Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

I've loved Ray Bradbury for a long time--since at least fifth grade, when my English class got taken to the upper school library, and we were told to pick out a book of short stories to read. I chose The Stories of Ray Bradbury, which was my first exposure to, I'd guess, all of these--if I'd read any Bradbury before this collection, it was probably Fahrenheit 451, which I've loved for a long time. And yes, this collection was a strange short story collection choice for a fifth grader, and it's weird for a fifth grader to have read Fahrenheit 451, much less loved it. But I've always been a weird reader. So there you have it. Bradbury's story "A Sound of Thunder" terrified me, and still does, really. I've taught "A Sound of Thunder," "Harrison Bergeron," "All Summer in a Day" and other stories by Bradbury--he wrote so many, after all. He's widely anthologized--included in just about every literature textbook you look at!

But somehow, I never read The Martian Chronicles. So I picked up a lovely old copy last year at a thrift store, and it's been sitting on my "to read" shelf ever since--my copy is a mass market paperback originally printed in 1951 (the book was first published in May 1950), reprinted over and over through the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Maybe they kept reprinting it--but I have the 48th printing, published in 1978, so that's all I know about that.

It takes place from January 1999, when the first expedition goes to Mars from Earth, until October 2026.

I'd read parts of it before--pieces had been published as stand-alone stories. But the whole thing is magnificent. Nearly thirty years of Earth natives colonizing another planet (and written before the moon landing, before any exploration of space by Earth natives). So many different visions of what the Mars settlements will look like (conveniently, Mars' air is thin but breathable by Earth people). And the settlements look like so many different things over the years. A fascinating, amazing book. I continue to love Bradbury so much.

Monday, November 19, 2012

James Tiptree Jr. Stories: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

I finally finished the James Tiptree Jr. stories I started reading ages ago... I wrote about his/her bio on September 9, 2012, and I'd already started the stories at that point. I guess that isn't so long, really.

I'm definitely appreciating them more now than I was then. But old-school scifi still isn't--will never be--one of my favorite genres, or one I'm terribly well-schooled in. But glad I read these. Can definitely see myself rereading some of them. And I'm just so glad to know about Tiptree. The biography was so so good, and I did end up enjoying the stories. Some of them were pretty incredible.

Now back to Alex Sanchez and Neil Gaiman. That's what I've been reading lately!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Annie Get Your Gun

As I wrote last time, I recently read Rat Girl by Kristin Hersh. Not only have I been listening to early Throwing Muses incessantly since reading it (while reading it too!), but I also just watched Betty Hutton's most famous movie, Annie Get Your Gun. Apparently she got this role away from Judy Garland, who was a wreck by then.

Anyway. I really enjoyed it--though there were some really problematic "Indians", not surprisingly. The music was so fun (Irving Berlin!). I didn't realize that "There's No Business Like Show Business" was originally from this musical! The most problematic Indian song was "I'm an Indian Too", though in the movie, the "Indians" are presented pretty sympathetically, I think, and Annie has amazingly close relationships with one Indian, specifically--a Chief who adopts her.

I also loved this song.

A pretty great little movie.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lots of books lately

I've been reading a ton, but lax about posting.

But I read all the Sandman comics, which were really fun... I read the original ten, then the eleventh, and now I'm slowly making my way through the Death comics (sort of part of the Sandman series--related)--but I'm waiting for them to come in from the library, and I want to read them in order... so there's that.

I read Believers by Charles Baxter, who I continue to love love love... got his selected and new stories from the library too, looking forward to reading those, though I think I've read a lot of them already. The selected and new stories is called Gryphon, which is the title of the first Baxter story I read, in the 1986 Best American Short Stories, edited by Raymond Carver, found randomly on a shelf in my house, and probably one of the most influential volumes of my life--largely because of "Gryphon," probably, though not entirely, by any means. The Table of Contents for the 1986 BASS can be found here. Carver's intro is amazing, too. This includes many excerpts from the intro.

I also read Memory Wall, by Anthony Doerr--I talk about two of his other books here and here. Excited to read more by him.

I also read 8, by Amy Fusselman. I read her novel The Pharmacist's Mate fairly recently as well, too. I don't remember why I put them on hold at the library, how I heard of her. Not really my kind of thing--sort of pomo--but I read them both and was engaged. I don't know!

Finally, I read Rat Girl, by Kristin Hersh, which my sister loaned me ages ago. I've been a fan of Throwing Muses and Hersh's solo work for a long time--fifteen, twenty years? But I wasn't so feeling the need to read this memoir. Partly I just don't like memoirs so much. And there are so many books--a memoir by a musician ends up being low on my priority list (though I did love Patti Smith's memoir about her and Robert Mapplethorpe). But this was a good book. Kristin Hersh becomes friends at college with Betty Hutton (yeah, the Betty Hutton!), which is awesome. I love reading about how she writes songs, how they show up in her head... yeah. I liked this book.

For now, I'm back to the James Tiptree, Jr. stories, and I'm still reading this book about tomatoes, Tomatoland, which is really creepy and amazing. I have a million other books waiting to be read--library and otherwise--updates to follow, I'm sure.