It's the beginning of the year and we start out strong with some wonderful reads!
VIDAL IN VENICE by Gore Vidal
Oh, Venice. It’s the place where, sorry Cash, our son was conceived. A magical place where my wife and I roamed in a drunken ecstasy as we ate the greasiest, most delicious pizza we ever had. It’s also a city I didn’t fully appreciate. I was there for one night and we celebrated the wonder we were experiencing, not actually exploring and learning what the city had to offer. And look, I wouldn’t change a thing but I will be going back one day, that’s for sure. I’ve never read Gore Vidal before but after hearing his name mentioned numerous times and finding out he’d written about Venice, I had to see what the fuss was about. And while I wasn’t the biggest fan of his writing style, I did enjoy his book overall. The book is larger than I expected, as in the size of the book not the length. It’s like a coffee table book but that’s because it contains some beautiful photography of the city and places Vidal discusses within the book. He covers the history of the city, the art and artists, the trade and economy, the heroes and villains, the celebrations and traditions and ultimately, the cities downfall. I doubt it’s the most exhaustive book on Venice you can find but it is a smooth introduction with plenty of images to stir your heart up for a visit to the Floating City. Look, I’m biased. I’ve written a book with Venice as a main character, my house has paintings of the canals, my desk has a pop up birthday card of the Rialto Bridge, my basement sports the Republic of Venice’s flag and, yes, I’ve made love to my gorgeous wife outside on a balcony in the canal. Of course I recommend this book and I recommend a visit even more.
[About Bartolomeo Colleonni, the famed mercenary warrior] His last name, which he may have assumed when he began his military career, means 'testicles' in the Latin vulgate and exists as coglioni in modern Italian. Bartolomeo boasted of having three; this explains, perhaps, his inherent respect for the Medici family, whose coat-of-arms then bore three balls. (pg. 46)
There were once more than 10,000 gondolas in Venice, which conjures up the image of frequent traffic jams. By the mid-1600s, the number was reduced to about 8,500, and today there are said to be some 350 gondolas in Venice, though many of those may be in semi-permanent drydock. Once a gondola's oars were handed down from father to son, as the boat's life span was half a century. Now, because of the damage done by the waves of motorboats and water-taxis, a gondola becomes firewood after twenty years. (pg. 144)
STAR WARS: THE LAST COMMAND by Timothy Zahn
What a conclusion to a great trilogy. The praise for this story by Timothy Zahn was not ill-founded. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey. And this conclusion was great. It made me long for more, to know what happened next in this galaxy of infinite adventures and characters that grew on me. Karrde, a new character that wasn’t in the movies, slowly became my favorite character over the three books. I would love to see more about him and his gang of smugglers. But it was also a pleasure to read a consistent story through three books, whereas the latest movies were all over the place. There were points that seemed to drag a bit in this specific entry--although it could've been Star Wars fatigue on my own part--but all in all I loved it. Thrawn is an excellent villain that I’m eagerly awaiting to see if rumors will prove true that he’ll be in a live action show soon. I’m hoping so, I think he would fit well into the universe they’re creating. This book completes the battle the New Republic has been fighting against Thrawn and his attempts at picking up where the Empire left off. He is in full form as he is always three steps ahead of his enemies but maybe it’s not his enemies he needs to look out for…C’baoth also is stellar in his ability to be a weighty foe, and he challenges Luke and his new friend Mara Jade, or apparent friend. At times it’s difficult to tell how she’s dealing with her past and her bitterness with Luke. She’s another addition I’d love to see in live action. Anyway, if you love Star Wars, you’ll love these books. I can’t wait to read Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, but I will need a bit of a break from the galaxy far, far away for now.
THE FIRE GOSPEL by Michel Faber
After reading this book along with Under the Skin and The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber is becoming one of my favorite writers. This book follows Theo, a researcher who comes across ancient scrolls that reveal perhaps the Jesus we know through the gospels is not the true Jesus of history. In this satirical book, Faber takes aim at writers, publishers, the media, the churches and possibly himself if I’m reading right. It’s a short and fun read, perhaps more fun for me considering my biblical background. But also there’s a chapter of the main character reading Amazon reviews on his book and it’s incredibly truthful and hilarious. The neurotic state of an author and the weird hands your book can sometimes land in. (Although, I do not have a long list of reviews to go through, I know the sentiment of being eager to see what people think.) It’s a curious question that plenty have asked, what would happen if everything about Christianity was proved wrong or flipped on its head. Well, this book tries to have fun with that idea and doesn’t solely point fun at the church. Although, there is plenty of fun to be had there. I would recommend any of Faber's books and I can’t wait to read his epic The Crimson Petal and the White.
[From the intro] For I testify unto every man that bearers the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.
John, aka Iohannes, 'of Patmos', i.e. of unknown origin but resident on Patmos at time of writing, circa 95 or 96 AD, or possibly 68 or 69 AD, or possibly some other time, from an unnamed document later known as The Apocalypse, aka Revelation, reprinted in The Bible (1611), translated purportedly by Thomas Ravis, George Abbot, Richard Eedes, Giles Tomson, Sir Henry Savile, John Peryn, Ralph Ravens and John Harmar, but substantially based on The Bible (1526) translated by William Tyndale [uncredited].
She was a petite Japanese, the epitome of ironic-chic in her vintage 1980s T-shirt emblazoned with FRANKIE SAY: RELAX. It was about four sizes too big for her, fulfilling the function of a dress, and the white cotton contrasted nicely with her brocaded red pantyhose. Her calf-length boots were pure white, but supple and wrinkled as if she'd worn them day and night for years. She was in her late forties and looked twenty-five; the search engine Theo had consulted yesterday had identified her as the widow of a famous sculptor. (pg. 115)
SANTA STEPS OUT by Robert Devereaux
I first heard about this book on the John Campea podcast, my favorite host on there, Robert Meyer Burnett, mentioned it when talking about the recent movie, "Violent Night". His words were something like “it’s an R-rated version of Santa”. Words which captured me since I had attempted writing my own swing at a different tale of Santa in an old short story: Dear Santa, Suck my Chestnuts. This can be found nowhere, as you would rightly assume. But Robert was lying. This is an X-rated Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. But there are elves gang banging Mrs Claus, a Tooth Fairy who shits out coins and a Santa who bangs said Tooth Fairy next to a sleeping child. Yes, it’s a different kind of Christmas in this book. But the story is certainly fun and quite interesting to see a different interpretation of such a legendary figure, especially when the writer begins to dive into their mythological origin. I would recommend it if you’re open to such treachery and licentiousness. It’s a trilogy, so I’ll be reading Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes next Christmas with the final entry slotted on my reading list for 2025 Christmas. Until then, ho, ho, ho.
Thank you for checking out the reads this month! I hope this year is full of some wonderful books and I also hope you enjoy if you choose to pick one of these up. Feel free to send me any recommendations you have! Happy New Year!