As a person, I have my own history of violence, and that history has led me to become obsessed, as a thinker and author, with violence as a concept. IAs a person, I have my own history of violence, and that history has led me to become obsessed, as a thinker and author, with violence as a concept. I see it everywhere. I dwell on it, am awed by it, wonder about it, write about it, dream about it, nightmare about it, loathe it and love it in turns. Thus, when I pick up a book with the title A History of Violence, I expect to read something that engages with violence consciously, something that doesn't simply use violence for visceral gratification but has a plan for the violence, is using it to say something (even if that something is something I don't like).
John Wagner's A History of Violence says many things about violence, but what bothers me is that I never once felt like the things being said were intentional. I felt like Luke in the cave on Dagobah: everything in the cave was there because I brought it with me.
Wagner's writing left me hollow and sad. He was merely telling a story, one he needed to tell, perhaps, but only to move a plot B to C, then back to A, then C to D. He seemed totally disconnected from the thematic life of his work, and I felt abandoned by him as I made my journey through the text. As I write this I think that in itself, that abandonment by the author, is a unique and potentially powerful authorial authorial -- but I don't like being the object of that action.
Moreover, I despair that someone could use the sort of violence that appears in this graphic novel with what seems to be flippant disregard of its power. Similar violence occurs in David Fincher's film Se7en (in fact, Wagner blatantly stole one of the seven killings from that movie for this book), but Fincher's use of violence feels conscious, pointed, thematically aware, and that makes all the difference for me.
Vince Locke's is scratchingly, noirishly lovely, well suited to the bleak world Wagner has written, but it only added to the alienation I felt.
I know I am going to have to come back to this book in the future and give it another read simply because it made me feel so strongly. I didn't enjoy this book at all. I put it down feeling angry, isolated and disgusted. I wish I felt like those feelings were intentional rather than incidental....more
When I read this back in 1988, while everyone was still wetting themselves over Frank Miller's Dark Knight concept from 1986, I was wetting myself oveWhen I read this back in 1988, while everyone was still wetting themselves over Frank Miller's Dark Knight concept from 1986, I was wetting myself over Alan Moore's one-shot bit of Joker genius, Batman The Killing Joke.
I read it numerous times during the nineties, then put it away (my reading copy nestled next to my mint, Mylar-bagged, first edition) and kept hold of my memories.
For me Killing Joke was much more interesting than Dark Knight because Batman was interested in understanding his enemy (and reconciliation) -- a concept that is much more foreign to literary figures (and real life people) than one might think -- and because I understood where Joker was coming from, and I thought that humanizing a dastardly villain like Joker was a brave thing to do.
Today I am a massive fan of From Hell, I've taught Watchmen and V for Vendetta countless times, and I fully expected Moore's Killing Joke to be as wonderful today as I remembered. I was confident I would still love it at least as much as Watchmen and V and maybe even as much as From Hell, but it was not to be.
It's good. Batman's attempted reconciliation with Joker is there. Joker is still struggling to make the world see that anyone could become him under the right circumstances. Barbara Gordon's shooting is still a shock (and important since it was the birth of Oracle). And Batman keeping his fists to himself when faced with Joker is an impressive achievement of the author's imagination.
But it doesn't do it for me anymore. It is good. Better than most writers can pull off, and the art is lush. But it's impossible for me to avoid comparing Killing Joke with Moore's other work, and it doesn't achieve Moore's personal level of excellence. Good for more is great for others, but it isn't great for Moore, and I expect great.
In 1988 this got ★★★★★ stars. Today, if this were anyone but Alan Moore, it would get ★★★★ stars. But it is Alan Moore, so it only gets ★★★....more
The last time I read it, I wrote a top ten list of the Reasons to Avoid Twilight. This spring I decided to use Twilight in a first year class. My readThe last time I read it, I wrote a top ten list of the Reasons to Avoid Twilight. This spring I decided to use Twilight in a first year class. My reading list also included Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Batman The Killing Joke, A History of Violence, and a couple of movies. Many people asked me "Why?" A valid question, I think.
My answer is that we're stuck with Twilight. It's not going anywhere, and despite all the Twilight backlash, it is now a piece of pop culture that speaks to a huge portion of our society and probably always will. I understand those who refuse to analyze it, who refuse to dignify it with serious discussion, but I am not in their camp. To me, those stories that become pop culture touchstones -- be they Star Wars, Harry Potter or Twilight -- are precisely the texts we should be analyzing, quality be damned.
So I went into this reading trying to keep an open mind, trying to see things in a different way. I think I succeeded, and I was surprised to discover that I was occassionally surprised. My original #10 was The pathetic nature of Meyer's men., and I stand by that. They are about as vanilla as one can get, which is the last thing you want in a Vampire. Alabaster? Yes. Vanilla? No.
