Spännande nyheter i höst

Just nu hinner jag knappt med livets vardagliga nödvändigheter, men snart kommer oktober och då lättar det. Och det kommer en massa spännande nyheter:

Tony Dekker är sångare och låtskrivare i Great Lake Swimmers. Nu gör den naturälskande Dekker solo-debut med "Prayer of the Woods" och det låter som Great Lake Swimmers förstås. Inte mig emot, det här kan vara en av årets bästa. Och i november kommer Tony Dekker till Stockholm...!

The Deep Dark Woods känns som en släkting till ovan nämna grupp. "Jubilee", första skivan med nya gitarristen Clayton Linthicum, har jag fått höra innan den släpps och DDW fortsätter att övertyga som ett av de mest spännande och suggestiva banden just nu. Ryan Boldt låter lika underbart frustrerat uppgiven och melankolisk som vanligt, så att varenda känselspröt darrar och kramar om varje hjärtslag.

Linda Thompson, en av de mest otroliga rösterna, kommer med ännu ett soloprojekt och det låter som alltid lika hänryckande. En spröd röst med ett så starkt uttryck att den rubbar berggrunden...! Ska bli mycket intressant att höra hela "Won't Be Long Now".

Ad Vanderveen släpper äntligen en elektrisk live-inspelad vulkan igen. Neil Youngs ande ligger som en dimridå över soundet på "Live Labor" och jag kapitulerar. Ad gör ta mig tusan bättre NY-skivor än Neil själv gör numera...!

Lägg därtill rykten om en ny Marti Jones-skiva, en politisk EP med Antje Duvekot, en dubbel kallad "Shout!" med Warren Haynes grupp Gov't Mule, en ny DVD med Show of Hands...

... och i november kommer äntligen Broken Fences nya EP "Stormy Clouds" - och hösten känns riktigt välkommen...!

What Is Currently Making Me Angry With the Heat of a Thousand Firey Suns

I need to update information on a website I control with information about a company in India -- and I was just on their contact page a few minutes ago, which loaded and gave me all the data I needed. However, that page now will not load, and no amount of googling or futzing around has made IE just show the god-damned cached page you had five minutes ago!

Back in the early days of the 'net, it wasn't uncommon to set your browser to "work offline," and poke through the pages you'd loaded before. But that seems impossible now, and of course that's exactly what I need right now.

I really, really hate it when technology removes capabilities.

Update, two minutes later: Before anyone asks, I has a couple of IE windows open at all time at work because our portal site is set up to only authenticate with IE, so most of the systems & resources I have to use only work that way.

Top Shelf Sale

Top Shelf, one of the finest publishers of interesting comics on this or any other continent, is having one of their periodic amazing sales right now, and I urge you to go check it out and buy a few things.

They have comics for a buck, graphic novels for three -- lots of stuff half off or more, and everything I've read from Top Shelf has been...well, top shelf.

I've blogged about their sales before -- they do this in September a lot -- and here's last year's post about the stuff I bought then, as a taster. Look, it's a whole lot of great comics at ridiculously low prices -- if that's not appealing, I don't know how you find the energy to go on living.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/7

This week I have two books to write about, both sent to me unexpectedly by the Great Gods of Publicity. I haven't read either of them as of this precise moment, but either or both of them could turn out to be your favorite book of all time -- so I hope you'll forgive be if I get too flippant (which is my usual failure mode).

First up is Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, which is I think the first David Barnett novel to be published in the US. It's a steampunk tale, as you might guess from the title, in which a callow young man goes to his world's London (capital of the usual Victorian even-larger-and-more-impressive-empire of steampunk) to find the thrilling adventurer of the cheap press, only to find that his hero does not exactly live up to his billing. It's out from Tor in the US, as a trade paperback on September 10th.

