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Between the covers: reading in 2010

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By Bob Hicks

Just a year ago, in this post about his reading adventures in 2009, Mr. Scatter confessed that he is a lousy keeper of lists, and therefore couldn’t report with any certainty on what he’d read in the previous twelve months. Some books, he was sure, had simply slipped in and out of his mind without leaving much of an impression. Others might have left a deep impression, but by the end of the year he couldn’t recall whether they’d made that impression in the previous calendar year or in, say, 1994.

If this seems odd, bear in mind that most of Mr. Scatter’s reading tends to be not from publishers’ current lists but from that great deep river of bookmaking that extends back through the centuries, constantly refreshing itself when anyone dips in. Books are like that. At some point they’re new, but after a certain point the good ones are simply current — or in the current. If someone reads, for instance, The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini for the first time in the year 2011, the experience throws that person into parallel universes: It is both 450 years old and current events. With that sort of time-traveling, no wonder Mr. Scatter gets a little scattered.

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Lost books: ‘Out of the Deeps’

By Bob Hicks

About the time the icebergs started breaking off I realized that Out of the Deeps, John Wyndham‘s 1953 speculative-fiction thriller, was heading into some pretty interesting territory. The suspicion had been rising for some time that this was no ordinary, dated genre toss-off. But when I picked it up I’d had no idea it anticipated the global warming controversy by a full 50 years.

out-of-the-deepsI did have an idea it’d be an interesting read, at the least from a historical and sociological perspective. Wyndham (full name John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, born 1903, died 1969) was also the author of a novel called The Day of the Triffids, which I had never read but recalled vaguely as a pleasingly scary movie about an invasion of malevolent creatures from outer space. I happened upon Triffids on a shelf at Powell’s in a recent “rediscovered” edition, all tricked out in fresh literary wrap suggesting that someone at a publishing house somewhere thought it was worth a more serious look. It was selling for 16 bucks, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to put that much down for a gamble on an author I’d never read from a dubious pulp-genre background. But next to it was a used copy of Out of the Deeps for $2.50, and that, I decided, was worth the risk.

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