To know of Feynman is to love Feynman. I traveled in Brazil a few years ago, and while waiting for a subway in a Rio metro station, our tourguide conv...moreTo know of Feynman is to love Feynman. I traveled in Brazil a few years ago, and while waiting for a subway in a Rio metro station, our tourguide conversed in Portuguese with a bespectacled young man, who we discovered was a physicist. I piped in (always eager to communicate via, or in spite of, language barriers) that I was a liberal arts guy, but that I enjoyed reading layman friendly physics books, like "QED" by Feynman. At the mention of his name, the Brazilian physicist smiled broadly and said in accented English, "Oh yes, Feynman is physics Jedi!" To know of Feynman is to love Feynman.
Reading through author Jim Ottaviani's annotated bibliography for this charming little graphic biography, it was clear that he too was a fan, and the fractured, episodic nature of his exploration of the mad genius's life reflects the personality of the man it attempts to convey. Ottaviani and artist Leland Myrick create a clear throughline from Feynman's childhood to his unfortunate death, but you still can feel the physicist's personality seep through as the story bounces from one event to another with minimal context. "Stop worrying about how important or unimportant this is supposed to be," you can almost hear Feynman saying as the story bounces between everything from cross-country roadtrips to meetings with Einstein to playing the bongos at Rio's Carneval celebration. "Just enjoy how much fun this is!"
In addition to capturing the sometimes arbitrary essence of Feynman's adventures, Ottaviani and Myrick also swings the unenviable task of explaining and illustrating some of Feynman's unconventional thoughts on physics, dedicating several pages to showing you visually what Feynman explained beautifully in physics-for-the-masses book, "QED".
If you're already a fan of Richard Feynman, there isn't anything terribly new or insightful in these pages. It's basically an illustrated and slightly abbreviated version of the stories and theories he's already shared in a few of his highly readable works. But viewing all that old stuff in a new medium is a lot of fun, and I can't speak highly enough of how well the author captures his subject's voice. And as I've already said, if you know of Feynman, then you already love him, and would probably appreciate this worthy attempt to translate his life and experiences into graphic form.
If you don't know Feynman...well, what the hell are you waiting for? Go find "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" or "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" or "QED". And in a pinch, read this little graphic novel. You could do a lot worse.(less)
The story and characterization in Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" has been impressive not only in its quality, but more importantly, in its longev...moreThe story and characterization in Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" has been impressive not only in its quality, but more importantly, in its longevity. There have been many comic series that drag on to indefinite lengths with stretches of brilliance here and there depending on the creators. There have been many graphic novels with a finite page count and very specific story that that are masterpieces in the genre.
With "The Walking Dead", Kirkman manages an unlikely blending of the two. Having recently surpassed 80 issues, it certainly has the look of an indefinite, on-going comic book series. But each collection I've read thus far still manages to feel like an individual chapter in one single story.
The sixth hardcover collection (issues 61-78)is a perfect example of this. The previous 60 issues see everyman Rick Grimes lead his band of survivors through a series of trials and horrors and deaths. Any of these ordeals could be seen as just standard zombie-related perils. But Kirkman made sure every single one of those encounter counted for something. Every character who died. Every adversary faced. Every new survivor adopted into the group. They all have an effect, and seem to lead inevitably to what happens in this volume.
Almost as evidence of the evolution of Rick and Co., Kirkman presents the group with a threat similar to one they've already seen, only to have our heroes react in a drastically different manner than the way they would have reacted earlier. It's a short and brutal encounter that leaves the reader cheering even as you are taken aback with what the Rick is now capable of.
The second half of this volume sees the group stumble into a genuinely novel situation, which only further accentuates how far down the rabbit hole they've fallen. The characters, many of whom have served as the everymen and everywomen of the story, stuggling through the zombie apocalypse, are suddenly revealed to be a cadre of severely screwed up people.
In the previous 60 issues, they've encountered, and even harbored severely screwed up people, often with wildly chaotic results. The two story arcs contained in Harcover #6 is Kirkman's way of showing you that his protagonists have become the very thing they've been hiding from.
