1. If You're Going Epistolary, Go Epistolary! -- The immediacy of letters and journals were a high point in A Good Man, so high, in
I have complaints:
1. If You're Going Epistolary, Go Epistolary! -- The immediacy of letters and journals were a high point in A Good Man, so high, in fact, that the decision to leave them behind and enter other modes of narrative kept ripping me out of the world Vanderhaeghe was creating. Let me immerse, Guy. Quit fucking with me.
2. Nothing is Terribly Original -- The plot, at least, is like an IKEA instruction sheet. It's a polite, Canadian, Cormac McCarthy where the violence is present but suspended behind a skein of reserve. And though there is one mild surprise, it doesn't effect the familiar trajectory of the tale as I hoped it would.
3. Don't Be So Damn Readable -- I wanted to be mad at Guy and his book, but he is so compelling, so insinuating, so virulent, that he works into my mind like a fever, and I find myself eating through his pages with an ease and passion I usually only feel while making love. Guy, you are a beautiful, talented, bastard.
Which leads me to my praise:
1.If You're Going Epistolary, Go Epistolary! -- Or instead, maybe you can just throw all convention to the Manitoba / Montana blizzard and do a little bit of everything, messing with tense, perspective, narrative voice and anything else that suits your whims. Pull me out of the narrative, then drag me right back in, just to prove you can. I kneel to your arrogant assurance and skill, Guy. You know what you're doing.
2. Nothing is Terribly Original -- But that's the point isn't it, Guy? You aren't trying to reinvent the Western or the love story or the novel of violent men or the Canadian prairie epic or the historical novel. You're just telling a story. A story we all know and love. And you want your readers' expectations to be fulfilled, albeit in beautiful ways. Well ... you succeed.
3. Don't Be So Damn Readable -- Because when you are -- as you are -- I have nothing to complain about, much as I try.
I really liked this book, in case you weren't able to tell. And while I think it could be truly great with a few changes, I would also hate to see Guy Vanderhaeghe change a single word. It isn't the most beautiful, transcendant novel, but damn is it a good read. I didn't want it to stop. I loved its strong woman. I loved its tortured protaganist. I loved its troubled sidekick. I loved its fucked up and all too human antagonist. I loved its play with history. I loved that I didn't want it to stop.
This book deserves a CBC series, though I doubt it will see production. What a shame. ...more
I'm in the midst of a rich vein of luck when it comes to books lately. Everything has been a joy to read -- even the hopeless and depressing books I’vI'm in the midst of a rich vein of luck when it comes to books lately. Everything has been a joy to read -- even the hopeless and depressing books I’ve been reading -- and late last night, with the kids all in bed and Erika on nights at the hospital, I started to read one of my rare “first reads” wins in earnest, only to stay up until Kiss and Tell was finished, which took me into the wee wee hours before sunrise.
Raw, courageous, honest, funny, tormented and true, MariNaomi’s graphic memoir is pure joy.
MariNaomi is a woman who lives in the life she’s got. She wears her life like tattered old jeans, lovingly repairing the holes with multi-coloured patches that offer a Levi Strauss tapestry of experience, making the jeans far more valuable than any crisp, unworn pair could ever be.
I have a confession: I am in love with MariNaomi. I wish I’d had a chance to know her when we were teenagers, but we were separated by 1,618 km. I wish I’d had the chance to snort coke with her, or make love to her, or hold her head while she puked up too much alcohol, or experiment with open relationships with, or bring her flowers, or write her poetry, or have her write poetry to me, or kiss her anywhere or anywhen she wanted. Kiss and Tell made me want to be part of her life and experience so badly that I nearly cried when it was over. And I wanted more. I still want more. I want MariNaomi to give me another glimpse, a glimpse of her years from 23-37. Please, please, please, MariNaomi. I’ll make you a mix tape. I promise.
I have another wish, impossible like all my other wishes, but I wish that I’d had this graphic novel as a teenage boy. It would have shed so much light for me on the world of the girls I loved and lusted after. I think, somehow, that Kiss and Tell would have taken the sting out of breakups and unrequited love and all the painful trials and errors; it could have made me a Zen teenager, enjoying without regret or bitterness or self-loathing my time brushing up against the girls of my life, and it would have made it so much easier to brush up against the boys I kept away too.
I wish all first reads books could be like this. Wherever you are, MariNaomi, thank you for your life, your words, your perfect art. Thank you for sharing yourself with such fearlessness.
