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Reading Notes, 3/22/21

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Finished Reading

Nothing! Yeah, I’m a slow reader.

I did read “The Sword of Parmagon” by Harlan Ellison from The Essential Ellison. It’s an extremely early work—written when the author was 15-ish. It’s fine; decent writing of basic fantasy/adventure tropes.

I still need to read this month’s Willa Cather story.

Deal Me In

A❤️ – “The Moonstone Mass” by Harriet Prescott Spofford
I always think I’m going like Northwest Passage stories more than I do. Maybe it’s because, while I like frontier adventures, I just *know* that the Northwest Passage isn’t going to work out. This story is not the best. The language is creaky, even for 1868.

Currently Reading

Since I’m still reading the same two books, Children of Dune by Frank Herbert and Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy, I figured I’d go with some covers from translations. I suppose I could concentrate on one book at a time, but that’s not how I roll.

Reading Notes, 3/15/21

Finished Reading

I finished nothing in the past week, but I will be DNF-ing Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth by David Gessner. There are some tidbits of ultimate frisbee history, but it’s so repetitive.

It did get me thinking about my relationship with the game. In a way, I feel kind of fortunate that I am from a background that didn’t value sports and that I really have no shot at being an elite player. For me, I’ve never bothered being embarrassed to play a “ridiculous” sport like ultimate; all sports were considered ridiculous.* And while I seek ways to improve my play, I have no pressure to “make nationals.”** Heck, fall rec league will be my 20th anniversary league and I’ve still haven’t won a league championship. Not saying that losing doesn’t hurt, but stakes are low for me. So why do I play? To some degree, it’s the incongruity of my playing at all. Surprisingly, I have decent hands for catching. I can throw, somewhat. There is satisfaction in running down a disc or making a nice throw. Why does anyone chose to play any sport?

* I no longer feel this way. Sports offer a way to keep the body and mind working, as well as teach a lot about how to work as a team and take a loss (or a win).
** I actually did participate in the first women’s grand masters nationals competition. Our team got an auto-bid, but still, it was pretty cool.

Deal Me In

2♠️ – A WILD card!
I chose to read “We are Not Phoenixes” by John Wiswell, a story just published over at Fireside Fiction. This is a flash story and, dang, it takes talent world-build in less than 1000 words. And to add speculative fiction elements to stage magic. That was a surprise treat for me since I knew nothing about the story going in.

Currently Reading

I’ll be working on Children of Dune by Frank Herbert and Two in a Tower by Thomas Hardy. Might start In Cold Blood as my next nonfiction read.

Reading Notes, 3/8/21

Finished Reading

After a pretty blah end of February, I wham-bam finished two books last week. But I don’t really have much to say about them.

First, finished Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert. It definitely feels like the middle book of a trilogy, which it was when it came out in 1969. It ends on a bit of a downer, the story to be furthered in the “end” of the trilogy.

Second, read The Coney Island Fakir by Gary R. Brown, a nice little bio of magician and entertainer, Al Flosso. Flosso started in magic during the heyday of Coney Island’s ten-in-ones and never lost the moniker of Coney Island Fakir.

Deal Me In

6❤️: “Attachments” by Kate Wilhelm
From The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov.–Dec. 2017

An enjoyable ghost story, contemporarily set with ghosts who are not particularly scary and, you know, just still have stuff that needs to be done. Queue a hapless living person to “help.”

Currently Reading

Bout of Books is doing a sort of mid-term readathon over on Discord this week. I intend to participate, but intention and action are occasionally different things. I’ve set up a firmer reading schedule for the rest of the Dune books. Basically, two chapters-a-day for Children of Dune and then a chapter-a-day for the last three books, with a bumper day here and there. Plus for this week, some reading on Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth by David Gessner and Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy.

Reading Notes, 3/1/21

Finished Reading

Just this morning I finished The Science of Women in Horror: The Special Effects, Stunts, and True Stories Behind Your Favorite Fright Films by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence. This was an impulse check-out over the weekend, mainly because I found the title perplexing. Something like “Science of Star Trek” or “Science of Cryptids,” I get. But the Science (?) of Women in Horror? Anyway, it was available through hoopla, so I checked it out.

This book is an inch deep and five miles wide. It strives for organization, but meanders through horror tropes that include women and occasionally tethers those tropes to some science aspect. Okay, usually the science is sociology and occasionally it’s just true crime. There are also odd little sidebars with science or movie facts. The interviews are okay; I wish they would have been longer.

