Wow, I have not read a book in ages! I just couldn't get started on any books I already had, so I downloaded some Mary Roberts Rinehart titles from Project Gutenberg.The Case of Jennie Brice
was quick to read, but I sense that it was also quickly written. It felt like it wasn't a cohesive story but more like a collection of events with a few pieces forgotten :) But, I also suspect that Rinehart took "write what you know" to heart and just added a murder or two. In this case , busybody landlady Mrs. Pittman suddenly finds herself intrigued with the possible murder of one of her tenants during Pittsburgh's flood season. I had no idea flooding was so bad back then.
Rinehart launches into great detail about life when your main floor is flooded, including tying up a boat to your banister! Suspicion is cast everywhere but mainly on Jennie's husband. While the police search for Jennie, who might be still alive, a subplot involving Mrs. Pittman's niece and her beau unfolds.
x-posted to bookish
I decided to clear some books out and try my luck at the second hand store for a buck or two - and decided to let go of a little square book by Annette Blaugrund, The Essential John James Audubon
. Like many pre-Internet book purchases, this one was a must have for all the colour pictures. The amount of text is very small and is about Wikipedia article sized in length. Audubon's famous pictures are definitely what this book is about! I'm hoping I didn't pay the suggested $18.95 for this book, but I'm sure it can find a new home with another bird lover.
x-posted to bookish
"Bae’s prose alternates between detailed descriptions of everyday life and ruminative passages on music, ideas, and her character’s mental state. The late American poet William Matthews once described his taste in literature as a preference for prosy poetry and poetic prose. A Greater Music
exemplifies the latter category; it requires and amply rewards rereading." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books
, Jay Greenfield
’s debut novel published last week by New York publisher Chickadee Prince Books, is a guilty pleasure, a book I enjoyed and could barely put down for its suspenseful serpentine plot despite its pedestrian and occasionally heavy-handed prose." -- From my examiner article
. Also see my New York Journal of Books review
, which concludes "with Max's Diamonds
readers are rewarded with a fun and absorbing read whose fortuitous May publication date makes it a felicitous beach or airplane book."
I put off reading this epic novel for years, because I didn't think I would enjoy it. It turned out, I was very wrong - after a slow start, I found myself enjoying it a lot and caring immensely for its three main characters, Jean Valjean, Cossette and Marius.
Jean Valjean is introduced as a petty criminal, and at the start of his storyline, he is (to his amazement) given shelter by a bishop, after most of the town has shunned him because of his criminal tendencies. Although he seems like he should not be a sympathetic character, he immediately becomes a loveable rogue, even when - unable to suppress his kleptomaniac tendencies - he steals the Bishop's silverware. He ends up as a character who seems to be trying to prove that he is no longer a criminal, and can be seen as a valued member of society, although he has to constantly change his identity. Every time that he seems to have vanished completely, he shows up again, and on some occasions I didn't realise a new character was in fact Jean Valjean again until the book made it really obvious.
At the start of her story, Cossette ends up being sent away to a cruel foster family, headed by the main antagonist, Thenardier. His treatment of her is one of the most heartbreaking parts of the story, particularly the portrayal of how Thenarier's daughters are spoiled, and won't even let Cossette play with their dolls.
This book is very long, and is partially padded out by diversions from the author, who sets the scene largely through essays regarding the real-life events and places that influence the plot line, from the Napoleonic wars, to the Parisian sewer system (actually more interesting than it sounds). Victor Hugo also takes a somewhat roundabout way of introducing characters; the entire first chapter is about the Bishop who takes in Jean Valjean, describing his entire life; the bishop only appears right at the start. Likewise, to introduce Cossette, the book first of all includes a chapter about four female characters who arrive in town, one of whom is Fantine, later Cossette's mother. Later in the book, Thenardier saves the life of a soldier, who later on turns out to be Marius' father.
Although the breaks in the narrative got a bit annoying at times, I found that when the main plot was moving forward, it was actually very enjoyable, very exciting at times (mostly seeing Jean Valjean escaping the clutches of his erstwhile nemesis, Javert, who starts off as a dislikeable character, before ending up as someone who I felt surprisingly sympathetic for). There were a lot of bits that were very sad, and moving, particularly towards the book's denouement.