My #9 was that Mormon morality is not conducive to interesting Vampirism, and it's not, but I have to say that Mormon theology is a wonderful basis for the battle between the Vampires and Werewolves in Meyer's books. Recast the former as the Nephites and the latter as the Lamanites and you'll have Joseph Smith coughing up a marrow ball in his grave.
Perhaps I am going to piss some of my friends off with this, but I have increasingly noticed that my #8: Teenage girl angst from a thirty-something, middle class soccer mom isn't such an anomaly. I am not sure when this new breed of mom is going to grow up, but many of them haven't yet, and the fact that Meyer writes from a teenage perspective isn't surprising to me anymore (I hasten to add that I know no "soccer moms" here on goodreads, I am merely surrounded by them in my real life, so please don't take it as an insult if you are reading this).
Then there's #7. The total lack of meaningful conflict, the #6. Romance novel prose and #4. Movie of the week dialogue. I can't argue with those three observations. The first is bang on, and I've read a considerable amount of romance since my last reading of Twilight to know that my gut was correct on number six, and I was a screenwriter by trade, so you know what I think about my number four.
(Okay, I am boring myself while writing this. Are you bored yet?)
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that my #5. The unheroic, even laughable, heroism of Bella Swan isn't entirely fair. Bella does the best with what she's got, and I don't think Meyer intended her as a hero. She's no Ripley (Alien was one of my movies this semester), nor was she ever meant to be. She's a clumsy high school student driven by her hormones, but considering the supernatural forces arrayed against her, she's stands up pretty well. Not as well as Mina Harker or Sookie Stackhouse, but pretty well.
But now we come to my #3. Edward's inexplicable love for Bella and my #2. The insufferability of Bella. I was wrong about these two. First, Edward's love makes total sense. We get to hear every insipid thing flowing through Bella's brain, and when you can hear (or read) that stuff, it is almost impossible to fall in love with Bella (though I think you can have a positive response to her, even if you are a jaded cat like me), but Edward doesn't get any of that. The Bella he gets is decisive, mysterious, combative, confident, semi-intelligent and unreadable (the classic cat-nip for telepaths). If I didnn't hear her thoughts I would fall in love with Bella, and I missed that the first time through (go figure). On top of that, I didn't find Bella nearly as insufferable as I did the first time. Sure I grew annoyed with her mooning over Edward's beauty, btu I tried to put myself back to my own teenage years and imagine what it was like to be in love with curly-haired Christine in my Math class, and once I did that I could cut Bella plenty of slack. I learned no math in that class, but I can still see Christine's perfect eyelashes, long and naturaly dark, acting like eye-fireworks every time she blinked. It wasn't as bad as I remembered.
Finally, my #1. was That the movie WILL BE better than the book. Well, I've since seen the movie, and I think the book is marginally better, simply because the first person narrative cannot translate to the big screen, and it makes the job of Kristin Stewart, as Bella, an impossible task. I feel for her. I really do.
So there it is, my revision of what I thought the first time I tackled this book. Don't get me wrong, though. Twilight is far from great. It's okay at best. But I get why it is beloved, and I think I was a bit unfair the first time out. Will I teach it again? Maybe. But I think I'd rather teach One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich for the twentieth time. It's better. Trust me.
And here's a final bit of fun for this painfully long, beast of a review -- some things asked or overheard while I was rereading this:
“You hate Anna Karenina but you’re defending Twilight?! How does that work?”
“Bella is perfect, except for her silly clumsiness. How convenient,” then the same person said later on, “She’s pathetic.”
"Fag!" whipered under someone's breath as I was buying wine, but it could have been because of my cut-offs rather than the book. I get that a lot.
“Bella doesn’t love her family correctly.”
“You’re rereading it? I’ve read it three times and I always find something I missed before. It is soooo good.”
"Suspend your disbelief," said the little voice inside my head.
When I listened to that little voice I was able to enjoy The Ultimate Game, and there"Suspend your disbelief," said the little voice inside my head.
When I listened to that little voice I was able to enjoy The Ultimate Game, and there are elements of this book that truly deserve to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, that little voice wasn't always loud enough to make me suspend my disbelief, and the sound of that voice couldn't drown out the dissonance. Those moments couldn't be overlooked or enjoyed (not, at least, by me).
3 Things That Deserve to be Enjoyed --
The Cliffhanger-- I didn't look into what this book was about before I started reading it, so the cliffhanger at the end of the book, the set up for the sequel, was somewhat unexpected, although I could tell quite early on that another book or two had to be coming if Sean Austin was going to make his story approach completeness. It was good enough that I want to read the sequel.
Two Brothers -- I quite liked Reggie and Jeremy, despite the fact that I bought very little that came out of their mouths. They didn't act their ages, for instance. Still, my like for them existed, and it came down to their love for each other, their loyalty, and the way their emotions rang true. I believed the way they felt about each other and how that translated into the actions they were forced to take, so I cared what happened to them (which is probably the key to the cliffhanger and my desire to see where this story is going).
