No movies, in fact, just books.
SCOTT PILGRIM: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is the first volume in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s saga of the eponymous 23-year-old slacker who in this series opener has a high-school girlfriend, falls for a woman his own age (I find it oddly amusing that even fiction about twentysomethings uses the Older/Younger Woman conflict) and then has to battle the first of her Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends. I think this might have worked for me when I was Scott’s age, but reading now it seems pointless and plotless; the swing from sitcomish storyline to fantasy at the end felt very odd too.
THE ESSENTIAL DR. STRANGE Vol. 3 (cover by Frank Brunner, all rights to current holder) is a very mixed bag. We start off with Steve Englehart’s run on the title (some of which was in Vol. 2), including Strange’s battle with the fanatical witch-hunter Silver Dagger, the destruction of the universe (and Strange’s horrified reaction to being the only one who remembers it is great) and the beginning of Stephen Strange exploring the occult history of America. All good, but then we jump to Marv Wolfman’s time on the title, and much as I like Wolfman’s work elsewhere, his writing here and his retconning away much of the Englehart run were sub-par. Things pick up as Jim Starlin takes over and ends reasonably well as Roger Stern begins his long run on the book. For me, worth getting for the good parts.
THE TEA ENTHUSIAST’S HANDBOOK: A Guide to Enjoying the World’s Best Teas by Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss was one I picked up with a birthday gift certificate (TYG having already bought me a wide selection of tea for her big gift). Unlike my other two books on tea, this is less a history and more about how to select it, how to steep, the merits of the different main kinds (black, green, white, yellow, oolong and pur-en-ah), and some of the well-known varieties of each. The book is a bit tea-snobby, and I frankly don’t think my palate is good enough to make use of some of these suggestions; on the other hand, paying more attention to steeping time and to water temperature has produced notably better drinks for me. Of course if you don’t drink tea, you might as well skip this.
Coming out in 1990, THE SECRET PILGRIM appears to be John LeCarre’s retrospective on the Cold War, as Ned — a supporting character in The Russia House now working as a spy-trainer — finds George Smiley’s speech to the troops triggering flashbacks to stories of gay colleagues, the arch-traitor Bill Haydon (of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Smiley giving away cufflinks and Ned’s own miserable marital history (in the tradition of all LeCarre heroes to date). This is less a novel than a collection of themed shorts, the theme being the way unfortunates get ground up in the Great Game and whether it was really worth it (Smiley points out it was ultimately the Russians who broke their own system, not us prodding from outside). Not A-list LeCarre, but good reading.