And Then I Read: Matheson and Finney

Having read Matheson’s I Am Legend, as discussed previous post, and fond of patterns and linkages and serendipidous discoveries of which book I *could* read next (especially, it seems, when it confounds thought-out plans of what I *should* be reading), and perhaps also in reaction to the rather challenging effort of reading (for review in Locus Magazine) the VanderMeer/VanderMeer-edited Best American Fantasy anthology the past couple weeks, I discovered additional 1950s novels that inspired classics films and which I had never read and which I had copies of on my shelves… (Reader, always assure your nonreading friends that you will get around to reading all your books someday). And so I then read Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers — which I’d never read despite having seen three of the four film adaptations — and then back to Matheson for The Incredible Shrinking Man. (Confounding the pattern in one dimension if not another, I also read the book version of David Gerrold’s The Martian Child, since that too is the basis for an upcoming film this fall.)

Quick reactions: I couldn’t help but notice similarities between Matheson’s protagonists. Both highly emotional, given to rages of frustration and self-deprecation, both frank (if not explicit, given the times) in acknowledging their frustrated needs for female companionship (the theme is expressed passingly in The Omega Man). Especially with Shrinking Man — the character’s emotionality is just another way in which I can only imagine Isaac Asimov, if he read the book, must have rolled his eyes; the scientific plausibility, and the main character’s emotional response, are both light years away from the Asimov approach.

And so then… I discovered I had this pint-sized paperback edition of an early Finney collection, The Third Level, on my shelves. (Reader…) And so I’m now about half way through that. The surprising recurrent theme here is — the longing for the simpler past. Expressed in stories written in the early ’50s, for the era of 1894! Some things, perhaps, never change.

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