Echo-7 -- Badass super transformer, Echo-7, is a pretty convincing front-man villain (I suspect someone else is in Echo-7's driver's seat ). He cloaks, he transforms, he tortures, he swallows people whole, he does impersonations, he thinks, he ejects still living boys from his body in plastic bags, he has an army of taser-bots, and he wants to rule the world (perhaps). But wow do you need to roll with his presence (suspend, suspend, suspend) because if you don't you may as well read something else.
Things That Are Hard to Enjoy --
The Militarism -- All boys like guns and violence and military lingo and knives and military philosophies -- and that's okay. More than okay, actually (at least that's what it felt like this book was trying to sell me). It's just fine to fill a book with violence, apparently, and sell that violence to boys ... cause, hey, the US is a peaceful place, the most militarized peaceful place in Earth's history, and militarism's a good thing, a thing that keeps us safe, not something that endangers us, not something we should ever worry about, at least not as much as we should worry about sex and hormones.
The "Token" Girl -- Claire's gamer handle is "Claw," and she's as beautiful as a super-model, and she makes Reggie feel funny in his stomach and then in his heart. Reggie's fourteen. When I was fourteen there was another funny feeling that went along with the stomach and the heart, and that could be found, quite uncontrollably, in my pants. Nothing stirred for Reggie, however. Never even crossed his mind. Couple Reggie's hormonal impossibility with his puppiest of loves, and the fourteen year old he was supposed to be felt about eleven. There was no suspending disbelief here, and it was more frustrating still because Claire was actually an appealing character. She was wasted. Big time.
Violence vs. Hormones -- Couple the glorification of violence for young adults with the chastity of the piece, and the result was an unrealism I was came to despise. The willing ignorance of parents when it comes to their children's hormones, hormones that they once had, makes me despair.
(view spoiler)[Why Wasn't This Whole Thing A Total Recall Scenario? -- If all the gamers had awoken in AAARealityGames hooked up to virtual reality displays or something, and everything they'd experienced had been a BETA test of a new game, this book would have been terrific. But they didn't, and The Ultimate Game was only good. It's a shame. I was hoping for better. (hide spoiler)]*
The Cliffhanger -- I know I said this was one of the things to like about the book, but it has to reside here as well. Sean Austin set up expectations, he teased and hinted at something more, and he failed to deliver. Had he taken more care to avoid the tease, the ending would have been much more satisfying. But I still want to read what's next, so the cliffhanger can't be all bad. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
***There may be some spoilers ahead, but can these books really be spoiled at this point?***
So this time through Prisoner of Azkaban something struck***There may be some spoilers ahead, but can these books really be spoiled at this point?***
So this time through Prisoner of Azkaban something struck me about our general pop cultural acceptance that Albus Dumbledore is the goodest of the good, the best of the best, the most heroic of the heroes in Rowling's world (trumping even Harry because his sacrifice is genuine).
I am not interested in Rowling's intentions for the characters in this; I am interested only in what I see. And what I see tells me that only one character is good and great and heroic in the kind of goodness and greatness and heroism that interests me.
I am not saying that Dumbledore's a bad guy. He's no Voldemort, obviously (although I am not entirely convinced that Voldemort is the embodiment of evil we often think of him as), and he leads the battle against Voldemort's fascist rise, which makes him the Churchillian leader of English myth. He does sacrifice himself. He does risk his health and welfare to destroy horcruxes. He does protect Harry (while moving the boy around like the chess piece that the boy is). But what strikes me is that everything Dumbledore accomplishes is accomplished to maintain the status quo, and the status quo I see is far from worthy of maintenance. It is a status quo with a classic English power structure, rich white guys at the top (Dumbledore anyone?) and everyone else beneath. It is a status quo with the usual class divides. It is a status quo with some pretty hefty racism (goblins and giants and other Others). It is a status quo with institutionalized slavery (and Dumbledore himself uses a small army of House Elves to run Hogwarts without a hint of distaste). It is a status quo with a prison system of torture. And Dumbledore does nothing to disrupt that status quo.
In my opinion, the character who is the goodest of the good, the best of the best, the most heroic of the heroes is the one who rails against the status quo while simultaneously battling Voldemort, and she fights Mr. Riddle far more significantly than the rest of the wizarding world. And she fights the status quo in spite of being mocked for her beliefs by everyone at every turn. For me the paragon we should aspire to is Hermione Granger. Not Dumbledore and certainly not Harry Potter.