Deal Me In

8♦️: “Egotism, or, The Bosom Serpent” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dale at Mirror with Clouds inspired me to add a few Hawthorne stories to my Deal Me In list this year. Not that I needed much prompting. I haven’t read much Hawthorne, but I’ve found that I generally enjoy him. He’s an author I’m glad I came to later in life, because I think he might have bored me if I had read him in high school. (Somehow, I dodged The Scarlet Letter throughout my education…)

I’m a pretty literal reader, which means, if you’re going to spring allegory on me, you better have a good surface story too. Roderick Elliston has a serpent in his bosom, the vestige of some wrong-doing. It’s a physical thing for Elliston and, furthermore, he can see the serpents carried in the hearts of others. He goes through a period of telling people about their own serpents. This does not make him popular. (And reminds me a little of Cather’s “Lou, the Prophet.”) Serpents in the bosom? This is allegory. We all have evil in us and we do not like having someone around to call us out on it. But Hawthorne makes this concept potentially literal, a horror concept. Doesn’t Elliston look a litte green, like the underbelly of a snake? Can’t you see the snake writhing in his chest? Doesn’t Elliston hiss? Hawthorne reels me in before he preaches to me.

Reading Challenge Check-In

The Classics Club

Goal: 10 Books by 12/14/21
Progress: 2/10

✅ Read The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.

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Goal: Abstain from acquiring books; read at least 21 books from my shelves.
Progress: 1 book acquired (sort of); 2/21+

❌ I started a couple books from my own shelves, but didn’t finish any in February. I also pre-ordered David Copperfield’s History of Magic. I couldn’t resist… I am weak when it comes to peeking into Copperfield’s magic collection.

I Read Horror Year-Round

Goal: Read 6 books from 6 categories.
Progress: 1/6

✅ After The House on the Borderland, I read Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates, a book featuring a body of water.

Dune Read-through

Goal: Read Herbert’s 6 Dune books by October.
Progress: Finished Dune, working on Dune Messiah (still), and worked out a daily reading schedule for all the books. Kinda-sorta on schedule.


Goal: Read at least 30% nonfiction.
Progress: Currently at 33% because I didn’t read much last month.

Short Stories

Goal: Deal Me In each week and Cather Reading Project each month.
Progress: On track.

Currently Reading

I should finish Dune Messiah this week. Maybe The Coney Island Fakir too. And some short stories.

Reading Notes (supplemental), 2/26/21

book and flowers
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The end of February often sneaks up on me. Plus, I’ve just been a bit out of it the last couple weeks; not reading, blogging, or even watching movies. Mostly, I’ve been playing Minecraft and alternately listening to William Hope Hodgson novels or Nebraska basketball games. But I have a couple of reading things I want to talk about before my February wrap-up on Monday.

Willa Cather Short Story Project

February’s story is “Peter,” a very short story originally published in The Hesperian in 1892.

The titular Peter is the father of a fairly large family from Bohemia that settled in southwestern Nebraska to farm. It is his son Antone, though, who is the head of the family. Peter was a violinist in Prague until he suffered a paralytic stoke which made it impossible to play. While he is described in the story as lazy, he is old, disabled, and deeply homesick for the theater life. Antone, described as “mean and untrustworthy,” is a practical man. He wants to sell his father’s violin and he does things like gathering wood on the Sabbath. In the end, despite his piety, Peter can see only one way out. He breaks his violin so his son can’t sell it and then commits suicide with a rifle. He does not break the violin’s bow and Antone sells that.

It’s a pretty bleak story, even more so than “Lou, the Prophet.” There is again tension between the past and present. The ending of the story would have us believe that the past isn’t any use to the present, especially in the harsh reality of farming in Nebraska, but Cather’s opinion of the present isn’t very sunny either. Antone is not drawn as a good person, but “[his] corn was better tended than any in the county, and his wheat always yielded more than other men’s.”

The Willa Cather Short Story Project (phase II) is hosted by Chris Wolak.

#ShelfLove Monthly Discussion

This month’s discussion topic is: Free Books!
Fortified by Books has a huge post about free book resources. I mean, massive! I use a few of those, but so many are new to me too.

  • Project Gutenberg – This is the big one for me, especially since I’ve been reading a lot of classics.
  • Amazon.com – It’s easy enough to load Gutenberg files onto my Kindle, but I will often see if Amazon has a free copy of classics so synching between my Kindle and browser app works better. Otherwise, I kind of steer clear of Amazon freebies: I have so. much. to. read.
  • Hathi Trust – My go-to for old periodicals.
  • Online magazines – Nightmare, Uncanny, and Clakesworld pretty much cover the realm of current speculative short fiction (and nonfiction).
  • Tor.com – Traditional publisher Tor features short fiction by their authors as well as news, commentary, and readalongs on their blog.

