Is it just me, or have we reached a point where it has become cool (perhaps hipster cool?) to hold Alan Moore at arms length and dismiss his work? I dIs it just me, or have we reached a point where it has become cool (perhaps hipster cool?) to hold Alan Moore at arms length and dismiss his work? I don’t think it is just me. It certainly feels like that was the everyreader (if not the critical) reception to Alan Moore’s Fashion Beast.
Travelling around to the comic book stores in my region (my decidedly rural Canadian region, it should be stated), I have not found anyone but myself who has actually read this entire series. Two people I know read a couple of issues then stopped, and a few read the first issue but no more. Only I have read the entire series in my less than immediate vicinity.And when I’ve brought up Fashion Beast it has been to a universal cool. Even those who’ve read some of the series responded with little more than a shrug and a “meh.”
This is a shame because Fashion Beast is as accomplished a piece of fiction as anything Moore’s written with (perhaps) the exception of From Hell (yes. I am actually saying it is as accomplished as Watchmen). It is a tormented and tortured retelling of Beauty and the Beast characterised by sexual ambiguity, abuse, power struggle, dystopia and psychological horror. And that is just the crust of the story. Dig deeper from the crust to the inner core and Fashion Beast is revealed to compress itself into subsurface layers of storytelling, layers we must work hard to uncover but whose uncovering is absolutely rewarding.
There are layers of perception, of reality and hyperreality, of anarchy, of fascism, of evolution and human interference with evolution, of fable, of morbidity, of asexuality, of transexuality, of subjugation and domination, of class and economics, of signs and semiotics, and these are just some of what make up the earth of Fashion Beast.
I have read some criticism of the screenplay structure of the tale, since it does come from an original Moore screenplay written in the eighties, because the screenplay structure doesn’t mimic the issue to issue structure of a comic narrative. I understand that feeling, and perhaps that has something to do with the response of those who’ve only read a couple of issues. This structure does mean that the story takes time to reveal its shape, but if one gives the cinematic orogenesis of Fashion Beast time, if one allows for a different pace of graphic storytelling, one will find the shape as pleasing as the more natural shapes we read everyday.
I suppose it is unfair to suggest that the lack of interest in Moore has to do with hipsterism. I think, in the end, it is simply that he challenges us too much (whether in form or substance).
He is like Orwell of comic book writing. Everyone says his name in hushed tones, everyone has read Animal Farm (Watchmen), and everyone claims to have read 1984 (V for Vendetta), and hard core readers (scholars and activists) have read The Road to Wigan Pier (From Dead), but going any farther is just too damn much work, so we admire Orwell (Moore) from a distance, recognize his importance, claim to be fans, but stay away — always — from the literature on the periphery. It’s easier that way.
So I get that. It just bums me out because genius tends to go un(der)appreciated....more
A little friendly violence, a little friendly homophobia, a little friendly racism, and Tony Chu and John Colby (ex-partner turned cyber-f
Chapter 1 --
A little friendly violence, a little friendly homophobia, a little friendly racism, and Tony Chu and John Colby (ex-partner turned cyber-faced FDA newbie) are as partners-in-love as they ever were. So they start investigating a piece of shit, which leads to some pee, some more violence, a glimpse of Colby's cyborg powers and some actual detection (Batman Detective Comics could learn a valuable lesson). It is a fun though slight beginning to the second volume.
Chapter 2 --
Chicken is illegal in Tony Chu's world, so it is a black market item, but now, apparently, there is a plant that may taste like chicken, so Chu is off to Micronesia to track the plant (fruit?) down.
I must talk about something more serious, however. It is time to address the fact that the FDA and USDA of Tony Chu's post-Avian Flu world are as nasty, as intrusive, as violent, as powerful, as fascist as any of the genuine US security agencies today. Sadly, John Layman's satire has never once seemed far fetched in its political, governmental, security imaginings. It is scary that the para-militarization of two supposedly benign existent agencies barely registers as odd anymore. In a book packed with oddities and impossibilities, this is the one thing in the book I can see happening, and that is depressing, and I'm going to say it will likely be prescient. Just you wait.
Chapter 3 --
Chew is satire the way Soylent Green is people -- hell, it's reminiscent of Jonathan Swift -- so the powers of Chu and others, the speculative politics, the fowl dystopia, all these elements ease our potential tension in the face of the satire and make it completely palatable -- and believable.
Case in point: the personality of Chu. He started way back in #1 as a reserved man, an anxious man, a hungry man, a man full of self-doubt and nervousness. But when his cibopathy led him to the FDA and cannibalism-for-justice, all his traits morphed; Layman gets that change just right. Chu is becoming more intrepid with each bite of human flesh; he's becoming more aggressive and much angrier too. And this little bit of real world detail, this believable growth of character, makes the satire much more palatable.
Chapter 4 --
Vampires AND a Cibolocutor. Wht's that you ask? That is a guy who can translate any work of art -- like a play or a song -- into a dish, thus transferring the emotion generated by the art into the flavour tasted by the diner. C'mon! That is cool, isn't it? Not as cool as the fact that the Vampire is on the Micronesian Isle to liberate (or eat?) the Cibopath. But Tony Chu is on the case, so look out Vampire.
I don't care how silly this book can be. The moments of mountainous creativity on display, along with the scathing satire, make this one genius book.
