Saturday, July 31, 2004


sorry for the lack of posts lately (to the two of you who read this blog). it's not that i haven't been reading, but i'm not reading as much due to massive headaches and to being busy going to mergefest. i promise there will be more book/comic-related commentary here soon!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

book 63

finally finished book 63 . . . it's been ages since i posted a book.

john banville's shroud
one of the reasons it took me so long to finish this was its extremely dull story and equally dull prose. honestly, i nodded off twice today alone while reading it. it's all about some academic-type who assumed someone else's identity after wwII and the young girl who has uncovered his secret. it mostly takes place in turin, hence the title. but unfortunately, since it's narrated by the aforementioned academic, it's a pretty dry read for a novel--esp. weird considering there's a fair amount of sex and madness involved. it's gotten a lot of great reviews but sometimes i don't see the point of these novels that exist solely to illuminate some decrepit old man's mental state.

Saturday, July 24, 2004


i just wrote the silliest, lamest little email to craig thompson. carnet de voyage was just lovely--i liked the informality of the sketchbook, but the story of his travels across france and morocco was compelling enough to keep me reading past my bedtime (hey, i got up at 6:30 and i'm sleepy!). and of course his drawings are all so beautiful; i selfishly wondered if he sells his original art so i could try and save up and hoard one little bit all to myself.

and his impressions of the loneliness of traveling were just so spot on. i kept thinking back to my week in egypt when i was 20, and how lonely and miserable i was, even though i was traveling with friends. not being able to communicate well makes one feel more isolated, i guess.

back to craig thompson for a second though: i just suddenly remembered that when kris and damon (comic swap! i miss you!) recommended his book goodbye, chunky rice, it was just before i went to israel. i remember rereading it in pittsburgh a day or so before i flew away . . . for the triangle denizens: i've seen copies at internationalist books and think you all should check it out. i hadn't seen it in years and finally found it in one of the boxes my parents brought me, along w/ all the stuff i got at the upc thing at bowling green when i'd just gotten back after 6 months abroad . . . i was so happy to read it again. and i finally got my copy of blankets back too, from its endless rounds among my friends. that one has a spot on my real bookshelves.

it makes my heart hurt a little to read his books, b/c he sometimes seems so sad; his drawings are so gorgeous that they hurt me a little too. i'm profoundly grateful that he's out there creating these things though. i told him in my email that i bet every girl who reads his stuff falls a little bit in love with him, and i sincerely believe that it's true. maybe it's true of the sensitive males too, or of anyone who has experienced love and loss and loneliness and all that alliterative jazz.

yes, i'm aware that i take these things too seriously.

Friday, July 23, 2004

so happy

i swung by second foundation after work today--it always smells so good in there, it makes me want to cry. they've gotten rid of pretty much all the books so it's a real comic book store now! it looks amazing.

i got a ton of great stuff:
--conversation #1 (craig thompson and james kochalka's tagteam comic)
--the origami pet (very cool-looking minicomic)
--carnet de voyage (craig thompson's first book since blankets)
--kabuki (first issue in AGES!)
--love fights 11
--y the last man24
--powers vol 2 #1
--liberty meadows sourcebook 1
--fables 27
--plastic man 8
--fables: storybook love (the third trade--i started buying the issues just after this story arc)
--sweaterweather (graphic novel by sara varon)
--bipolar 2-4 (etgar keret writes some stories for these and i've heard great things about them)
--powers 26 and 30 (i think these are the two issues i was missing. well, i hope they are . . . )
--eightball 23 (in a new big size!)
--rabbithead (one-shot by rebecca dart)

i almost regret making plans to see napoleon dynamite tonight--i really want to just read all these right now!

i am so happy, and so utterly addicted.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

recent reading material

salon has an article today on alan moore. the accompanying illustration is pretty great, too.

so the regulator is in the midst of a 20% off sale (for members) and even though i have been diligently using my library card, i really felt the need to shop at least a little. and i had a few things on hold there . . .

one of the things i had on hold was robert coover's stepmother, which turned out to be a mcsweeney's book. that totally explains its vaguely silly, dark perspective on fairy tales. it's one of those turning-fairy-tales-on-their-head books, only not really; the illustrations are stunning--stark and entrancing. it's only 89 pages so it doesn't count toward my 100 books, but i definitely recommend picking it up just for fun.

i also picked up the latest issue of bitch magazine. i'm not sure why i keep buying this, as i'm consistently underwhelmed with its content (has it gone downhill? i loved it in college. or have i outgrown it in some capacity?). i guess i'm tired of its overtly political/academic bent. the interview w/ diane dimassa (who drew the hothead paisan comics) was pretty great, but the one w/ em and lo was pretty bland (so disappointing--i adore them!). i did like the article on male "homosociality" and the very favorable camera obscura review (they called them "subversive," hee!) but otherwise was pretty much bored during the course of my reading.

i think i just prefer bust's take on female-friendly articles--they're a lot more fun! and it's not like they don't have a feminist agenda, but they don't need to overly politicize everything--it's definitely aimed more at the feminists of my generation, who generally aren't so angry (which doesn't mean we're not activists!) and are maybe more creative. i never see much on diy stuff in bitch.

hee, and another book i got was this hilarious book called "english as she is spoke," an english phrasebook originally written in 1855 by a portuguese man who didn't actually know english. needless to say, it's really entertaining for word nerds like me.