So storywise, Hardcover #6 is a winner. But the art from Charlie Aldard cannot be overlooked. His lines are clean, his composition clear, and his knack for characterization is amazing. With an always fluctuating cast of diverse characters, its easy to not notice how helpful Aldard's knack is for giving every single person their own distinct look. And his attention to the little details is impressing as well. If you pay attention, you can watch from issue to issue as a character's hair growns. As scars and scratches and battle damage are accumulated then heal over time. Seeing a distinct article of clothing pass from one character to another was not only a nice nod to continuity, but a telling bit of characterization.
My only regret about reading this amazing comic in these beautifully collected editions, is that I've run out of collections. I'm caught up with the current issues, still on the shelves at the LCS. Kirkman and Adlard's amazing efforts have me a bit down that I'm now going to have to wait a month for each new chapter.(less)
Maira Kalman’s “The Principals of Uncertainty” was a quaint little surprise when I first read it a few years back. It’s blend of whimsical artistry an...moreMaira Kalman’s “The Principals of Uncertainty” was a quaint little surprise when I first read it a few years back. It’s blend of whimsical artistry and poetic text was such a treat that I eagerly picked up her newest work, “And the Pursuit of Happiness” when it hit shelves. Happily, it contains the same defiantly eccentric art that blends childlike doodles with lush and vibrant painting, and wraps the whole thing up in simplistic, almost naïve text that is almost absurdly optimistic, but so childlike as to be actually inspiring.
But in spite of all its similarities to “The Principals of Uncertainty”, “And the Pursuit of Happiness” is really a superior work, thanks to its central theme, which is a celebration of patriotism. And this celebration isn’t merely an “America is Awesome” love fest, but more an exploration of our country’s history and a prideful boasting of all the mundane little things. Whether she’s recounting a visit to Mt. Vernon, an interview with Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a tour of a sewage treatment plant or school garden, or multiple depictions of cafeteria meals at government facilities, Kalman seems obsessive as she innocently wanders around and points out things no one else was noticing, and with each drawing or ribbon of text, seems to say, “Isn’t that neat?”
I read “And the Pursuit of Happiness” at the same time as I was reading Matt Taibbi’s excellent (and direly cynical) “Griftopia” which is a depressing and otherworldly look at how American investment banks and government officials bungled their ways into the financial crisis. Taibbi’s book makes some very strong cases for how really rich people very purposefully screwed over everybody else so they could get more rich. It was all rather gloomy.
Reading Maira Kalman reminds you that America certainly has its issues, but it is also a wonderful and amazing place full of beauty and hope. I don’t think Taibbi is wrong in many of his dour conclusions about our capitalist society, but Kalman demonstrates that there is a far bigger, more gratifying picture to look at.
Thank you, Ms. Kalman for beauty and hope and optimism in a world that tries very hard not to deserve it.(less)
As a Neil Young fan, and of the "Greendale" album in particular, I was a little wary of anyone wanting to convert its story into a graphic novel. I th...moreAs a Neil Young fan, and of the "Greendale" album in particular, I was a little wary of anyone wanting to convert its story into a graphic novel. I think its fascinating that Young is intent on feeding this story through so many mediums. I haven't seen the film he directed, but I did see the rather impressive stage musical performed in the suitably dank and rustic bowels of Dallas's Undermain Theater. That production breathed a very specific and unique life into the story of the Green family, and proved that the material was flexible enough to sustain different interpretations.
But as a medium, the graphic novel can be troublesome, frequently running afoul of space constraints and a predilection toward overblown melodrama. When I saw how slender the volume was and how stark and clean was the art, my trepidation was only bolstered further.
But then I read it, and all was well.
