Thoughts and opinions on my latest reads.
1 October 2019
Reading went pretty well this month. Maybe my Goodreads yearly reading challenge goal will smile kindly on me after all. Here are the books and screenplays I read in September.
- Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids: A History of One of Florida’s Oldest Roadside Attractions, Lu Vickers: One of my soft goals for this year was to give myself permission to follow my interests, however odd and/or useless they might seem. I realized I had developed the habit of only learning, researching or studying topics that I had a clear and present use for. But it was limiting my ideas. So now I follow trails down rabbit holes and either save the information I gain for future use or simply enjoy the journey. All of which is to say that I recently became interested in the history of Weeki Wachee, one of America’s most enduring roadside attractions; therefore, I went to the library and checked out whatever I could find about it. This volume seems to be the most comprehensive of Weeki Wachee’s history, even to the point beyond which a casual reader might care. But now I know all about it.
- Tam Lin, Jane Yolen: I love the tale of Tam Lin and I only vaguely remembered this gorgeously illustrated version of it before I sought it out again.
- The Stories You Tell, Kristen Lepionka: The third book in Lepionka’s Roxane Weary series, this one is just as great as the first two. I talk about these detective stories a lot because they 1) feature a bisexual heroine, and 2) take place in my former hometown of Columbus, Ohio; but they are also just straight-up good stories. The series is still going strong.
- Chicago Loop, Paul Theroux: I picked this up at the library at a whim. A whim which was not entirely rewarded, but that’s what happens with whims sometimes. Like American Psycho, it examines a certain type of nasty modern male pathology with irony and pessimism. I suppose I’m glad I read it, although I won’t again and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone else unless they have a particular use for that kind of examination.
- The Vanishing Stair, Maureen Johnson: The second in a trilogy, this book is a delightful continuation of the tale started with Truly Devious. Recommended for fans of cozy mysteries, true crime and coming-of-age themes.
- Weeki Wachee Mermaids: Thirty Years of Underwater Photography, Lu Vickers: As opposed to the earlier history of Weeki Wachee, this is primarily focused on photography with some informational context. If you’re curious and only have a little time/interest to devote to the topic, choose this one over the former.
- Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran: For a while now, this novel has hovered on the edge of my awareness as one praised by writers I admire and one I should read someday. Now that I’ve read it, I wish I knew just how unique and exquisite it was beforehand, so that I could have discovered it much sooner. Someone described it as “Nancy Drew meets Sid Vicious,” which is a pretty decent summation. This is like the next evolution of Raymond Chandler’s romantic (in the literary sense of the word) detective fiction and I love it.
- Sweet Smell of Success, Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman: On the screenplay front, I finished reading this one. I’ve always thought that Sweet Smell of Success, one of my favorite films, was a writer’s movie through and through; this point of view is rewarded by the experience of reading the screenplay.
- Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway, Sara Gran: Fortunately for me, there are currently three Claire DeWitt books out in the wild, so I get to read them all for the first time. I loved this one just as much as the first.
- The Halloween Tree, Ray Bradbury: October nears, so it’s time to pull out the Bradbury. I actually had not read this book either at all or in such a long time that I had forgotten it. A swift, dark fancy of a tale that swirls around the core of why we believe in harvests, the dawn that comes after night, and Halloween.
- Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett: I know the film Sunset Boulevard beat by beat, which is a sometimes challenging situation when reading the associated screenplay: I want to pay attention to the words and not simply use them as a prompt to play the visual action in my head. This, however, is a very good screenplay that not only contains a few things that didn’t end up in the final film (which illuminates those decisions) but also models how to script effective narration over described action.
- The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost: This was … underwhelming. An exhaustively “researched” dossier on the history of strange occurances in and around the town of Twin Peaks, starting from the age of Lewis and Clark, this novel builds up an elaborate, mysterious conspiracy—but it turns out I don’t care much about that. Who loves Twin Peaks for facts? Not me, for one. I did appreciate some details about character stories, but, overall, this wasn’t my bag.
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