Chapter 5 --
Another neatly and quickly wrapped arc is over, and for all the entertainment International Flavour gave me I feel cheated. Things went a little too fast this time, and the plot was a little too big for five short issues.
Still, I am digging the Vampire (not-Vampire?), which should make the future comics fun, but I think Chu's burgeoning romance with Miss Mintz is my favourite ongoing thread of the tale (which surprises the hell out of me). So even if things are moving too quickly for my taste, Chew is still a solid comic, and I must keep going, but International Flavour is definitely a let down from Taster's Choice.
Man oh Man! My memories of Days of Future Past were about as inaccurate as I've ever seen my memories be. To be fair to myself, I was eleven when it cMan oh Man! My memories of Days of Future Past were about as inaccurate as I've ever seen my memories be. To be fair to myself, I was eleven when it came out 32 years ago, and I only read it one time, and I've never owned a copy of the original. I read it at a friends house, so I suppose I shouldn't have an expectation of clear memories, but still ... it was a surprise to read it again and see just how far removed my brain was from the reality.
First, I remembered the story being big. HUGE, in fact. But it spanned only two issues: X-Men #141-142. Second, I remembered Kitty Pryde, Colossus' Katya being more epically impressive; instead, she was heroic and cool, but in an understated, almost maternal way. Third, much of what I thought was part of the arc -- the rise of the Sentinels, the Trasks, Rachel Summers, Nimrod -- either happened before or after these two issues. Finally, I was sure Professor X was an important part of the tale, but Storm, Mystique, Kitty, Colossus, Wolverine and Franklin Richards were all much more important than the bald professor.
Yet reading it again wasn't in anyway a disappointment. It is a cool tale, and it is easy to see why so many writers have gone back to those issues for inspiration, and some have even added to the "Days of ..." mythology, which is, I suspect, precisely what Brian Singer is hoping to do with his monster-sized Days of Future Past X-Man movie -- add to the mythology. I just hope he doesn't fuck it up because this is a wonderful, compact and thrilling tale.
Kitty Pryde is a heroine with brains (she's a genius, after all), and the dystopian 2013 (yep. it's set in our current year) is creepy with very little effort. Muties in concentration camps, and Sentinels (drones) policing the movements -- and dampening the powers -- of the few mutants still wandering the Earth, and Wolverine leading the resistance from Canada, and two fights happening in two times to make the most horrible of futures impossible combine to make Days of Future Past one of the most unforgettable entries in Claremont/Byrne's phenomenal collaboration (topped, for me, only by Dark Phoenix Saga).
Yep, we named our youngest Katya because of my love for Kitty Pryde, and this arc is a huge part of the reason why....more
A story doesn't have to be factual to be true, and I don't think I have read a truer story in any form than Alan Moore's From Hell.
At the heart of theA story doesn't have to be factual to be true, and I don't think I have read a truer story in any form than Alan Moore's From Hell.
At the heart of the tale is Jack the Ripper. It is the truest telling of Jack the Ripper that I've ever read. It matters not a whit whether Dr. William Gull is actually Jack the Ripper. Nor whether Queen Victoria set the ball rolling with her orders. Nor whether Abberline actually fell for one of the prostitutes. Nor whether the Freemasons had their hands all over the deeds in Whitechapel. Nor whether Druitt was sacrificed to keep the peace and maintain power dynamics. Nor whether Sickert was involved. Nor whether industrialized, fin-de-siècle, London was our clearest real world dystopia.
What matters is that Alan Moore's writing and Eddie Campbell's artistry uncover a deep emotional and philosophical truth about the reverberations of the smallest actions in the world. The smallest and the biggest. What matters is that they recognize that their tale is nothing more than a tale told from their perspective. What matters is that they painstakingly researched anything and everything that had to do with that autumn in East London, that they rode every ripple from the epicentre no matter how far it took them in time and space, that every decision they made was conscious, and that the sum of that conscious work offered a hyperreality of that definitive event in the life of London that encapsulates the beauty of our existence within the ugliest of events. That is the truth they uncovered: the beauty of living in the ugliest of circumstance.
Theirs is an astounding achievement that transcends the graphic novel medium. It is not simply the greatest graphic novel ever written (though it is that), it is also one of the greatest five stories I have ever read. I would put it up there with Hamlet and Gravity's Rainbow and The Outsider and Wuthering Heights (forgive me this list ... I've not read some others that are undoubtedly great and perhaps deserving of my praise).
From Hell is not for the delicate of heart. I demands work. It demands that you stare at the horror and not simply turn the page with a desire to get past the horror because Moore and Campbell demand that you engage with the horror and cut deep, to the bone, to discover what it is that makes us terrible and wonderful.
