Or “The Stone Diaries” as it was called in English.
The reason this one never got read is probably that I suspected it to be respectable and stuff.
And it is. It’s very respectable.
Initially I thought it was a fictional (auto-)biography of sorts. Then when I reached the middle, I found all these pictures of the people portrayed in the book, so I kinda for a second thought that it might be a real (auto-)biography of sorts. And then I noticed that none of the people pictured looked anything like the people described in the book, so I went back to “fictional (auto-)biography with unreliable narrator. Of sorts.”
I never ever ever read anything about a book before I read it. I don’t read the stuff on the back, or on the flaps, or reviews. It much more amusing to read stuff when you don’t know how it’s supposed to be read.
I do, however, love reading reviews of stuff after I’ve read it. If I loathe a book, I love going to Amazon.com and read the other 1- and 2-star reviews and getting my views validated. Then reading the 5-star reviews, and see how moronic their reasons for liking the dreck is.
And the opposite thing works, too. If I love a book, I read the 5-star reviews and congratulate myself on having such good taste, and then I read the 1-star reviews written by obviously sup-par twits who didn’t get the point at all.
I thought this book was kinda “eh”. Not bad, not particularly good, but definitely respectable. So I binged it after I finished reading it, and it turns out that Carol Shields won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this book, which I feel is such a confirmation. Mainstream mediocrity seems to be the essence of that prize.
So there you are.
I’m not a fan of short story collections, but I’m a fan of a number of authors who write one short story collection after another, so I read them anyway.
But that explains why this book went unread. I really like Joanna Russ. She’s very funny and she’s quite angry, which makes for an enjoyable reading experience.
This collection has lots of funny bits, and lots of very sf-ey bits, and I enjoyed it immensely. I read it (as I do most short story collections) while travelling, and the mixture of storytelling approaches fits that situation perfectly.
As with any other book that I like, after finishing it, I went online to buy other books by the same author that I hadn’t read yet. (This is why the backlog grows.)
Not only have I read all her books, but she died last year.
Anyway, I bought this paperback used. I like used books with marks from previous owners. Like this:
I don’t leave any marks in my book myself, though.
I bought this book at an SF auction thing at the University. I remember a bidding war broke out between me and some woman over this book.
I’m not sure why. I was just caught up in the excitement.
And then it sat on the bookshelf until now.
I used to read a lot of the Anne McCaffrey sf/fantasy stuff. She’s not a good writer or anything, but her books are… relaxing. They’re just there. Things happen. Dragons fly by. A spaceship rebels.
This isn’t a fantasy book, though. “Merlin” (he of the title) is a dog.
I mean, literally. He’s a dog.
So is this book. This books is literally a dog.
It’s an uneasy mash-up between a gothic romance book and a spy adventure book, and it fails pretty much completely in every conceivable manner. The plot is moronic and the romance is icky.
I do remember why I haven’t read this one. I thought it was a short story collection.
I hate short story collections.
No, that’s not quite true. I love short stories. It’s just that they take more energy than novels. They’re so compressed. You have to start caring about these characters in a couple of pages, and then ten pages later, they’re gone. And then you start on the next one.
It’s less than relaxing.
So I thought this was a short story collection for some reason or other, but it isn’t. Instead it’s an sf/magic realism mash-up. Sort of.
It’s quite original and fun, but it didn’t really make me want to run out and buy ten more books by Lisa Goldstein. It’s quite good. Quite. Kinda. Yes.
Do you remember back in the mid-80s where all books dealt with writers who were writing the book you were reading, or were they?
The post-modernity of this book is pretty staggering. And perhaps not in a good way. But that’s just what virtually all literature was like in 1984.
This one has not just one author, but two, and one or both of them is writing the book. So freaky! Yowza! Zzzzzz!
Oh, I guess it was fun at the time.
And reading the in-depth descriptions of Oslo in 1984 was amusing.
And look at that book design! Zing! 1984! Nothing says 1984 more than that book design.
Getting the festival of 1995 underway, I picked the book I knew absolutely the least about first.
It seemed like a pretty nice hard-ish SF novel, so why hadn’t I read it already?
Now I remember… I had bought it along with a swarm of other touchy feely SF books, and I had kinda gotten tired of reading that for a while. So it sedimented downwards.
Anyway, it turned out to be very nice. Perhaps a tad much So Much Drama for my tastes, but The Drama passed pretty quickly, and the rest of the book is quite neat.
I’ve already bought a few more books by Eleanor Arnason.
I’ve always bought more books than I can possibly read.
It’s under control, though. Just a fraction more. But it means that the section of the bookcase(s) that contain the unread books grows, slowly but inevitably.
I put the books I read at the top of the bookcase, and the unread ones sort of have a sedimental journey towards the bottom.
So they remain sorted in the order I’ve purchased them, and the ones at the bottom become the ones I never look at, because I assume that they’re something that I’ve determined that I’ll never actually read.
So this “summer” (for some value of) and autumn I’m going to do a grand experiment: I’m going to read an older section. I picked out at random this one shown on the right there.
It’s all books bought in 1995, as far as I can tell from circumstantial evidence (copyright notices and the books around them).
And when I say “read”, I mean “try”. I have no compunction about finishing books. The second they start to bore me, I ditch them. There are plenty of books in the world.
I’m going to hazard a guess that that light blue book over there to the right will be ditched toot sweet. But time will show.