When Miloš turns 13 (maybe before. Time will tell) this book is his. I am sure Brontë will have raided my shelves long, long before that, though. ...more
I am a much bigger cynic than M. Clifford. He believes that change is possible, much like his protagonist, Holden. He believes that his imaginary dystI am a much bigger cynic than M. Clifford. He believes that change is possible, much like his protagonist, Holden. He believes that his imaginary dystopia is avoidable. I don’t.
I believe that his dystopia is already upon us and growing stronger every day. I believe there is no way to overthrow it or change its direction. I believe we’re fucked. But like I said, I am a cynic.
M. Clifford isn’t. His book, The Book is about a “near future” dystopia where the state sponsored media and the powers that be -– embodied by the “Department of Homeland Preservation and Restoration” -- alter every book in existence or delete them completely from the record. It all begins with The Great Recycling, a morally satisfying environmental moment wherein the world trades their paper books for a one-size-fits-all government issue digital reader. All books are outlawed and easily corrupted digitization becomes the norm.
There are those who discover the truth, however. A pipe fitter who loves books discovers that the stories he thought he knew and loved have been changed. Some subtly and others drastically. His moment of discovery gives birth to a movement that eventually offers the hope of freedom to a world in the grip of digital mind control. M. Clifford’s The Book believes in this hope, the human desire for truth and the indefatigability of the human spirit. Maybe he’s right.
But a couple of things have happened this month that give me pause. In fact, they’ve disheartened me to the point of undermining what little faith I had in the human thirst for truth.
First, there is the “Twain-scholar” sanctioned editing of “nigger” from the New South Press’s edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dr. Alan Gribben of Auburn University Montgomery has had difficulty reading the word aloud for some time now (presumably due to discomfort), and he’s sad that Huckleberry Finn has been removed from so many school reading lists, so his answer is to avoid what he calls “pre-emptive school board” censorship by offering his own pre-emptively censored edition of the great American classic:
NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa said. "We were very persuaded by Dr. Gribben’s point of view of what he called the amount of ‘preemptive censorship’ going on at the school level. It pained him personally to see ... the way that Twain’s novels were being de-listed from curricula across the nation. It became difficult for teachers to engage in discussion about the text when the kids were so uncomfortable, particularly with the n-word.
Interestingly, the negative reaction to this about to be published edition has been negligible. We’re told in the few stories written about this development that the Mark Twain guild, populated by Gribben’s fellow Twain scholars, is mostly disapproving, but the rest of the response is as wishy washy as correspondent Michael Tomasky’s blog piece in the Guardian. And even those who are not sympathetic with the motivations behind the editing changes (which Tomasky is, even though he wouldn't go so far as to censor the work himself) seem to be of the opinion that since this is merely one edition, and that faithful editions that keep Twain’s language intact will still be available, this really isn’t such a big deal. Where’s the outrage? Where’s the debate? Where’s the discussion? It is nearly impossible to find. So tacit acceptance of censorship wins the day.
It’s a step towards M. Clifford’s dystopia, and it hasn’t even required the guilty propaganda of his Great Recycling.
[C]ould everyone do me a favor? Go to the Kindle version on Amazon and click on "report poor quality and formatting" under the Feedback box. / Then politely tell the publisher that Jesus is the Son of God, not the Son of Cod, and to stop using COD every single time.
Luckily, Lara Amber heard right back from, of all people, Dan Simmons’ literary agent, and then from Dan Simmons himself:
I want to thank you for contacting me re: the low quality of transfer from hardcopy prose to e-text for your Kindle edition of Hyperion. As someone who works endless days and nights proofreading and re-proofreading text, the news made me sick. ("Oh my Cod! Cod damn it!" Ridiculous.
By now you've heard from my NY agent, Richard Curtis, who's one of the most respected agents in the business. Richard contacted the highest people at Bantam Books immediately and they admit to such errors in their "earlier editions" and have already begun a special RTF file check to correct Hyperion. (What it takes, of course, is an alert human eye and brain, such as yours.) When the top Bantam people asked Richard -- "Should we re-check the other three books in the Hyperion Cantos?" -- his answer was "Absolutely!" Such errors -- such absolute sloppiness -- damage the spell being cast by any novel and simply can't be tolerated.
Thank you again for writing to me promptly about this outrage.
