Wanderer by Sterling Hayden (1963, Knopf)
Most nonfiction autobiographies of Hollywood celebrities are fairly innocuous, filling the roles of gossip pieces or focusing on one aspect of the author’s life. Despite the shallow depth of those books, I’ve enjoyed many of them. I don’t expect much, and if the book meets or surpasses that low bar, I’m satisfied.
Wanderer takes convention and knocks it to the ground, then curb-stomps it a few times. In a very good way.
First, the book has style. Hayden bounces between time periods, allowing for a linear narrative of his philosophical and mental development as of the time of writing but bypassing the traditional form. The result is more akin to what one would get from transcripts with a therapist than the standard life story. Hayden also shifts between first, second and third person narrator in an attempt to distinguish phases of memory.
The result can be disconcerting and might have been contrived as a nod to literary aspirations, but the effort seems genuine. He’s not simply recounting his history, he’s breaking down his issues and trying to explain to everyone why he’s gotten into some legal scrapes.
Amidst it all there are a number of anecdotes about his maritime adventures and a few focusing on his time in Hollywood. The many stories about shipboard life provide a grounding for events which were to come. By the end of the book, you’ll have a reasonable grasp of what Hayden was dealing with, and why, as well as his deep affection for his children.
Installing Linux On A Dead Badger by Lucy A. Snyder (2007, Creative Guy)
This is a short (108 pages) collection of odd humorous geekery stories by a prominent horror & fantasy author. The stories tend to be fairly dark in tone, involving everything from the titular zombie badgers to winged cats used as pest control for faerie outbreaks.
The art doesn’t add much to the book, although the photographic effects are clean and appropriate. Most of the value comes from the odd mixture of unreason, computer skills and suggestions of unpleasantry. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, and it’s easily found at less than $6 postpaid.
If you liked Bastard Operator From Hell, this one is definitely worth picking up. And if you aren’t familiar with BOFH, this might help.