The List (A)

I’ve mentioned The List here and there; it’s something I started when I was a kid who needed to keep track of what books by whom I’d read and hadn’t read and owned and didn’t. It grew into two lists, sort of; there are the logbooks in which I list all of the books I own (now largely done on Librarything and, to a lesser extent, Goodreads – I like Goodreads, but love LT), and The List, which is the roll of writers whose bibliographies I intend to read through, and possibly own. One of the greatest joys the internet has brought me has been the ease with which I can now update The List.   I used to have to rely on “coming soon” blurbs and articles in Publisher’s Weekly mined at the library – I don’t know how I did it.  Now I’d hate to have to do without Fantastic Fiction.

As of right now, The List comprises the bibliographies of some 269 writers, from Lynn Abbey to Sarah Zettel, including separate listings for more prolific pseudonyms. (It’s still 269 even though I removed Yasmine Galenorn and her very silly alias, since I added C.S. and Charlaine Harris. I really ought to see about removing C.J. Cherryh…) Well, no, technically it’s 267 writers and two shared worlds: Bordertown and Liavek. (Why don’t I have Thieves’ World listed separately, or Merovingen Nights? Mainly, to answer my own question, because they’re listed under Abbey and Cherryh, respectively, as editors (if I remove CJC I’ll add back Merovingen Nights), and there were not as far as I know any independent single-author novels like there were for the other two. I’ll have to check; I think there might have been for TW at least.) There’s fantasy and mystery, of course, and also straight fiction and a smattering of nonfiction. I keep track of pseudonyms separately as well as under the writer’s most well-known name so that they get their own places on the roll, for easier searching.  (And no, Goodsearch.com, I’m not a robot, nor am I trying to defraud the site on behalf of Animal Haven.  I’m looking up my writers.  Stop deactivating my IP address.)  So: I probably need to add MV and TW, probably remove CJ Cherryh, and good grief why have I never added Charles Dickens?

There are a few writers who were on The List when I started keeping it, handwritten in the back of a notebook, remained on it as it expanded to a hardbound notebook of its own, as it outgrew that book for another, and who will always be on it: Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Elizabeth Goudge, E. Nesbit, Tolkien of course.  There are a few of writers – the aforementioned Sarah Zettel, Jeanne M. Dams, David Holland, etc. – by whom I’ve only read one book, but which was a lovely enough book in whatever way that they’re automatically in, and I will one day get to more by them.  (It’s a lot easier to take someone off nowadays than it used to be.  Ask the Galenorn woman.)  There are even a handful of people on there I haven’t actually read anything by… I know, it’s odd, but Shelby Foote is an honorary member because I adore him; I haven’t ever gotten around to his novels, and his The Civil War: A Narrative is too expensive to buy new and rare as hens’ teeth used.   Then there are Kenneth Flint and Sean Russell, several of whose books I’ve collected over the years based on the covers – some of Flint’s have covers by Don Maitz! – and the apparent themes of the novels (and I admit to having been a sucker for the VLFN, which – as it stands for Very Long Fantasy Novel – describes Sean Russell very well), but which for some reason or another I’ve just never read. Gene Amole is also an honorary member, because I heard a beautiful interview with him on NPR years ago and wanted more; I hunted down the series of essays he wrote for the Rocky Mountain News narrating his life as it ended… From what I heard of him on NPR and read of him online, he’s on The List forever. And Tom Baker’s honorary just because he’s Tom Baker.

Most of the folks on The List, though, are tried-and-true favorites, whose books I’ve read all or most of, and either own or plan to. I don’t let go of books easily.

Aw, why not – here’s “A”:

1. Lynn Abbey
2. Diane Ackerman
3. Joan Aiken
4. Susan Wittig Albert
5. Lloyd Alexander
6. Margery Allingham
7. Gene Amole
8. Leo Axler

I’ve only read a few by Lynn Abbey (primarily fantasy); she’s been in my line of vision forever, along with Robert Lynn Asprin, but she made The List when I read The Wooden SwordUnicorn and Dragon I did not think so highly of – I had to drag myself to the last page, and I honestly don’t remember much of it (granted, it was a couple of years ago).  She’s alphabetically high on The List, but otherwise low; another book or two will tell the tale, so to speak.  I own six by her (all picked up second hand), plus the Thieves’ World Anthologies containing her contributions. I’m interested in the contemporary fantasies she’s written (why didn’t I think of that sooner??)… One of these days.  Not a priority, these.

