Turns out William Burroughs used drugs. Apparently, he also breathed oxygen, had toenails, smelled scents, and tasted tastes. Hear ye, hear ye.
It's a...moreTurns out William Burroughs used drugs. Apparently, he also breathed oxygen, had toenails, smelled scents, and tasted tastes. Hear ye, hear ye.
It's an easy, nasty read. Throughout, it's fun to pretend you're from the '50s and are shocked and fascinated by this heretofore unchronicled underworld of dangerously exhilirating magical needles. A good book to read if you'd like to tell people you've read William Burroughs but don't want to put too much work into it. (less)
I love it when classics aren't a letdown. This is a great and funny little book about how control is...moreA guy turns into a bug and it makes things hard.
I love it when classics aren't a letdown. This is a great and funny little book about how control is an illusion and about how impossible it is to really get to know anyone. I borrowed a copy from the library that had formica boomerangs on the inside cover and smelled awesome. (less)
Separately, the three stories that make up this book are all immediately engaging and quite funny. Unfortunately, Yang tries to get fancy at the end,...moreSeparately, the three stories that make up this book are all immediately engaging and quite funny. Unfortunately, Yang tries to get fancy at the end, laboriously converging stories that were much better off on their own. The result is ultimately unsatisfying, a hasty wrap-up posing as innovative narrative. A shame, since until the overreaching conclusion I was feeling very four-star, even slightly five-star, about what I'd been reading. Three awesome graphic novels are better than one decent one anyday.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, if not the destination. It's a quick, lively read, and I laughed out loud several times. And, hey, maybe the ending'll work for you. I wish it had worked for me. (less)
A book that basically tells you that you should look at birds sometimes, because sometimes they do weird stuff. Also, you can play a game where whenev...moreA book that basically tells you that you should look at birds sometimes, because sometimes they do weird stuff. Also, you can play a game where whenever you see a bird, you keep track of it and thereby "collect" it, kind of like real-life Pokemon Snap. You won't learn much of anything useful concerning the hobby in question, but that's kind of its charm. The author doesn't pretend that he knows a great deal about his subject, just kind of puts in a kind, goofy word for the pleasures of bird world observation. Upon reading the book, you'll definitely feel an urge, however brief, to go buy a pair of binoculars and traipse around town with a notebook squinting at indistinct shapes on telephone wires and looking like an idiot, but it'll probably pass. (less)
First of all, the "Roadfood" books contain some of my flat-out favorite writing. Sometimes I think I'd rather read a Stern-scribed paragraph devoted t...moreFirst of all, the "Roadfood" books contain some of my flat-out favorite writing. Sometimes I think I'd rather read a Stern-scribed paragraph devoted to a cheeseburger than eat one. The paragraph is often at least equally satisfying, and doesn't magically turn into a poor-smelling brown thing that begs to exit your asshole while you're in the middle of a particularly good "Seinfeld" you haven't seen in awhile. I'm just trying to get the poop reference out of the way early here. Stay with me.
So I like the Sterns a lot, and I envy their carefree life of cruising the back roads of America, encountering hole-in-the-wall diners, sampling the local fare without regard for personal health, and later giving the unsung propreitors their due in adjective-laden writeups that, when their enthusiasm levels run particularly high, range from ravenous lust to real love (they compare the taste of a Kentucky-based eatery's fried chicken to a first kiss). Their best encapsulations read like poetry, odes to shoo-fly pie and red-and-white checkered tablecloths that I flip to repeatedly, often (really) wiping tears both incredulous and ridiculous from my eyes. I enjoy food.
