Saturday, November 7, 2009

New books from Pulp Fiction - light genre, two kids and a theorist

Just a few blocks from my house is one of the best (and my favourite) used-book stores in the city, Pulp Fiction (2422 Main St, between 8th and Broadway; there's a second store in Kits). They carry a great selection of used books, and now a great selection of new (and reduced price) books as well. Too often I end up walking out with two or three more books than I intended on buying. The staff are extremely knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Their contemporary political commentary section could be better, but other than that it's pretty perfect. If they don't have what you are looking for right then they'll let you know when it comes in. And despite the huge number of books in store, they usually know if a book is in.

Today I went to browse (always a dangerous idea for me), starting with the discount ($1.00 plus GST) bin outside, which only rarely has something I want. Today I found Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. The edition is "Prepared for use in the Schools of BC by the Dept. of Education" probably in 1961, printed by Evergreen Press Limited on SE Marine, a publisher of books on British Columbia (latest reference is 1973). For $1.05, I'll take it. I haven't read it before, but I loved Treasure Island as a kid.

Next I grabbed Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card off the window display. My friend recommended it to me last year, and I've been looking for a used copy. It won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best sci-fi/fantasy novel of the year in 1986. I'm not sure what it's about, but my friend assures me that it's both very interesting and a good read.

UPDATE: It's excellent. Watch for a review soon.

Ian Rankin's Let It Bleed was next, #7 in the Inspector Rebus series. I'm a pretty big fan of long series, and this one has staying power. It's dark, gritty, clever, and realistic (I won't go so far as to say hard-boiled). Rebus is a fairly typical anti-hero police officer: divorced, slightly pathetic, a bit of a loose cannon, and not anywhere near promotion, but he's a damn good homicide detective. Ian Rankin's use of the city as backdrop for Rebus' casework is a strong feature of the series, as is his ability to keep readers interested in Rebus as a character.

(Ever since reading Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends I've been reading more "genre fiction", and finding it very enjoyable.)

I've been re-reading the books from my childhood over the last year and a half, with mixed results. Books four and five I found in the small children's section (small but jam-packed with classics). I grew up reading a series by Enid Blyton (the fifth most translated author ever, ahead of Lenin but behind Shakespeare) but I forget which series. Thinking it might be The Secret Seven I picked up their first two adventures in one book: The Secret Seven and Secret Seven Adventure. I'm interested to see if it has stood the test of time.

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle was book five. I remember my mom and brother reading it when I was a kid but I don't think I ever read it myself, which is odd because we usually all read the same books, especially fantasy.

I'm in the middle of reading Alberto Manguel's A History of Reading (and here) and quite enjoying it, so I looked for and found The Library At Night, his examination of the role that libraries play in our civilization. I aspire to home library ownership (that is, I would love to have an entire room in my home dedicated to books), and I'm looking forward to exploring this book.

Last came William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, a book about which The Washington Post wrote "One of the first authentic and vital novels of the twenty-first century." It is extremely well reviewed (Neil Gaiman is quoted on the cover, and the Economist named it a Best Book of the Year), and I enjoyed his last offering, Spook Country (though it wasn't amazing). He will always enjoy some popularity for his masterful cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer, which, when read a few years ago for the second time, proved to still be relevant, interesting and gripping.

After purchasing these treasures, I remembered that I had meant to look for Walter Benjamin's Illuminations (that's him above, hard at work) after reading a mention of it in A History of Reading. So I asked, and they had just received a copy, which the clerk immediately retrieved from the shelf and handed to me. It's dense cultural theory, but I needed something to balance the sci-fi and kids' books. And it's a collection of essays, so won't be too daunting.

Phewf. Eight new books in one day. Thanks, Pulp Fiction.


RossK said...

Great post Brenton--

I've gotta spend more time in PFiction.

(by-the-way, in a parallel not-so-steam-punked, universe, I picked up Pattern Recognition for free yesterday - at the Knight and The Stinkin' [aka Kingsway] VPL where those weird statues are very Gibsonesque)

Brenton said...

Thanks, yo.

I think I need to go re-read Neuromancer, if I can find it. Might necessitate a trip back to Pulp Fiction.

Any other favourite book stores?

RossK said...

Anything that has lots of Archie Comics...

Keeps littler e. happy for long periods while I get lost.

(you know, I'm actually crazy for Burning Chrome....I think because I'd never really come across anything as hip, cool and retro at the same time when I first read those stories)