So with that in mind, what's not to love about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It is the moment that Hermione comes into her own. She is the key to the resolution. She keeps them all alive. She's sceptical, she's smart, and she is potent. I love Hermione. Take that Hermione haters. ...more
One of the things I dig most about the "Martin Beck" mysteries is that they are only named "Martin Beck" mysteries out of convenience. He's the highesOne of the things I dig most about the "Martin Beck" mysteries is that they are only named "Martin Beck" mysteries out of convenience. He's the highest ranking policeman in Sjowall and Wahloo's Stockholm Homicide Division, and a couple of the early books tended to focus on him, but as the series goes on the books can be about any of the men who work with Beck.
The Laughing Policeman revolves around two of the detectives: Lennart Kollberg and Åke Stenström. In fact, the central mystery of the book is the shooting of Stenström and seven others on a double decker bus on the edge of Stockholm and Skåne. No one has any idea what Stenström is doing on the bus, and the hunt for a mass murderer in 1968 Sweden is all a bit surreal to the detectives who expect that kind of thing in Vietnam war torn USA, but not late-sixties Sweden.
The investigation (refreshingly bereft of the "cop killer" chest beating we've come to expect from our police procedurals) digs deep into the life of Stenström, trying to figure out what he is doing and why he is on that bus. We meet his girlfriend and future cop Åsa Torell, we discover their sexual proclivities, Stenström's love of guns, and his lofty ambitions.
It is Kollberg who does most of the work on this front, befriending Åsa Torell after Stenström's death and going so far as to invite her to stay with him, his wife, Gun, and their baby (only one at this point) for a while. We discover much more about Kollberg's Socialist politics, his disdain for guns, his and Gun's sexual proclivities, and that he is a damn good detective. No wonder he and Beck get along so well.
The Kollberg and Stenström stuff is exactly the kind of stuff I love. Getting to know characters in the midst of whatever it is they are supposed to be doing. But what Kollberg is supposed to be doing, along with Beck and Melander, Larsson and Rönn, is finding a mass murderer. And that part of the story is as satisfying as it can possibly be. If you love mystery novels, and if you're even mildly interested in Swedish crime fiction, you will love this book. I did. ...more
My Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way throuMy Game of Thrones journals were so well liked I thought I'd do it all over again with A Clash of Kings, and I am now about a quarter of the way through the book. This is the first insallment. My star rating is where I am at now. This may change in subsequent installments. Enjoy ,,, or not.
Daenerys –- She is, quite simply, the best leader in these books, and her POVs reveal the depth of that quality at every turn. Even better, her leadership seems to be inherent. It is all about gut, and her gut doesn’t seem to steer her wrong. Staying in the City of Bones, for instance, is a decision that is right on every level. It is right for her, right for her people, her tossing aside of superstition must solidify her mythology for her people, making morale even greater, and her ability to take the long view without realizing she’s doing so, means that she and her people wil be prepared. Perhaps GRRM is going to make Dany the biggest red herring ever. Perhaps she is not destined to retake the Iron Throne. But if she does take the throne, it will be the most satisfying foregone conclusion I’ll ever have had the pleasure to read, except for the vengeance of Edmund Dantes. Can I just say, though, that it took way too fucking long to reach Dany? I need more of her much more often (of course, it is always better to leave me wanting more, so well done GRRM).
The other thing I love here is Ser Jorah Mormont’s story. It wasn’t what I expected, but it fits, and it makes me love him more than I already did. And the coupling of Dany and Ser Jorah (only figuratively) leads me to my five favourite characters at this point:
5. Cersei (wonderful in every way. I wonder how she would do on the Bachelor?) 4. Varys (brilliant, brilliant spider, where are your scissors?) 3. Daenerys (cause she is the truest hero in the books) 2. Ser Jorah Mormont (cause I get it, and I can see myself doing all the shit he does) 1. Tyrion (that sexy motherfucker)
Jon –- Kind of a nice break from the character heavy chapters where we learn so much about the people we’re reading about, this chapter is about events. Big Daddy Mormont and his rangers and a whole bunch of crows are out looking around beyond the wall, only to discover that every village they come across is empty. Spooky. Not much else to report, although there are some new cats in the Black (cannon fodder?), Sam is growing braver (as brave as he can get), and Jon didn’t whine (I mean it ... no whining. Not sure if that is because, as my kind friends tell me, I am being unfair to poor Jon or if there is a real difference). So that’s nice.
Arya –- So that’s what happened to Ned. His soul was transported into his daughter. So here we are in Harrentown and Yoren holds up in the holdfast until some Lannister bannerman shows up and attacks. It’s a pretty cool action sequence –- all fire and violence and mayhem -- and Arya’s penchant for fighting and already seasoned courage make her a deadly little warrior. But then there is that Ned moment. The moment she does the “right thing” and risks her neck to save the guys in the cage. I found myself, as soon as the fight started, wanting someone to do exactly what Arya did, but once she did it I couldn’t help thinking, “That was stupid, Arya, you should have just saved yourself.” Will it bite her in the ass? In this case I am going to guess no. My guess is that this will have positive repercussions down the road, but it is still the sort of “noble” gesture that Ned would have engaged in, and we all know where nobility and honour got him.