And golly, so do the Sterns, who on their jaunts routinely patronize ten restaurants a day, so it's good thing that they managed to wedge this memoir under their taut belts, because no doubt their bloated, tartar-sauce-oozing corpses will be heaped like so much country ham on hospital gurneys any day now. As always, their writing is engaging and descriptive, but rather lacking in the anecdote department. They eat and drive and eat and drive. Once the vicarious "Gee, I wish I could get paid to drive around all day eating ribs and pie" thrill wears off, what remains is pleasant enough but unsatisfying, like a...I don't know, like a friggin' sandwich that doesn't taste all that great. I left my lackluster-memoir-qualifying food similes in my other pants. Bottom line here is what the Sterns eat turns out to be far more compelling than the manner in which they eat it. (less)
When dealing head on with his brother's illness and how it affects his family and life, David B's acclaimed graphic memoir is gripping, frightening, a...moreWhen dealing head on with his brother's illness and how it affects his family and life, David B's acclaimed graphic memoir is gripping, frightening, and sad. As it happens, "Epileptic" is, for the most part, about the very act of not dealing head on with anything. In youth, the author escaped his stressful family life via a world of his own creation, pairing his considerable artistic skills with an ever-expanding knowledge and love of history, notorious battles in particular. It felt to me like we're treated to far more of the avoidance than the titular topic, which makes sense, as the author understandably spent more time indulging in make-believe than hanging out with his difficult sibling. In the end, this makes "Epileptic" more of a personal exorcism (albiet an impressively illustrated one) than a cohesive story. Also, I don't like his lettering.
Your own enjoyment might possibly hinge on your being French, and smarter than me. There are some amazing sections, but after awhile I just wanted it over with. (less)
I'm VERY conflicted about the idea of artists and writers publishing sketchbooks. Sure, there are plenty of people out there who'd eagerly purchase th...moreI'm VERY conflicted about the idea of artists and writers publishing sketchbooks. Sure, there are plenty of people out there who'd eagerly purchase the rag Picasso wiped his paintbrush on, but there's certainly no art or pride involved in that exchange. It's a way to make a quick buck when you're too lazy or uninspired to work on anything of substance.
That being said, there is a vicarious thrill in the chance to look at what Crumb idly doodles while looking after his daughter, or what an earnest and impressionable young Cobain thought was brilliant enough to scrawl in a notebook while sulking in his bedroom. We're reminded of our own past failed attempts at creating something worthwhile, and encouraged to see that the ranks of the published and revered are, sans editor/producers, positively loaded with terrible ideas.
From what little I know of this Seth guy, he strikes me as, though not entirely unapproachable, rather exacting and proud, so it surprises me that he'd put out something so admittedly rushed. The cover and presentation, however, are quite attractive in the author's preferred antiquated manner, and, judging from the still well-above-average artwork, Seth's definition of slapdash would likely not resemble yours or mine. The author's love for older comics, with their amusingly outdated exclamations of surprise and strangely mollifying intrigue, is nicely and enthusiastically conveyed. Otherwise, far too many of the strips consist of panel after panel of talking heads, all adding their two cents to a mild character study spoof with only a handful of intriguing moments and a smile or two.
Either he's stuck and has nothing more polished to offer, or he's trying to lighten up. Whatever the case, Seth's "Wimbledon Green" is a prime example of a work with its heart in the right place, a shaggy dog valentine perhaps best looked upon as an impetus to seek out the real deal. (less)
I came to "Gasoline Alley" by way of that "Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories" collection that recently came out, in which a bea...moreI came to "Gasoline Alley" by way of that "Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories" collection that recently came out, in which a beautiful, beautiful Sunday page of the strip is included. This fat, cumbersome rectangle collects two of the strip's earliest years (omitting the pre-Skeezix debut year), focusing on the black and white daily strips. Not every strip leads to a punchline, and the jokes that are there, with a few notable exceptions, will most likely elicit warm smiles at best. King could certainly draw and craft a decent gag, but where he especially excelled was in character development, and his remarkable devotion to ensuring that the lives of his little people passed in real time served this purpose perfectly.