Monday, July 19, 2004

book 62

here's another one i picked up at the library last weekend. i'm nearly due for another trip--i am totally enamoured of the chapel hill public library, for the record.

a.l. kennedy's so i am glad
this book was pretty great, i have to say. at first the narration annoyed me--the narrator is a self-described cold, emotionless woman--but then the story sort of enveloped me. it's about this woman and how she meets a mysterious man who claims to be cyrano de bergerac (also, he glows in the dark). i mean, it'd be hard not to be interested in a story like that. the narrator's interactions with the minor characters are well-drawn as well; it's a pretty small story if you think about it, but the characters are so fleshed out and their interactions so intense that it doesn't feel that way at all. and it's only on writing this and reflecting on the book that i realize the title is a perfect fit as well. i fully plan on tracking down more of kennedy's works.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

books 60 and 61

i forgot to post this one the other day:

patti kim's a cab called reliable
this book starts off promisingly--it's about a young girl who recently came from korea to america. pretty much the first thing that happens is that her mother leaves, taking her little brother with her, leaving the girl w/ her semi-abusive, drunk father. there's a very cute neighbor character who's her best friend, but he soon moves away. things don't really progress much from here--she starts writing depressing stories, and suddenly is a troubled middle-schooler doing poorly in school, and just as suddenly her terrible father becomes a doting father . . . it makes little sense--i mean, there is NO character development. the book is pretty short, but that's no reason for the chapters to jump around so much. and when a huge reveal is made, it's never explained or even mentioned again. this was just really frustrating to read--it had a lot of potential but really fell short of the mark.

william styron's lie down in darkness
i think it's a bad sign when i've spent the past few days reading this book, yet could not for the life of me remember its title over those days (i actually had to get up and go look just now b/c i'd forgotten it again). i mean, this book is ok, but it was written in 1951 and all the characters are mildly racist, and even styron at times comes off as racist (the "dialect" the black characters speak is appalling, especially since the dialog of all the other southern characters isn't written in any discernable style). there's also some interesting anti-jewish sentiments; the daughter of the main characters marries a new york jew, which lends itself to pages and pages of discussion. the story itself is about a very unhappily married couple--an alcoholic and a delusional weirdo--and their daughter, who early in the book has committed suicide. the story itself is presented as a series of flashbacks loosely interwoven with the action at the funeral. in addition, there's a fairly annoying disjointed section narrated by the daughter just before her suicide--very stream of consciousness and melodramatic. was that a new thing in 1951? now i'm definitely going to hesitate before reading sophie's choice. i really didn't enjoy styron's writing here.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

ny times on graphic novels

there's a great (and long) article in the ny times about comics/graphic novels here. i've only just started reading it but so far it seems pretty cool (though i take exception to the image of y the last man as being pursued by a bunch of "angry lesbians"). thanks for the link, kevin.

peter lefcourt

peter lefcourt's eleven karens
this is a very funny and fairly sweet sort of coming-of-age story about a guy who has been involved w/ eleven women named karen throughout his life. it's a great lens through which to view a young man's life/learning about sex/whatever. it touches on draft-dodging, cab-driving, going to the peace corps, writing romance novels, and other hilarious things. the conceit of explaining every pop culture reference with a footnote stopped being cute and amusing around chapter 8, but otherwise this was a very entertaining and light read, perfect for a summer morning.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

louise murphy

book 58.

louise murphy's the true story of hansel and gretel
i guess i'd read a good review of this somewhere, b/c it was on my list of books to read even though i remembered nothing about it. foolishly i checked it out of the library w/o paying it much attention. imagine my annoyance when it turned out to be a retelling of the fairy tale that takes place during . . . wait for it . . . the HOLOCAUST! b/c THAT'S never been done before! i found it vaguely interesting when i was about ten and read jane yolen's briar rose, but COME ON! and of course it has every cliche of holocaust fiction: you got your kindhearted gypsies, your adorable/aryan-looking jewish kids, your heroic partisans, your totally warped high-powered nazi, your camps, your torture, your senseless violence and betrayal . . . and none of it is in the least surprising, plot-wise. at least the camps aren't used as the fairy-tale oven analogy, which i was pretty much expecting . . . b/c that would interfere w/ the inevitable happy ending. GUESS WHAT, ms. murphy? THERE WERE VERY FEW HAPPY ENDINGS DURING THIS PERIOD. don't you think writing about something that you have no connection to--when plenty of writers who actually experienced it have written better books than this--kind of cheapens it? what gives her the right to write a story like this? and WHY is the holocaust the inevitable historical crisis around which all these stories turn? can't authors write about cambodia, or rwanda? there are plenty of other historical crises to exploit in fiction, you know!

