Sunday, September 12, 2010

Too many books! My house is full of books – more books than I have shelf space for – and yet I keep on buying and requesting more, none of which is my current book club book, Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth, which I have been completely unable to find in all the bookshops I've tried so far.

I realise I'm going to sound like a bit of a dick here to those without access to free review materials, but when a large part of your work revolves around the consumption of books, movies and music, it tends to convert them from culture to be enjoyed to work to be done, or felt guilty about not doing.

I feel an intense pressure to review all the books I've requested, otherwise the publishers will think I'm a tyre-kicker. And I have heaps of story ideas that revolve around books, but frustratingly I just can't write all of them in the time I have. I'm trying to get Enthusiast contributors to review some of the books we get sent, but I'm sad to say that there are certain books I'm just too excited about to give to other people.

Also, if it's a friend or acquaintance's book, I feel even more pressure to review it so they can get publicity. I feel deeply guilty that I never got around to writing my review of Mic Looby's Paradise Updated – I read the book, of course, and I had heaps of stuff to say about it, but it just got lost in the ocean of other stuff I have to do.

I realised the insanity of my life this afternoon after I got home with two new books to add to the stacks teetering around my house. So I decided to present an annotated guide to the current stacks.

This is the oldest stack, beside my bed. Item 1 is The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan, which I'm planning to review for The Enthusiast in a follow-up to this review. Item 2 is a few of my Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Mysteries books. So far, I've only managed to parlay these into this essay for Kill Your Darlings. And Item 3 is the inaugural cassette-tape magazine from Team Evil.

This is the original Desk Stack, and it mainly consists of books I've already reviewed – the reason they made it to this stack is because it's right next to my computer, ready for reference while I'm writing the reviews. However, you will notice that I have begun a second stack on an open desk drawer. This is bad news.

Item 1 is Clif Evers' Notes For A Young Surfer, which came out in July and I meant to review for The Enthusiast around that time. Still haven't got to it. However I did manage to review Item 2, The Family Law, Item 4, The Hidden Brain, and Item 5, Simon's Cat. Item 3, Wuthering Heights, is my 'default book' to which I return when I have nothing else to read. It's one of my Teh Asenshul Reedz books. Item 6 is a Twilight-ish school story called By Midnight, set at an exclusive boarding school near Highgate Cemetery. And Item 7 is The Way Of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, the first brick in a new SF series "The Stormlight Archive".

I have read all these books. Item 1 and Item 2 are the books on which two films I recently reviewed were based. Item 9, The Hours, is another sad relic of my obsession with books that have been adapted to film. Can I just say that I found Jim Thompson's novel far less disturbing than Michael Winterbottom's film, and also far less disturbing than Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury. I am still quite shocked by the insouciant way Hammer guns down a chick whose dying words, "How could you?" he answers with, "It was easy."

Item 3 is Oslo Davis's charming Overheard, Item 4 is my most recent book club book, Valley Of The Dolls, and Item 5 is Dog Blood, which is the other half of my planned Dead-Tossed Waves review. (Item 8 is a second copy of The Dead-Tossed Waves.) Item 6 is the fascinating Necropolis, a history of the way London has handled its dead. Item 7, Vlad: The Last Confession, was sent to me unsolicited, but it was actually pretty great – it's a historical novel about the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes. After I read it, I researched Vlad's life and the novel is quite faithful to the historical details.

Gah! here is where the rot sets in because these books are just sitting on the corner of my bed and I sleep around them. They are the newest books. Item 1 is The Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist, a new edition of which is just out. Item 2, peeping out, is Into The Woods by Anna Krien. Item 3 is the much-yearned-for but ultimately disappointing Mad Men Unbuttoned by Natasha Vargas-Cooper, which is going to be half of a Mad Men-themed review special (the other half being From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor).

Item 4 is the first book in the Guardians of Ga'Hoole YA series. I missed this series, which ran between 2002 and 2008, and when I got the presser about the forthcoming film, I laughed out loud because "Ga'Hoole" is such an absurd name. But when I saw it for $5 in a second-hand shop I couldn't resist, because of my tragic fixation on book/film adaptations.

Item 5 is A Pure Clear Light by Madeleine St John. Text is republishing her works. I enjoyed The Women In Black, partly for its social comedy and partly, I'm ashamed to admit, because it's set in The Mad Men Time. Not sure what I'll think of this.

Item 6 is one of the Dan Brown clones that I made fun of in this Enthusiast story, which can I just say I think is some of my finest work and I was disappointed that more people didn't seem to like it. Item 7 is Vince Neil's autobiography, Item 8 is Jonathan Franzen's much-hyped Freedom, and Item 9 is William Gibson's latest. It's a sequel to Spook Country, which I read months ago. I'd complained to my housemate Paul that I didn't have anything to read, and he lent me his copy. I ended up really liking it, despite not really being a cyberpunk fan.

This is the stack in my living room. Item 1 is the new Dexter novel. Last year I interviewed Jeff Lindsay but I have some odd mental block whereby I am afraid to transcribe and write up the interview. I kind of have to now because Dexter Is Delicious releases at the end of September.

Item 2 is a job lot of three books I won in bingo at the Kill Your Darlings launch. When I won I shouted, "That's a bingo!" but nobody seemed to find this as funny as me. Item 3, The Road, I bought in an op-shop and owned for ages before I dared to read it. I was afraid it would be too existentially confronting, but I actually found it quite tender and optimistic.

Item 4 is Wolfsangel, a werewolf story, which I requested because I'm curious about the next supernatural being to get the genre-fiction treatment besides zombies and vampires. Still haven't got round to reading it yet. Item 5 was my book-club book a few months ago – actually, it was my pick. And Ancestor is a Michael Crichton-style genetic manipulation horror novel. Haven't read that one, either.

I feel incredibly mean and obvious, but I have to point out - the time you spent creating an annotated guide to these books could have been spent reading them.

Couldn't help myself.
I'm pleased that you consider me the kind of savant who can whip through this many books in the half-hour it took me to write this post.

Sadly though, reading them is not the problem; it is finding the time – and the intellectual 'stillness' – to write well-considered reviews or essays about them, within the context of all the rest of the work I have to do, and also within the narrow timeframe that the book is 'current'.

I feel frustrated that people might think I'm lazy, which is why I wrote this post to illustrate in an obvious fashion the way that my work – and it's just ONE ASPECT of my work – literally piles up around me.
Oh don't get me wrong - I don't in any way think you're lazy.

I was delivering the standard, stereotypical response in an evidently-not-sarcastic-enough tone.

Tim comment = FAIL.

Although if it's any help - I can summarise the Charlaine Harris reviews for you in two words: Vampire. Porn.
And I haven't even read them.
Sorry, that probably doesn't help. I'll go now.
Hey, you have a copy of the game Scotland Yard! I also have this board game - although I haven't played it since I was about 10. But I do remember enjoying it. How exciting.
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