March Reads (2024)

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series 2024-Reads

This is the third in a series of posts about books I’ve read in 2024, covering the month of March. As always, the beginning of semester is a busy time and I get less reading done, but even more, I started some books that I’m still working on finishing in April… but I prefer to only mention books when I finish them, so they won’t get blogged about till the end of this month (at the soonest). 


The Nine American Lifestyles: Who We Are and Where We’re Going by Arnold Mitchell. I read this after Ted Gioia mentioned it on his Substack. Gioia finds the book very impressive, whereas for me it was mostly interesting as a historical curio, akin to the works of Alvin Toffler (albeit less illuminating to me than Toffler’s work).1 Mitchell apparently was one of the people who foresaw the mainstreaming of voluntary simplicity as a lifestyle—which Gioia argues facilitated the assault upon this emergent lifestyle and its destruction by corporate America. (I would argue its emergence was simply deferred a few generations.) There’s a lot in this volume that’s skimmable unless you’re interested in the minutiae of consumer behavior in different social classes in America. There’s also a lot of judgment by Mitchell of which lifestyles are superior, with limited acknowledgement that certain lifestyles were more or less available due to things like wealth, regionality, and especially race. (He mentions race a lot, but doesn’t really seem to acknowledge it as being related to undue barriers in lifestyle mobility.) 

The Gloaming Volumes 1 & 2 (English edition) by Jongsu. A pair of crowdfunded mini-comics made by some friends of ours, The Gloaming is a Korean historical horror story. These volumes begin the creepy tale of a group of people seeking a shaman to carry out a rite for a dead loved one, and simultaneously the story of some criminals who pose as the shaman and their assistant… at least, that’s where things seem to be going by the end of Voume 2. The translation is smooth, and I liked that certain Korean terms are retained in the text and footnoted. The books also have lots of nice touches, like the warning in the inside cover to keep the books “well-hidden” and the explanation of the title at the back of each volume. My only complaint is that there are no more volumes available for me to tear into right now.   

Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal The Necromancer is delightfully fun in a mean-spirited, satirical way. The protagonist is a terrible sort against whom you know that you ought to be rooting, except for the fact that somehow the author’s decision to imbue him with such charming wit and snark wins you over. Apparently the story was inspired by the question, “Where would an evil carnival come from?” after the author read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. (I have neither read that novel nor seen the movie, but the question is a good one.) Cabal’s crew includes some escaped convicts, his undead brother, and a host of demon and devil carnies, and the story unfolds with a brilliantly economical sense of pacing—always telling the delicious and interesting parts, and always skipping the boring ones. Cabal’s dealings with Satan live up to the great tradition established by the story of Faust… except, of course, with way more snark and cruel laughs along the way. I found this volume in the library at work, and I’m going to put in a request that they get the rest of the series, which I’m told is supposedly just as delightful as the first book was.

 

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  1. Meanwhile, Gioia recently posted about how unimpressive he finds Toffler’s work, which amuses me. I agree with many of the commenters on that post that Future Shock is eerily prescient of the “future shock” we’ve experienced, and I’d add that it’s the unsung key to a lot of post-70s science fiction literature, hugely if secretly influential on the cyberpunks especially.

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