Looking forward to 1976

You know how I keep rabbiting on about avoiding overcommitting to reading events? Well, it appears I’m a bit of a recidivist because, despite it being six months in the future I going to join in a meme run by Kaggsy and Simon.

I’d enjoyed taking a little while out of my then reading schedule to fit in a Lovecraft short story for the 1936 Club at the very last moment. Now they’ve given notice of the 1976 Club to run from 11th to 17th October and I think with a bit of judicious planning I can just about sque-e-eze a few titles into that week.

And it turns out that I’ve already read and even reviewed quite a number of titles published some forty-five years ago.

So here — for anyone interested — is what I’ve read and reviewed here on this blog, with links.

It’s only been recently that I read Ursula Le Guin’s bleak but beautiful Orsinian Tales for the third time. It was the same for Diana Wynne Jones’ fantasy with a twist Power of Three, a second reread followed by a review. Joan Aiken’s 1976 collection A Bundle of Nerves (subtitled stories of horror, suspense and fantasy) was also a reread, but she also published Mortimer’s Tie in the same year, which was new to me.

Patricia A McKillip’s The Riddle-Master of Hed was the first book in a trilogy often called The Riddle-Master’s Game, my first acquaintance with this well-regarded fantasy writer. More ghostly was Penelope Lively’s A Stitch in Time for younger readers, though she is better known now for her adult fiction.


A book I’m glad to have read in the 1970s — but which I shan’t be reading again — is the curious The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck, posthumously published and starting as a modernised version of Malory; as the text became freer the reader begins to see what this flawed and unfinished work could’ve become if Steinbeck had lived to revise the whole.

As it happens there are at least a couple of 1976 titles I already have on my shelves, which I’ve been for a while promising myself I’d tackle. One is Brian Aldiss’s picaresque novel The Malacia Tapestry which will be a long-awaited reread after some forty years; another is Frank Herbert’s The Children of Dune which I’ve been promising a couple of bloggers I’d ‘soon’ get round to.

I might even bother finishing Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, the work that introduced the term meme to the world’s collective consciousness. Finally there’s Explorations of the Marvellous edited by Peter Nichols — a collection of talks first published in 1976 as Science Fiction at Large with contributions by Ursula K Le Guin, Alan Garner, Philip K Dick, Edward de Bono and others — which I’ve been intending to reread for almost four decades. But I may very well discover titles from this year new to me and go for those instead!


So, is this a meme that appeals to you? And do you, like me, think it’s not too early to begin thinking about titles half a year in advance?

Image by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

Next month I will mostly be reading fantasy because I’ll be joining in the Wyrd & Wonder meme.


Incidentally, I recently came across some sketches I did in my teens of the French family I stayed with in the mid-sixties. While not perfect — in particular I hadn’t mastered the knack of envisaging eyeballs as spherical — I was quite pleased with them, and have posted the series here on my photoblog Minutiae.

56 thoughts on “Looking forward to 1976

  1. I’ve been looking into possibles as well. The only one I think I have in hand is Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer, in a bunch of books a neighbour left with me when she moved. But A Stitch in Time is one I’m hoping to read and Tintin and the Picaros perhaps—I think it would qualify since I haven’t read it for a long long time, and certainly never reviewed it,

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    1. Never read Jeffrey Archer, so I’d be interested in what you have to say. I’m afraid as a politician he wasn’t my cup of tea, and although a member of the House of Lords is a convicted perjurer, which kind of seals my opinion of him as a person; still, I can’t argue with his popularity as a novelist.

      I think you’ll enjoy the Lively; for me it helped that I’d visited the area, but it works purely on a storytelling level. As for the Tintin I think I must’ve read it at some point when our son went through a Hergé phase, but I can’t remember anything about the plot or even the cover.

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      1. Lively has been on my list so will be a good opportunity to get to her.

        The Tintin I think I would have likely read in school when the library had them all but not recently. I know the cover has a forest of some sort (woods again) and an aztec temple, but the story I don’t recall at all.

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        1. Oops, my comment got posted half-way. I was going to add, I have read a fair few Archer books earlier which I did enjoy, especially his short stories, though I can understand your reservations.

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            1. Am sure there will–there are plenty I’d love to pick up but let’s see. No shopping at the moment because of how things are here. There are no formal restrictions but one still prefers avoiding it.

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            2. I am reading the daily reports of how horrific and desperate the situation is where you are, Mallika; I’ve hardly dared ask how you are but I hope you and yours are at least staying safe and well, and that the country starts to recover sooner rather than later.