The changes this masterpiece (superior to Watchmen and The Killing Joke and V for Vendetta) have wrought on storytelling, on the comic form and even on me are unclear at the moment. But they will be real, and with the benefit of hindsight they will be traceable to From Hell....more
I am a car in neutral with my wheels in a metal track, covered in the mud and salt and grime of the roads that scar Orbus, Planet Blue, Earth. I am drI am a car in neutral with my wheels in a metal track, covered in the mud and salt and grime of the roads that scar Orbus, Planet Blue, Earth. I am dragged into position; the chemicals hit my shell. Acidic, corrosive, an unsubtle back and forth to knock loose the corruption I've picked up in my travels. The wash cares not at all about delicacy. It shoots it fine mist of torture and hustles me into the frame. Once in that frame, that frame of hanging, dangling mitters, multi-coloured tassels, twin maypoles to conjure festival days of sometime and someplace, the thrumming beat of fabric begins. Up and over and down and beside. One way and back. Massaging me with circadian beat of my mother machines, soothing me into a belief that all can be okay. Then the water blasts me: shocking, hard, cleansing, a roar of pressure to slough off all that had been chemically burned and lovingly knocked loose on my metallic skin. Water poisoned to clean me, falling onto the pollution that is concrete, spilling down the pipes to soak into the groundwater somewhere. Clean me. Dirty everything. Now the ROAR of air. The rubber tires hitting my glass. The air firing like a jet against my shell. Water beads and blows away. A scream of anguish too loud for me to hear. Much too loud to make out what I am being told, but the air angles up and away from, and I am nudged off the rails and back into the road. I travel despite what I've learned. There's nothing for it but to roll on as hopeless as can be. ...more
The criticism "derivative" was designed for this schlockfest. Fun first person, which delivers it from one star hell, but when the whole book is derivThe criticism "derivative" was designed for this schlockfest. Fun first person, which delivers it from one star hell, but when the whole book is derived from the lives of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Lando Calrissian from the Trilogy and the canon books, no one can argue that this book isn't derivitive in the extreme.
"You're full of shit, Brad!"
Really?! Fuck you! I am full of knowingness you heathen! Look and learn:
Sarlac moment with crazy lake worms. ✓
Ike as Chewbacca/Lando. ✓
Jack and Saba as Han and Leia. ✓
Saba and Lugh as Leia and Luke (yep, they're twins with benefits). ✓
Han and Bria (Han's first love from the Crispon trilogy) fighting drug creating, religion creating bad-asses. ✓
Tontons to ride on Hoth turned into Sith like religious kooks named ... yep ... Tontons. ✓
Then add a little Mad Max, a little Hunger Games, a little The Road, and suddenly you've got a property that folks want to buy. Whoooooopppppeeee!!!!
In the plus category, as a longtime Albertan, the fact that you can trace the action from the Kanaskis to the plains to Drumheller (without the lovely Canadian author ever mentioning those names) is pretty cool.
Even so -- a waste of fucking time. The film version will be vastly better.
p.s. Everytime Saba talks about slipping into the Red Hot before she goes on a murderous, violent rampage, I can't help thinking of spicy sausage. ...more
We live in a culture that desires fragmented stories; stories that are told quickly and compellingly, so we can move on to the next tale. It is why weWe live in a culture that desires fragmented stories; stories that are told quickly and compellingly, so we can move on to the next tale. It is why we love visual forms so much. It is why YA fiction is increasingly popular with older crowds. It is why graphic novels are on the rise as a literary form. But where are the novellas? Where are books like One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Old Man and the Sea, Heart of Darkness, The Awakening, A Clockwork Orange?
I have been looking, waiting, hoping, for a resurgence of the novella as a popular form, but it doesn’t seem to be coming. Roth’s The Humbling was a novella and so was Meyer’s The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, but novellas from a literary giant like Roth and a throwaway sequel by a hack like Meyer hardly suggest a healthy return of the form. So I’ve been growing despondent, wanting desperately to see the form I love become a form of choice once again.
But then I noticed something. The novella isn’t gone. It’s just hiding.
I’ve discovered the novella is still out there; only now it is hidden in the middle of bigger works. Publishers are unwilling willing to publish novellas because publishers think novels are the safer, more familiar bet for the consumer. Novellas, after all, are for University students and academics; they are not for everyday teenagers, housewives and grumpy old men. But when novellas are hidden, they’re no threat at all. Sometimes they can be a part of a novel, and sometimes they lie in combination with other novellas to create a loosely linked group of stories posing as a novel (see the works of David Mitchell) – but they’re out there still; they just don’t look like novellas.
Case in point is one of the finest novellas ever written ... by anyone ... anywhen -- anamnesis: The Perpetual Train. This unparalleled tale is hidden in the center of China Mieville’s most ambitious Bas-Lag novel – Iron Council – and it is a breathtaking display of everything that makes the novella a beautiful form.
Its prose is sparing; its story is tight, compact, compelling and rich. It focuses on one man, Judah Low, and his journey from corporate funded adventurer to anti-imperialist somaturge to founding iron counsellor is perfect and complete all by itself. Nothing more is needed than anamnesis: The Perpetual Train’s cancerous spread across the land turned iconic standard for worker solidarity. The rest of Iron Council is superfluous.
Which leaves me even more in awe of Mieville than I have ever been, but a little frustrated with him too. The events in Iron Council, which sprawl around anamnesis: The Perpetual Train like suburbs, are beautiful in their own right. They bravely incorporate sexual politics, economics, uprising, war, poverty and corruption, fleshing out Bas-Lag with a perspective that raises a middle finger to the more conservative traditions of speculative fiction. But, as impressive as it all is, I don’t think it was necessary, and I wish that Mieville had simply left good enough – actually, great enough – alone.
anamnesis: The Perpetual Train would have been one of the greatest books ever written. I really believe that. But we’ll have to settle for Iron Council being merely excellent.