Tyrion -- Damn I love chapters with Tyrion. Straight back to the shit I love: political machinations, brilliant minds plotting (and this time it is Tyrion and Varys), and kick ass lines, like (and I paraphrase) “Sometimes I wonder, Varys, if you’re the best friend I have in this city, or my worst enemy.” To which Varys replies, “I often wonder the same thing about you.” Perfection. And I wonder what the plan is for that big fucking chain? Fascinating.
Bran –- So as I was reading the chapter, I was thinking I would write out my thoughts on all the little Winterfell subplots about sonless widows and big fat landowners and crop levies and Bran as acting prince and the Walder assholes and their belittling of poor Hodor, and blah blah blah. And then the Cerwyns show up with news of Stannis’ letter and suddenly Bran remembers. Bran REMEMBERS! Sweet. Can’t wait to see what he does with his knowledge, although if I can see any family not using such knowledge to their advantage it would be the Starks. Still, the memory is there, and that is a fun development.
Tyrion –- Maester Pycelle = one. Varys = two. Littlefinger = three. What are you weaving, Tyrion? And are you doing too much too soon? What is your use for that vial you stole? What are you going to do to Littlefinger? Can you and Varys actually work together for the same thing? Are you as great a survivor as I imagine you are? Two things are sure: one, you are as sharp and observant as we’ve been led to believe since your three moves are against the three most dangerous men; two, you’ve got balls the size of boulders.
Sansa –- She just keeps getting better and better. Love the hint of old myths and tales in the intrigues of Ser Deros and Sansa. Love the Florian & Jonquil story. The way Martin offers these moments, hinting at a deeper story, but withholding the details as though we must already know them, being a part of Westeros, is masterly. We get to fill in the gaps and imagine. It’s quite an impressive skill. And then there’s the Hound. Love him more every time I see him. I hope he doesn’t die until something fittingly huge comes from him. And I don’t mean his prick.
Arya –- Gendry is about as smart as Robert, I see. At least he was observant enough to pick up on Arya’s gender. So the Arya story, the 21st century Disney Princess (interesting, isn’t it, that Sansa seems to be the 20th Century Disney Princess?), aggravates me to know end. It really is no different than the classic “male” fantasy journey, it’s simply made “new” by switching the genders. I have always been annoyed with little boys in Arya’s position too, so it is not her gender that bothers me; it is the banality of the story itself, and in a book with much more interesting female characters, I suppose it rankles that she seems to be everyone’s favourite. Throw a penis on her. Now how interesting would her story be?
Tyrion –- And a little bit of Cersei. Oh my. Where to start? Again I find Cersie a wonderful character. Out of her depth, feeling betrayed by every man in her life, overwhelmed by the patriarchal weight that has pressed down on her all her life, here she is defending her daughter from her own fate, yet once she is reached by Tyrion’s intelligence, she is prepared to do what is required. Pragmatism wins out. And speaking of pragmatic, there’s good old Tyrion, preparing the wildfire and its delivery boys. There’s Tyrion turning every turn and twist of intrigue into a moment for knowledge and activity. As much as I love Cersei, though, I hope to see Tyrion make her pay for her arrogance and abuse. Good, good chapter.
Catelyn –- Good God I hate chapters from her perspective. It took me a month, literally a month of showers, to get through this chapter. Catelyn’s presence could seriously grind me to a halt and right out of Westeros. Christ I hope she dies in a future book. My loathing for her grows every time I’m stuck in her head. However, GRRM pulled me back into his world right at the end of the chapter when Renly finally said what I’ve been thinking all along: who the fuck has the right to an usurped throne? The guy with the biggest stick (or the girl with the trio of dragons). All this talk of succession and right to the Iron Throne has infuriated me because there is no moral position in this situation. We’re not talking about a throne that was usurped hundreds of years before. We’re talking about a throne that was usurped just over a decade before. Robert had the “right” because he sat in the throne after a King was killed and a rebellion was later quashed. Might makes right. And Renley said what needed to be said. And now I am back into the tale after a month of torture.
Jon –- While I am far from loving Jon Snow, this is the first time I understand why almost everyone else does. I saw the first glimmer of him being a bit smarter than his father and family in the way he dealt with Gilly, the daughter/wife seeking escape. He had a pang of guilt, but seems (so far at least) to have made the correct decision for himself and the watch. At this point in my reading, the second season of Game of Thrones is well underway on HBO (5 weeks in, perhaps), but I have only seen the first episode. Why I bring this up is because this event, the visit to Craster’s Keep , occurs in that first episode, but it occurs here at the nearly halfway point of the book, which causes me more than a little concern that the TV producers have decided to make all sorts of untenable decisions now that they’ve a successful season behind them. And it pisses me off that they’ve decided to ramp up Jon’s petulance and self-righteousness in a way that isn’t in the book. I’ve been told that the show has coloured my view of Jon, and I think that assessment is correct, but the television makers must share responsibility for making their Jon something he isn’t and shouldn’t be.