And the other book is The Third Kingdom, the latest from Terry Goodkind. As I understand it, he's essentially continuing the series that used to be called "The Sword of Truth" -- or, at least, telling more stories of that series's main characters -- with 2011's The Omen Machine and this new novel. There's very little supporting material here to judge by -- the front flap copy just has a few paragraphs from the book, in which what I presume will be the Big Bad shows no effects from having several swords run through him; and the back flap is entirely quotes about how awesome Goodkind is. I'm pretty sure Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell are in massive danger from said unaffected-by-swords-guy -- they seem to be captives of cannibals on page 1, though that might be an unrelated danger -- but I'm also fairly sure that they will manage to save the world eventually. This is a Tor hardcover, officially publishing in August.

Incoming Books: First Week of September

A few books have arrived here recently, from various directions, and I like writing about books when they reach my hands (shiny, even if not new), and this is my blog, so I do the things I like here.

First up is The Elwell Enigma, which is not a new book in Rick Geary's "Treasury of XXth Century Murder," even though it's another closely-examined murder case of a century ago -- in this case, of bridge expert Joseph B. Elwell in New York City in 1920. No, this is an unrelated side book, self-published by Geary, and I have no idea what the backstory is that led to it existing that way. But this was the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, which I backed, and the time has now come for the real book to arrive. It's got both the pluses of the small-press/crowdfunded world -- it came with a bookmark, signed postcard, signed bookplate, and the book itself was signed to me as well -- as well as the minuses, such as the fact that the spine is completely blank. (New presses often forget there's a piece of book between the front and back.) I have no idea if this is now available to non-backers, or if it will ever be -- but I have one, and that makes me happy.

I also got two stray books from my recent order from HamiltonBook.com (which I will continue to plug as a great source for remainders and random books):

The 2011 Harper trade paperback edition of Tim Powers's On Stranger Tides, since I need to rebuild my Powers shelf. (And my fantasy-reading second son might be ready for Powers in another few years, though I'll probably give him Anubis Gates first when the time comes.)

And Men of Tomorrow, the now nearly-decade-old history of the early days of comic books by Gerard Jones, who has written more than a few comics in his day. (I was particularly fond of The Trouble With Girls, which he wrote with Will Jacobs around twenty years ago.) This is well-respected, and I've been vaguely thinking about reading it for a while -- and having a copy makes that slightly more likely.

(Normally I would include Amazon links in a post like this -- but Elwell isn't available anywhere but directly from Geary, and the other two are remainders best acquired through those channels. So I'll leave them off -- even if I included them, I'd have recommended that you not use them to purchase.)

Flyttandets elände

Nej, jag flyttar inte, men vi håller på och tömmer mammas hus....

Loudon Wainwrights beskrivning av flyttandet och dess elände är mitt i prick:

Min fritid (??) består just nu av:
Kartonger, kartonger och ännu fler kartonger...
Bära möbler och allt möjligt annat...
Osorterade pappershögar...
Vad ska slängas-dilemma...
så vansinnigt mycket kvar...!!!

Ideal Jobs

I've seen several people whose job title includes "Evangelist," implying that what they get paid to do is be enthusiastic about things.

That sounded like a cushy job, but I'm really not that good at enthusiasm -- my talents lie much more in the other direction.

So I'm wondering now if there's any company who wants to hire an Anti-Evangelist, a guy who explains why every new idea is horrible and won't work -- I'd be great at it!

(If this were 2000 years ago, I could get the gig to tell Julius "Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal." That would be right up my alley.)

Obama - Whatever happened?

Barack Obama besöker Sverige... Idag bryr jag mig inte märkvärdigt mycket. Obama var presidenten som skulle bryta mönstret, men någonting har hänt... Vem förväntar sig några stordåd längre?

Jag vet att han inte kan göra allt själv utan att ha senaten och andra instanser med sig. Jag tycker även att han är mycket vettigare än de alternativ som gavs. Men ändå: Menade han något av allt det han sa om att skapa fred när han tillträdde, så skulle han nu kunna utmana och göra något annorlunda. Nu när han ändå inte kan bli återvald skulle han kunna ta steg som skulle sätta spår i världshistorien, istället förfaller han till gamla "lösningar" som att anfalla och kriga. Vad sägs om att kräva tillbaka fredspriset?