That was me, that is your humble commentator, sitting down to pass my glazzies over a book eemyaed A Clockwork Orange'What's it going to be then, eh?'
That was me, that is your humble commentator, sitting down to pass my glazzies over a book eemyaed A Clockwork Orange I'd sobirated from the biblio. I was ready to be tolchocked in my litso, to have my mozg pried out of my gulliver, to feel that sickening drop in the yarbles when falling from a great tower block; I expected to be preached to by that nadmenny veck A. Burgess in all his high goloss; I expected to loathe Alex and all his malenky malchick droogs. But by Bog or God I got something much more horrorshow.
I actually enjoyed A. Burgess's nadsat burble. I found veshches -- like all the ultra violence and razrezzing and oobivatting and twisted radosty -- to be oomily delivered. I ponied where little Alex was coming from and raged against the millicents and infintmins and prestoopniks and bolnoy sophistos that were arrayed against him. I actually guffed and smecked at like many veshches. But I nearly platched at how malenky little Alex saw the error of his ways and looked forward to a life of chai and a zheena and malenky vecks of his own.
But once I viddied the story like once I wanted rookerfuls, and I've returned again and again, both to A. Burgess's book and S. Kubrick's sinny.
A Clockwork Orange is one of the five or six true greats ever govoreeted. The nadsat isn't at all gimmicky. The lomticks of philosophy are compelling and grow in relevance with the passing of raz. And I for one, oh my brothers, will always "remember the little Alex that was. Amen. And all that cal."
Now he was a chelloveck of malevolently heroic proportions....more
WARNING: This review contains some vulgarity. Please don't read this if you are have a delicate sensibility. Thanks.
8 Things I liked + 1 I didn't + 1WARNING: This review contains some vulgarity. Please don't read this if you are have a delicate sensibility. Thanks.
8 Things I liked + 1 I didn't + 1 I hated
8. It's cinematic. -- I don't know if I'd have appreciated this if I hadn't read The Hunger Games in anticipation of the film's release, but the March 23rd premiere precipitated my read, and I could see the action of this book on my "head screen." It's going to work as a movie, and Collins' successfully tranferred the action she saw moving in her mind to the page. She made me see it too, and I am now officially stoked to see the film of her tale.
7. First person. -- I was not impressed with the first person perspective in the first chapter, but by the time Katniss was moving through the arena I understood how right that perspective was. It ramped up the suspence, and it's going to make for an easier transition to the big screen.
6. The Capitol and Districts. -- Plenty of real world, contemporary issues to be found in the structure of Panem. Plenty of room for criticism. Plenty of bile directed at the haves and honouring of the have-nots (now haves?). It may be worth adding this to a first year reading list, but I worry that things fall apart as the series progresses. Which reminds me of the question I had throughout ... "does this really need to be a series?" It feels like one book should be enough.
5. Nostalgia. -- I remember an old Sci-Fi paperback from my Junior High library with one of those pulpy covers. There was some hilltop with a a black sky gate opening above, and for some reason I remember a bunch of kids doing combat on some planet. I wish I could remember something more about the book, but every page of The Hunger Games took me back to the halls of Don Bosco and that book cover keeps flashing in front of my eyes. I love it when shit like that happens.
4. Dystopia. -- I love dystopian books, and as dystopias go this is one of the most normal -- which ramps up the creepiness for me. I pretty much live in District 11 at the moment, and I can see us heading down the road to our own Hunger Games a generation or two from now. There's some compelling immediacy here for me.
3. Mockingjays and Tracker Jackers -- These were some of the best future tech innovations I've ever read. Their backstories made sense, they were well integrated into the tale, they were used subtly, and they added just the right amount of verisimilitude. They were well struck notes, and I will remember them both forever (unless the film fucks them up).
2. Katniss Everdeen. -- I believed in her as a character. She rang true, sure and true (sorry, I'm listening to Albert Hammond), and I can overlook all kinds of crap when I love a character as much as I love Katniss. Her choices made sense to the woman she is; her skills were within reason; I believed her loves and hates; and her conflicts worked. She's the only reason I'd be compelled to read on (well, I would read on also if the movie was good enough to drive me to the sequel).
1. It's compelling. -- I stayed up until the wee hours to read this. I don't do that on purpose anymore. I may keep reading when my insomnia kicks in to keep myself sane, but to actually risk messing up my sleep schedule to finish a book is a rarity. But I needed to finish. And it was mostly worth it.
1. It's sheaf, Suzanne. -- It's not a "sheath" of arrows. It's a sheaf. I thought it was a typo the first time, then it was repeated throughout. Piss poor editing, and an annoying mistake that really could have been avoided.
1. Wolfie Muttations. -- I see no defensible purpose for this bizarre twist. I saw it coming, was begging Collins not to do it, and was left deflated by its happening. Mercifully it ended quickly and we were back on track, but this was a cheap piece of manipulation that really took away from the story for me. I didn't need any more reason to think that Panem and its Capitol were fucked. This was Collins' one bad choice. Overdetermine much?...more
I didn't like Metropole, but I expected to. The reviews I'd read around here said it was excellent. The quotes on the front and back covers raved (eveI didn't like Metropole, but I expected to. The reviews I'd read around here said it was excellent. The quotes on the front and back covers raved (even going so far as to compare it to Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Trial).