Overall, I was glad I did take the trouble to read this novel, and may well give the musical and/or the recent movie a go as well.
"SHADOW OF THE MOON" (1957/1979) Book Review
I wrote a REVIEW
of "SHADOW OF THE MOON"
, M.M. Kaye's bestseller about the Sepoy Rebellion. First published in 1957, the novel was re-issued in 1979.
TOP TEN FAVORITE NOVELS SET DURING THE ANTEBELLUM ERA
Here is a LIST
of my favorite novels set during the Antebellum Era.
"Looking for a brainy yet breezy novel that addresses gender, race, and class issues with levity and has a happy ending? Try Nell Zink’s Mislaid
, her second published novel following her critically well-received debut The Wallcreeper in 2014." -- from my New York Journal of Books book review: Mislaid: A Novel by Nell Zink
"To sum up, Mislaid
is an entertaining book worth reading on a plane or train ride to a vacation destination or on a poolside chaise lounge when you get there." -- from my examiner article, Books: Nell Zink's 2nd novel Mislaid is smart and witty
William Makepeace Thackeray's darkly comic novel is mostly about the anti-heroine Becky Sharp and her efforts to climb the social ladder. Becky is very different from most female lead characters in classic novels in that she really is quite selfish, and I got the impression at times that she wasn't meant to be a likeable character. The book also revolves around various other characters, such as Amelia, Captain Dobbin and the vile Marquis of Steyne.
Most of my knowledge of the book came from the 1998 BBC adaptation, and I found the book quite hard going at times, mostly because it was a bit long-winded, with a lot of long sections without dialogue. However, I found myself liking Thackeray's quirky writing style, particularly the way that he constantly addresses the reader. While sometimes it was hard to engage with what was happening, some of the chapters were very enjoyable, particularly the vivid portrayal of the battle of Waterloo.
The book was a mixture of comedy, romance and tragedy, and it seemed to get a good balance between the three. It is quite a long book, but at the end I was satisfied and glad that I had kept going with it.
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo--and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up
is an account of the 2000 murder of 21-year-old British national Lucie Blackman, who had been working as a hostess in the Roppongi area of Tokyo when she disappeared. I got this one on audiobook, on a two-for-one sale I believe, and figured a true-crime book would be a respite from my mega-depressing listen at the time, Douglas A. Blackmon's Slavery by Another Name.
Not by much, as it turned out.( Discussions of rape and murder below the cutCollapse )
Despite the disturbing subject matter, People Who Eat Darkness
is a well-written and enjoyable book. Parry brings his subjects out in wonderful detail without sensationalizing or stereotyping. He depicts Lucie Blackman as a full human being who had a life outside of the way it ended, with family and friends who are also complex people in their own right. The author also does a good job with the social nuances including the complexities of the hostess' trade and the proceedings of Japanese law enforcement.
The book was also refreshingly free of victim-blaming and moralizing--it was easy to see why Lucie Blackman's family gave Parry the kind of access that made much of the book possible. I admire the exhaustive research, balanced morality, and skilled writing that went into Darkness
, and I am glad to have read it. It certainly gave me a lot to think about.
Livejournal crosspost: http://ljlee.livejournal.com/57945.html
"Alexis Landau’s cinematically descriptive, character-driven debut novel explores ethnic identity via an intermarried family in WWI and Weimar era Germany, i.e. before anti-Semitism became official state policy legally codifying ethnic definitions." -- from my New York Journal of Books review in which I praise the book as “handsomely written” as well as a “powerful and compelling novel.” My additional remarks and excerpts from the book appear in examiner.com.
“...recommended to readers who enjoy interior prose and psychological literary fiction.” -- from my review of Five Selves by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein in New York Journal of Books. My additional remarks and excerpts from the book appear in examiner.com.
I'm re-reading Mockingjay before I rent the movie. I think I know when to stop reading, where part one of the movie ends. Can someone who has seen the movie confirm for me when it ends. Don't worry about spoiling, I already know the story.
This is a book that I was keen to read for a while after I read about it.
