Best books of 2003

In the comments for this entry on The Blood of the Lamb, I made a list of a bunch of “classic” or “literary” books from the early part of the 20th century which just leave me cold. Squub made me realize the silliness of an un-recommendation list. Only people filled with a certain kind of strangeness would go and read books from a list that someone hadn’t particularly recommended to read. Like me.

Anyway, in no particular order, the 21 best books that I read in 2003:

1. Quicksilver by Neal Stepehson

2. A Place So Foreign and Eight More by Cory Doctorow

3. City of Saints and Madmen: The Book of Ambergris by Jeff VanderMeer

4. Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World by Bruce Schneier

5. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thompson

6. Singularity Sky by Charles Stross

7. Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions by Clyde Presowitz

8. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

9. Hundred Camels in the Courtyard by Paul Bowles

10. Dark Star by Alan Furst

11. Super Flat Times by Matthew Derby

12. The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics by Richard Davenport-Hines

13. Behindlings by Nicola Barker

14. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

15. The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender

16. Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey in the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism by Daniel Pinchbeck

17. Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years by Bruce Sterling

18. At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom by Amy Hempel

19. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

20. Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

21. Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny by Robert Wright

I believe that I have written about most (if not all) of these elsewhere here. This is when the search thingy becomes handy, as I am too lazy to link these to those.

must come down?

A few days ago, The Nameless I expounded on God, suffering and etc. It’s thoughtful, as these kinds of writings so rarely are.

My meagre offering is here: someone named Dave describes an episode from Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol about the ways in which some comics have addressed the “god” question.

UPDATE: Turns out this Dave fellow also wrote about Mr. Kalb, as Squub and I did in his comments some months ago… Imagine that!

UPDATE: I’ve fixed that non-link up there. How embarrassing!

Busman’s Honeymoon

A couple of months ago, my good friend R., from Seattle, crashed here for a night. As a thank you gift, she picked up a copy of Dorothy Sayers’ Busman’s Honeymoon at Powells Books.

Busman’s Honeymoon is good, if you’re into the genteel, witty English detective genre. However, if you haven’t read any of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey stories, you’ll be lost. You’d be much better off starting with Whose Body? or Strong Poison, the first ones that I read.

I haven’t been much of a reader of mysteries in the last ten years or so–though I was mad for Sherlock Holmes when I was 12–and probably would never have started reading Dorothy L. Sayers, if R. hadn’t recommended them to me. I’m glad she did though. I probably wouldn’t have read any, otherwise.

Sayers was quite popular in the earlier 20th, about on the level of Agatha Christie, popularity-wise. Nearly all of her books have been turned into movies or television shows.

Shortly after writing Busman’s Honeymoon–a vacation where the busman is likely to be as involved with driving as he is throughout the rest of the year–Sayers apparently grew tired of the whole writing-detective-stories thing and turned to writing about religion, classical education, and translating Dante (or so I’ve been told).

Her detective novels are unique in that the lot of them contain a sort of ultra-narrative, focussed upon the courting of Harriet Vane by Lord Peter Wimsey. It’s fascinating. At times, more interesting than the murders themselves.

Don’t forget to check out the Dorothy L. Sayers Society.

a book game of sorts…

So apparently, there’s this thing going around the internet that seems kind of fun, as follows…

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

So, the book I grabbed was Will Christopher Baer’s Penny Dreadful and the sentence is….

“I had my own bellyful of problems, anyway.”

(I think I initially came across this on, but I’ve been seeing it all over…)


just as the monkey crawls out of his terrible hiding place and falls to the ground, coconuts smashing all over the place, so the roundabouts keep eating up the derrytoes. all the mumps in the world won’t keep that feller in bed, he’ll be eating sourgrass in no time flat. each to his own, the ratterman says, each to his own. and there’s no going back once the crawling starts, that fevered dwelling in a rattan tarp or calico gingham desire. gargling scotch by the typewriter, there’s a fellowfeeling that won’t go down. o feel that acid burble in response and all the time there’s this constant ticking that just won’t quit. it’s all that anyone can do, these days, to eat the cookies in bed without spilling everything on the floor.
hunting the phazing copy, the one that slides under doors and crouches behind catamarans and dueling pirantellos. hup hup, goes the sergeant, and you know he’s been eating too many pastries, with that gut on him. but there’s only so much careful dieting that poses a question of mortality, or some kind of disease which makes it a silly question anyhow.
the pincers pulling out the soul from it’s womblike embrace. or tomblike. that’s the old bag, or gag, the one that goes ha ha, about tombs and wombs and the like.
so there’s nothing that people like more than a good swift kick in the knee.
or the berry growing on the vine.
don’cha know.
it’s all that anyone can do these days.
these days.
writing just seems like some kind of vibrating chore.
and the self revolts against the whole parsing mad of the thing.
tappity tapping all the livelong day. oh, man.
blaming the tools again, like a saucy gnat.
unless the feelings go unrecognized as something else there’s nothing reaally going on anymore. there’s no labels for it. must hook up the brain to some kind of contraption that will open the center eye. the dwelling place of mind.

even though these words are thick and fat as worms, i can’t even begin to feel/fill the page. or so the old greasy man might say. there’s no where to place anything at all.

in the end. that’s all.

but it’s not enough. it’s not enough at all. the grass growing greener. will that filthy thing be waiting there too? can it, monkeyman.

or even the ferver can’t keep the magical icing on the bright and shiny. it at all gets tarnished in the sun, the gleaming radiation. watch the rust form on that pretty toy. can’t be so much fun, the rustbot.