There were times when I nearly quit reading, then some tiny moment recaptured my attention (sometimes a quite good moment, but most times a moment that pissed me off), so I toughed it out. I am suppose I am glad I did, but I don't recommend it even though I can't embrace hating Ferenc Karinthy's book.
But here are the 5 things I seriously disliked about this book and the three things that fractionally mitigate my dislike, thereby earning Metropole a second star.
1. The first half of this book was written by a linguist for linguists, dallying forever over matters of the anonymous city's gibberish. I would love to hear what a linguist thinks of this book (I'll mail you my copy if you haven't already read this Manny), but I found myself getting bored far too often.
2. Budai, the protagonist, is a bit of an idiot, although he brags up his intelligence constantly. Just as I felt with Blindness (although I can't remember particulars of that book anymore), the protagonist left too many possibilities untried. He wasn't imaginative enough in his attempts to communicate with others or escape his pseudo-captivity or achieve any of his stated goals. This kind of behaviour drives me crazy, particularly when it isn't clear that the author recognizes the shortcomings of his own characters.
3. Budai is a rapist, and he thinks his raping of Epepe/Dede/Gyegyegye/etc. (whatever her name is) is the finest, most intimate, most mutually satisfying love making he's ever encountered.
4. There's this skyscraper in the story that so blatantly stands in for the Tower of Babel that I winced whenever Budai counted the new floors.
5. Boo hoo. Seriously. Get a grip, Budai. I just couldn't care about you, fella.
1. How can one possibly translate a book by a Hungarian Linguist about a city with an incomprehensible language without a significant part of the story being lost in translation? I don't think it can be done, so I must concede that Metropole is very likely better in the original Hungarian.
2. There was a moment when I thought the book was making a powerful point about how close all we city dwellers are from finding ourselves homeless on the streets of our concrete habitats. It was the best two pages of the book. I wanted more.
3. There was something about Epepe/Dede/Gyegyegye/etc., something vulnerable and touching, that I liked. I wonder if Metropole would have been more compelling from her perspective. Even if not, I think I would have liked it more.
Now to dumb myself down with a little Sookie. ...more
When I read that The Suicide Collectors was the story of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by “The Despair,” which drove billions of humans to death byWhen I read that The Suicide Collectors was the story of a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by “The Despair,” which drove billions of humans to death by their own hands, I thought, “Whiz! BANG!”
And that’s exactly what I expected.
I expected a world that went out with a bang. And I expected bangs to greet me throughout the book and a nice big bang to end the book.
None of those bangs came.
From beginning to end, The Suicide Collectors is a tale of a whimper. There were promised moments of action and mayhem that were solved by relationship building and talk (a rather novel and welcome approach). Other bits of action were seen in the aftermath of burning cities or half-conscious escape attempts. And the only moments of action the characters actually engaged in were a barely rousing fight against wild dogs and a couple of moments at the explosive end of a missile. All decidedly whimperous.
This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.
If he did have Eliot in mind, Oppegaard achieved the whimper in his debut novel, and the intention can’t really be argued with. There are too many post-apocalyptic novels that are about the bang, and it is important to consider the possibility that a whimper is likely.
Much of what gives The Suicide Collectors its whimperousness is its main characters. Norman, Pops and Zero aren’t the sort of people to seek the bang as their first resort to solving problems. Norman is capable of the bang, as we see with the opening act that sends him on his journey, but he’d rather choose diplomacy or running to any sort of violent resolution. There is no Schwarzenegger style, gung-ho, action hero, and even when that sort of thing becomes a possibility it is delivered without bangs -- literally.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough going on to support Oppegaard’s whimper. A whimper requires more work than a bang, both in reality and in fiction, but Oppegaard’s pacing, characterization and tempo offer a classic example of how to support a bang rather than a whimper. Oppegaard’s The Suicide Collectors feels like a Hollywood action film -- only without the pizzazz and pop.
For The Suicide Collector’s whimper to be fully successful we needed more about Norman -- his background, his thoughts, his motivations, his relationships -- we needed more time with Zero, more time in each of Oppegaard’s five “lands,” more time in Seattle with Dr. Brigg’s, and more time at every turn of the tale to find our footing and truly engage with the whimper.
Oppegaard doesn’t give us that, and he lets us down. There is so much potential in The Suicide Collectors, so much that needed to be said, but little of it ever was.
With a minor adjustment or two, I can see The Suicide Collectors making an outstanding sci-fi movie, one that will best the book for quality, and that’s a shame because Oppegaard’s plans were sound. It was the execution that let him down....more
If you've never read him before make sure you pick up one of his books this week so that you can get a taste of one of thoWe lost J.G. Ballard today.
If you've never read him before make sure you pick up one of his books this week so that you can get a taste of one of those rare, truly unique artists.
For the first time in a long time, I am completely baffled by a book. The fourth and last installment of JG Ballard's psychopathology cycle, Kingdom Come, has left me full of questions and my mind racing for answers.
Straight away I wonder what Ballard is saying about psychopathy? Is it the root of human greatness, or is it the stain of human malevolence? Is psychopathy what makes certain people brilliant and action oriented? And if so how can that be a bad thing? Certainly the psychopaths in Kingdom Come are drawn together, which mitigates the seeming unlikelihood of so many people thinking similar things about the world in one place not so unlikely. Paticualrlary when those people share many of the same ideas but no one agrees with any other. This eventually leads to their downfall, but is that downfall a cautionary tale for Ballard or simply the logical end to their story with a wish that it could be otherwise?