To explain this one, I have to give some background, regarding the character of Professor James Moriarty, regarded as the arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. For the benefit of any Sherlock Holmes newbies who might wish to read the books without being spoiled, I'll put this behind a spoiler cut, although what it reveals is quite well known. This is just a fail safe to make sure I don't get complaints.[Spoiler (click to open)]
When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes books, he decided to kill off his main character in a story called "The Final Problem". This story introduced Professor Moriarty, and ended with the apparent death of Holmes, plunging down the Reichenbach Falls in a struggle with Moriarty.
Following the public outcry, Doyle eventually resurrected Holmes, with the story "The Empty House". This book fills in some of the gap between the two adventures.
The story is certainly set within the canon of the Sherlock Holmes novels, only here the main characters are Frederick Chase and Athelnay Jones. Moriarty is apparently dead, which might make it seem strange that the book is named after him (you'll have to wait and see - it all becomes clear).
Following the discovery of a body believed to be that of Moriarty, Chase and Jones are required to track down a new criminal mastermind, who is now replacing Moriarty in his arch-villain role.
Right from the start, I found this book to be gripping, with sharp dialogue and well-rounded characters. I enjoyed the writing style, told in first person by Chase, and it gives a good sense of his personality right from the start. It also made the story feel very true to the original stories, which were mostly narrated in first person by Doctor Watson.
I enjoy reading any story of Sherlock Holmes, including versions by modern-day writers (Stephen King has also written a Sherlock short story, "The Doctor's Case"), and I loved the way that Anthony Horowitz made reference to other stories in the series (word of warning: there are a lot of spoilery references to "The Sign of Four"). I also loved the gritty way that London in the 1800s was portrayed.
I also loved the fact that, when it looked like things could go nowhere, the ending took me completely by surprise and also felt completely right and satisfying. It really is something you won't see coming.
The main story was followed up by a short story narrated by Doctor Watson, involving him and Holmes, which was loosely connected to the main story, and felt just as authentic.
Overall, I loved this book and now want to read Horowitz's Sherlock novel, "The House of Silk".
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"There are books that make us feel intensely and others that make us think deeply; one that does both is Gail Hareven
’s opalescent and psychologically complex eleventh novel Lies, First Person
(in the original Hebrew Hashkarim Ha’aharonim Shel Hagoof which literally translates as The Body’s Last Lies), which is only the second (The Confessions of Noa Weber) of her 13 books for adults to be published in English in Dalya Bilu
’s fine translation." - From my New York Journal of Books review
"Lies, First Person
, Gail Hareven
’s second novel to be translated into English (the eleventh of her thirteen adult books published in Hebrew), which is published today by Open Letter Books
, is both an emotionally compelling narrative and a novel of ideas. Its characters find different ways of coping with the emotional aftermath of an unreported and unpunished crime, and the novel invites its readers to consider such questions as the nature of evil and the justification of vengeance and retribution." - From my examiner.com article
I just started reading for fun again and am wondering if there are any books you all could recommend for me :) Thanks!
"HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS" (2007) Book Review
I wrote this REVIEW
of "HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS"
, the 2007 and last entry in J.K. Rowlings' HARRY POTTER
Has anyone read the uglies series by Scott westerfeld? What did you think? Would you recommend it?
I was keen to read this book shortly after watching the second season of Game of Thrones
, which is based on it.
Ned Stark and his fate are something that we are constantly reminded of throughout the book, and at times I thought maybe this was referenced a bit too much, although it
The title of this book comes from the main plot regarding the number of claimants to the iron throne of Westeros, following on from the first book:[Spoiler for the first book]
In A Game of Thrones, King Robert Baratheon died, and asked his hand, Ned Stark, to be king until the heir, the obnoxious Prince Joffrey, was old enough to be king. Joffrey had other ideas, and became king anyway, having Ned Stark executed.
made sense for the story to look at the effect his death had on his widow, Catelyn Stark.
So, in this book, there is a sense that a large confrontation is going to take place, and that leads to the book’s climactic battle of Blackwater Bay, which described in vivid detail.
