It has been a busy week here at Paper Knife, trying to get my Weird Reading project off the ground, but I’m pleased with the way things are going, even if I have been going slightly cross-eyed from the reading. I’m taking a break from story criticism for a couple of days, just to let some of the brain cells snap into place, but there will be a new story post on Sunday evening.
If you haven’t already spotted it and are looking for more weird fiction-related material, let me just point you at the , the latest project from Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (do these people never sleep?), and a repository of all sorts of weird goodies. Seriously, I think this is going to become a valuable resource for people who want to expand their understanding of the weird in fiction, or who just want a taster before committing themselves to The Weird itself.
I have also made a few appearances on the interwebs this week. The Locus Roundtable, in which I sometimes participate, has been discussing Formative Reading Experiences hereand here. I appear briefly in both parts, but the discussion is generally fascinating, for the reassurance it offers in places that my early reading experiences were by no means unique, but particularly for the differences in reading experiences between, most notably, the US and UK, and the generational differences.
And I also have a reviewup at Strange Horizons, this time of Mira Grant’s Deadline, the second in the Newsflesh Trilogy. I am unimpressed. When the third and final volume comes out, I may well do an in-depth piece about the trilogy for Paper Knife.
Meanwhile, I have been thinking about other bookish things; in this instance, about book collecting. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who ‘collect’, by which I mean they pay rather more attention to editions than I do, to first editions, first printings, advance reading copies, and things of that ilk. Collecting seems to go with the territory if one is dealing with obscure authors, or publications of an earlier era, but I am never quite sure if it is the same as that first edition ‘thing’ that people have.
Would it be bad of me to say I don’t quite get it? To be fair, I have literally never been able to get the first editions themselves, mostly as a result of never having had that necessary combination of money and the time and energy to trawl bookshops. Or rather, it seems to be more a matter of temperament, or it was in the days before internet book-buying. I used to find the thought of a secondhand bookshop utterly overwhelming if I was looking for something in particular, and an utter pleasure to flit around if I wasn’t. And I’ve had my minor triumphs, including Hope Mirrlees’ other novels, which I gather are worth a bob or two, though I’ve never seen a hardback of Lud-in-the-Mist.<
In the end, I suppose for me it is about text. I am quite happy to have a text to read; the need for first editions only comes into play if I am writing academically and need page references. And possibly, probably, I just don’t have the temperament of a collector. I’m an accumulator, who builds micro collections of authors and topics when I need them for research, but that is about it really. And yet I have this sneaking suspicion that in some mysterious way I am missing out, and I have no idea on what. Someone may care to explain the thrill of it to me.
I’ll be adding another innovation to Paper Knife in the next few months, namely a rolling bibliography of my book reviews and articles. I’ve been meaning to do this for years, and the longer I’ve left it, the more daunting the project has become. I have no idea how many pieces I’ve produced since I started reviewing in 1984 (Keri Hulme’s The Bone People, seeing as you ask, and I enjoyed it very much). This is likely to be as much a voyage of discovery for me as it may be for some of you! Anyway, keep an eye on the tab labelled ‘Bibliography’ and see what I find.
 And here I must tell my terrible Hope Mirrlees story. I loved Lud-in-the-Mist to distraction when I was an adolescent, wondered if Hope Mirrlees was still alive, assumed she wasn’t. I happened to be reading the Death Notices in the Oxford Mailone day, by chance, and noticed the announcement of her death. She had been living in my home city all along. But I still had no idea where. More recently, I have discovered she was living no more than a couple of miles away from where I was brought up, and within a mile of Tolkien’s house. and that is the great lost opportunity of my life.