And what about fascism? Is Ballard suggesting that fascism is the end "ism" of humanity, or simply the inescapable "ism" that all roads lead to. He sees it as a psychopathic "ism," that much is clear, but is he saying it is necessarily a bad thing? At times he almost seems to be suggesting that a "soft fascism" would be a good thing, or is a good thing. In fact, Ballard seems to be suggesting that we are already deep into a fascism that we simply can't see for being in it. Or are we?
Then there is consumerism, an "ism" bound tight to Ballard's soft fascism. Is consumerism a good thing? Is it necessarily bad? Does it replace our gods? Is that how our religions are making a comeback, by turning their religions into something that can be consumed like any other commodity. Is that the true method of today's politics. Does consumerism define everything we are today? If it does is there any escape? And do we even want to escape?
And violence. Ballard seems to be saying that violence is the only place where humans truly excel, and a necessary part of what makes us human. It also seems to be the key to the full exploration of our senses. So what is Ballard's position on all this? There is a lot of forgiveness for violence in Kingdom Come, an unreal forgiveness, but is Ballard suggesting the key to using violence and allowing it? Or is he condemning violence and showing that forgiveness is a potential path for overcoming violence?
There is a brief interview with Ballard at the back of my edition of Kingdom Come that does nothing to clear up these questions, and that's a good thing. I don't want these questions cleared up. I don't want to be fed with an i.v. tube. I want to remain frustrated and wondering, and I imagine Ballard wants that too.
I am considering using this in class soon, but I know it will meet with great resistance from my students. Most students prefer the answers to be clear. No matter how much healthy debate is raised by this book, and it would conjure a semesters worth of debate, most students would rather not take the trouble. Indeed, I expect very few students to finish reading the book at all. But I may still use it anyway. It's always worth a try. ...more
There is little plot in The Road, and that is good; the story is tedious, repetitious and slow, and that too is good; the story is about two characterThere is little plot in The Road, and that is good; the story is tedious, repetitious and slow, and that too is good; the story is about two characters and the way they love each other, and this is very good; all the information you need about McCarthy's future world is there if you want to do the work, and doing the work is also good; when it comes down to it The Road is very good no matter the complaints you may read or hear to the contrary.
That is all I can say for now. I need to let The Road settle in my consciousness to see where it will land in my pantheon of books.
What I can say is that it moved me deeply, the prose was a wonder, and I think it is one of the best father/son relationships I have ever encountered.
If my strong feelings deepen this book will rise in my estimation; if my feelings weaken it may wound this book terminally for me. Only time will tell.
But one final comment I must make is that anyone who compares The Road to Blindness -- or worse states that the latter is greater than the former -- is one whose opinions are necessarily suspect. The former is genuine, realistic, stark, unwavering; the latter is an unimaginative debacle posing as deep allegory. Read the former and steer clear of the latter....more
Is it okay, do you think, to say I find William Gibson's cycle of short stories, Burning Chrome, to be a work of profound beauty? Probably not, but I'Is it okay, do you think, to say I find William Gibson's cycle of short stories, Burning Chrome, to be a work of profound beauty? Probably not, but I'm going to say it anyway: Burning Chrome is beautiful.
But how can it be? How can something like the Sprawl, Gibson's pollution choked mega-city, and our shared technological-future-nightmare be beautiful? My description suggests it can't, yet I find much beauty in Gibson's future.
There's something magnificent about monomolecular wires and Razorgirl fingernails, something profound about the rejection of a sterile utopia for a filthy sprawl, something thrilling about dreamy future-noir, something tragic about the thirst to belong for even the most peripheral people, something eerily familiar in the desire to offer the ultimate sacrifice, something nostalgic about the Soviet era trappings that are long gone, something terrifying in the prescient vision of corporate power, something hopeful in the concept of future immortality, something touching in its melancholy, and something comfortable about improvements that can't hide a classic love story of the "if-you-love-her-let-her-go" kind.
Well...I'm a guy who loves the magnificent the profound the thrilling the tragic the familiar the nostalgic the terrifying the hopeful the touching and the comfortable. I find all of them beautiful. And if those aren't beautiful enough for you, consider this: Burning Chrome coins the word "cyberspace." William Gibson imagined it, and computer geeks made it. Can you beat that for beautiful?...more
I should point out before going any further, however, that I am in no way suggesting V for Vendetta or The Hobbit are anything less than classics. As works of literature both are vastly superior to most books written, particularly within their genres. They simply don't match the literary heights of their more lofty relations.
Inferiority -- While both books are set in fascistic dystopias (either parallel or near future), Watchmen's world offers us greater depth of history, an engrossing mythology that raises the tale's believability despite its fantastic elements, while working on multiple levels of theme, meaning and artistry. It is dark, sinister, unrelenting, hopeless and utterly genius.
Superiority -- Yet V for Vendetta is no slouch as a work of art. After all, any story dealing with terrorism/freedom fighting in the last 25 years that dares to make the terrorist/freedom fighter a hero is a work worth reading.
