Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Summer Reading List : English Scribbler

Today the English Scribbler--funslinger, two-bit word-whore and contributor to the 2-years-young Nerds of A Feather since 2013--presents his Summer Reading List! 

Given I'm prone to intending to read rather than actually reading a lot of the time - letting many a masterpiece sit forlornly on the shelf whilst I watch Fargo episodes or play post-apocalyptic dirt bike games on my phone - a reading list is often more like a foreshadowing of reading lost.

List-making itself is for me a potential distraction from the all-enveloping and vital task of simply diving in and consuming chunks of text and losing your mind inside stories, good or bad. I was great at this as a child, forgetting myself in the fusty aisles of libraries or getting red elbows from lying on the carpet for too long, flicking page after page. Adult maturity (sort of - let's not forget the dirt bike game) has come with downfalls. Too often my gaze is everywhere and up, too drawn by the wider world's complexities to focus down and into a book. And with my first child on the way this summer, time and tiredness may add to my ongoing adult literary failings.

However, the arrival of a new family member and the onset of a new stage in life have made me both look forward to what stories will suit this future world of nappies, finance plans and midnight tears, and what will inspire the imminent human, and made me look back to what stories shaped my own childhood. As we here at Nerds of A Feather prepare to begin an occasional series of re-reviews of some of our old favourites of youth, I thought I'd sprinkle the demands of this list with some comforting flashbacks and a few new ones too.

1+2. The Sword of Shannara and The High Druid's Blade (The Defenders of Shannara #1) by Terry Brooks [Del Ray, 1983; Del Rey, 2014]

We start with a mixture of both. Often derided as a Tolkein-thief, Brooks engrossed me as a nine year old. Whilst The Lord of the Rings wearied me, the Shannara trilogy was to my naive mind a better read - fun and action-packed. Yet now in looking at the plot on Wiki I find myself failing to recognise much of it. So I plan to take the original off the shelf (sorry, Dostoyevsky... maybe next year, yeah?) and hold it up to the light, then take a look at his favourably-reviewed and darker latest.

3. Crossword Ends In Violence (5) by James Cary [Piqwiq, 2014]

British author Cary's quirkily-titled new novel has an interesting premise : "It’s hard to keep a million-man invasion a secret. Very hard. But the Allies looked like they were going to pull it off. That was until D-Day codewords began appearing in cryptic crosswords in the national press, all set by one Carl Bookman. You’d assume Bookman was a German spy, wouldn’t you? But would you think the same if Carl Bookman was your grandfather?"

Given the D-Day remembrances of the past week (yes, I did cry during the news. Twice), this will hopefully be entertaining but reverential.

4. Letter 44 (graphic novel) by Soule and Alburquerque [Soni Press, 2014]

Despite the illustrator's name needing me to check the spelling three times, this looks fantastic. Our statuesque yet svelte comic king Mikey* reviewed this in episodic form a while back, and I'm keen to plough through this over some sunny days in the park.

5. The Box of Delights by John Masefield [Fontana Lions, 1935] and the 1980's TV series

Yes, that is sunshine, in England. I know. Talk about science fiction. And, yes, that dog is wearing a weird garland and the man looks like a pervert tramp. But you can all bugger off, because he played the second Dr, the dog is celebrating Xmas, and the book and telly series were both incredible. Like all good kids, I saw the programme first, but both haunted my dreams. Kay's journey into a strange conspiracy of ancient magic during a snowy Christmas in the English countryside was a pre-war classic. So I'm intrigued to see if they hold up to adult scrutiny. If they do, I shall scare my son with them when he is seven too.

* I actually have no idea if Mikey is statuesque or svelte. I've never met him. I hear he has 'magic fingers', however...