Maybe somewhere along the road you just stopped dreaming
Maybe the pain of life just squeezed the love out of your heart
Maybe the fire in your soul just stopped burning
Or maybe you just forgot that you ever used to give a damn
- Dick Gaughan

2013 Hugo Award Winners!

In past years, I've engaged a lot more with the Hugos -- posted annotated lists of the nominees, posted what I did or would have nominated, tried to read and evaluate everything, (badly) predicted the winners, argued with the results -- but these year I've been much less engaged. (To the point of not even bothering to post the nominees, I see.)

Still, the Hugos are the premier SFnal awards, and they were announced yesterday at the usual gala ceremony at the annual Worldcon (this year in San Antonio, Texas). And even when we don't agree with the winners -- which is pretty regularly, since that's how popularly-voted awards work -- it's worth celebrating those winners and the fans that made the Hugos happen every year.

And this year's winners are:

BEST NOVEL: Redshirts, John Scalzi (Tor; Gollancz)

Other people clearly like that book much better than I do, so I merely shrug.

BEST NOVELLA: The Emperor’s Soul, Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon)
BEST NOVELETTE: "The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi", Pat Cadigan (Edge of Infinity)
BEST SHORT STORY: "Mono no Aware", Ken Liu (The Future Is Japanese)

I haven't read these or any of their fellow nominees, so I can be purely happy for Sanderson, Cadigan, and Liu.

BEST RELATED WORK: Writing Excuses, Season Seven, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler & Jordan Sanderson

This is a podcast, and I can't stand having people talking at me (talk radio, audiobooks, podcasts -- it's all the same to me), so it would not be my choice for that idiosyncratic reason. I also note that the "Chicks Dig" series -- which won a Hugo for their first Dr. Who book a couple of years back -- either is slipping in popularity or digging into less-popular areas of fandom, since they had two nominees.

BEST GRAPHIC STORY: Saga, Volume One, Brian K. Vaughn, art by Fiona Staples (Image)

I have it, and intend to read it. This category is looking healthier -- Talbot's Grandville and Tayler's Schlock Mercenary are repeat nominees, but the rest are new and well-regarded.


As if it would have been anything else. (So sorry, Peter Jackson -- you should have reconsidered the plan of turning a short zippy book into an SFX-laden bloated trilogy.)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – SHORT: Game of Thrones: ‘‘Blackwater’’

And the home of sexposition has now officially lapped Dr. Who as the default favorite in the category.


It's his third win in the six years this has been a category, which could be a sign for the future (given Hugo voters' long-term inclinations to grab a favorite and cling tight for decades at a time). Or it may be an indication that he's well-known as Scalzi's editor, and this is a big year for Scalzi. Or maybe sunspots -- you can never discount the power of the sun, especially in Texas.


Nominated thirty-three years in a row in this and the predecessor category; only won after he retired. It's hard to avoid seeing it as a Lifetime Achievement Award, which the Hugos aren't supposed to be -- but Stan certainly deserved at least one Hugo for his work over the past 34 years at Analog.


Well-deserved. He's only the 17th person to win one of these in the 58 years this category has existed -- the average winner has nearly three and a half of them. (An average driven up by Michael Whelan's 13 and Frank Kelly Freas's 10 -- not to mention Bob Eggleton's 8.) It would be nice, he said delicately, to see this category not get stuck in such a rut so often.

I will note that no previous winners were nominated this year, so the voters had to pick a new one -- and they had a bunch of great artists to choose from.

Edit: Cheryl (see comments) pointed out that Picacio won last year, so he is a previous winner. This is completely true, and implies that Picacio will be the default winner of this category for the next few years, if Hugo voters continue their past patterns. It also makes my comments immediately above wrong, not to put a too-fine point on it.


Congrats to my NJ compatriot Neil Clarke and his crew. The reconfiguration of this category has driven out the criticalzines, which may have been the purpose -- it's now all fiction publications.


I'm sure there's grumbling in certain sectors of SMOFdom today, since SF Signal is "not a fanzine" to many of them -- it doesn't have staples or the smell of mimeo about it. But I'm an occasional contributor (they ask me more often, and I've punted a couple of things due to press of day job work), and they're more-or-less the hometown boys at this Worldcon, so it's great to see them win.