More importantly, however, V is a powerful and convincing character. S/he makes it clear that anarchy is not about chaos but a different form of order without law. S/he is a wounded being whose rage can be tempered with mercy; s/he is a teacher whose love can lead to the torture of her/his student(s); s/he is an artist whose art is change. And all of this makes her/him a far more likable character than folks like Rorschach and Comedian, making V for Vendetta vastly more accessible than its cousin.
V for Vendetta also has a slightly more hopeful finish than Watchmen. There is a tiny possibility that the change begun in fascist England will continue in a positive direction. After all, the mantle of V refuses to die, which is a heck of a lot better than Ozymandias' forced utopia just waiting to explode into a violence far worse than any that has come before.
I can close the cover on V for Vendetta and feel refreshed, whereas I usually close the cover on Watchmen and feel the need for a scalding shower to steam off the filth. The former is much more satisfying than the latter.
I have to admit that I enjoy V for Vendetta more than Watchmen. I am more likely to pick V up when I am feeling nostalgic for my comic book youth. I am more likely to read V for "fun." But I have no doubt that Watchmen is the superior work. ...more
More often than not Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels -- if not the greatest. I can't deny its importance to the foMore often than not Dark Knight Returns is considered one of the greatest graphic novels -- if not the greatest. I can't deny its importance to the form (and to the myth of Batman -- responsible as it is for Bruce Wayne's shift into the "Dark Knight" era), but having taught it a handful of times and read it for "pleasure" a few more (this reading having been prompted by Christopher Nolan's disappointing trilogy capper, The Dark Knight Rises) I feel that it is a vastly overrated work.
And Frank Miller is delusional.
In fact, I will go so far as to suggest that we're damn lucky Frank Miller can express himself in words and pictures (and get rich doing it) because if he couldn't express himself artistically (or was a failed artist like a certain Viennese painter), I'd put money on him walking into a theatre or a Sikh temple or a political round table and opening fire.
The Dark Knight Returns is an ugly manifesto for vigilantism; it is the mad nightmare of a right wing kook who sees the world in ways that it simply isn't; it is an apologia for the first strike; it offers chaos and evil and calls it anarchy without any understanding of what anarchy is; it is a jingoistic, Soviet-era piece of Cold War propaganda; it is an attempt to rationalize violence as the proper response to violence; it attempts to reinforce the myth that a "good man" (or country?) can do bad things to bad people and the act cannot, therefore, be bad; yet it offers the tools to undermine and deconstruct the delusions of its author with what seems to be total obliviousness.
There is no depth to the characters in this book. Batman is an ugly thug, a giant meat head, a bludgeon, a nasty beast of a man who revels in the torture and maiming of the "evil" denizens of Gotham. He's the ultimate rich bully, the bully who gets away with his bullying -- even today in our hyper-aware bullying police state -- the bully whose bullying is "okay" because it is targeted at other bullies or because the bully is too beautiful and rich and popular to really be a bully. Miller's Dark Knight isn't complex in any way -- certainly not in the way many of his antecedents have achieved. He is ugly and nothing more. His parents died violently, so he became a weapon against criminals. It's as shallow as it is simple.
Miller also gives us the shabbiest expression of Superman ever to hit the comics. Just like the Batman, there's no complexity to the Man of Steel. He's a Boy Scout who follows the law and does what he's told by his leaders, so he's a target for Miller's ham-fisted criticism. Miller tells us Superman is weak and less than Batman because he can't do what must be done the way Batman can. Superman doesn't torture and maim; Superman doesn't kill; hence, Superman is a pussy.
I closed the cover of this book moments before I started writing this review, and I can tell you that it's been a long time since I've felt so disgusted by the work of an author. It gets worse for me each time I read this, but like a moth banging into a window I can't stop returning to this, trying to see what I miss that everyone else sees. My disgust gets worse each time I read it, yet I can't stop my examination of how this nasty tale could have led to our fascination with The Dark Knight. How could an idea that has had some truly excellent manifestations (such as Nolan's Batman Begins or Jeph Loeb's Batman Hush) come from such awful source material? How can people like this book? What the hell am I missing? It's a mystery that only the World's Greatest Detective could solve. Too bad he was nowhere to be found in The Dark Knight Returns....more
Katherine Budekin wrote her frightening vision of a Nazi future in 1937, at the height of Hitler's power in Germany, as a scathing attack on the powerKatherine Budekin wrote her frightening vision of a Nazi future in 1937, at the height of Hitler's power in Germany, as a scathing attack on the powerful patriarchies engaged in fascism.
Her argument , however, goes far beyond the confines of Nazism and her imaginary Nazi future. She is concerned with the history of all of Western Civilization: a history driven by gender politics, wherein women's voices have been erased from the collective memory almost as completely as her Nazis wiped out the history of previous Empires.
Budekin (who tellingly wrote under the name Murray Constantine) achieves much in her story: her argument is compelling, occasionally prophetic and often disturbing. Sadly, despite the profundity of Budekin's message, Swastika Night doesn't hold up aesthetically.
It is a book packed full of explication. Budekin rarely shows us what is happening; she tells us through an interminable series of discussions between her major characters. Because of this, Swastika Night lacks immediacy. And immediacy would have catapulted Swastika Night into the status of other dystopian classics, like Orwell's 1984.
