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Wish I had time for some binge rereads September 13, 2015

Posted by sjroby in Book reviews, Life in general.

I have hundreds of unread books, lots of unwatched DVDs, and a ridiculous backlog of Big Finish audios, so I don’t reread much. But every so often I think wistfully about some rereading binges I’d love to undertake.

James Ellroy. I’ve gone off his stuff a bit as he seems to have become something of a self-parody, but I still remember the joy of discovering his books in the 1990s. And his latest book is the first of his second LA Quartet. So I would love to reread the first LA Quartet and the related novel Clandestine. The Black Dahlia was the first of his books that I read and it blew me away. Noir, hardboiled, epic, it didn’t so much recreate a time and place as drag you into an almost hallucinatory world.

Mervyn Peake. It’s been a long time since I read the Gormenghast trilogy and I’m curious about the fourth book published a few years back from his notes. It’s not fantasy, exactly, but it’s not in this world, either. A Dickensian group of characters in an ancient castle the size of a city. Not a great deal of action but great prose, strange people, and lots of atmosphere.

Jack O’Connell. A mystery bookstore owner once handed me a copy of O’Connell’s second novel Wireless and said I didn’t like this but you might. He was right. I’d like to reread the Quinsigamond series of loosely connected novels. They’re set in a fictional northeastern US city, and the first, Box Nine, is a relatively straightforward mystery movel. Each successive book shifts a bit further away from conventional mystery and the world as we know it, though it never really becomes fantasy or science fiction. Wireless and The Skin Palace in particular I’d like to revisit.

Gene Wolfe. The Book of the New Sun. A bit of Dickens again and Peake in a strange, far future tale that’s as much about the prose style as the story. It’s not something you can read in bits and pieces during commutes and whatnot; you have to get into the prose style, and you may need a dictionary, but it’s an experience like few others.

Cornell Woolrich. Everything. Well, maybe the Black novels first (Rendezvous in Black, Black Alibi, etc), then the short stories, then the other novels. Woolrich wrote emotionally overwrought noir. What happens in his books is sometimes arbitrary, sometimes unlikely; it’s fate — doom — ruining the lives of often innocent, ordinary people. Some of the stories have happy endings, because he was something of a romantic. His work often wars between love and loneliness, overwhelming passion or crushing despair. They are frequently over the top if you think about them, but when you read them, you’re riding the emotional rush and suspense too much to worry about realism. A lot of his work has been adapted for film, radio, and TV, but it doesn’t always capture the feel very well.

And then there’s some David Goodis and Thorne Smith and Jim Thompson I’d like to reread, too… Lots of white guys, true, mostly American, mostly dead, mostly straight, but I’m not sure how significant that is. One or two at least are religious, a couple at least are conservative, so it’s not about what I can relate to.


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