Friday, April 9, 2010
Friday's Forgotten Books: THE BOOK OF LISTS: HORROR edited by Amy Wallace, Del Howison and Scott Bradley (Harper, 2008)
Another rare instance of my introducing into this series of reviews a book that is still in print, but has been pretty widely ignored, in part because it's not first-rate, and in part because if falls between stools...it's not exlusively about horror films and television, sadly a much more popular topic for a nonfictional book than is horror fiction (for horror films tend on average to be more popular than horror fiction), and it's not a scholarly tome at all (though some scholarship is behhind it), nor is it quite as useful or amusing to go through as the 100 BEST HORROR BOOKS essay collections Kim Newman and Stephen Jones have put together. It's instead another of the recent spurt of Wallace Family attempts to expand the brand of THE BOOK OF LISTS volumes that they were so successful with in the mid-late 1970s, as a spinoff from Irving Wallace's onngoing THE PEOPLE'S ALMANAC project. I certainly dug THE BOOK OF LISTS back when, a product of the Wallaces and Amy's brother, Irving's son David Wallechinsky (he reclaimed the name stolen from the family at Ellis Island), who was also the coauthor of the interesting WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO THE CLASS OF '65? (written with classmate Michael Medved, he of the whining about the downfall of our culture and often justifiable derision of bad films, who with his brother Harry had another family/publishing industry brand with THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS).
So, this book, produced by sincere horror fan Amy Wallace with actor and bookseller (and now celebrity anthologist) Del Howison and writer Scott Bradley, leans too hard in the direction of easy top-of-the-head lists from too many redundant lightweights, but also allows a few contributors to dig a little deeper into various canons. It leads off with 217 pages of film lists, followed by less than a hundred of literary lists...and so on...all told, fine bathroom reading, and excellent bus or airplane reading (the disruptive circumstances of travel won't distract you from much subtext here!), but not quite as engaging as the wide-ranging (if similarly uneven) original BOOK OF LISTS, nor quite as much of a consistent joy as the two science-fictional Books of Lists produced circa 1979 by more "insider" folks and for more "insider" audiences. However, this book seems to have passed through the literary/commercial mills with even fewer reviews and less attention than most non-books, and it's good enough to deserve better than that.
For more (and more prompt, and less flu-addled!) "forgotten" book reviews, please see Patti Abbott's blog.