Like with the previous book, the story does not actually have a lot of fantasy elements, with the story focussing mainly on politics, which sets this apart from other fantasy series. The only supernatural elements here are Danaerys Targarean’s dragons and a chapter involving a supernatural shadow (and a mention of a ghost later on).
The one thing I noticed a lot more than with the first book, was that the TV series took some artistic license, mostly with the order of events, presumably for dramatic reasons and finding the best way to translate it into a ten-part serial.
In particular, I noticed that there wasn’t as much of Danaerys as I had expected, and that she hardly appeared in the first half of the book, whereas she seemed to take up a significant part of the TV show. Her dragons seemed to be less significant than they were on the show too, and her storyline (which doesn’t really seem to connect much with the others at this stage) seemed a bit harder to follow; the sequence where she enters the mysterious tower near to the end actually seemed a lot darker than it appeared on screen.
As for the other stories, I remember there was a good storyline towards the end involving Jon Snow and one of the Wildlings, which the TV series made a lot more of than it is portrayed in the book. I particularly enjoyed the sections involving Arya Stark, who spends her time pretending to be a boy and who ends up serving Tywin Lannister in Harrenhal.
Overall, I thought this book was an enjoyable sequel, which made me want to keep reading the series (as well as watching the TV show), despite the usual grittiness and unflinchingly violent scenes that make George R.R. Martin’s work a lot more adult in nature than other fantasy books I have read. The book has a good way of hinting at things that are to come, with references to “the dead walking” and one mention of the phrase, “White Walkers”. I noticed the concept of “Wargs” introduced here, which I initially found confusing, mainly because in the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, a Warg is a wolf-like creature; I did find out from the DVD special features that this means a person who can spiritually inhabit the body of an animal, and from what I’ve seen of the third season so far, they play a greater part further on in the series.
One other thing I noticed was that compared to the TV series, the ending seemed a bit abrupt; it is actually a good chapter, following on from atrocities committed by the psychotic Theon Greyjoy, but I was expecting it to have the same ending as Season 2 of Game of Thrones
, which was absolutely epic, and chilling. I am assuming this was more creative license on the part of the TV show, and that this was in fact from the next book: A Storm of Swords Part One: Steel and Snow
’s debut novel The Angel of Losses
, which was published last week by New York-based HarperCollins imprint Ecco Press, is a welcome addition to the Jewish fantasy fiction
In my New York Journal of Books review
of the novel I write, “The Angel of Losses is recommended to nerdy (in the best sense of the word) secular Jewish and philo-Semitic readers whose genre interests include the confluence of contemporary and fantasy fiction
The book's narrator, John Ridd, falls in love with the eponymous Lorna Doone. However, things are complicated by the fact that one of Lorna's family killed John's father, stirring up bad blood between the two families, resulting in a romance story that almost feels like Romeo and Juliet
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect of this book, imagining it to be a gothing, Jane Eyre-type story, but for a while (except for the killing of John's father), this felt like a more gentle story regarding John and Lornas' feelings for each other, that made me wonder if they would manage to have a future together.
As I got further into the book, it felt a bit more like an adventure story at times, as it portrayed John and Lorna fleeing from the Doones, and later on there were also some exciting depictions of battles, some between John and the Doones and also an account of John's involvement in a historical rebellion. Although at times I felt that it got a bit long-winded, with John going on about his feelings for what seemed like several pages at some points, I liked the fact that the book had several plot twists that I did not see coming, some shocking. I wasn't surprised to find that the drama was not over until the story's main villain (in this case the obnoxious Carver Doone) was finally dispatched with, and I found the book's final confrontation to be very satisfying.
Overall, I was glad that I read this book; it was very enjoyable and compelling enough to keep reading to the end.
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My two part review begins with the poet's bio and backstory in New York Journal of Books and continues with a discussion of his poems in examiner:
"Anglophone readers (especially those who also read Hebrew) will find both this handsome book’s bilingual presentation of Ruebner’s selected poems, and his heart wrenching backstory described by translator Rachel Tzvia Back in her informative introduction and endnotes, compelling reading."
