Tag Archives: mark rich

Best books of 2010

I read 19 books in 2010 which is a far cry from those early days in the mid-late-90s when I was reading 40 books a year. I know there are people out there who read a lot more and all I can say is: I’m jealous.

The year started out with the fascinating biography of C. M. Kornbluth by Mark Rich and ended (just 20 minutes ago) with the absolutely stunning All Clear by Connie Willis.

Here are my picks for the year’s best reads:

Blackout/All Clear is the finest time travel novel I’ve ever read, and I’ve read plenty of them. I’ll have more to say about the novel (and it is one novel, despite being split into two books) in a subsequent post. Suffice it to say for now that I was absolutely blown away by the scope of the novel, the historical details, and the wonderfully brilliant writing.

Robert Silverberg said he would never write an autobiography but Other Spaces, Other Times is awfully autobiographical–and brilliant. I enjoyed every minute of that read.

Caesar and Christ is the third volume of Will Durant’s “Story of Civilization” and it’s richly detailed picture of life in ancient Rome made for a wonderful summer read for me.

Doomsday Book blew me away and I could barely put it down. The ending was unforgettable and proved to me just how remarkable a writer Connie Willis is.

A few honorable mentions:

There was some pretty good short fiction this year, too, but I’ll write about that in a subsequent post.

Frederik Pohl v. Mark Rich

Ever since Frederik Pohl started blogging about his experience reading Mark Rich’s biography of Cyril Kornbluth, the hits on my review of said biography have gone up.  I thought the book was phenomenal and fascinating.  It’s one of those rare books that I rated at 5-stars.  But in my review, I also said:

The book does not paint a pretty picture of Frederik Pohl, which came as a surprise to me, considering their collaboration history as well as what Pohl had to say about Kornbluth in his memoir.

Today, Fred posted about some correspondence he had with Mark Rich earlier in the week in which he proposes offering rebuttals to much of what Rich had to say about him, and in which Rich responded that he was pleased that Fred would be “correcting” any mistakes.

I find this both fascinating and sad.  I enjoyed Mark Rich’s book and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the field of science fiction and in particular, as a guide to one of the most remarkable writers the field has ever seen.  At the time I read the book, I felt that it was well sourced, and Rich seemed to have compelling evidence backing the things in which he said.  But as I said in my review, the picture Rich painted of Pohl came as a surprise to me, and now Pohl is crying foul and as someone who admires Pohl’s writing and Rich’s book, I’m not sure where to come down on this.  The fact is: I wasn’t there.  I don’t know what happened.  Rich wasn’t there either, but got his information from sources that were there.  Or from correspondence from those sources.  But Pohl was there and he knows what happened.

One might argue that as the last man standing from those halcyon days, Pohl almost got away with writing the history of that time the way he wanted it to be remembered, but that Mark Rich came along and called him on it.  I think this argument has merit, but at the same time, I feel sad that this is unfolding the way it is.  Mark Rich wrote a terrific book, but his attack on Pohl might come across as beating up on an old man.  Pohl, on the other hand, may have done some of the things Rich attributes to him, which would be sad and which would diminish the man (but not his work) in my eyes.  However, Pohl may not have done these things but find it difficult to defend himself from attacks where evidence to the contrary no longer exists.  It then becomes his word against Rich’s word.

Ultimately, this is a sad, though perhaps not unexpected side-effect of an otherwise terrific book.  If there are errors, I hope that Pohl has a chance to correct them and I hope that Rich accepts those corrections gracefully, or refutes them with equal grace.  It is a delicate situation and I don’t envy either party.