I owe British science-fiction writer Brian Aldiss for showing me how I could pull a memoir together through reading his first book, THE BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES (1955), which I read back in August. Right after I finished it, the light bulb went on over my head and I started on my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!
But I have to report that Aldiss's own writing-life memoir, BURY MY HEART AT W.H. SMITH'S (1990) is thin and disappointing. You can probably tell how compelling it was, because it took me three months to get through 190 pages. Of course I was doing other things, too....
There's some more detail here about Aldiss's younger days, how he ended up writing BRIGHTFOUNT, and what happened after. There's some detail about writing his early novels which made him a big name in '60s science fiction. His first Hugo Award from SF readers came as a totally unexpected surprise through the mail -- and was left at his door all wrapped-up like a lamp or a table-leg.
There's good stuff on how Aldiss wrote his "anti-novel" REPORT ON PROBABILITY A, which sat for nearly a decade before anyone would publish it -- and about his late-'60s "new wave" "acid-head war" novel BAREFOOT IN THE HEAD.
He touches on some more of his books along the way -- he's written a whole shelf full since the late '50s. It would probably help if I'd actually READ some of these -- there's a big section on his three-book HELLICONIA series.
But all I've read by Aldiss is BRIGHTFOUNT, his excellent SF overview TRILLION YEAR SPREE (and its predecessor BILLION YEAR SPREE), and a short story or two.
Throughout, Aldiss is witty, chatty, pleasant -- but BURY MY HEART reads very much like notes he jotted down while between writing projects, and he says so while he's writing it. There's not a whole lot of depth here. Aldiss admits he doesn't know precisely what it is that keeps him writing. But more of the depth he showed in TRILLION YEAR SPREE would have done this book some good.
It's light and fun and witty -- OK reading while you're munching on lunch, maybe. Something to pass the time. But it's pretty surfacey....
...Meanwhile, if you have a Kindle, you can now download the first 20 pages of my record-store memoir GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! for FREE at Amazon.com's Kindle Store. Hopefully, this will entice some of You Out There to give the rest of the book a try. I think it's worth the $2.99 for the whole package. If you've enjoyed any of the music reviews or nostalgia pieces I've posted here, I think you'll have a pretty good time.
And work on the NEXT book is continuing....