And now, without further ado, books read: early March:
Kage Baker, Gods and Pawns. Short story collection in a single world. What I really want is for this series to go forward, but I understand that the short story urge is not the same as the novel urge, so this may not be a tradeoff. Also, the last story in this collection hit me unexpectedly well. It's still, I suspect, mostly for people who are following the Company stories in novel form, but there's nothing wrong with that.
Duff Cooper, Talleyrand. This book was interesting in itself, and also interesting as a study of how the British of the 1930s wrote biographies of ambiguous statesmen. Cooper felt utterly comfortable making moral judgments about his subject and his subject's contemporaries in ways that the modern biographies I've read avoid. Also there isn't as much about Talleyrand as one might hope, so one takes what one can get. (This seems to be the story of my reading life when it comes to nonfiction. Occasionally someone writes something I've been wanting forever, but mostly I keep plaintively asking, "Why doesn't everybody else find X fascinating?")
Gregg Herkin, Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller. The inclusion of Lawrence here is exactly the sort of thing I mean: you would think -- by which I mean I would think -- that there would be books on Lawrence lying around thick on the ground. But no. And while the Oppenheimer/Teller thing practically writes itself as an interpersonal drama, so does the Oppenheimer/Lawrence thing. Only Lawrence had the bad taste to die fairly early and not very easily symbolize something About Our Times, and by not symbolizing any one thing I think he's interesting for that...but anyway. Would have liked more out there, but this book was not aiming to be a biography of Ernest Lawrence, and relational history is a good thing.
Gwyneth Jones, Rainbow Bridge. Ah. The last of this series, I think almost certainly. I am utterly irrational about this series. But oh. Yah, I think. I have bought a few more Gwyneth Jones books to help me come down from this series, but I'm not sure it'll work all that well. The buttons pushed are pretty specific.
Rex Stout, A Family Affair, Death Times Three, and The Hand in the Glove. Fellow Stout readers will spot this as the last Nero Wolfe novel, the last Nero Wolfe collection, and the (apparently only) Dol Bonner mystery. (Dol is a minor character in the Wolfe series.) I read Death Times Three before A Family Affair, on the theory that I would rather end the series with a novel than with a collection including stories that had been rewritten differently. I was right, I think. A Family Affair is definitively the last Wolfe book. I have been having a bit of e-mail discussion about whether it plays fair and whether what it does was a good thing to do and whether it was done well. I think it's very odd to have such a thoroughly last book in a series that has otherwise not had much chronology. Anyway, it was interesting to read Dol Bonner side-by-side with all this Wolfe, because there are things that are very different specifically because of her being a woman. She has to self-justify all over the place, among other things. And of course she would, but -- I just didn't think of it.
Anyway, it was a light fortnight for books, in part because of circumstance (catching up on stuff from our trip to California), but in part because I started a few things I didn't finish, and they held me longer than usual before I put them down.