliac weaknesses!


  1. "Sinister Dexter" used to be my Popbitch message board handle, back in the days when I still had juice in the celebrity gossip world.

    You'll be unsurprised to learn that the wife and I returned from England with more books. Many of these were ones I had at home but wanted to bring back to HK to, you know, read.
    But many others were the product of England's dastardly cheap, cheap bookshops such as Book Warehouse, and the ever-ace 2nd hand place in Hitchin arcade.

    At the latter I picked up a 70s Vance SF novel, which I started reading this morning and have breezed through to about page 70 already. And to think I was slogging through a dull Shanghai-set mystery novel before I went on holiday! Top stuff.

  2. Out in provinces, second hand book shopping thrives. In August, I went to a real cracker in Much Wenlock, but time and prudence stayed my hand. I still came away with the wonderful Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology (reviewed elsewhere here)and a trade paperback of the first six issues of the original run of What If?

    70s editions of Vance are the high water mark of pre-cyberpunk SF. Great books, brilliant covers, the sorts of cheery adventures you could crack through between 10 and six on a rainy Saturday... Moorcock is probably his only rival in this regard! (Althogh I think the Vance covers (Chriss Foss, Jim Burns) are better than the more psychedelic Mayflower Moorcock covers... goodness, but I am a boring man!)

  3. Mine has a cover by Steve Crisp, apparently. It's the 1987 Grafton edition of TRULLION: ALASTOR 2262. Sadly it's not any of the fruity numbers you find if you Google the title, but it does have a knock-off of the USS Enterprise on it, so there's that.

  4. Ah yes, I know the the ones. He did the covers for the Grafton Lyonesse paperbacks, among others. He's a decent artist, IMO, if not quite up to Foss/Burns/Frazetta standards.

    The Alastor books are really prime Vance - essentially mystery plots with his usual excellent world building, intriguing machinations and enjoyable style.

  5. I've had "Black Sun" on my Amazon wishlist for a while, so I'll be interested to hear what you have to say about it. Have you read Goodrick-Clarke's "The Occult Roots of Nazism"? It's very good.

  6. Ah, no I haven't but I have read "Storm Troopers of Satan" by Micheal Fitzgerald, which is a somewhat lurid account of similar stuff, although doesn't head into the the kind of Spear of Destiny craziness. There's also Arktos by Jocelyn Goodwin (IIRC) which is good on the more general hyperborean/aryan background of various occult strands, culminating in you-know-who.

    Black Sun got good a very good review in Fortean Times, and I've been meaning to read it for a while. I did cheekily read the first chapter which was a really interesting look at the origins of American neo-Nazism in the immediate post war period. Then I slapped my fingers, put it aside and got back on the book pile treadmill!

  7. Reviewing my copy of Storm-Troopers of Satan this evening I notice that it is in fact fair-to-moderate bonkers. Just to clarify my position there!


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