Friday, 23 October 2009

Huh.

I thought Existential Ennui was the top hit on google today. It was when I googled it a minute ago. And then I checked again, and it was at #8, where it usually seems to be. Weird.

So, the copy of Sebastian Faulks's Devil May Care that I won on eBay turned up yesterday, and as I kind of half-suspected, it wasn't a first edition at all. It was a fourth impression. Bastard. Hardly worth complaining though; it was only two quid. Being the mentalist that I am, I've now ordered a proper first edition (at least I bloody well hope it is – I checked with the seller and they assured me it is) on ABE, for £1.50. I can flog the other copy at the next boot sale I do.

Yes, yes, I know. I'm hopeless.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Televisual Entertainment

Now that autumn (or fall, as the yanks have it) has kicked in properly, there's a fair bit of interesting genre telly on again. Three episodes in (I think), Stargate Universe has proved pretty compelling, most of which is down to Robert Carlyle's character, Dr, Rush, and the chubby one, Eli, who can be relied upon to deliver a couple of genuinely funny one-liners each episode, along with the odd impression (his Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes this week was ace). Meanwhile Carlyle has been producing some astonishing work for what is essentially a slightly above standard genre show, going through the emotional wringer and eventually having a complete breakdown (his character, that is). I've only ever dipped into the Stargate 'franchise' previously, but even going by a cursory familiarity with previous incarnations, Universe is, thus far, a cut above.

Elsewhere, Dollhouse season two kicked off with a decent enough opener, although it obviously didn't match up to the completely mental season one closer, which was set in the future and really drilled into the potentially cataclysmic ramifications of the personality-imprint process, with no one knowing for sure if other people were who they said they were. I also caught the first episode of Hung, starring Thomas Jane of Punisher fame (and the little-seen and rather good Stander). I knew nothing about it going in; not even the show's title tipped me off, so I was pleasantly (if that's the word) surprised when the thrust (ahem) of the plot was revealed later in the episode: Jane's character, something of a failure in life, love and work, determines that the only thing he has going for him is his huge cock, and decides to use it to make his fortune. As Michael Palin might say, "And what about you? Do you think there's anything amusing about the name... Bigus... Dickus...?"

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Listy Listy List List List

For some reason, when I was writing the last few posts, all I could see was the html version, with all the code for italics and whatnot. I've now worked out I simply had to switch tabs to 'Compose'. It's fine now. Panic over.

Fascinating stuff.

Aaaaaaanyway. Here is this week's list of the comics that I will be purchasing this week:

Dark Avengers #10
Ex Machina #46
Invincible Iron Man #19
Underground #2
X-Men Legacy #228

Underground is the Jeff Parker/Steve Lieber miniseries about a cave, and the small town it's close to. I don't think I was in the right mood when I read the first issue, and I wasn't intending to get issue #2, but unlike a lot of comics I read (or rather used to read -- I've dropped a fair few of them now), I can actually recall what happened in #1, and am intrigued enough to stick with it, for now. It has a similar feel to Whiteout, which, considering it's the same artist, isn't that surprising. I don't really know where it's going either, which is always good.

Apart from Ex Machina, all the other comics on that list could find themselves in the drop zone in the not too distant future. They're all reasonably enjoyable, well crafted comics, but I guess the ultimate test is, would I miss them if I didn't buy them? I suspect not. So beware, Dark Avengers, Invincible Iron Man and X-Men Legacy (and wasn't the title of that last one supposed to be changing at some point? What happened about that?): you could all be for the chop very soon.

Yeah,

that was pretty pathetic. I started that last post with the best of intentions, and actually typed more of a review (well, a sentence more anyway). But I bored myself. I lacked inspiration. And Another Thing... is a good book, but like I say, others have already written extensively about it, and said all there is to say about it. I'm sure I'll knock out a review of something at some point, but I'm not going to force myself.

Anyway. Next I'll be reading Kingsley Amis's The Anti-Death League. And I must say my first edition of Colonel Sun did look good on the shelf, snuggled between firsts of The Anti-Death League and The Green Man.

And Another Thing...

It occurs to me I should possibly, maybe, perhaps, be writing something here about the books I've been reading, rather than merely detailing the books I've been buying. Y'know, like reviewing them. But there are probably bazillions of blogs out there reviewing books, not to mention newspapers and magazines, and really, what have I got to bring to the table?

Still, let's give it a go at least. It's not like I haven't written plenty of reviews in my time.

So I've just finished Eoin Colfer's And Another Thing..., the sequel to Douglas Adams's five Hitchhikers books, and it was rather good.