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This is a book about a book, De Rerum Natura or On the Nature of Things written by Titus Lucretius Carus over 2,000 years ago. Lucretius was born nearly a century before Christ and nothing much is known about him. He was an accomplished poet; he lived during the first century BC and he was devoted to the teachings of Epicurus all of which he wrote eloquently about in his magnificent poem, De Rerum Natura.
The Swerve is an account of the rediscovery of this poem after it had been forgotten for centuries after the birth of Christ and the revolutionary impact it had on the writers, artists and scientists of the time when it was discovered in a monastery in 1417. This epic poem is presented in six books and it undertakes a full and completely naturalistic explanation of the physical origin, structure, and destiny of the universe. Included in it are ideas such as the atomic structure of matter and the emergence and evolution of life forms over the millennia.
On the Nature of Things laid out what is a strikingly modern understanding of the world. Every page reflected a core scientific vision—a vision of atoms moving constantly in an infinite universe, coming together to form first one thing and then another. The poem claimed that atoms are at the core of everything in the universe, from the trees to the oceans to the animals to the stars to human beings. It claimed that there is no such thing as an afterlife, no heaven or hell and that it is foolish to believe in an all powerful, all seeing God who is so minutely concerned with human affairs that he sees everything we do and will eventually reward us or punish us for it.
All of these ideas were of course, considered heresy back in the 15th century and the Church tried its best to denounce Lucretius and to prevent the circulation of his epic poem. But despite their best efforts the poem was copied again and again and it was circulated fairly widely. The ideas in the poem inspired the Renaissance. It influenced artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.
That, briefly, is the story behind this book. It is interesting in itself, but it becomes more so in the hands of Stephen Greenblatt who takes a tremendous amount of information and brings it all together in a very engaging narrative. Despite the wealth of information here and the many different threads of the same story, the narrative never gets dense or heavy.
Greenblatt paints a vivid picture of pre-rennaisance Europe. There is a reason why that period is referred to as the dark ages. It was a time when every word and every thought had to be censored and where intellectual curiosity was deemed a crime...The author writes about it all very casually and that more than anything else, makes it a chilling portrait.
We all know that Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake and that Galileo was persecuted for stating that the Earth is not the centre of the universe. All of that is brought to life vividly here. And when taken against the thought of all the knowledge and wisdom of ancient Greece and Rome that was lost for over a thousand years and had to be painstakingly learned and rediscovered ...it is almost as if the world went backwards for a thousand years before it found its way again.
I knew all of this already, but Stephen Greenblatt paints such a vivid picture of the people and the time that I found myself feeling an acute sense of loss.
I took my time in reading this book, forcing myself to go slow because I didn't want to miss anything. But much as I learned, it made me want to learn more...both about ancient Greece and Rome and about the Renaissance. This is a wonderful book and must read for anyone interested in History.
The last three science fiction books I read were all by Philip K. Dick, and I think I have read enough of his work to be considered a Dickhead :D I finished The Man in the High Castle (1962) most recently, and before that, The Zap Gun (1967) and The Penultimate Truth (1964). The Man in the High Castle was my favourite of the three.
All three have a lot in common - alternate post-WW2 outcomes are explored in each. The world has been divided up into various factions, each with its own mechanics for manipulating reality. Often times events are presented simultaneously where the characters don't realize that they are responsible, much like an artist doesn't realize how they can affect a viewer or a politician makes a decision that affects the outcome for citizens. I actually thought The Zap Gun and The Penultimate Truth were in the same universe, but a quick check proved that to not be true. The books were written co-currently and are very similar to each other. The Penultimate Truth was my least favourite, mostly because the last five or six chapters explain the plot and I found it too long and wordy. It shows signs of overwriting and once the plot twist comes, loses all momentum, and then ends on a cliffhanger.
Truth is based on some earlier short stories (especially "The Defenders") and feels cobbled together. What spoils a perfectly decent plot about a government conspiracy is the clunkiness of the way everything is named. Dick uses the same words across his works in a genius stroke of continuity, but they come across as not having been read out loud:
Artiforg (artificial organ)
Aud (short for audio)
Pac-Peop (Pack-Peep? Pee-op?)