We observe incurable bachelor and all around stand-up guy Walt Wallet as he deals with the initial shock of finding an abandoned infant on his doorstep, followed by the alternately hilarious and disgusting daily surprises that lie in wait for a new parent. Initially (and somewhat sensibly) applying his vast knowledge of auto mechanics to the realm of child rearing, Walt soon becomes attached to the little guy, to the point where neither he nor his neighbors can remember or fathom a time when he wasn't wheeling Skeezix (whose name is never really explained, at least not in this volume; he's just Skeezix, and even a reader poll suggesting alternate, more appropriate name for the baby does nothing to change the situation, and Walt, after allowing Skeezix to pick a name out of a hat full of mailed-in ideas from around the world, eventually outright refuses to acknowledge the contest altogether, congratulating the winner while tossing the whole thing aside) around in a stroller, or picking up the spoons the baby repeatedly throws on the floor, or gabbing and conferring with other neighborhood mothers as to the baby's progress. Walt's just a great guy, and as much of the time it's just himself and a currently mute (or non-verbal, anyway) infant occupying the panels of the strip, he'll talk right to you, confiding his fears and pet peeves and hopes. He wants to do the right thing, and you have no doubt that he will. I can't remember liking a cartoon character more.
Skeezix, for his part, is no garish, goofy Rugrats type of cartoon character, but an honest-to-goodness baby, completely lacking in self-awareness. Oftentimes you'll see him toddling around in the back or foreground, silently getting into something while Walt discourses on something that might not even have anything to do with Skeezix, or just sitting in the stroller, distracted by an alley cat while the grownups talk women and cars. As Skeezix grows over the course of the strip, I found myself sharing Walt's pride and delighted surprise with each new development. The baby's first attempts at speaking aren't treated as a main plot point, they simply occur, so that when Skeezix calmly replied to a neighbor's playful question of "Who's little boy are you today?" with "Unca Walt!", with his back turned to the reader and en route to picking up a toy car, I actually gasped a little. Subtlety isn't something one often encounters on the funny pages, and King's everyday approach to his material feels well ahead of its time.
I really didn't want this book to end, but reading slower was not an option. A nice spring day, a good home-cooked dinner, a shirt that fits perfectly, & these cartoons. Those funnybook-drawin' fellers have done a good deed, giving Frank King's work some long overdue credit. Kudos to Joe Matt for sharing and to Chris Ware for getting the job done. I can't wait to plow through the rest of the series.(less)
I would like it if Lynda Barry would make a cartoon version of every work of literature ever written, thereby improving it. I am angry at her for not...moreI would like it if Lynda Barry would make a cartoon version of every work of literature ever written, thereby improving it. I am angry at her for not writing a new book every day and personally mailing an autographed copy to me, enclosing a Slim Jim and a $100 bill. (less)
I'd never heard of this Michael Malice character before, but judging from what I saw in "Ego & Hubris", I'd probably get along with him, establish...moreI'd never heard of this Michael Malice character before, but judging from what I saw in "Ego & Hubris", I'd probably get along with him, establish an uneasy friendship, then forever after teeter on the precipice of never talking to him again, while intermittently laughing with dumbfounded disbelief at many of the things he said and did.
This is a quick, funny read about an interesting hothead. What bugs me about this book, though, is that the details within were presumably described to Pekar firsthand, and someone else illustrated them. So here's Harvey's name and cartoon face plastered all over the thing, and all he really did was meet a memorable guy. He's more of a brand here than anything else. Of course without him it's likely the book never would have made it to stores and libraries, but it's a bit disheartening that the credit cannot rest solely on the shoulders of Malice and artist Gary Dumm. (less)
I was rather hoping this would be about Bruce Lee, not about a guy who really likes Bruce Lee. Alas. A couple chapters near the end actually are about...moreI was rather hoping this would be about Bruce Lee, not about a guy who really likes Bruce Lee. Alas. A couple chapters near the end actually are about Bruce Lee. Those are good chapters. The rest of the book is basically the author telling you how tough he is, infusing the wankfest with some unconvincing self-effacing humor. There's a positive blurb from Joyce Carol Oates on the back. That probably should have been my cue to throw the book into the forest. (less)