Personal Library Compression: Learning to Let Go of Books

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There’s been a bit of a row, a kerfuffle, a hullabaloo, a hurlyburly, a brouhaha recently over a woman named Marie Kondo and a meme spreading that’s raised the ire of a few book lovers. I’d never heard of Marie Kondo until this event. She’s a lifestyle writer who has a Netflix show about organizing and decluttering your home; of course I hadn’t crossed cultural paths with her. I only use Netflix to watch terrible anime Godzilla films and whatever old John Hughes movie just got drawn from the archives.

What’s the Kondo Crisis? I don’t want to rehash it, so here’s a brief explanation of how Marie Kondo’s book-tidying advice and a gag about book-hoarding clerics turned into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. For my part, when I first saw the meme with a photo of Marie Kondo and the quote “Ideally, keep less than 30 books,” (without the lower half that constitutes the joke) I was skeptical about it. Meme skepticism is always healthy. And some of the anger directed at her misunderstood advice quickly turned ugly, so I was glad I took the time to find out the context of what was happening. 

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My History With Conan Pastiches; Plus: Conan the Bold

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Fans of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian have little affection for the Conan pastiches, i.e. any Conan story by another author. I can’t blame them—few of these short stories, novellas, and novels are much good. Howard was singularly suited to writing about the barbarian hero, and without his peculiar combination of skills and his relentless authorial drive, it’s tough to capture anything matching the same excitement. Non-Howard Conan is just another muscular fantasy barbarian who’s really good at splitting open skulls and drinking. That can be fun, but it’s not really Howard’s Conan.

But I owe some of where I am today to the Conan pastiche novel, specifically the long series Tor Books published from 1982 to 1997 (with one extra book popping up in 2003). I got my start as an online writer and book/movie essayist by writing about the Tor Conans—because nobody else apparently wanted to. In the early 2000s, while wasting time at a mind-killing day job at a commodities firm, I often posted on some of the Conan forums. I noticed other posters occasionally asking if anybody could recommend some of the Tor novels, which usually got the response of, “Don’t know, I haven’t read them.”

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Check Out My New Edgar Rice Burroughs Article

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Hello there, 2019! I had hoped to get something posted a bit earlier, possibly filled with definitive statements about the year to come (i.e. making stuff up), but it’s already been an extraordinarily busy year for me so far. Perilous Worlds is starting to ramp up, and soon you can expect around an article a week from me on the site.

My newest article for Perilous Worlds is up now, the first one they’ve posted since the site opened in October: it’s a short examination of the history of the pulps using Edgar Rice Burroughs as a focus. ERB was one of the reasons the pulp medium grew the way it did. I’m pleased with how the article came out, since it is no simple task to compress the history of the pulps into under a thousand words. Perilous Worlds is teaching me important lessons on concision! Two more articles are finished and waiting in the wings, and I’m finishing up a new one this weekend, a little visit to The Worm Ouroboros. I also recently delivered an article on The Hour of the Dragon to Black Gate as part of a round-robin project on all of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. That won’t end up posted for a few months, however.

 

My 5 Distorted Winter Holiday Movie Picks

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I don’t really celebrate Saturnalia or Solstice or any of the lesser-known winter holidays. I hang out with relatives and friends who do, so I don’t boycott seasonal happenings. But the winter holidays simply do not groove with me, the same way winter in general doesn’t. That’s why I live in Southern California. I’m one of the October People. Once October is done, I’d prefer we move rapidly to the new year. Add two months to early summer, cut out November and December, and it’s all good. But I don’t control axial tilt and the orbit of the Earth, so I’ll just have to take it.

I do like winter in one place, however, and that’s in the movies. Groundhog Day, The Great Silence, Runaway Train, and The Thing are winter movie favorites. And there are a few films I associate with the winter holidays, i.e. “Christmas” (you thought I wasn’t going to even use that word in this post, didn’t you?)

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Rodan Has Always Been Cool

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My article this week for Black Gate is praise for the 1956 giant monster classic, Rodan, the first of Japan’s giant monster (kaiju) films photographed in color, and only the second kaiju to have its own headlining movie, following the first two Godzilla films. The flying monster Rodan (Radon in Japanese, a contraction of Pteranadon) has a special place in the Japanese giant monster pantheon thanks not only to its auspicious debut, but also its many guest spots in the Godzilla films since: Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (1964), Invasion of Astro-Monster/Monster Zero (1965), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), and now as one of the upcoming quartet of beasts for next year’s big-budget Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The newest trailer shows Rodan in aerial action with destructive power to match the magnificence of the visual effects in the ’56 original.

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Westerns ‘39: Union Pacific

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This is Movie #2 of my resumed attempt to examine all five hit Westerns of 1939.

A re-cap for those coming in late (you’ve only missed Destry Rides Again at this point): 1939 was the most important year for the Hollywood Western. For most of the 1930s, the genre was relegated to B-picture status, with cheap films churned out by smaller studios like Republic, Mascot, and PRC as part of continuing series like the Three Mesquiteers. But in 1939, a storied year for the film biz, five A-budget Westerns turned into smash hits that changed how filmmakers would handle the genre for the next twenty years.

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