How's that?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

For a medium size town,

Lewes does have an inordinate amount of bookshops. There are five second hand bookshops here (yes, including the Secret Bookshop), plus a bric-a-brac place called the Needlemakers (over which our offices were based until March this year) that has a big stock of old books, plus the flea market and the antique shops. There's also the British Bookshop for new titles, and WHSmiths of course, and also Rik's Disks, which sells old comics (many of them mine -- I flogged a load to them a couple of months back). If I'd actually planned to move to a books treasure trove of a town (which I didn't), I couldn't have picked a better place than here. Of course, I wasn't as interested in books when I first came here last year. So maybe it's that aspect of Lewes that's influenced me. Perhaps being surrounded by books, and having a thing like a regular book fair on my doorstep, is what's got me reading again (and collecting).

You may recall

I toyed with buying the Kingsley Amis Bond novel Colonel Sun at the recent Lewes book fair; that's if you, or anyone really, is actually reading this blog. But let's assume you are. Anyway, I strolled up the road just now, intending to go in A & Y Cumming on the high street; I keep hearing there's a basement there with even more books, but once again this mythical basement either wasn't open, or just isn't there (and maybe never was). I had a look on the shelves anyway, and as usual didn't find much of interest (an Arthur C. Clarke novel apart).

And then on a whim I decided to go in the Fifteenth Century Bookshop, slightly further up the road. It's a funny, musty old place, laid out in a crooked fashion (and indeed in a crooked building), a wide variety of books piled high everywhere, with a usually scowling or at best disinterested French owner who sometimes sits outside on a stool puffing on a cigarette and reading the paper (I think his name's Pasqual). I've been in there lots of times, and always feel slightly guilty for doing so, like I'm disturbing his otherwise tranquil day. In fact I think that's how most people who visit the shop feel.

As a result of not feeling terribly welcome in there, it took me a fair few visits to notice the books he has behind his counter, a couple of shelves of modern firsts. And on this visit, what did I spy but a first edition of Colonel Sun. Bugger me. Had it always been there and I simply hadn't noticed it? Sitting there in the shop, waiting for me, for my interest in fiction to reignite? Maybe. In any case, it's a nice copy, clean pages, no inscription, and a bright jacket with only slight discolouration at the top and bottom where the plastic coating didn't quite reach – and not price clipped either. It was twenty quid less than the one I saw at the book fair, and I knocked him down a bit further too.

So now I have a first of Colonel Sun. And I even got a smile out of Pasqual. And the lesson here, as with the Secret Bookshop, is I should always turn to Lewes first when I'm looking for a book. Lewes will provide.

(P.S. I also won a first edition of Sebastian Faulks's 2008 Bond novel Devil May Care on eBay last night for two quid. So there.)

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Pevensey

Book Fair turned out to be a small but charming affair, held in Pevensey's community hall. Pevensey itself (or possibly Westham; I wasn't sure where one ended and the other began) is a little village (or possibly two little villages), with a high street consisting of the occasional hairdresser's, a pub or two and a post office/local store. But it does have a large, crumbling castle, or at least it looked large from the outside. In fact I discovered you can walk through the grounds of the castle when I headed back to the station after the fair, and rather nice it is too. I peeped into the keep but didn't pay to go in, being a cheapskate. Another day, perhaps.

As for the fair, there were maybe fifteen dealers there, and after one circuit of the hall I thought I'd be done in five minutes. But after another circuit I came across a couple of Dennis Lehane first editions (Mystic River and Shutter Island) and an Arthur C. Clarke Pan paperback (Childhood's End) we need for a book on cult books we're putting together at work. All three for a tenner, and a pleasant chat with the seller into the bargain.

Besides myself there were maybe twenty people circling round, mostly older folk. It kind of reminded me of a toy fair I went to once in Orpington (don't ask). So, worth going to this one time I guess, but I won't be making the trip again.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The List

This week, I shall probably purchase the following:

Anna Mercury 2 #2
Marvels Project #3
Uncanny X-Men #516
Unwritten #6
Walking Dead #66

Those are dead certs I reckon, although annoyingly two of them – possibly three – are $3.99 comics, rather than $2.99 ones. I really do need to cut down further on four dollar comics, so even though Marvels Project is Ed Brubaker, if it doesn't do something interesting or exciting this issue, it's for the chop. Anna Mercury is the other offender, but that's been surprisingly enjoyable.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I believe

I might pop over to Pevensey on Saturday and have a mooch around the book fair there. It's only a small fair I think, but you never know what might be lurking there.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Also,

now that Matt Damon's older, someone should cast him as Tom Ripley again and film the sequels. There've been a few attempts at Ripley Under Ground and Ripley's Game (John Malkovich was rather good in the latter), but Matt Damon playing Tom in properly faithful, period adaptations... wouldn't that be terrific?

