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Reading, Lately

Words in books, passing past my eyeballs:

• I've read J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, the 1911 novel (after Barrie had spent years on the theatrical version of the story — the whole "clap if you believe in fairies" bit was audience participation). Didn't really connect with it, certainly not the way I connected with L. Frank Baum's Oz books, several of which I read around fifth and sixth grades. Maybe kid-me would've responded better to Pan: to current-me, what should've felt light and improvised instead felt just kind of arbitrary. Didn't get much pleasure from it; I was soon reading it to say I'd read it. I was surprised, considering how impressed I'd been with Peter David's lovely Pan pastiche Tigerheart. And yes, it's dated, and unlike with, say, Dracula (which is reactionary as hell but an amazing read) and the Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, I couldn't get around that. I like that the footnotes cited a moment when Barrie said that something he'd invented about Native Americans was common knowledge and added (paraphrased) "no; even at the time people knew this was wrong..."

So. Read Tigerheart if you want to scratch the itch you hope Peter Pan might itch.

The Diary of Anaïs Nin: I've slowly been working through Nin's diaries. To feel more complete, I read Vol. 2 (1934-1939) after I'd read Vol. 1 (1931-1934) years ago and Vol. 3 (1939-1944) last year. Lovely, often sad words, especially with world events headed towards a world war she desperately hoped wouldn't happen: only weeks before Nazi Germany invaded Poland, Nin (staying near Paris at the time) held out hope of a German revolution to stop the Nazis in their tracks. And, Nin being Nin, the writing is lovely and thoughtful, talking about the psychoanalysis she was helping people with, and also how the giant personalities around her like Henry Miller expressed their psyches. It's a reminder of the worth of journals, which I like being reminded of.

• I'm about done with Jeff Bond's The Music of Star Trek: profiles in style, looking back at Star Trek's music from the show's beginning up to Insurrection, Deep Space 9 and Voyager. Lots of interviews with composers, and luckily most of them are good, interesting interview subjects. Neat behind-the-scenes stuff.

• Well, technically not a book, but I found an online copy of the Leigh Brackett draft of what became The Empire Strikes Back; in early 1978 when she finished it, she titled it "STAR WARS Sequel." In broad strokes it's the same story that reached theaters in 1980 — the Empire hits the Rebels' ice-planet base, Luke gets separated from most of his friends and gets Jedi training on a swamp world, there's an asteroid field and a floating city and Luke willing to risk death instead of using the Dark Side of the Force — but with many details, huge and small, different, befitting an early draft. This was before George Lucas decided Luke, Vader, and Leia were related. The clone history hinted at here is completely different than what was eventually shown in the prequels (Lando's a clone); the Rebels have a two-front fight in and near their base; Vader is more of a functionary/flunkie, but still a threat; a race allied with Lando was later redone (for a completely different purpose) as the Kaminos of Attack of the Clones; Yoda (here named Minch) lets Luke meet the force-ghost of his father, so that Luke can learn of his (then still-hidden) sister Nellith. But the scale of Star Wars is there, and so is the humor. Brackett died before she could do further revisions, but the DNA of her words remains in that world. Leigh Brackett, I'm someone else who still salutes you.