As it stands, however, Swastika Night is an excellent, though artistically flawed, vision of our male driven world. It is absolutely worth a read, but don't expect to be entertained by the experience....more
**spoiler alert** I've been in many discussions over the years -- some in classes I was teaching, some over pints in the bar, and still others late at**spoiler alert** I've been in many discussions over the years -- some in classes I was teaching, some over pints in the bar, and still others late at night with people I love -- about what Alan Moore was trying to say with Watchmen, discussions about the meaning of his graphic novel, and I am convinced that the meaning is not what most people think.
Most people I have talked to look at Veidt's mini-Armageddon to bring peace as inherently evil -- and the most monstrous act in a book of monstrous acts. Veidt's act trumps The Comedian's attempted rape of Silk Spectre and the murder of his child in the womb; it trumps Rorschach's punishment of the child killer, his torture of "innocent" informants, and the brutality he delivers unto anyone he happens to see committing a "crime," petty or otherwise; it trumps Dr. Manhattan's personal engagement in the Vietnam War; Veidt's action even seems to trump the not-so-petty criminal activities we see perpetrated by peripheral "criminals" throughout Watchmen.
On the surface, we tend to condemn Veidt's action because of its scale. It's cold and precise and sterile and necessarily takes the lives of "millions of innocent people." We have been indoctrinated from the youngest ages to hate this kind of killing more than any other. Our great monsters are Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, but we somehow find it in our hearts and minds to forgive Truman's nuclear attacks on Japan because they "saved millions of lives," as a young Walter Kovacs (aka Rorschach) writes in an essay about his absent father, defending Nuclear War and the Truman doctrine, albeit at an early age. And if we can forgive Truman's attack (I recognize that some people cannot forgive that attack, but many, many can), why not forgive Veidt? If we can forgive one, we must forgive the other. Sure Veidt killed more people, but he saved more too, and created a utopia out of the chaos.
This discrepancy in our accepted opinions is not lost on Alan Moore; in fact, it is at the core of Watchmen. We see it being played out in dialogue and action by characters from The Comedian to Rorschach, from Ozymandias to Dr. Manhattan, and even in the supporting folk who populate Moore's distopian future.
When faced with this discrepancy and pressed to discover why Veidt's actions continue to rile us, it doesn't take long to uncover a deeper root for our disdain: our need for individuality and Veidt's destruction of the freedom to make our own mistakes.
This realization of our anger at Veidt and why his action is "evil" quickly becomes the accepted meaning of Moore's story: that derailing humanity's ability to choose is the greatest wrong anyone can commit (the secular see this as a fundamental attack on our freedom, while the religious see this as our fundamental gift from God, but they tend to add anger at Veidt for playing God), and that Veidt's utopia will fail because the power of the individual is too great -- it always overcomes.
I don't think Moore considers Veidt's act evil so much as misguided. I am not convinced that Moore believes in good and evil at all. Throughout Watchmen we are led to see one man as the man who "gets it," and that figure is not Rorschach. Rorschach is a guide, nothing more. Rorschach acts as an Horatio figure, guiding us through the narrative, telling us what to pay attention to, whom to believe, what to see: mostly he is trying to get us to see The Comedian. If the story is anyone's it is The Comedian's. The Comedian is the man who gets it, and what the amoral Comedian gets is that morality is a construct designed to help us avoid despairing at what Moore believes is the truth: humanity is violent and base; it is ignoble; it is doomed to repeat and repeat and repeat its violence because that is what humanity does best -- violence -- and everything else is playacting. Thus, Veidt's mini-Armageddon is futile, not because of our noble individuality, not because of the strength of our human spirit, but because of the strength of our animal instincts. All those lives were wasted to create a utopia that simply couldn't be.
And Rorschach's journal, slipped through the door of the paper and ready to be printed, is the detonation cap.
Watchmen may be the most hopeless popular book printed in the last fifty years, and the most truthful. I am continually shocked by its popularity (even if only as a cult phenomenon), but then maybe it is only popular through a quirk of misunderstanding. Then again, it could be popular because people understand it better than they're willing to admit....more
This review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal inThis review was written in the late nineties (for my eyes only), and it was buried in amongst my things until recently when I uncovered the journal in which it was written. I have transcribed it verbatim from all those years ago (although square brackets may indicate some additional information for the sake of readability or some sort of commentary from now). This is one of my lost reviews.
Holy shit! Now that I've read Fight Club, I can safely say that [David Fincher's movie] is one of the best film adaptations ever produced. It is a damn good book: hyperactive, disjointed, potent. Mixed in the tough Hemingway meets MTV inspired prose is a lot of powerful thought -- thought that fits our times, thought about anarchy, disaffection, the pain wrought on us by consumer society, what it is to be a man.
I am Joe's humble ego bowing before a brilliant pen.
Dissention in the ranks of Durden’s Fight Club was the only surprise from film to novel – the mechanic and his place of power leading this dissention. Oh ... the fights were much more brutal [in the book] too.
Actually, there was something else that was different about the violence on the page; the killing, when it happened, happened to innocents, many who did not want to die. The books is more Nietzschian than the film, and I’m not sure that is a good thing. Pitt and Norton were perfect as Tyler Durden, and David Fincher’s direction may actually be better than Palahniuk’s writing. I’ll have to see the movie again to know. No matter which is better, though, I love the story.
[Today, I can safely say that the movie is superior. Fincher is a genius at improving over his source material.]...more