to be fair, that's not to say this isn't a well-written book w/ interesting characters. i almost wished it had been a movie; there was one very vivid scene during which i'd have closed my eyes (you all know about my fear of needles going into veins, right? i mean, i feel sick just writing this now)--and really, how do you get through a scene like that in a book? i read it w/ one eye closed, cringing. stupid blood transfusions. ugh, i'm going to puke if i think about this more.

but yeah, i have pretty much lost my patience for holocaust fiction at this point in my life. my irrational anger is probably sponsored by a link i saw on metafilter yesterday pointing to online historical archives of the lodz ghetto--i'm pretty sure i found records of my own family being transported, or at least a family w/ my grandmother's unusual name. it's a weird thing to bring up, though: "hey, bubbe, just wanted to call and say hi! by the way, what were the names of your father's siblings? i think i just found proof that they were sent to auschwitz!" yeah, not so much.

Friday, July 09, 2004

more on y

ok, jason has given me permission to discuss his theory, which was that yorick's girlfriend beth is actually a man. he's basing this on the two dreams sequences that feature beth as well as the phone conversation where she had something important to tell yorick (but he interrupted her w/ a marriage proposal). i was inclined to scoff at this theory--first of all, i just figured beth was going to dump yorick for another guy or something, and second of all, i just can't see dc (even vertigo) doing something that radical (of course, there is always a first time, and nbc did it with freaks and geeks to some extent). i was piqued by the idea though, which is half the reason i went back to reread the entire series to date (i'm glad i did for other reasons--really, i'd lost the flow of the story and nearly forgotten about the apparent importance of the amulet of helene).

however, except for the first dream sequence, i don't think there's much to support this idea (yet). jason's right--in his first dream about beth, she warns him not to find her, saying, "you know why," and then dying a bloody vomity death--the same way the plague victims are shown to have died. but the second dream sequence, in arizona, features beth dying from an attack by a weird sci-fi looking wild animal--it claws open her gut, pretty much, which really doesn't seem to relate to the plague or her masculinity in any way.

still, the series has pulled more than a few surprises so far, so this is definitely something to keep in mind, and mad props to jason if he's right . . . keen eye, babe!

y the last man

inspired by a theory of my friend jason, i've decided to reread the whole series this weekend. although this is one of my favorite current-running series, many of the single issues have annoyed me b/c of their extreme cliffhanger endings. i'm one of those people who prefers beginnings of new storylines, with endless possibilities for what'll happen next, and i find cliffhangers to be pretty frustrating. Y has certainly has more than its share--i guess most comics do, now that i think about it, but i notice them more with this series for some reason (or maybe it's that they all seem sort of similar here--Y and his companions getting into trouble w/ some large group of women or another). the point there being that i haven't generally reread any single issues of this book (i do reread most comics i buy) and i haven't read them all en masse either (which, again, i usually do with the comics i buy). but now that i have every issue all together in a clump (b/c jason has just returned them to me), there is no excuse. tonight, fortified with garden burgers and blueberries, i settle down to read all 24 issues and see if i think jason's theory holds water. more later.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

first 55 books

i'm too lazy to find out about backdating entries and then copying and pasting 55 book reviews, so here's the list of all of 'em instead. if you want to know what i thought of any of these, just ask, and i'll point you toward my comments. :)