I've realised

that I would quite like to be Tom Ripley. Not the needy, rather unpleasant Tom from The Talented Mr. Ripley. The later, more settled Tom, circa Ripley's Game, pottering about in his big country house in France, reading books, collecting art and bits of furniture, going on the occasional sojourn with Heloise (or Rachel in my case), perhaps learning to play an instrument or doing a spot of painting. But without the forgery, or the murders. Well. Maybe. Let me think about that. Forgery and murder might be quite exciting. But definitely not the suppressed homosexual tendencies. Not that there's anything wrong with homosexual tendencies, suppressed or otherwise.

And in the 1970s, I think. Yes. That would be fine.

The Secret Bookshop

There's a secret second hand bookshop in the town I live in. It's hidden away in a narrow passage that runs up the side of the castle mount. I stumbled upon it a while ago but it never seemed to be open. Then one day it was open, and I went in for a look around. There wasn't a great selection there, or more likely at that point I wasn't as into books as I am now, and I promptly forgot about the place. (I think it's also the base of the local listings magazine – there's an office upstairs and they seem to advertise the magazine in the window.) But today I went for a stroll up the high street to look in a couple of the other bookshops in town, and was just heading back when I suddenly remembered it.

I doubled back, went in, and straight away saw a first edition of Kingsley Amis's Girl, 20. Price clipped, but otherwise in great condition. Seven quid. And then I saw a first edition of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley Under Ground, the second Ripley novel (and possibly the best, although my favourite is Ripley's Game – and yes, I do have a first edition of that). Now, I already have a first of Ripley Under Ground, but this was a nicer copy – my copy has a sunned (faded) spine, which is typical of this book, but this copy didn't. And it was twenty quid. And right next to it was a hardback of a Patricia Highsmith autobiography (Beautiful Shadow) I've had my eye on on eBay, for eight quid.

I bought the lot.

Why buy a book I've already got? Well, as I say, it's a nicer copy. I might sell my other copy; I might not. But I think it's more to do with knowing that there would have been another, better copy of Ripley Under Ground in my town, for someone else to pick up at what is a rather good price.

That probably makes me really weird.

Of course, they'd have to find the secret bookshop in the first place.

Monday, 12 October 2009

The occasional

Lewes book fair was on on Saturday. I was there early doors, spotted a fair modern firsts I'd quite like to read and own, and bought none of them. I'm not sure why. There were two Kingsley Amis novels, Girl, 20 and I Want it Now. The former wasn't in great shape, but it was only four quid. The latter was a nice copy, and going for twelve quid. I really don't know why I didn't buy them. I can't work myself out sometimes.

I do know why I didn't buy Amis's Colonel Sun (writing as Robert Marham, of course): it was sixty-five quid. But I did consider it.

Shiny shiny,

shiny new book, purchased today:













I'd sort of forgotten how much I loved the original Hitchhikers books. I read them when I were a lad (apart from the later ones, which I read as a young man). I probably borrowed them from the local library, a place I practically lived in for a number of years during boyhood and then a later period post-polytechnic when I was on the dole. Gawd knows how many books I borrowed from there. I had a habit of devouring series or particular writers, starting with Doctor Who novelisations when I was very young, then moving onto yer James Herberts and Stephen Kings and Richard Laymons, by way of the Fletch novels or the Beiderbeck books. And then, for quite a long time, I forgot I'd read so many books. Successive interests – music, comics, politics, wanking – largely kept me away from reading much in the way of novels, and my passion for them – and history with them – vanished.

But now the books are back, and with them my particular past, and now there's a new Hitchhikers novel, almost as a celebration of my return to the fold, although in truth merely a coincidence. How very Douglas Adams.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

After a few weeks

of austerity at the comic shop, this week I splurged slightly:

Astonishing X-Men #31 (Travis Charest Variant Cover)
Batman And Robin #5
Chronicles Of Wormwood Last Battle #1
Criminal The Sinners #1
Crossed #7 (of 9
Irredeemable #7
Mighty #9
Planetary #27
Torch #2 (of 8)

That's actually a nice list of (hopefully) well-written and -drawn comics I'll (again, hopefully) enjoy.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Whut You Reading For?

Getting back into novels has been a revelatory experience. I'd clean forgotten how rich and deep novels are in comparison to comics. Sure, there are some comics that manage a similar depth – Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp being a recent example – but in general, comics, or at least American adventure comics, provide a much pulpier, shallower reading experience.

I'm continuing to work my way through Patricia Highsmith's backlist, and I've got a few more Kingsley Amises lined up. I'm also currently midway through my first Bond novel, From Russia, With Love, and it's terrific. Why haven't I read any Fleming before? (I think we know the answer to that one – too busy poring over daft comic books.) I also picked up a Pan paperback of a Gavin Lyall book, The Most Dangerous Game. Kinglsey Amis was apparently a fan of Lyall, a writer I'd never come across before, so I'll give it a go.