April 5th, 2007


April Books 5) The Search For Roots 6) The Book of Imaginary Beings

5) The Search For Roots: a personal anthology, compiled by Primo Levi
6) The Book of Imaginary Beings, compiled by Jorge Luis Borges

Quite by accident, this turned into an interesting paired reading: both books are selections from literature and science made by writers who were great in their own right. Levi's collection is the more interesting of the two: a series of extracts ranging from one page to six of thirty favourite pieces of reading. I only knew four of them (The Book of Job, Gulliver's Travels, Moby-Dick and Murder in the Cathedral) and some of the others I think lose rather in translation (eg the Italian vernacular poetry of Giuseppe Belli) but there were a few pieces here from authors I would like to follow up for myself some time (Thomas Mann, Rabelais).

Job chapter 40, on the Behemoth, pops up again in Borges' light-hearted compilation of tales of strange animals from the ancients to C.S. Lewis (whose Perelandra is quoted twice at length). Not really a lot more to say about it than that, though I realised that it had provided much source material for another important work of my youth.

Top UnSuggestion for The Book of Imaginary Beings: Sophie Kinsella's Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Strange Horizons

My review of this year's Philip K Dick shortlisted novels is up at Strange Horizons.
It may or may not be significant that five of the seven novels are published by Bantam Spectra. It may or may not be significant that five out of the seven authors are women. It is probably not significant that five of the seven have one-word titles.
Comments turned off on this entry to encourage people to comment over there.

April Books 7) The Last Temptation

7) The Last Temptation, by Neil Gaiman

I have found a nice little second hand bookshop near work, on the rue Froissart between rue Belliard and place Jourdan. It has a decently eclectic selection of books in English, which rather look like they were mostly bequeathed by retiring British officials in the European Commission. Not all, though, and this graphic novel by Neil Gaiman sort of jumped out at me saying "Me! Me! Buy me!" And when a book says that, then I usually succumb to temptation.

And appropriately enough, this book is about temptation, written by Neil Gaiman in consultation with Alice Cooper, tying in with Cooper's album of the same name. I know almost nothing about Cooper except that he wears make-up. Even so, I really enjoyed this brief tale of Steven, an adolescent who is tempted by the sinister manager of the Theatre of the Real (a Cooper lookalike) with the offer of eternal life at an unspeakable price. It would have been better to read it at Halloween; it would certainly have meant more if I was a Cooper fan; but I felt it was also in some ways a trial piece for Gaiman's American Gods, and all the more interesting for that.