Monday, May 11, 2009

60, 59

Two books that ate up all of my free time and reminded me to balance the reading list every week.

Tropic Of Cancer: Henry Miller -Miller was brilliant and reading Tropic Of Cancer, I can see where so many of the writers I admire at least took some lead from. Hunter Thompson, Kerouac, Bukowski and some of the other beat writers owe a bit to Miller. He was fearlessly descriptive, unashamed of either his baser urges or his flickering compassion. The plot is sort of vague, but there is plenty of character study and some interesting observational stuff that spins outward like a jazz solo.

Tropic Of Cancer is a dense read meant to be consumed leisurely. Basically, it's the wrong sort of book on a hundred book race unless you balance it with a comic book. I loved it. Somehow, I'm going to fit in at least one more of his books.

The Watchers Out Of Time: H.P. Lovecraft/August Derleth -August Derleth was a friend and student of Lovecraft's. As the story goes, after Lovecraft died, Derleth took some of his friend's notes and turned them into stories. Nobody wanted to buy them, so he ended up founding Arkham House, which eventually published Lovecraft's work as well as related material. The Watchers Out Of Time is a collection of Derleth's Lovecraft influenced and founded stories.

Derleth's stories aren't bad, but they lack the intensity of atmosphere that Lovecraft was so good at creating. The collection also tends to get repetitive: too many of the scenarios are repeated -a stiff and stodgy academic inherits the substantial property of a distant, evil uncle. Usually a monster shows up. Sometimes the academic is saved at the very last moment. Other times, not.

Also, not a good book to read when you're trying to hammer out 100 by the end of December. Still, it was instructional and while not as dark or brooding as Lovecraft, Derleth is a lot more readable. Lovecraft liked to dig up archaic, uncommonly used words which he then wailed on until you felt like you were going to be sick. Partially, this is forgivable since Lovecraft's characters were often ivory tower numb skulls who more or less deserved to be driven mad, skinned alive and turned into a handbag for the Elder Gods.

Not great, but not bad.


Brooke said...

Miller's collection of essays -- "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird" -- should be added to your list. Not as heavy a load, considering your goal, as the Tropics, but essential Miller, nevertheless.

primalscreamx said...

Consider it added.