Best, Dan Simmons
Now that’s a pretty damn cool response from Simmons. But it’s also scary that he even needs to respond. A seemingly small error, probably a slip up that was repeated “innocently” throughout the book (although “c”and “g” aren’t really close enough on a key board that they could be a typo, are they?), but it gets out there in a digital version and requires direct action from the author to rectify. What if the author happened to be dead? What if there were no printed version to compare it to? What if the “mistake” became the norm? Would anyone realize or care? Well, those “what ifs” are precisely what M. Clifford’s The Book is about, but here and now those mistakes are happening without conscious action by any big controlling body, and I have to wonder how many e-copies of other books are error laden without anyone fixing them up.
It makes Clifford’s vision for our digital future even scarier.
But I am still nowhere near as hopeful as he is. I see that dystopia coming, and I see no hope for a revolutionary group like Holden’s Ex Libris coming to keep “truth” alive. In fact, I find myself more in line with the feelings of Holden’s mentor, Winston Pratt (or at least the way he felt mid-book)
Over time, despite how depressing reality is, that fact remains true. There is nothing we can do to spot [the Recyclers]. You must bear your fate and enjoy what life you have left. Enjoy this world. Enjoy each other. This is a harsh reality, but it is the one we were born into. Accept it. We do not have a choice.
I don’t believe that the fight in The Book is a fight that anyone could win because I don’t believe anyone would actually engage in the fight. But I’d sure love to believe it is possible, and if M. Clifford’s inspired work of “near future” dystopia contributes to making the fight possible, then it will take its place alongside other great dystopian books that Clifford clearly venerates (like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451).
The cover of the The Book says Don’t Read The Book.
Ghostface Killah's attempt at being an author offends me to the core, but then so does any celebrity who uses their cash and influence to commit artisGhostface Killah's attempt at being an author offends me to the core, but then so does any celebrity who uses their cash and influence to commit artistic masturbation and flaunt it in our faces.
Too many people work too hard for too long to become authors. Most toil in anonymity, some finally self-publish, a lucky few find a small publishing house where their books gain a tiny audience, and the luckiest few hit it big. Not all of these toilers are truly talented, but their work and their commitment are honest.
But then guys like Ghostface Killah come along. They have a name so publishers like the Hachette Book Group publish whatever drivel they spew simply because it will move copies.
It reminds me of Michael Jordan's brief career with the Birmingham Barons. It wasn't that he was terrible, but he wasn't particularly good either. He hit .202 for the White Sox' Double-A affiliate. He had a couple of homers, a decent number of stolen bases, and some RBIs. His biggest impact, however, was in the fans Jordan brought to Regions Park. The park seats just over 10 thousand fans, and during Jordan's tenure the Barons drew 985,185. But some poor right fielder, some kid who'd worked his whole life for the dream of playing professional baseball -- at any level -- missed a season full of games, so that rich and famous Michael Jordan could live his father's dream.
Now I know it is unlikely that Ghostface Killah's crappy graphic novel took the position of a proper graphic novelist, but the frustration is no less potent. I am a writer of graphic novels myself (amongst other things), and I can't find an artist to complete my work. I don't have the money to pay someone, like Mr. Wu-Tang Clan does, and finding someone to collaborate with for free is nearly impossible because they need to work paying gigs so that they can eat and live. And I can't blame them for that.
It doesn't matter that my work is vastly superior to the garbage that Ghostface Killah has stuck us with. I don't have a name. I don't have the money. My stories languish. His don't.
And let me say this quite plainly: Cell Block Z is awful. There are one or two interesting ideas, and in the hands of a talented writer/artist team those ideas could be turned into a pretty impressive ongoing series. There is enough potential material in Cell Block Z, in fact, to fill twelve 100 page graphic novels. But Ghostface Killah and his "writing team" were so taken with Mr. Killah's narcissistic ego trip -- he is the protagonist in his own story after all -- that they ignored everything needed to make a good graphic novel: pace, characterization, plot, originality. Cell Block Z has none of these essentials (not in anything approaching significant quantity and quality).
Ghostface Killah's love letter to himself is a string of ultra-violent cage battles, broken up by short bursts of pontification, all wrapped up in the worst kind of feel good naivete. Oh...and some idiotic connection to terrorists who, we are told, are "the plague" of modern civilization.
Please, please, please, do not buy this book. ...more