#ShelfLove is hosted by Fotified by Books. If you’re looking to curb your book-buying and read from your own shelves, it’s not too late to sign up!

Reading Notes, 2/22/21

Finished Reading

The Ghost Pirates cover

The Ghost Pirates by William Hope Hodgson

Back in October of last year, I got in the mood to read about some supernatural fiction set at sea. I planned on reading Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates, but ended up instead reading the first of a trio of his novels that are kinda-sorta related. The Boats of the ‘Glen Caring’ still fit that supernatural-at-sea niche, though was much more of an adventure novel. The second, The House on the Borderland, delved more fully into Hodgson’s dimension/time slip motifs, but with much less plot. The Ghost Pirates ends up being a pretty good melding of the two.

Seaman Jessop survives the destruction of the Mortzestus and lives to tell the tale of strange goings-on. It begins as phantom winds and unnatural fogs, but events quickly get out of hand as the captain of the ship will not believe that it’s anything more than a little bad luck or the meandering minds of his underlings. Again, I like Hodgson’s factual narrative style (in contrast with someone like Lovecraft) and, considering his time as a sailor, he writing what he knows. The plot gets a little repetitive; end of the day, I probably like The Boats of the ‘Glen Caring’ the best out of these three novels.

I Read Horror Year-Round banner

This was my first book for the I Read Horror Year-Round challenge:
Horror featuring a body of water.

Deal Me In

7♠️: “Vampiro” by Emilia Pardo Bazán, translated by Nina Zumel
This was one of two tales featured on Nina’s blog back in April of last year. The blog post was about two “living” literary vampires. In this case, the young, lovely Inesiña is married off to a 77½ year-old. He couldn’t possibly out-live her, right? I hope I draw the other tale, “Good Lady Ducayne” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon in the near future.

Currently Reading

Didn’t read as much last week as I originally intended. I ended up in a blah mood and played a lot of Minecraft. (I listened to The Ghost Pirates. LibriVox has some pretty good recordings.) This week, I will continue with Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert. Coles’ The Call of Stories was annoying me, so I needed a break. What’s the opposite of literary pretentiousness? The Coney Island Fakir: The Magical Life of Al Flosso by Gary R. Brown. Plus, short stories.

Reading Notes, 2/15/21

Finished Reading

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada
(translated by David Boyd)

When it comes to reading materials, I generally don’t care about “best of” or nomination lists, but I make an exception for horror fiction. I’m usually curious about what the industry considers good in the horror genre. I’d been seeing The Hole mentioned here and there and took the opportunity to check it out from the library where not nearly enough Japanese horror is available.

It’s a curious story. According to the summary on Goodreads, Asa and her husband move to the countryside (“next door” to his parents) when he gets a new job—the commute being not bad since they’re in a less populated place. I suppose if you’re used to a city such as Tokyo, the area that Asa and her husband move to might be considered countryside, but to me it had a more suburban feel. It reminds me of the edge of Omaha where the 7-11 or the wilderness along a creek are both as easily encountered. Houses aren’t too close together and have a good deal of yard. My notion of countryside left me expecting something different

For the secong time in a row (the other being House of the Borderland), I read a story in which many strange things happen, but there is very little pursuit of the the mystery. Asa isn’t terribly interested in getting to the bottom of the weird things that are happening. She’s pretty acquiescent about all the things that happened to her, even in her city life before moving. And it occurred to me that I’m overly used to the mystery of a story being solved, or at least actively investigated. That left me dissatisfied, but not overly so. There is a sort of Gothic vibe to the story that reminds me a little of Jane Eyre or Rebecca: a young woman is led into a situation, her married family is involved, there’s maybe something nefarious going on, and in the end she’s changed by it.

I guess maybe this is just part of that magical realism genre that I’m not very conversant with/in.

Deal Me In

K♥️: “Whatever Comes After Calcutta” by David Erik Nelson
from The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov-Dec 2017

Calcutta, Ohio, that is. Though published in 2017, I was kind of surprised that one of the story’s background characters wore a MAGA hat. I suppose that’s a shorthand that we will see often for certain types of characters in this era, but it still felt weird to me. Anyway. An okay story of a modern-day witchery.

Currently Reading

Starting Dune Messiah this week. I have a leisurely reading pace scheduled. I’ve been listening to William Hope Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates while playing Minecraft. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, but got the notion that I should read The Boats of the “Glen Caring” and The House on the Borderland first. Thus far, I find no story connection between the three, but there are definitely some thematic connections.