Again, I can't stand spoken-word audio, so I can't judge this category. Very fannish name though, which I like to see.

BEST FAN WRITER: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Not familiar with the work of either of them, and I think they're both new nominees in their categories. Since these are usually the least-nominated and least-voted categories, it's great to see new names and new energy here.


Please -- never refer to the Campbell as a Hugo! Whatever corporate entity that currently publishes Asimov's and Analog would never forgive you.

And congratulations to all of the winners (and nominees), despite any snark above -- winning or being nominated for a Hugo is a huge deal, and should be celebrated.

(via Locus Online)

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/31

My US readers will be celebrating Labor Day when this goes live, and those of you in the rest of the world will have to console yourselves (assuming that you're working that day) with the knowledge that nearly all of you get more generous time off, medical care, and other benefits than we don't-need-no-guv'mint! American types have.

There's no mail delivery today, but there was mail and packages last week, which left me the following interesting items. I might make fun of them here -- I'll try not to, but the spirit is week, and every piece of art has something that's easy to parody -- but that doesn't mean that they might not be your favorite book of the year. And, in any case, I haven't read any of these -- so please assume that any fact you don't like is just me getting it wrong.

I'll start off with two standalone manga volumes -- yes, they do exist! -- both from Vertical this month.

Tropic of The Sea is an older manga than we usually see; Satoshi Kon's story was originally serialized in Young Magazine in 1990. A small seaside town has a tradition -- their local shrine holds a "mermaid's egg," a large pearl-like ball, changing its sea water every week and returning it to the sea after sixty years of gestation, to get a new egg soon after. And, of course, old traditions that come in conflict with an energetic modern society -- this is Japan in 1990, remember, before the crash and the lost decade; a society on the crest of a wave that looked to make it the most powerful economy in the world -- are likely to get crushed by the forces of modernity.Caught in the middle is the family that runs the shrine: the old traditionalist grandfather, the middle-aged modern father, and the teenage son who must choose a direction.

The other book from Vertical is a bit newer: Kyoko Okazaki's Helter Skelter: Fashion Unfriendly was serialized from 1995 to 1996 and published in book from in 2003 -- delayed by the author's serious injury (according to Wikipedia, she was hit by a drunk driver while walking) and subsequent long recovery. Helter Skelter is a fashion manga -- drawn in a quick, impressionistic style like classic fashion illustration -- about a top model who underwent years of rigorous treatments and surgery to be perfect...and is now sliding down the other side of that height.

Switching gears, I have a bound galley of Jack Campell's upcoming space opera, The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield. (It's the second book in a spin-off from Campbell's Lost Fleet series, after Tarnished Knight -- looking at Campbell's list of previous books, he has so many lost things that he might want to invest in some of those little Bluetooth dongles and attach them to all of his fleets and stars.) The villains of this series seem to be evil spacefaring CEOs, which is a bit out of the ordinary for military SF -- that sub-genre is more likely to go the other way and focus on blowing up nasty alien collectivists. (There do also seem to be mysterious aliens lurking in the background of this series -- or sending huge battle fleets in to help with the endings of each book, more likely -- so those might end up being the evil collectivists that force the honor-bound space navy heroes and the rapacious space capitalists to work together to save each other. Perilous Shield is an Ace hardcover, and hits stores at the beginning of October.

The Lost Prince is the second in a contemporary fantasy series by Edward Lazellari, after Awakenings. It's a Tor hardcover that published on August 20, and, unlike the standard urban fantasy, it's not about a single main character. (Old habits die hard; I looked at the cover and was mentally composing a sentence along the lines of "XX is not just an NYPD cop, but also a paladin/werewolf/vampire/faerie/boggart/demon/angel/troll" -- but that's not what's going on here.) This series is actually a reverse portal fantasy: a group of protectors came through a gate from a fantasy world, Aandor, thirteen years ago, to protect an infant prince against the usual evil forces that wanted to kill him. But things went wrong, and the supposed protectors were scattered with no memories of their mission. So if any of you are looking for portal fantasies, derring-do, large casts, lost princes, and stakes involving the fates of multiple worlds, The Lost Prince is looking back at you, pointing at itself.

