Books Acquired:
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
Sixty Stories, Donald Barthelme
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster
Midworld, Alan Dean Foster
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alan Dean Foster
Star Trek: Log Two, Alan Dean Foster
With Friends Like These…, Alan Dean Foster
Who Needs Enemies?, Alan Dean Foster
Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, Robert Masters and Jean Houston
The Modern Drunkard, Frank Kelly Rich
Apricots on the Nile, Colette Rossant
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr
Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Progress Made:
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster

Books Finished:
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Look at the Birdie, Kurt Vonnegut


So, yes, I fell off the book-acquisition wagon pretty hard this month. But there were very good reasons for all of them, I swear.

How did I come to stockpile seven (7) books by the journeyman sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster? Well, recently I went down a (black) rabbit hole relative to the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole, which I knew I saw when it came out but remembered very little about other than a crushing sense of disappointment. Could it really, I wondered, have been that bad?

Answer: yes. It is a disaster in every sense, a confusing mess that comes off like a low-budget, grade-Z Star Wars ripoff for most of its running time, then in the last ten minutes tries to be 2001. Turns out that it was a fiasco behind the scenes, too. Here’s an example of the misjudgment and bad luck that dogged it:

[Director Gary] Nelson initially considered casting Sigourney Weaver in the role of Kate McCrae, but the head of the casting department balked at the actress’ unusual name and rejected her. By October 1978, most of the actors had been cast, with the exception for Jennifer O’Neill cast as Kate McCrae. O’Neill had been told she needed to cut her hair because it would be easier to film zero-gravity scenes. Initially hesitant, she eventually agreed and brought her personal hairstylist Vidal Sassoon to the studio. O’Neill consumed multiple glasses of wine during the haircut, then left the studio noticeably inebriated and was subsequently hospitalized following a car crash, which cost her the role. Yvette Mimieux was cast the following day and agreed to have her own long hair cropped.

Somewhere in my research I read that the novelization of the movie was much better than what appears onscreen. When I looked for it on eBay I came across a lot of six ADF books including Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, his Star Wars sequel that I vaguely remember reading way back when, during the long wait for The Empire Strikes Back. My trigger finger was itchy that day and next thing I knew they were was mine.

And indeed, The Black Hole was a good read. Foster may not be an Artist, but he never phones it in either — even for a piece of Disney dreck, he gives full effort. You have to appreciate a working writer who does his job.

Soon after that I grabbed another one of his books, Cyber Way, from the free box at the Arcata airport. This is an original novel, a futuristic detective story in which Navajo sand paintings play a key part. Again, it may not be James Joyce or whatever, but it pulls you along and clearly ADF has done his research; the Navajo stuff is not just window dressing, it’s actually integral to the plot.

I didn’t quite finish it in time to claim it for November, which was another slack month on the book reading front. I did knock out two New Yorkers on the trip back East for Thanksgiving, plus there was some delving into the two giant John Lennon biographies I got out of the library. Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space is also a Lennon-related item, but having skimmed it, I have no intention of reading it; it’s a pop-cult-psychology curiosity, a relic of the wild and woolly early Seventies.

Colette Rossant’s memoir I bought after reading her obituary; The Crow Road was referenced in the Good Omens TV series; the Barthelme book is George Saunders’s fault; as for The Modern Drunkard, who can remember?

Maybe now I finally have enough books to last me for the rest of my life. What, what’s this in the Times?

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, a French historian at the forefront of a scholarly movement that sought to understand the past from the bottom up, by probing the beliefs and psychology of anonymous peasants and priests rather than the exploits of triumphant generals and rulers, died on Wednesday. He was 94….

Mr. Le Roy Ladurie sought to explore the “mental universe” of peasants, workers, merchants and clergymen in Europe’s preindustrial era. In “Montaillou,” he focused on a medieval village in southwestern France, whose inhabitants were swept up by the 13th-century conflict between Roman Catholic orthodoxy and a local heretical group known as the Cathars. A crusade was launched by Pope Innocent III to wipe out the Cathars in Montaillou and dozens of other nearby villages. But hidden heretics persisted for another 100 years.

Mr. Le Roy Ladurie drew upon the confessions extracted from Montaillou farmers and shepherds by Inquisition officials. Besides religious beliefs, these interrogations revealed everyday work and household routines, friendships and rivalries, family relationships and sexual practices of the defendants. In one startling chapter, a heretical, womanizing village priest explains his seduction techniques in great detail and color.

Sounds fascinating! Well, shit.