The most aggravating word is the form of transportation called a flapple. I even noted the use of disemflappled, which sounds like what happens when an iPhone user switches to Android. I actually kept reading artiforg as artifrog, which started to make more sense. The technology in the book is also painfully clunky - predicting a far off future where robots and cable TV exist. It's hard to remember that the concept of cable was pretty futuristic at the time.
In comparison, The Zap Gun was much better, but the relationship between the main character, Lars, and a Russian love interest, Ms. Topchev, disappears shortly before the end of the book. This leaves the story feeling unresolved. Same with Truth and Castle - both just stop. Apparently there was going to be a sequel to Castle, but it never happened.
Back to Castle, the use of the I Ching as a plot device was really interesting and added a fortune telling quality that's usually filled by a piece of magical technology (an oracle appears in The Zap Gun as well, but it's a piece of technology). I liked the modes of deception in Castle (most of the characters have multiple realities as well). One of the characters, Frank Frink, has changed his name in order to escape persecution for being Jewish. His estranged wife, Juliana, experiences a transformation after giving a mysterious truck driver a ride, and even objects have multiple lives. Perhaps one of the reasons I liked Castle so much was the loving attention paid to material culture - the piece of paper that makes an object "authentic", the way clothing and gifts are used, interior design. If I had read Castle earlier, all this would have flown over my head.
Not so much with the other two books, but the world of Castle is an incredibly racially divided one (Germans and Japanese control the world, and each takes about a third of the US). Some characters spout some racial slurs that were popular, although probably still not socially acceptable back in the day. I don't believe it reflects on the attitude of the author though.
Summary: Lost your way?
Welcome to Lost.
It was supposed to be a small escape. A few hours driving before turning around and heading home. But once you arrive in Lost...well, it's a place you really can't leave. Not until you're Found. Only the Missing Man can send you home. And he took one look at Lauren Chase and disappeared.
So Lauren is now trapped in the town where all lost things go-luggage, keys, dreams, lives-where nothing is permanent, where the locals go feral and where the only people who don't want to kill her are a handsome wild man called the Finder and a knife-wielding six-year-old girl. The only road out of town is engulfed by an impassable dust storm, and escape is impossible....
Until Lauren decides nothing-and no one-is going to keep her here anymore.The Lost
is a mixed bag that I still ended up enjoying. Although I think Durst’s transition to adult made her feel as if she needed to strip down her writing style (a lot of the sentences are very short) otherwise I think her first foray into adult fiction was a successful one.Read the review at Bibliodaze!
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Slava Gelman, the protagonist of Boris Fishman's debut novel A Replacement Life, fabricates Holocaust narratives for elderly Russian immigrants' reparations claims applications. In my NYJB review I write, "Slava knows that to make his stories convincing he has to get the details right, and despite the leaps of faith Fishman demands he provides more than enough correct details and well crafted figurative turns of phrase to convince most readers to go along with him—and those who do will be amply rewarded by this multidimensional and handsomely written debut novel." For additional remarks about A Replacement Life see my examiner article.( Read more...Collapse )
Just before Christmas, a friend of mine (who was moving house) decided to offer unwanted books to others on a night out; I took this one, since it sounded interesting. I saw that Paul Auster had drawn together lots of accounts from different people in the United States, and I assumed it would mostly be humourous tales about absurdities related to American life, and it started promisingly with a story about how someone saw a chicken walk down the road, knock on a door and go in when admitted.
Sadly, I was disappointed, as many of the stories felt very self-indulgent and would have meant a lot more to the people telling them; a lot of them were about their own families and there seemed to be a lot about people losing possessions, only for them to turn up in unlikely places. I also noticed that a lot of the more light-hearted stories felt like they were leading up to some sort of punchline, which never happened. Some of the stories were just too shocking and unpleasant.
There were a few stories that were a bit better, including war tales from people who had experienced it first hand, and my favourite overall was one narrator telling about how he was faced with an assassin and his efforts negotiating for his own life.
Strangely, there was a chapter that had people telling of their own dreams, many of which ended up as supernatural tales involving how their own dreams seemed to hint at psychic connections with others or communications with people who had just died; I had mixed feelings about this section; at times it felt self-indulgent, but at times I did find myself very surprised about what I had just read.