*=i was re-reading this one
1. anne fadiman's ex libris
2.* all 5 harry potters (more than once, as the year panned out!)
3.* michael chabon's the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay
4. haven kimmel's something rising (light and swift)
5. zz packer's drinking coffee elsewhere
6. diana wynne jones' howl's moving castle
7. susan fromberg schaeffer's the snow fox
8. ross king's domino
9. douglas coupland's generation x
10. douglas coupland's microserfs
11. peter hoeg's miss smilla's feelings for snow
12. robertson davies' the rebel angels
13. max barry's jennifer government
14. gish jen's typical american
15. robertson davies' fifth business
16. louise erdrich's the master butcher's singing club
17. robertson davies' the manticore
18. robertson davies' world of wonders
19. daniel wallace's big fish
20. ann patchett's taft
21. susan cooper's over sea, under stone
22. susan cooper's other 4 dark is rising books
23. robertson davies' what's bred in the bone
24. pete hamill's snow in august
25. robertson davies' the lyre of orpheus
26.* haruki murakami's hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world
27.* madeleine l'engle's a wrinkle in time
28. suzan-lori parks' getting mother's body
29. ann patchett's the magician's assistant
30. ann patchett's the patron saint of liars
31. andrew sean greer's the confessions of max tivoli
32. lynne truss' eats, shoots and leaves
33.* madeleine l'engle's a swiftly tilting planet
34.* michael dorris and louise erdrich's the crown of columbus
35.* kobo abe's the kangaroo notebook
36. margaret atwood's oryx and crake
37. mark haddon's the curious incident of the dog in the night-time
38. jon mcgregor's if nobody speaks of remarkable things
39. ruth ozeki's my year of meats
40. george eliot's middlemarch
41. james woods' the book against god
42. ruth ozeki's all over creation
43. robertson davies' temper-tost
44. robertson davies' leaven of malice
45. robertson davies' a mixture of frailties
46. audrey niffenegger's the time traveler's wife
47. david sedaris' dress your family in corduroy and denim
48. nicholson baker's the everlasting story of nory
49. isaac bashevis singer's the seance
50!!! zoe heller's what was she thinking? [notes on a scandal]
51. thomas dyja's meet john trow
52. steve almond's my life in heavy metal
53. reynolds price's a long and happy life
54. herman wouk's war and remembrance
55. debbie macomber's the shop on blossom street (my requisite chick-lit for the year, it was about a chick who owns a knitting store!)

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

poison ivy

no, not the comic book poison ivy (though her appearance in batgirl a month or so ago was mildly entertaining). sadly, i apparently had a run-in with this plant over the fourth of july weekend and as a result have been missing lots of work, instead spending my time sleeping (benadryl makes me sleepy).

on the plus side, i have managed to read two books in the past two days in between naps (i've already read more than the required 50 books for the year, so now am aiming for 100). i'm trying to figure out if there's a way to add all the books i've read so far this year to this blog--by backdating entries, i mean, not by just cramming them all into one entry. but for now, here's books 56 and 57 for 2004.

book 56:
kazuo ishiguro's a pale view of hills
brief comments, 'cause i'm sleepy: good book, interesting characters, interesting look at western culture coming to japan in the post WWII era. my only beef is that the entire story seems to be setting up a mystery, but what happened in the past of the main character is never really revealed. i liked this book, but would have liked it a lot more if there was actually a resolution of sorts. of course this was ishiguro's first novel, so it's not really fair to judge it by his famous later novels.

book 57:

jonathan lethem's amnesia moon
honestly, i'm not a huge fan of lethem's writing--his latest short stories have been trying too hard to be hip and clever, or something. but charles recommended this book to me, and i trust charles' judgment, so i grabbed it at the library today, and enjoyed it pretty well. it's a futuristic dystopia thing, where the main character has no memory of his past or of how the world got so fucked up. keeping w/ my recent trend in reading, the big "what happened" is never explained, but somehow it turns out not to be really necessary to the story as a whole. it's an interesting meditation on memory/thought/dreaming with a pretty good story backing it up. i'll have to get more recommendations from charles.

i love my shiny new library card. i have three more books waiting for me! of course, i am going to try and work a whole day tomorrow . . .

Sunday, July 04, 2004

free comic book day

since yesterday was free comic book day, i felt obliged to stop by second foundation and see how the boys were getting along. their advertising consisted of a sign on the sidewalk that read "free comics!" in bright orange letters. apparently it was effective--i've never seen the store that packed (of course i usually stop in on weekdays, not saturdays). the limit for free books was three, so i supported some of my favorite publishers by picking up stuff from alternative press (jeff mason is the guy who first got me hooked on comics back when i was 15-16ish--one of these days i'll tell that story), top shelf (which i hoped would have an excerpt of craig thompson's upcoming carnet de voyage, but didn't--not that the other stories weren't good), and slave labor (i mainly got this for the evan dorkin cover--slave labor has gotten too depressingly gothy over the past few years).

i also picked up the few things that had accumulated in my folder since last time i was in: vertigo's new comic, the witching (could be good--i'll read the next few issues before i judge), the light of venus (luba's comics and stories number 4--i've really enjoyed the venus stories beto does--i miss the measles comic!), caper (all of winick's plotlines in this book have started slow and then impressed me later--i'm hoping that'll happen again), batgirl (i will quietly admit to being a little disappointed w/ horrocks' writing on these--or maybe i just wish he'd draw more issues of atlas instead), and issue 4 of new frontiers. i also got the reissue of derek kim kirk's short stories, which i kept meaning to buy when it first came out, and didn't, and so when i saw the new version i jumped on it. the first story is incredible and the shorter ones are worth reading as well.

so there's all the latest comic-book-news from me. keep looking for more word-nerdiness!