Theon –- Loving Esgred the shipwright’s wife. Good lord in heaven but she could be my favourite woman in these books. (Later ...) I can say that I was genuinely surprised by that. God damn! I expected something to happen, but I was thinking it would have to do with Esgred’s “husband” or that Esgred was a spy planted to get Theon talking, and fool that he is he’d blather all his plans because he was thinking with his cock. I was, at least, partially right. But I didn’t see Asha coming. I am sure some would say that this is a case of a man “underestimating” a woman, but I see it, instead, as a woman actively tricking a man. Theon will never underestimate Asha now that he knows her, and surely we’ve seen Theon “underestimate” everyone, male and female since he’s come home (but only Asha has actively tricked him). One thing this chapter has done has been to increase my sympathy for Theon yet again. He is crass; he can be an ass; he is self-righteous; he’s too much a Stark and not enough of a Greyjoy. But the poor bastard is beset on all sides, and it’s impossible for me to separate the man he’s become from his upbringing. No wonder he’s such a mess.
Tyrion –- His best moments all packed tight into one chapter: 1. He poisons Cersie; 2. He rids himself of Cersei’s guard; 3. He pisses off Littlefinger and puts the jackass in his place; 4. He strikes actual fear, along with respect, in the heart of Varys; 5. He takes out Maester Paecelle. Genius. That throne needs to be Tyrion’s.
Arya –- This is the first time since Game of Thrones that I’ve enjoyed a chapter about Arya. It’s dark, and I love how the Mountain continues his shadowy march as the baddest bad guy around without ever being present. I also really dug the creepy guy, the nondescript fellow that scares Arya the deepest. The finest part of this chapter, though, is one of the things I most admire about GRRM – his dearth of heroics. Most other authors would have had Arya pull off some mad escape by now, some impossible slipping away or murder or retaking of Needle. But nope. Arya’s now Weasel. And Weasel is now a servant. Excellent.
Daenerys –- My love for her grows, and Martin’s debt to Conan’s Hyborean Age is obvious again when she enters Qarth, the Clash of Kings version of Zamora. Dany’s thoughts about Ser Jorah were astute. The news from Westeros and the way she handled it was sound. And I love that she continues to walk along the sword edge fully aware of the dangers. She really is destined to return to the Iron Throne, isn’t she? I hope so. At this point, Tyrion is the only person I’d rather see as ruler.
Bran –- The Reeds are fascinating. Magic is stirring (a nice discussion following our most recent time spent with the dragons). The Maester’s are chemists and thinkers. Bran and his dire wolf are going to be potent. A nice little bit of groundwork going on here (but then everything is groundwork always, isn’t it?).
Tyrion –- Little Lancel comes trying to be all tough for Cersei, and he’s turned into Tyrion’s spy in seconds. A nice bit of the cat teasing the mouse before he eats him, but the meat of the chapter for me is Tyrion’s going to Shae. The path through the brothel, through Dancy and Marie and Alayaya is fascinating, but it was his admission, to himself, that he loves the game, he loves where he is and when he is, and he loves Shae. His downfall is right there between her legs (and Martin used my favourite word to describe it -- the it between her legs that is -- delicious).
Arya –- Now that she’s cooped up in Harrenhal, Arya’s story is taking on greater dimensions and become much more captivating for me. The power of her three assassinations through Jaqen H’ghar, potential eliminations from her list of hate, could make for some interesting changes in the landscape. Chiswyck was a waste, of course, but will the next two be well spent? Me hopes.
Catelyn –- You know you are douchebags when Lady Catelyn Stark, nee Tully, is the one with wisdom, the one urging peace and dialogue. Damn you, GRRM! Are you going to make me like her after over 1,300 pages of making me hate her? I hope not. I like to hold on to my hates.
Sansa –- How is she still alive? This girl is amazing, and her reserves of strength seem boundless, not to mention her ability to persevere. The best part of this chapter, though, is Tyrion. He really is one of the great characters in literature –- not just fantasy literature but literature.
Catelyn –- The son of a bitch did it; Martin won me over. Catelyn Stark has perhaps the finest moment of self-awareness in the book during her prayers in the sept. It is a beautiful sequence. And then she goes and witnesses the unleashing of bloodthirsty shadows in an act of demonic fratricide / regicide (sort of), saves Brienne’s ass and pulls off an impressive escape (which should bite her thoroughly in the ass, as I am sure she will take the blame for the regicide). I may be falling in love with her. The fact that GRRM has done this, has reversed my long standing disdain for Catelyn in only two chapters, is a feat of powerful literary manipulation. I’ve understood why people love him and the books before, but this is the first time I can see why they consider him a master. I think I may be forced to concur....more
Out of idle curiosity, I've lately been turning my reading to Scoutie into a discovery of the source texts for Disney's biggest films. I stumbled uponOut of idle curiosity, I've lately been turning my reading to Scoutie into a discovery of the source texts for Disney's biggest films. I stumbled upon versions of both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty that were surprisingly close to Disney's Princess movies, and we had much fun with them (I wish old Walt hadn't cut the baby-eating Ogre Queen Mum from Sleeping Beauty, though. What fun that would have been).