Overall though, I would not recommend this book.
- Location:My Flat
- Music:Meat Loaf, "Life is a Lemon and I wany my Money Back"
Whenever I go down to the local comic book shop, I never know what to get. I have most of the popular graphic novels and lots of stuff by Drawn and Quarterly. I really have to work hard to find something I want that's new. It also seems whenever I'm in there, a particular superfan of Red Sonja is too, so I was half smiling to myself as his assessment of the new Red Sonja movie floated over the stacks. But I finally found something - Shortcomings
by Adrian Tomine. To mine reached a peak back in 2007 or 2008 with New York Drawings
and I always meant to check it out. But it wasn't really a graphic novel per se, but a collection of drawings. I picked Shortcomings
The title refers to a dick joke in the first act of the book, but also comes to represent one of the characters. Ben Tanaka is never quite the person he wants to be. He's self-absorbed and defensive, constantly feeling others are attacking his opinions. Ben, his girlfriend Miko and his best lesbian friend Alice, are the three main characters and all unlikeable in some way. Ben neglects Miko emotionally, is constantly angry and extremely negative. Miko is less than honest with Ben about her feelings in their relationship. Disappointingly, Alice is shown as a gay stereotype, almost predatory, in her constant search of sex.
I can see where this book would be challenging for readers because the characters are so unlikeable, and they argue constantly. I wish I had read it when the book first came out because now it reads like Twitter drama. In some ways, Shortcomings
is a clever book because it's basically one big info dump on issues facing Asian Americans - multiracial relationships, self-hatred, identity, Asiaphiles and navigating representation in media. One favourite part of the book is when Ben poses as Alice's boyfriend at a wedding for the sake of her parents. Alice is Korean American and Ben is Japanese American - Ben wonders why he can't pass as Korean, but Alice assures him that her grandmother hasn't forgiven his "people" for WW2 atrocities and would not be fooled. Tomine never casts judgement on any of the above themes, he simply lets them be.
Unfortunately a huge shortcoming of Shortcomings
is that the story is not fully resolved in a satisfying way for me. Does Ben get over his anger issues or overcome any other personal flaws? Miko and Alice get endings, but not Ben. It's disappointing after committing to 108 pages of conflict and angst. But I can forgive Tomine because I love the simplicity of his style and talent for nuance and gesture. He really is a master with faces and knows when to let a panel speak for itself. I just wish he could have penned a few more pages for a more satisfying ending - and it certainly wouldn't have to be a happy one either.
Tale of Sand
is a "long lost" screenplay written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl that was never realized into a film. But, in 2012, it was synthesized into an almost wordless graphic novel by Ramon Perez that won several awards. It's a gorgeous book, no doubt about it. I noticed it right away on the shelf because of its bright yellow cover that was starting to fade in the sun. Maybe I felt compelled to buy it for just that reason. It is a lovely tome, with a good heft and almost like a sketchbook. The illustrations by Ramon Perez are top notch and he makes expert use of a limited palette (mostly yellow, blue, pink and purple). A history at the end of the tale that describes the history of Tale of Sand
and how it languished in development hell.
Unfortunately, the book falls very, very flat. One reason is that most of Henson's work is very visual and aural, and no doubt this film would have been very innovative like his short films
. But a lot of the gags just aren't as funny as they could be. A cartoon boom just isn't as awesome as the real thing, and although Perez replicates the frenzied pace people associate with Muppets, putting a 3D medium into 2D didn't really work. There's some caricatures of non-Caucasian people that seem out of place in this day and age (although the screenplay was written in the 60s and 70s). That's the trouble - would the actual Henson produced project go with those caricatures or...? Lastly, there isn't really a narrative - a man arrives in a small town, is sent on a journey, and finds himself pursued by a man with an eyepatch until he reaches his destination. It's a shame because there are enough motifs and themes - the devil, cigarettes, time, lizards - to create an interesting story here, but nope.
After reading the book, I just wanted to read the actual screenplay to get a better sense of the whole product. Others must have wanted to see it tok, because a "box set" edition is coming in July 2014
. I really do hope that it will make Tale of Sand seem more complete.