Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Recently finished books:

Millenium, by John Varley – based on the short story Air Raid, and I’m not sure I can say making it into a book improved it. The short story wowed me so much that it resurfaced in my memory just last week and and sent me searching the internet for it. When I found that Varley had expanded it into a novel I went to the nearest used-book store and bought a copy.

The germ of the story is this: Time travelers from the future are kidnapping people who disappeared without a trace fro the past. In the book, Varley spends a lot of time on how and why, but not enough on the main characters, and the ending is not satisfying at all. My Darling B read it, too. She liked the story quite a lot but was also disappointed by the ending.

I still want to find the short story and read it again. Any short story that sticks with you for thirty years must still pack some punch.

America’s Women, by Gail Collins – I love finding Gail Collins’ columns in The New York Times and I loved finding out that she wrote a book even more. Her columns are as witty as they are fun to read, and so was this book, a history women’s place in the culture of America from the sixteenth century on.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, by James R. Hansen – truthfully, I haven’t finished this yet, but I’m getting very close. I bought it new about a year and a half ago, flipped ahead to the part where Armstrong joins the Apollo program and read all the way through the middle of the book until the astronauts started their round-the-world goodwill tour. Then, last week, I picked it up again and started reading from the beginning and managed to plow about a hundred pages into it, to the point where Armstrong becomes an experimental test pilot working on the X-15.

And then I stopped, for two reasons: My Darling B gave me a copy of Edmund Morris’s biography of Teddy Roosevelt for my birthday. I’ve been waiting years for Morris to publish this last volume of his three-volume Roosevelt biography, and when I heard on the radio it was finally out I stopped by the library to put a hold on a copy for myself, because I’m too cheap to shell out thirty-five bucks to get a first-run hardcover copy for myself. But, as it turns out, My Darling B wasn’t that cheap. She’d been looking for birthday gift ideas and must have heard me mention this to Tim, who’s almost as big a fan of TR as I am. So when I got it, I had to stop reading everything else and start wolfing down this five hundred-page biography. I might finish by Christmas.

I stopped reading First Man for another reason: It’s dense. Truly, this is the most complete biography I have ever read. James R. Hansen is a master at stuffing as many facts into a sentence as any author I have ever read. If he can’t work a fact in without disrupting the flow of a sentence, he’ll cram it in parenthetically, and damn the flow. My brain is bulging with new muscle tissue from wrestling with each and every passage of this book, and I’ve got hundreds of pages left to go!

But damn, this is a fantastic book for completists, and if you’re a total nerd for the moon landing, descriptions of the first landing don’t get any more detailed than the one in this book. I plan to read straight through it again, knowing that I’ll get another nerdgasm from it even though it’ll take me another six months to get there.

The End | 6:26 am CDT
Category: books, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, space geekery
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