Last for this week is Stephen Hunt by Jack Cloudie -- I'm sorry, Jack Cloudie by Stephen Hunt. (I do hope there's an author out there named Jack Cloudie to complete the Nick Lowe/David Bowie echo.) This is the fifth novel in Hunt's loosely-linked steampunk world centered on the Kingdom of Jackals, in which a young not-British man is impressed into Somebody's Majesty's Steam-ship Navy, and travels to "Cassarabia," where a religious sect has been outlawed and a the true villains are "the sickness at the heart of the caliph's court: the mysterious cult that hides the deadly secret to the origins of the gas being used to float Cassarabia's new aerial navy?" I'm sure there's no parallels to any modern wars in this book, no sir. This also is a Tor hardcover, and is available now.

Read in August

Well, it'll soon be clear that my attention wasn't on reading books this month -- but the books I did get through were pretty enjoyable anyway.

Francoise Mouly, editor, The Best American Comics 2012 (8/1)

Joe Sacco, Journalism (8/2)

A.J. Wolfe, The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2013 (PDF, 8/7)

Tim Kreider, Twilight of the Assholes (8/8)

Daniel Pinkwater, The Afterlife Diet (8/16)

Bob Sehlinger & Len Testa, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 (8/27)

And that was my August.

I'll probably have a reading project to take up all of October that will get me reading (and blogging) a lot more, but details on that will follow in a couple of weeks.

September, the month in between, might just see me continue this slow desultory meander through just a few books a month -- I'd prefer to read more books more quickly, but it seems I need some structure (provided by work or otherwise) to make me do that. As always, if there's anyone out there who wants me to write for them, just drop me a line -- I work vastly better with deadlines than without them.

The Afterlife Diet by Daniel Pinkwater

The only novel officially for adults by kids-book genius Pinkwater is this odd 1995 item, which is plotted and told a lot like his best YA novels -- sideways, slyly, around corners and leaving out the boring parts. It asks the eternal question: is there dieting after death? The plot begins in the afterlife, but mostly takes place on earth, explaining the events that lead up to its first sentence: "Milton Cramer, the lousy editor, woke up in a room he'd never seen before."

As a fat guy, and a long-time lover of Pinkwater's book, I loved this when I first read it -- I had a copy of the hardcover from 1995, which was lost in the flood -- and got a new one as soon as I could. And why do we re-buy books we love if not for an excuse to read them again?

The Afterlife Diet is one of those books that's hilarious on the surface, but -- in the immortal words of Fat Albert, "if you're not careful, you may learn something." The something you'll learn is about life, or yourself, or psychiatry, or the human condition -- Pinkwater is tacking the big stuff here, and doing it magnificently.

If you are currently an adult, and have never read Pinkwater (which is horribly sad, but may be true for some people), this is a good place to start, if you can find a copy. If you're a Pinkwater fan who didn't know he'd written for adults, you now have a gem to find.

The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 by Bob Sehlinger & Len Testa,

Whenever I'm looking to take a family trip to the Lands of the Mouse (whether in Anaheim or Orlando), I always make sure to check out the most recent Unofficial book on the subject during my planning. Sure, I've internalized most of the lessons at this point, but there are changes every year, and other things that I need to be reminded of. In 2011, during my year-long Book-A-Day string, I read a good-sized pile of guides to Walt Disney World (and then read two about Disneyland last summer), and the Unofficial books, in all of their varieties, are clearly the most useful and directly helpful of any of the books I've seen. Others sometimes have more facts and figures, but the Unofficial books tell you what to do, in conversational language, and incorporate not just a huge wealth of personal experience and Big Data computing power, but also anecdotes and ideas from dozens of their readers.

This year, I got The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2014 pretty much the second it was available, through the magic of ebooks, and read just about all of its 850 pages (I may have skimmed the chapters on things that don't really apply to me, like tips for little kids or the details of the cruise ships) on my iPad over the course of a little more than a week. And, yes, I did still learn some things -- so, unless you go to WDW substantially more often than I do (several times a year, for example), this book will still have useful things to teach you.

