Bookmania reviews, Nov. 1996

The Deep and Beasts, John Crowley.

The Deep haunted me by sounding awfully like it was taken from some real historical incident. Great for the moment when they come to the edge of the world… mind twisting… and Beasts is really beautiful literature. The leos are good but Reynard the genetically engineered fox-man kicks ass… I am even more reconciled to the fantasy genre than I was last month reading M. John Harrison. _Engine Summer_ is the last novella in the book, and I’m saving it for dessert some other day.

The Sea Wolf, Jack London.

More manly men doing manly things. Violent sailors beating each other to pulp and whetting their knives, in between bouts of philosophy and seal-clubbing.The philosophical conflicts are between the optimistic, upperclass, Humprhrey “Sissy” Van Weyden and the natural anarchist, Wolf Larsen. But this scary testosterone roller coaster was unfortunately cut short and a lame-ass love story creeps in. Maud Brewster was particularly interesting to me because she is robust enough to survive long journeys in open boats, but she gets exhausted whenever she exerts herself and lies down on the floor for a few minutes… sounds less like corset-induced faintness and more like… fibromyalgia! The best moment in the book for laughing hysterically is when Van Weyden, as cabin boy, comes across Wolf Larsen naked, and breathlessly describes his manly perfection. What else can you expect from someone named “Hump”?!

Knights Castle, Edward Eager

Excellent E.Nesbit-ish book of kids being magically whisked away to the land of Ivanhoe, castles, sieges, and giants. I liked how Eliza was described as being like an insane battle goddess, and she was completely unruffled by having hacked several knights to pieces, while her brother was grossed out by it.

Ancient Egyptian Construction and Architecture, Somers Clark & R. Engelbach.

A really, really boring book. Analysis of the patterns made by copper chisels on blocks of stone, 3000 years ago. It had beautiful illustrations of obelisks, pyramids, quarries, and Egyptian boats. As I chipped away at a frozen block of hash browns that evening, I was imagining that I was in a limestone quarry with a bunch of sweaty men in white sarongs. What can I say– boring books add to my rich fantasy life.

Hellcats of the Sea.

WWII propaganda about submarines and sonar detection of mine fields in the Sea of Japan. Written by some Navy guy who backed sonar when it was a new and unproven technology.

Brave Men, Ernie Pyle.

More WWII propaganda. Pyle was apparently a well known war correspondant. Endless, emotional stories of hanging out in the trenches with Joe Blow of Cleveland, Ohio, who owns a filling station back home and has only seen his infant daughter once while he is on leave. The invasion of Sicily was the most interesting bit. It seemed very impressively organized…I liked the description of quickly repairing blown-up bridges.

The Mark of Conte, Sonia Levitin. (rr)

A classic! Conte Mark exploits a computer error, bureaucratic sluggishness, and teacher stupidity to get double the credit for his high school classes. The book that inspired me to graduate early from high school.

The Secret Language, Ursula Nordstrom. (rr)

Two boarding school girls become best friends. Their oddly different temperaments go well together… Martha is bold and tomboyish, Victoria is shy and imaginative. Leebossa! Or, lee-lee-leebossa!

The Complete Jack the Ripper.

Complete with gruesome photos. Why, why, why do I read books like this. Why did I ever read that Hannibal Lecter book? I knew it would give me the creeping heebie-jeebies late at night. Well, same with this. Don’t read it! Yuck!!!