That’s The Bottom Line: July in Review

It’s a good thing I started writing these ‘month in review’ posts to mostly talk about stuff I’ve been doing and enjoying outside of books and blogging cos I’ve not blogged or reviewed all that much the past couple of months. I feel like the meat and potatoes of my blog should be book reviews, just cos that’s the reason I started the thing in the first place, but I’ve actually been enjoying doing some other stuff, like the odd book tag and reviving my regular reading updates, and just doing some mini review posts when I’m not feeling like I want to write big long in-depth reviews. Anyways, click on the linkos here if you wanna have a gander at my Stuart Queen’s Book Tag, my mini reviews of Upright Women Wanted, Nophek Gloss and Riot Baby, or the long-awaited reintroduction of Hey! Watcha Readin’?, my Gavin and Stacey themed reading update.

Outside of that, I’ve not been getting much reading done, which isn’t great simply for the fact that I still have a few Subjective Chaos Awards books to read by the end of the month and, as a committed mood reader, I’m just not in the mood to read any of them, which is putting a bit of a downer on my reading life at the mo cos I feel like I can’t really start anything else, but I also don’t want to start the books I’m ‘supposed’ to be reading. Although to be fair, it’s probs for the best I don’t start anything new, cos I have five books on the go right now. Two of them you’ll know about already if you read my most recent update (The Passage by Justin Cronin and Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian). The third one is an anthology of political science fiction short stories called Strange Bedfellows, though it’s difficult to say I’m still currently reading it seeing as I read the first few stories a few months ago and haven’t picked it back up since. I bought it mainly cos it’s got a story in by Erica L. Satifka, whose cyberpunk novella Busted Synapses I enjoyed last year. The fourth book I’ve got on the go is the collected works of H. P. Lovecraft which, again, I started reading a few months ago when I was wanting to get more into cosmic horror and thought it might be a good idea to ground myself in the foundations before reading some more modern stuff. I have mixed feelings about Lovecraft’s stories. It’s difficult to put aside his notorious reputation, simply because a few of his stories are saturated with xenophobia, but even if I were to put it aside, I actually don’t think his writing is very good. It’s often stiff and verbose, and while you might be tempted to put that down to the time period he was writing in, I’ve read old stories that had vibrant and exciting language. Gulliver’s Travels as written in the early 18th century and that’s laugh out loud funny. Not that Lovecraft is going for the Swiftian humour angle obv, just to say that stuffy language can’t simply be attributed to ye olde times.

The final book I’m currently reading is Hitman, Bret Hart’s autobiography, and the related topic is one of the reasons I’ve not been getting much reading done. If you’re not familiar with him, Bret Hart is considered one of the best pro wrestlers of all time and has led a very colourful and intriguing life. I’m reading it cos a few weeks ago I felt the urge to relive my childhood sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning before my mam woke up, watching Power Rangers and Hey Arnold and of course WWF Smackdown. Now, as a kid, when it came to wrestling I think I was more interested in the flying elbow drops, power slams and piledrivers and the charismatic interviews from superstars like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin than I was invested in ongoing storylines and weeks long feuds. A lot of that is down to not being able to afford the Pay Per Views, where a lot of the storylines reached their conclusions, so I only managed to get a hold of them from time to time if I could persuade a friend to videotape it, otherwise I’d just catch the censored pre-watershed repeats of Monday Night Raw and Smackdown. Despite that, I do have memories of watching some of the even earlier Pay Per Views with my uncle, starting around 1996 when ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Shawn Michaels and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart were the kings of the squared circle, so that’s where I’ve restarted my nostalgia trip.

It’s a fantastic time period to start watching from actually, cos you can actually see the transition, in real time, from The New Generation to the Attitude Era. There’s a whole history here that non-wrestling fans won’t have any inkling about but, in a nutshell, in 1996 the owner of the World Wrestling Federation, Vince McMahon, was essentially engaged in a corporate war with billionaire media mogul Ted Turner, who owned World Championship Wrestling, the main rival to the WWF. The two companies battled it out for ratings for years after Turner deliberately started airing WCW’s flagship weekly show, Nitro, to clash with Raw, the main weekly WWF programme. Turner slowly started winning the battle of attrition by throwing money at the venture and poaching a lot of WWF’s biggest stars at the time, including Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Razor Ramon. It was only later, by pitching more adult-oriented themes with increasingly racy and violent storylines, that McMahon eventually won the war and ultimately bought out WCW, putting an end to the feud entirely. The time period where this started to happen was called The Attitude Era. Point being, I feel like Bret Hart (and even Shawn Michaels to an extent) belonged to that pre-Attitude time, while new and exciting wrestlers like Stone Cold had just come on the scene to begin the transition. I’ve actually just finished watching the 1996 King of the Ring, where Stone Cold defeated legend and fan favourite Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, largely seen as symbolically ushering in the beginning of the new era with his famous ‘Austin 3:16’ speech, where fans heard the now iconic “That’s the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so” line for the first time.

Not sure how many regular readers here are wrestling fans, but definitely let me know if you are. I’m probs gonna do a full review of Bret Hart’s autobiography when I’m done and I’ve also been lent another book from a friend called The Death of WCW that I’ll also be reading soon. As a final comment, and in an attempt to link this back to SFF books in some way, it also reminded me that The Headlock of Destiny exists which, if I’m correct, is a fantasy book about an ex-wrestler goliath who got out of the business to work heaving barrels in a tavern, but gets drawn back into the biz in a way that will change the world forever. Also, ‘One squared circle to rule them all’ is possibly the best tagline for any book I’ve ever heard. Honestly this book sounds fucking excellent and I’d def encourage you to check out Calvin Park’s review at Fantasy Book Critic and look the book up on Goodreads. In any case, think I’ll leave it there before this gets overlong. I had to rein myself in before I really went off on a wrestling deep dive and I’d also planned on talking about The Walking Dead, which is the other main reason I’ve not read much this weekend, but perhaps that can wait ’til next time. Happy reading bookwyrms.

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