And my employer no longer publishes these books, so there's no reason for me to be politically nice at this point; I really do think the Unofficial books are excellent travel guides, and would buy more of them if they covered other locations I was going to travel to. Sure, it will be useless to you if you're not going to Orlando, but any travel guide has that handicap. And I have to think that, if you were trapped in a doctor's office for several hours with nothing to read but travel guides, this is the one you'd choose, and you'd be pretty well entertained along the way.

The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2013 by A.J. Wolfe

"DFB" stands for Disney Food Blog, one of the resources I'm using pretty intensively to prepare for the family's annual fall vacation this year. (No points for guessing where we're going.) DFB has published several books -- delivered in PDF form, and sold directly from the site, in the age-old way of targeted non-fiction -- and I've bought and read both this one and a shorter, much more targeted "mini-guide" to the 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival, which will be going on when we hit the World. This book is updated annually, and covers, as you might guess, all of the restaurants, carts, stands, and other food-acquisition opportunities in Walt Disney World -- with both quick capsule reviews of all of the food locations and lots of themed chapters (where to get a good steak, what are the best snacks, how to eat healthy, how to work the Disney Dining Plan, special occasions, dining with kids, best drinking establishments, sample dining itineraries, and more).

I suspect that most of the material in this book originated on the blog, and could probably still be found on the blog with some effort. But I don't mind paying for it, for two reasons: First, it's important to pay for things that are useful to you, so that the people behind those things get recompensed and keep doing them. (If something's free, it's either a hobby rather than a business -- which means it may disappear at any time -- or that thing is not actually the product; you the customer are the product.) Second, assembling and organizing that information in a format that can be read easily offline is a major benefit.

The blog's writing is from the point of view of an enthusiastic and pretty well-versed amateur -- an eater rather than a cook or culinary expert -- and the photography is a bit better than that, with gorgeous views of things that you'll want to eat. It's probably not for top-end foodies -- there's are a few really serious cuisine opportunities in WDW, but many more "good eats" surrounding them -- but both the blog and the book are excellent resources for those of us who want to eat the best possible nosh while we're stuffing ourselves on vacation.

Fler obskyra favoritlåtar: Sov Min Kära

En hel vecka har gått utan att jag hunnit med ett ord... Det är mycket nu... Desto viktigare att den musik man lyssnar på, om man nu alls hinner lyssna, är någonting som lyfter...!

Obskyra favoritlåtar del 5: Siri Karlsson - "Sov Min Kära"

Siri Karlsson är inte Siri Karlsson, utan ett slags gruppnamn för Maria Arnqvist (altsax) och Cecilia Österholm (nyckelharpa). Deras skiva "Gran Fuego" är spännande och full av melodi-slingor som jagar varandra. Musik jag borde tycka om, jag blir imponerad men inte mer. Sen kommer då det näst sista numret och mina öron spetsar sig. En mansröst och en kvinnoröst sjunger ordlöst och det är så vackert och så berörande att jag nästan börjar gråta.

Och jag som höll på att stänga av innan... Ibland kommer de riktiga guldkornen oväntat och väl dolda...!

The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days by Ian Frazier

If you read The New Yorker, you're familiar with Frazier -- he's been writing short comic pieces (collected in books like Coyote V. Acme and Dating Your Mom) and longer reportage (which grew into books like Travels in Siberia and Great Plains) for them for several decades now. And if you still read it, you've probably encountered the Cursing Mommy, a conceit that Frazier's spun out into four or five of those short comic pieces over the past couple of years. (Despite the fact that it certainly seems like a one-note premise -- young mother, attempting to be Martha Stewart-esque and do something domestic, gets more and more frustrated as things fail to work and erupts in swearing as the whole project falls to pieces.)

It didn't look like the best material to stretch into a novel, honestly -- the more so because Frazier hasn't written a novel in his career so far. But The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days is a better and more interesting work than those individual pieces were -- even though it integrates them (or pieces of them) along the way.

