Friday, July 28, 2006

vacation time, brother!

See everyone later.

I am bringing with:

Muriel Spark- Robinson
Her second novel.

Aldous Huxley- Antic Hay
I want to try a novel of his out. Brave New World left nary a residue in the memory banks... I hope this one has more wit, less "savages."

Enough for four days?

Also you have a short essay on another hateful NYT Book Review essay to look forward to. Hurrah, no?

Monday, July 24, 2006


I am going to miss this, but that's no reason for you to.

Go, and tell me all about it.


Catherine Deneuve is playing the mother in the 2007 movie of Persepolis!

books 28, 29, 31 and 32 or Catching Up

So, so behind in the reviews, as you can see. If any of you are still reading, that is. I sure am, as you can also see by the rapidly blooming sidebar.

Anyway, I’m going to try to get things moving here by giving you guys a few short reviews which will hopefully re-wrangle the flock (so fluffy, you guys) and get some comments going.

Inside Vineyland by Lauren Weinstein

A million, bajillion years ago, Weinstein submitted a comic to Topic Magazine called You Saved My Life, a just a lil’llion years ago, I saw it while doing some work interning at the big T. I liked it. It was black and white, squiggly and kinda evil. I’ve had her on the brain since.

After an as-usual satisfying trip to Rocketship to buy Squirrel Mother (see below), I decided I needed a little bit from the Vine to round out my purchases. I picked up IV after a cursory flip-through. It is a little old, copyright 1999, but comics are the Catherine Deneuve of books, n’est-ce pas?

IV is a lot of one and two pagers, less jokey than going for the jugular. One character, Robot, makes a double appearance in the only two longish stories, Robot Takes a Walk and Robot Quest for Love. Bad, bad things happen, but the Robot can’t quite get beyond want he wants to compute the rest. He can’t. Weinstein draws thoughts like no one else I have seen using an incredibly effective heads-on-writhing-strings method in these stories. Thought bubbles do appear elsewhere, but they are mean, as they should be.

Weinstein’s take on things could be easily dismissed as snark but only if the dismisser is a total asshole. There is something bubbling underneath the funny and that’s the way I like it. Plus, she is local.

Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso

I wanted this so badly. I coveted the creamy cover and the stories within. I knew the collection contained The Pickle Fork, an amazing story that was in Kelso’s disinherited collection Scheherazade, so I had the best advance opinion of what else was going to be inside.

I don’t want to say this. I don’t.

Squirrel Mother
was a disappointment. The drawings are beautiful but the stories just didn’t get there for me. Something is missing, maybe a few need to be longer, or more developed, but I just didn’t latch onto the characters. The exception to this was the autobiographical Green River, about living during the reign of terror of the Green River serial killer, and the silly yet mournful series of stories concerning Alexander Hamilton, Publius, The Duel and Aide de Camp.
Next time, next time…

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet will be written about somewhere else. I will keep you posted.

Astonishing Tales edited by Michael Chabon

Ugh. Usually I am a fan of these compilations by the McSweensters but this one was terribly boring with the exception of a few stories. I mean they have the usual sheen of quiet wackiness so loved by those folks, but- boo. Skip it, but read 7C by Jason Roberts if you can.

A History of Violence by John Wagner

The graphic novel with the best name ever is a little ugly, the drawings that is. Sadly, we never really get a feel for the main character, or his family, because we never really see him clearly. The dialogue is stilted and formulaic in some parts and merely serviceable in others. The good part is that you can breeze through the book in an hour or so, and then have something to compare to the film. I was mostly disappointed that the violence never transformed for me; it never showed me anything, which I think was Wagner's intention with this...

Nevertheless, I can see why the idea so captured Wagner, then David Cronenberg, who did an excellent job trimming the fat for the film, even if his subplots were just flapping in the winds like an old hoagie.

It is hard to find intelligent writing on violence, especially in comics. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

book 26: Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood

I bought Great Granny Webster because I liked the way the book tickled my eye. I liked its size and design. The story came second this time. Lucky for me, the story kicked ass.

A very British gothic, Great Granny Webster is chock full of sinister characters and places, the main eeriness being provided by the title character and her freezing, foreboding house in Hove, near Brighton in England. I was in Brighton once in March and down by the sea, it looked like Hell itself was spilling out from a tear in the nasty grey sky and whipping through the abandoned piers that make for the seashore scenery.

Great Granny Webster is the story of a woman who tries to understand her family’s ghosts, from the haunting character of her bitter, proud great-grandmother, to her mad grandmother, to the mystery of her long-dead father, whose sister is as light as air as well as being quite suicidal. The main character’s childhood stay with GGW is the circumstance where Blackwood really exercises her gift for restraint and forcing the reader to see what is straining just beyond the edges of her words.

In fact, a stormy, sultry night like this is the perfect time to dip into a ooky family tale, especially on that has such a great introduction that points out what plot devices and characters may have very well been based on life. Blackwood’s life itself is worth looking into, so I my find myself back in the stacks, looking for a bio.

GGW is one of my beloved nyrb books and every time I hit the Strand or other fine, fine booksellers, I am always looking for another to add to my collection.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What's Worth It

I was flipping through the NYT Book Review as I do most Sundays. I like to count how many reviews or articles are about books I would actually read. Usually the count hovers below two, but often it is zero. Occasionally the essay can redeem a whole useless Review, but this weeks’ “Saving the Planet, One Book at a Time” by Rachel Donadio was not one of them.

Donadio starts off by doing some interesting description of what is up with the companion volume to Al Gore’s ever-present film An Inconvenient Truth, the recycled paper, the carbon-neutralness the book’s production. She teases those of us who are kind of wowed by this, she lets us know how useless the not-often-used process is in an industry that uses dead wittle twees and toxic ink to make almost all of its products. She then writes some silly shit about a plastic book made by a green architectural “pioneer” and a chemist and how plastic books may be the wave of the rolling green FUTE- CHA!

What the essay brought into focus for me was how strongly I feel that books are worth it. They are worth the tons and tons of paper, they are worth the toxic inks. Books are not the problem. Here are some things that are not worth it:

-- Paper used to print out “funny” emails from work. Or really, anything from work.

-- Paper used to send endless political brochures around election time.

-- Paper used to print out those ugly low-res digital scans of your cousin’s baby. Buy a fucking 35mm and send me some prints!

-- Carbon dioxide created every time a Greenpeace canvasser asks me if I have a “minute for the environment.”

-- Carbon dioxide created when the folks from our big white house open their mouths to try to convince us that it is we who are crazy—everything is under control.

-- Trees felled to make pressboard to build housing projects, oops I mean luxury town homes, on former farms.

-- Paper used to print the Book Review every week.