Again I was surprised by how closely the Disney company (this time under Katzenberg/Eisner) adhered to the text. All the key elements remain in the movie; they are often altered but they're there: the Enchantress (evil in the book), the rose(s), Belle's father meeting the Beast first, food magically appearing, Belle's release and return. I didn't expect the versions to be so closely related without Walt Disney's personal influence, but they were and that's likely at the root of why Disney's Beauty and the Beast is so successful.
What I found most delightful, however, is how much friendlier Villeneuve's original is compared to the Disney movie (I've since discovered that it is not much friendlier. It is actually the Beaumont adaptation, which is what I read, that is friendlier. I need to get my hands on the original). The Beast is far less the abusive kidnapper and much more a Prince trapped in bestial form. He's kinder from the outset, anonymously providing food and shelter for Belle's father, the tired, cold, passerby, and only reveals himself and takes her father prisoner when the father attempts to pick a rose for Belle. Moreover, there is no apparent clock the Beast is racing against, no nasty Gaston to muddy the waters, and no foolish villagers marching to destroy the Beast in his castle, and less of a feeling that Belle is a kidnap victim who falls prey to the Stockholm syndrome.
It's a straight up tale of love developing through friendship, and a tale of kindness and selflessness being rewarded. Winnie-the-Pooh is next (not a discovery for me, but it is for Scout). One more thing about this version of La Belle et la Bête: the art by Walter Crane is kind of beautiful in its quaint way -- even in an eBook....more
A -- Alfheim: It's the place where the elves live. There's lots of elves there with bows, and they have long blonde hair and pointy years. The wear archer clothes and stuff.
B -- Balder: The God of Light (is he the God of Light? Maybe he's just goodness. No, he's the God of Light too). He was always happy. He was never mad. He just smiled the whole time. I can't remember a time when he was mad. He died because Frigg asked everything not to hurt him except mistletoe, then Loki, disguised as an old woman found out it was unsafe, then made an arrow out of mistletoe, gave it to Balder's blind brother, then Loki helped Hod shoot Balder, and Balder died.
C -- Chess and Chessmen: Almost everybody plays chess, the gods that is, and I didn't know that chess was made back then. The gods probably invented it, the god of gold that is because they were golden chessmen. Or maybe it was the Gnomes. They seem more like the building type.
D -- Draupnir: I think it would be cool to have a bracelet like Draupnir. It was cool that Odin put it with Balder in his funeral pyre.
E -- Embla: Embla is one of the first humans created by the Gods. She was the first woman.
F -- Fenris: He's Loki's son who is the big wolf who grows too big to control. He's not scared of anything, so he's fearless, and he's very big, and he can open his mouth so wide his bottom jaw can touch the Earth (Midgard), and he bites off Tyr's hand. Plus, he's stuck at the bottom of Yggdrassil.
G -- Garm: He's the dog who guards the gate to Hel.
H -- Hel: She's Loki's daughter who rules Hel, which is named after her.
I -- Ida: The green field of Asgard with a whole bunch of buildings that I expect are huge, and it is very busy.
J -- Jotuns: The Jotuns live in a very, very cold world on the tree. Instead of their beards being soft and furry, they're cold and hard like icicles. The Aesir and them don't agree with each other. Thor challenges every Jotun he sees, and kills it and stuff, declares war on it, I'd say.
K -- Kvasir: Wasn't that the drink that made people smart? Odin was wise after drinking it or something.
L -- Lidskjalf: That's the seat where Odin sits and he can see everything.
M -- Midgard's Serpent: It's scary. Very, very scary, and it's always angry, and apparently it's not too heavy for Thor.
N -- Nanna: She is the wife of Balder. She is pretty nice, and she is my favourite of all the ladies in Asgard.
O -- Odin: He is the All Father and the ruler of Asgard. He has a very, very, very fast horse with eight legs named Sleipnir. He only has one functional eye, and he pulls his hair down over his missing eye. In the Norse myths, he's my (Miloš') favourite.
R -- Rungnir: He was a pretty big Jotun, really tall, and he had the second fastest horse on the entire World Tree. He's pretty cool, and fairly strong, and Thor beat him in a duel, but his head isn't fairly strong becaues Thor smashed it, right?
S -- Sif: She is beautiful, and she has the best hair. If she was a Charlie's Angels she'd be Jill. Her hair was blonde but it became gold.