The Cursing Mommy still doesn't get a name here, though -- she tells us this story, and everything comes through her voice, which is surprisingly strong and varied. This is a comic novel, so all sorts of things go wrong for her over the course of one year -- the book is structured as a daybook, or diary, in which she's specially telling the story in her own writing to an audience -- and she deals with it all as best she can, erupting in anger and cursing more than she wants to. The rhythms of those calamities start out funny, but get more nuanced as the year goes on and things get worse (as they always must in a comic novel). In the end, the repeated line "oh, what a fucking horrible day this is going to be" turns from a laugh line into a scream against the universe and finally into something like a philosophy: they are all fucking horrible days, if you let them be, and sometimes declaring them to be fucking horrible days is all that can get you through them.

Don't get me wrong -- the Book of Days is really funny, with subplots about husband Larry's job troubles, general cluelessness, and love of rare capacitors; about older son Trevor's teenage acting-out; about the budgetary troubles of Trevor and younger son Kyle's schools; about Cursing Mommy's book club, and their love for books about how horrible the Bush administration was; about the family's problems with the rapacious Sphagnum Health; and about Larry's Client/Boss, who pursues the Cursing Mommy with far too much zeal throughout the year. But there's some heart underneath the humor, and Frazier isn't afraid to bury some political points in there as well. (You can probably guess what those are, and judge for yourselves how much they would annoy you.)

Incoming Books: 26 August

So the family spent most of the past three days in lovely Hershey, PA, where I had a vague plan to take quick cellphone photos and put together a post for here afterwards (just to have something that's not all-books-all-the-time), but that didn't actually happen.

Hersheypark is a fun theme park, and very family-friendly -- it doesn't have the feral throngs of teenagers you find in similar parks, for example -- with lots of good roller coasters and a pretty good water section called "The Boardwalk." The only serious criticisms I have is that it expanded haphazardly, so the park is basically a long fat L (it's not quite all in a line, but it feels that way), and that it's quite hilly, so your calves ache the next day. The Hornswoggler family has been going there for ages -- The Wife's family has had it as a summer tradition since she was a girl, and our sons have been every year probably since they were toddlers -- so it's a very familiar, homey place for us.

But that's not what I set out to write about today...

We arrived in our hotel Sunday afternoon, and went to the pool while we were waiting to go over to the park -- and, on the way there, I grabbed a flyer for Midtown Scholar, a used-book store in nearby Harrisburg. (By the way, did you know it's a long way to heaven, but it's closer to Harrisburg?) And The Wife offered to stop there on the way home, so of course we did.

She stayed in the car -- she'd rather play Harbor Master on one of the iPads than shop for books -- but the two boys came with me into the store, which is centered on a gorgeous space that was once a theater. Thing 1 peeled off quickly -- we found him later, upstairs in a comfy chair, and he picked up two books from himself (a big collection of "best-loved American poems," I think this one from Dover, and a book of contemporary Japanese diaries, which may be this one).

Thing 2 stuck with me -- I think still somewhat dazed from all the roller coasters the day before -- as I poked through the theater space, down into the basement annex, and then through a wonderfully convoluted series of passageways (through the print room into a whole 'nother sequence of rooms with humor and graphic novels -- the things I was vaguely looking for -- far, far off at the end). And these are the books I found:

The Bride Stripped Bare by "Anonymous" -- I think I vaguely remembered the publishing-industry foo-fa-raw surrounding this novel-in-diary-form, which was originally published in 2003. (It was meant to be a very frank look at contemporary female sexuality, with some literary pretensions -- it's all in second person -- to keep it from being too downmarket.) The real author was unmasked by the ferocious British press (she's British) soon after publication, of course -- the only way things like this stay secret is if they don't work, because then nobody cares enough to find out -- but, since the copy I have lists her as anonymous, and that was her original intention, I'll leave it that way here.

Family, a memoir of a couple of hundred years of history by the dependably good Ian Frazier. He's written both funny stuff -- his classic essay collection Coyote v. Acme and Dating Your Mom, and the more recent Lamentations of the Father -- and more serious books like Travels in Siberia, as well as somewhere-in-the-middle books like Gone to New York, which is almost a memoir itself.