Diane Ackerman (poetry and popular non-fiction) made The List with A Natural History of the Senses.  It’s my favorite kind of non-fiction – accessible yet intelligent, fascinating, perspective-changing.  It’s been at least fifteen years since I read it, and I found a copy not that long ago; I’ll have to make time for it before too long. I don’t remember much about A Natural History Of Love, which I bought in hardcover when I worked at Barnes & Noble (which was like letting a drunk work at a package store); most likely if I still love Senses I’ll back it up with Love.  I haven’t ever read anything else by Ackerman… the tinge of New Age that seems obvious puts me off, and I am unashamedly not a huge fan of poetry (mostly), so it may stay that way for a while, though her book about gardening looks possible.  She’s a background Lister.

Joan Aiken (young adult, fiction, romance, suspense) is one who’s been Listed forever.  I must have read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Nightbirds on Nantucket at some point, but I don’t remember; kids apparently read them in school, but I don’t think I was so lucky.  However, I have read several others, like If I Were You (which I own) and The Girl from Paris (which I do not) and several others, and I plan to hunt down her Austen books.  She’s a classic, and yet another someone else I need to reread before long; she’s never been one of my very favorite writers, but she certainly is a favorite, unqualified.

One of the also-known-ases with a life of its own is Susan Wittig Albert (period and contemporary mystery).  She’s on there with her husband as Robin Paige; as herself she’s running the China Bayles series (read the first one and quite liked it; haven’t gotten further yet) and the “Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter”… I own the first of that series, haven’t read it yet, and it worries me a little. I trust it’s not overly twee, but … it worries me. We’ll see; it kind of fits my current Gaslight theme. (On a slightly different note, I need to see that movie again…)

Lloyd Alexander (young adult, fantasy, memoirs, translation) is one of my heroes.  Taran the pig-boy and Vesper Holly and Theo the printer’s devil are three of the characters so woven into my life that if you removed their threads I might collapse.  The intelligence, wisdom, and humor of his young adult writing is such that I will be reading and rereading his books until I have to stop due to senility, or death … I have never gotten my hands on any of his books for adults, but I plan to.  (To be sung to the tune of the Barenaked Ladies’ “If I Had a Million Dollars”.)  It shocks me a little that no one seems to have a real Lloyd Alexander fan page, much less an official page.  There was one; I had a link to it saved on The List, but it is no more (insert Parrot Sketch quotes here).  I was deeply grieved when he died in 2007… Hm.  One of these days I might have to reopen my Angelfire account.

Margery Allingham (contemporary mystery, fiction) … She gets a bad rap, I think, among some mystery snobs.  She may well have started off writing a sort of a parody (pastiche?) of the Lord Peter novels – her Albert Campion being, covertly, nobility, and blond and foolish-looking and actually smarter than any three average bears put together.  But the books are good; last year I reread The Crime at Black Dudley, the first Campion, and loved every page.  The writing evolved, and so did Campion.  I’ll never rank him with Wimsey in my affections – but he ranks, certainly.  If I say “I need to reread these books soon” one more time I will weary the reader and make myself queasy, so I won’t.  Take it as, er, read.  Black Plumes and Deadly Duo are two of her excellent non-Campion works, and only solidify the need to find and read all of them.

Geme Amole (memoir) I spoke of earlier… I would love to be able to listen to his radio show.  The brief sample given on NPR – which story, God bless ’em, I found in their archives (but not, drat it, the Letters segment which included a message regarding a story they had done about Star Wars, after which Linda Wertheimer (I think) signed off with “NPR this is” and nearly made me drive off the road) was magical. He seemed like a true gent, Gene Amole did, and how astonishingly generous to write as intimately as he did about the process of learning to die.  Even if he hadn’t published actual books in addition to the hundreds (thousands?) of essays, he would always be on The List, so that I would never be in danger of forgetting him.

And finally for the A’s: Leo Axler.  I picked up a couple of the Bill Hawley books at a library sale, and liked them; you can’t say a detective who’s an undertaker isn’t different.  IIRC, he was a pretty great character, and the three I’ve read were very well done, which makes it surprising to me that, for one thing, there is very little out there on the net about Axler or the books, and for another as far as I can find he hasn’t published since 1996.  Pity.

Eight down; only 261 to go.

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