T -- Tyr: He is very brave, and he is pretty strong too. Fenris ate his hand, so he has only one hand. He is also pretty nice. He is one of Odin's sons.
U -- Utgardsloki: He was super smart. It was awesome how he made all the tricks, the illusions, to trick Thor. I thought Thor would win. I loved the fact that Thor didn't win and that Utgardsloki won.
V -- Vanir: The battle between them and the Aesir was pretty interesting. They were pretty cool, and some of them joined the Aesir.
W -- War: The Norse Gods fought too much, definitely. They were really violent. Whenever somebody died nobody even cried, except for Balder, or then their wives die too. It's weird the way they were with death and war.
Y -- Yggdrassil: It's a cool tree. I like how it is holding all the Nine Realms in place and stuff. It is there to keep everything in place. I like that Yggdrassil is so important, and trees are because they give us air and stuff, but this tree is more important because it is holding our worlds together in one space so Midgard, Asgard, Jotunheim and all the rest would probably spin off into space without the tree.
Æ -- Aesir: Whenever they said something they promised, they had to do what they promised, so instead of being fierce they did what they said they would, but when they failed to do what they said they would something bad happened, and eventually it caused Ragnarokk.
*I just finished reading this to my twins last night. We start the Greek Myths tonight. ...more
The post-mortem Dr. Seuss money grab by Audrey Geisel continues apace -- and continues to diminish the greatness of the Seuss oeuvre -- in Miles and MThe post-mortem Dr. Seuss money grab by Audrey Geisel continues apace -- and continues to diminish the greatness of the Seuss oeuvre -- in Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles.
Seuss, a man notoriously reluctant to lend his name and characters to dubious pursuits and monetary gain, authorized very few adaptations based on his work, and even fewer merchandising schemes. But then he died and Audrey promptly authorized toys and theme parks and live action films and CGI films and shit like Cat in the Hat's Learning Library -- for which she has made more money than Theodore Geisel, the actual creator of the books and characters, made in his entire career. Going, it would seem to me, against his express wishes.
Perhaps not, though. Perhaps I am looking at the situation through Brad-coloured glasses that can only see an artist's vision compromised through the greed of a "loved" one.
Regardless of whether or not there should be such a thing as Cat in the Hat's Learning Library (at least for now), Miles and Miles of Reptiles: All About Reptiles remains a piece of crap. Worse than even the worst of the National Geographic levelled readers, and abysmally awful compared to NG's best, Miles and Miles pretends to use Dr. Seuss's voice and art to teach kids about reptiles. It fails miserably.
The art is a poor simulation of Geisel's beautifully alive creations. Part of this surely has to do with the attempt to render living creatures into Seuss art while still maintaining enough of reality to make them recognizable (and to suggest the difference from reptile to reptile), but even when the Cat in the Hat makes an appearance it is plain that the artists -- Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu -- are copiers of the lowest calibre. They never capture the spirit of Seuss, and I can only imagine them sitting in a room with countless Cat in the Hat pictures copying what they see rather than drawing something new and fresh.
But it is the writing that is the worst. Have no expectation of Seuss-like meter and rhyme because your disappointment will be exponential. And forget about scientific accuracy.
On the Florida coast in a swap or lagoon, you may see a crocodile swimming by soon.
Really, Ms. Raby? Crocodiles in Florida? That's right, the University of Florida football team is called the Florida Crocs because of their indigenous reptile.
Piss poor by any standard. This book is crap. Super crap. Crapulous. A big reptile crap. And I am pretty sure I can say with a pretty high expectation of accuracy that Dr. Seuss himself would never have approved of this trash being published in his name. All other money grabs aside, Audrey Geisel, this is the one you should be most ashamed of. The others don't expand the Seuss oeuvre in his own medium. This crap taints his genius. Shame on you. ...more
I imagine this was a charming book when it was released in the late fifties. I suppose I can see the appeal. It's a simple book for kids who are learnI imagine this was a charming book when it was released in the late fifties. I suppose I can see the appeal. It's a simple book for kids who are learning to read. It has a goofy looking dinosaur. It has a polite little kid. And they have fun little adventures in some nondescript American city.
But it's not the fifties anymore, and I am a jaded bastard who likes his kids books on the salty (or maybe just interesting) side. So the sweet dino and the sweet boy are like the syrupy skein of goo at the back of the tongue after 5 cans of warm, flat Dr. Pepper. Every once in a while I get a craving for Dr. Pepper despite that coating, and the same thing happens with Danny and the Dinosaur. I gorge myself, hate the after taste, then wait a year or two for the craving to return.
Lately, though, my little Scoutie's developing a taste for Danny and the Dinosaur, so the book is overstaying its welcome, and the after taste is making me gag. I'm going to try and redirect her into Harold and the Purple Crayon. Wish me luck. ...more