No Touch Monkey! is one of those my-weird-travel-adventures books, a genre that amuses and attracts me, since other people's travails are always more entertaining. Interestingly, it's by Ayun Halliday, the scripter of the graphic novel Peanut, which I recently read and reviewed. If I can find two reasons to be interested in a book, I'll probably buy it: that's the lesson here.

Lulu Incognito is a minor book from the early days of Vintage Contemporaries -- no offense to Raymond Kennedy, but it's true -- and I think I really am going to try to collect that series. I haven't found any good lists of them online, so I might have to do it the old shoe-leather way. These are the books that were exciting-looking and hip when I was young and just jumping into adult fiction, so it will be an interesting experiment to gather a bunch of them (new to me and re-reads) and see what they look like twenty-plus years on.

The Child That Books Built is a memoir of childhood reading -- as the title implies -- by Francis Spufford, whose Red Plenty I've also heard a lot of good things about. And I'm definitely a sucker for books about books, which this definitely is.

And what got me started on my stack of books -- I assume other people have a similar used-book-store pattern to mine, with semi-distracted browsing until you find something that you definitely want to buy and start paying more attention to the shelves in front of you -- was a bunch of those nice recent University of Chicago editions of "Richard Stark's" books. (Do I need to explain here that Stark was a pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake, used primarily for the hard-boiled series of novels about a professional thief called Parker?) I found The Black Ice Score, Comeback, Backflash, Flashfire, and The Damsel, which was entirely spiffy. I may be diving into a big Stark re-read soon, so watch this space.

And last was a re-buy: Mark Martin's The Ultimate Gnatrat, a collection of parody comics mostly from the late '80s and aimed at Frank Miller and the post-Miller Batman. I wish Martin was still doing funny comics regularly -- he has a great gonzo style (or did, in those days) married to a great facility for quick, quippy dialogue and utterly bizarre situations. I'm sure he's doing something that pays better than humor comics these days, and I'll try not to begrudge that -- but he's another one of the great humor cartoonists of my day (along with Evan Dorkin, Scott Saavedra, and Bob Burden) who I wish could keep doing stuff like that and make millions of bucks.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/24

No one has pointed this out to me yet, but I seem to be usually opening these weekly posts by saying that there's no time for a long intro because either a) there are a lot of books, and I need to get through them, or b) I only have a couple of books, so an extended vamp up front would be silly.

I think we all can see the massive special pleading there.

So this time, I'm going to waste a lot of time and space to introduce the three books that came in this week, just to break that streak! (Well, maybe not.)

These three books will publish soon; I haven't read them; you might love 'em. Here's the scoop:

Carrie Vaughn's urban-fantasy heroine Kitty Norville is back with the twelfth book in the series, Kitty in the Underworld, coming from Tor as a mass-market original (yes, they still exist) in August. I've written about several of her books in the past, and I do like and recommend this series: it's a smart modern fantasy, grounded in real-world concerns and shows at least a desire to avoid the usual bloody vigilante justice in favor of the rule of law.

How Are You Feeling? is...um...a hard to describe thing. The subtitle is "at the centre of the inside of the human brain's mind;" it's written by David Shrigley, who is some kind of deliberately outsider artist-as-media-personality; and it's either a self-help book or a parody of one. (Or, possibly, both at once.) Norton is publishing this thing as a small hardcover on September 23rd, as the perfect gift book for that friend you don't understand at all. It's crudely drawn on purpose, and is alternately deliberately trite and deliberately weird -- I suspect I am too cynical and jaded to give it an honest chance. Perhaps you are not.

And David Drake has a new novel: Monsters of the Earth, the third of his "Books of the Elements" series, about a city which is not precisely 1st century Rome and a world in which magic works (which is, after all, traditional in a fantasy novel). No one in genre fiction knows Rome better than Drake, and the fact that he often writes about men at war often obscures the fact that he's a supple and deeply thoughtful writer. This one is a Tor hardcover in September.