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            3. We are ok, thank you. But plenty of cases in the neighbourhood this time around which is making us jittery. We’ve pretty much locked ourselves in for the most part and are of course taking the usual precautions.

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            4. Being in a small town, in a national park, in one of most sparsely populated rural areas of Wales, we’ve been relatively untouched by cases or deaths, and the pair of us being over 70 we more or less self-isolated for most of 2020 into 2021. But it’s very likely Emily contracted the virus just before lockdown, and suffered from Long Covid through to this year; I seem to have escaped or at least been asymptomatic. No family seem to have suffered, luckily, despite being here or in England, unlike your unfortunate experience.

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            5. Hope that the effects weren’t too bad. Glad to hear your family is safe.

              My aunt’s husband (who is welsh, though they live in Australia) did lose a sister back in Wales to Covid.

              Here our relatives have been by and large ok except some cousins of my mother who did contract (thankfully a milder version) it but all ok now.

              The way things are at the moment, one can only take all precautions and keep one’s fingers crossed, pretty much.

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  2. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve planned to join in with this one and then it’s not happened. But I always enjoy looking at what was published in the chosen year and thinking about what I might read. I’ve already looked at 1976, having first got over the shock (yet again) of this being a year I remember vividly. My first thoughts were that I’d read most of the big names from then and have no desire to revisit. But a few titles have caught my eye. I can’t begin to think of what October might look like in my life at the moment, but I’m hopeful. Maybe this will be my debut into this popular reading series!

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    1. Though I may despair that there are so many reading prompts over the year, at least I can get to choose the ones that really appeal and that I can conveniently participate in, even if it’s only one title. I know blogging hasn’t been your priority in recent months, Sandra, but maybe come the autumn things might be looking up and we may be seeing a bit more of your thoughts? Only if it suits, of course — and 1976 was an interesting year, around the time there was a long hot summer… Or was that 1977?

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        1. Yes, 1976 was a killer, but 1977 was only marginally better: our second child was due in July of that year and that summer was not at all comfortable for the better half! Anyway, I’ll be pleased to see you back here more regularly, n’importe quand ça te convient!

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    2. How many books do we undertake to read? I have seen a few old favourites. Marge Piercy Woman on the Edge of Time, R K Narayan The Painter of Signs, Anthony Burgess Beard’s Roman Women. And October is quite a long way off.

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      1. I think the answer is any number from one to infinity, Gert: some people read during the dates the event runs but I tend to start beforehand and publish reviews over the time of the event — but I won’t think much more about it before October. I’ve heard of the Anthony Burgess title though not the other two; of they’re favourites it shouldn’t take you long to whizz through them! 🙂

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  3. So glad you’re considering joining, and I certainly don’t think it’s too soon to be looking at titles – I have! It’s an interesting year, not as obviously populated with brilliance as 1936 was, but nevertheless intriguing to explore. I’m glad you mentioned the Lively – I was always very fond of her children’s titles so there’s a possible revisit! 😀

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    1. I read a few of Lively’s children’s novels in the 1970s, before she moved more to adult fiction, and fancy revisiting The Wild Hunt of Hagworthy or The Whispering Knights, which I remember enjoying. As I relatively recently read A Stitch in Time there are a couple of other titles she published in 1976 to consider, The Stained Glass Window and Fanny’s Sister, neither of which I’d heard of before.

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  4. I have such fond memories of the summer of 1976 that I’m tempted to join in for that reason alone. A search through titles published in that year has revealed some I would like to read also. Your review of Mortimer’s Tie has captured the joy of the Arabel’s Raven series perfectly. I can’t remember reading this one though. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry is a children’s novel I would like to read, and I haven’t read A Stitch in Time but have heard positive things about it. I’m going to have to make a decision aren’t I!

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    1. I bought the first volume of the Arabel and Mortimer stories last year sometime but have yet to jump in since I’m still not quite at the end of of odyssey through the Wolves Chronicles. And there’s a second volume as well now!

      Yes, and you have only six months to make that decision… 😁

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  5. Gosh you are super organised, already thinking about what you might read in October.

    I’ve had a quick look through my unread books and havent found anything from 76 yet…

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    1. Hah! “Organised” and me don’t go together!

      If you haven’t anything on your own shelves I suppose the library or, heaven forbid, a bookshop visit might be called for! You probably know but Goodreads and Wikipedia are just two of several sites giving listings of books published in 1976, whether the ‘best’ (!) or the most popular, or the best-selling.

