September means back down to earth

September 1, 2015

Welcome to September, everyone!

If you’ve kept up reading this blog for more than a few years, you know what September means: it’s time for my 12th annual Science Fiction Free September. Back in September 2004, I decided that I spent too much of my reading time with science fiction, so I declared a month-long moratorium on the genre, and instead used the time for something I might not read otherwise: classic literature, nonfiction, maybe just even a bunch of books I had started but never got around to finishing. (This year to date I’ve read three SF novels—about half what I’ve read in nonfiction. As the years go by the SFFS has either outlived or fulfilled its purpose, but I keep it up anyway, just for fun!)

This year, my big September reading project will be themed around the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. My primary objective is to complete a very long book that I have had for a number of years, but never gotten farther in than, perhaps, one-tenth. This book is the blockbuster history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by CBS war correspondent William L. Shirer. This is a popular history rather than an academic one. Shirer was present in Berlin from the Nazis’ coming to power to the first year of WWII, when he left after he heard that the Gestapo was trumping up espionage charges against him.

I actually started two days ago, since my last book finished up conveniently on Saturday night (Dolores Claiborne, the latest in my read-all-the-way-through-Stephen-King project). By page count, I am now 2% of the way in, and if I can figure out how to HTML-ize a progress bar, I’ll add it to the sidebar.

At ths time I have no secondary objectives, but there’s no shortage of unread books in my collection, so I’m sure I’ll work something out.


Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight

September 25, 2014

In Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, child protagonist Danny Torrence is now in his 40s and goes by “Dan.” Traumatized by the events of The Shining and self-medicating to suppress his psychic abilities, Dan is now an alcoholic. When he drifts into a New Hampshire town, he quits drinking, joins AA, and lands a job in a hospice. He becomes known as “Doctor Sleep” because his psychic “shine” (re-emerged since he gave up alcohol) enables him to comfort and ease the passage of terminal patients.

Meanwhile, a young girl named Abra Stone, born shortly before 9/11, has manifested a shine of her own that is possibly even more powerful than Dan’s. As she grows up, the two of them share a psychic bond. Abra unintentionally has a vision of the ritual murder of a boy in Iowa by the “True Knot,” a band of vampire-like roamers who feed of the psychic “steam” given off by those who die in pain. This brings her to the attention of the True, who realize they could feed off her for a very long time.

I’ve been reading Stephen King’s works in order, but I decided to let Doctor Sleep jump the queue, as I mentioned earlier this month. I’m glad I did. (I should make a general policy of reading King’s new novels while playing catch-up with the older ones.) King has called this novel a “return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror,” but I’m not sure if I found it to be that, exactly. The Shining was pretty much a straight-up ghost story-cum-psychological thriller. King’s work since about the mid-1990s has been as much fantasy as horror, and Doctor Sleep seems to fit that mould pretty well.

Actually, the horror-fantasy and the very weird antagonists make this novel feel like it was conceived by Clive Barker before it was written by Stephen King. But it was fun to read nonetheless. Apart from the ongoing Dark Tower series, sequels by King are few and far between, so it was interesting to read what had happened to one of his earliest, most engaging characters.

By the way, this is the first time that a Stephen King cover has made me jump. I only noticed today what was in the background behind the text.

Sure, it’s less than a week till the end of the month, but Science Fiction-Free September moves apace. On deck: In Cold Blood.


The anniversary and the moratorium

September 4, 2014

Welcome to September 4. This is the official 11th anniversary of this blog—though it was actually created in July of 2003, the first post went up in September. This has traditionally also been the date on which I rolled out a new look for the Crusty Curmudgeon, though this is something I’ve done very little of in recent years. Ever since they rolled out Blogger 2.0 some years ago, re-skinning a Blogger blog has meant more than just writing up a new HTML template and style sheet. I already know what I want the next iteration of the CC to look like, and plan on learning the new language. Sometime.

September 4 is one of two times of the year that I tend to reflect on the state of the blog, the other being New Year’s Day. Usually I don’t have much to say in September, either than that my writing hasn’t been as prolific as I hoped, but I expect to get better, and despite my decreased output, I’m not going anywhere just yet. So, by way of my twice-yearly status updates: Unfortunately, my blogging hasn’t been as prolific as I would like (though it has increased recently), I expect to post more in coming weeks, and despite my decreased output, the Crusty Curmudgeon is not dead yet. So there.

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