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        1. Absolutely no pressure, Karen, I’m sure you have enough plans for your reading and blogging without extraneous plans being foisted on you by well-meaning bods like me!

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  6. I’ve read A Stitch in Time – worth reading, though I preferred her Ghost of Thomas Kempe – and Power of Three of course. I’d be thrilled if some more readers discovered DWJ through this event! Po3 is not a bad one to start with for newbies.

    I finally read The Riddlemaster trilogy some years ago and was underwhelmed. McKillip is hit and miss for me. I think my favorite books by her are Winter Rose and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.

    I have been toying with the idea of trying to read the Dune books again. I read the first one in high school, prodded by an enthusiastic friend, and ever since then it’s been one of my benchmarks for books I absolutely detest. I think the giant sand worms were just too repulsive for me. But maybe I would be able to overcome my aversion and try to appreciate the appeal now, because there are tons of people who do love it.

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    1. Lively’s The Ghost of Thomas Kempe has been on a longlist of books I feel I ought to read (BIFIOTR?!) for some years now but never chased up. I did enjoy Stitch more than I thought I might, no doubt helped by the fact we’d had a late (ten years after) honeymoon in Lyme Regis! And Power of Three is, as you say, one of DWJ’s more approachable standalone titles.

      The Riddle Master trilogy was kind of intense and humourless but I didn’t mind that too much at the time — but then it’s not a series I’d want to reread so that must be some indication of my evaluation. As for the Dune books, I’ve decided Children of Dune will be my last foray into that world. I can sort of understand how it involves fans but the whole set-up seems just cold and distancing in its philosophical underpinnings. I’d rather go back to Greek plays than see where this planetary House of Atreides goes next.

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    2. I was also underwhelmed by Riddle-master, though I remember so little about it that it’s difficult to say why. I agree The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is better. And I’m currently reading Ombria in Shadow, which is good but significantly weirder than the other two, to the point where I’m having trouble making up my mind about it.

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  7. Lol – a recidivist for reading events! Until recently I didn’t understand why a person would put themselves under any pressure when reading for pleasure – but then, earlier this month, I joined Goodreads! I get it now! 😄

    My already rather big TBR pile tripled inside the first week! In the end I decided to remove almost everything from “Want to Read” except those books which I might forget if I don’t make a note somehwere!

    Btw, I saw your portraits on Minutiae – they were awesome!!!

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    1. You’re very kind to comment so positively on my sketches on Minutiae: I look at them now and think, yes that’s how I remember them from more than half a century ago; but I also notice the fact that the farther eye in the three-quarter portraits hasn’t quite got the sense of the eyeball that fills the socket, and the shading is sometimes desultory, and… Still, not bad for a rank amateur!

      Good luck with Goodreads! That and LibraryThing were the sites I began with, looking to engage with like-minded readers, but I only use Goodreads now to catalogue what I’ve read and to repost the reviews I post here for a different more distant audience. I think your actions over ‘Want to Read’ is sensible — I ought to whittle my list down too as it’s largely out of date.

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      1. I have always thought that the furthest eye is the trickiest thing in three-quarter portraits. I can’t see any problem with your drawings though – maybe it’s something you notice more when you know the face? What I liked most though was the sense of the people behind the portraits that your drawing has. It’s not an easy thing to bring that sense to a drawing.

        I am really enjoying goodreads at the moment. I love getting that “behind the scenes” view of authors I enjoy by following them and seeing what they think of what they are reading. I also really like it that if I’m unsure about a particular book I can read a good number of reviews and really have a tighter hold on what the book is about before buying.

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        1. I think one is always critical of one’s own work — or at least one should be! — but I’m glad I got across the sense of the individuals behind the drawing as that was my hope.

          Goodreads is very popular as a literary social media site and I think in the normal run of things I’d’ve been happy to engage more — but then I got into blogging! So I’m glad you’ve found it fulfilling your bookish needs while reserving your blog for your artwork.

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    1. No I haven’t, in fact I’d never heard of it until you mentioned it now! One eulogistic review describes it in glowing terms as “Brilliant shards of prose poetry strung together into a magically cohesive whirligig of a novel. Breaks most of the novelistic rules beautifully. Plotless and digressive in the best way…”

      Sounds like you’ll either have a treat in store or, despite its awards, an irritating read!

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    1. I saw a few episodes of the TV series which came out of it, but never got round to reading the book, though as far as I remember it was a bestseller for many weeks. Hope it’s all you’re expecting!

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