If you're familiar with the album and its story, be aware that the graphic novel goes off in a slightly different direction. Sun Green becomes the star of this version of the story, with the rest of the family becoming periphary characters. Jed's run-in with Officer Carmichael is still important to the plot, but more as a turning point for Sun than as the impetus for the evolution of the entire Green family. And within the limited page-count, winnowing the story down to a single character as the focus makes sense. In a perfect world, this could have been a massive, "Blankets" sized opus, and every character could have been given room to breathe, but for what Dysart and Chiang are trying to do, this works rather well.
Probably the most significant tweak that's made, however, is the addition of a pretty substantial supernatural element. The Devil arguably shows up in the original album, and definitely shows up in the musical, but Dysart goes way beyond that by adding in a pretty major spiritual/mystical background for the women of the Green family. All the great spirits of nature are there, and it is they, more than Jed and Carmichael, that beckon for Sun's activist impulses.
The art, as provided by Cliff Chiang, is very crisp, and not at all what I would have expected to represent what was originally a very moody and atmospheric story. With a few exceptions, the layouts and character designs are plain and subtle, which actually acts as the counterbalance needed to ground the more fantastical elements of the story.
In the end, nothing in Vertigo's "Greendale" contradicts anything in Neil Young's original album, but the new content is definitely a retooling of the original such that the emphasis is slightly skewed. It almost acts as background story that supliments what you're already familiar with. And if you're not familiar with any previous iterations of Neil Young's album, and you happen to be a comic fan, I think this stands on its own strongly enough that it may actually get some people curious enough to give the original music a listen.(less)
"A God Somewhere" is unquestionably a very accomplished work. John Arcudi's story about a man losing his humanity after recieving super powers is an i...more"A God Somewhere" is unquestionably a very accomplished work. John Arcudi's story about a man losing his humanity after recieving super powers is an interesting one. Shifting the point-of-view from super man, Eric, to friend, Sam, is a very humanizing one. The relationship between brothers Eric and Hugh is well fleshed out and the directions the story takes are genuinely surprising and satisfying. Artist Peter Snejbjerg also deserves some of the credit for some stark and haunting illustrations that bring a creepy vibrancy to the proceedings.
The thing that drags this from a 4-star to a 3-star review is the very thing that has plagued a lot of the better graphic novels to hit the shelves in recent years: Brevity. Another reviewer compared "A God Somewhere" with "Watchmen", which is utterly absurd. "Watchmen" is 400 densely packed pages that take a few days to get through. It gives itself time to establish a complex plot with complex characters and complex resolutions.
"A God Somewhere" can be read in one sitting, and basically feels like a extra-sized issue of a regular (albeit well-written) comic book. Its there, then its done, and left me a little unsatisfied. Its very similar to how I felt after reading Alex Robinson's "Too Cool to Be Forgotten" and Brian K. Vaughan's critically-acclaimed "Pride of Baghdad". Like "A God Somewhere", both were accomplished work that showed off both interesting writing and attractive art, but both also were so brief they barely registered a few days after reading. I actually just noticed that I didn't even have "Pride of Baghdad" marked as 'read' here on GoodReads. I recall now that, at the time, I didn't feel it was substantial enough to mark.
As a work of art, I absolutely appreciate everything about "A God Somewhere". But I think I'd have been more satisfied if I'd picked this up at the comic shop for $7 or $8 bucks instead of from Barnes & Noble for $15.
If you want a graphic novel that has some more emotional weight (and literal heft), I'd recommend David Mazzuchelli's "Asteryios Polyp" or David Small's "Stitches", both recently released. Or the older "Blankets" or "Box Office Poison".
The art is beautiful, and the depiction of war as pointless violence is effectively delivered, but the translation of the material from film to graphi...moreThe art is beautiful, and the depiction of war as pointless violence is effectively delivered, but the translation of the material from film to graphic novel robs the story of some vital spark.
Prior to this reading, the specific history of Lebanon had been mostly unknown to me. The names Lebanon and Beirut were media buzzwords in my youth during the country's civil war that raged through the 80s. I'd alway just associated the country with war and ruin. "Waltz with Bashir" certainly gives all those hazy memories and impressions some context, but again, the emotional impact is undercut by the brevity. Brevity, I might add, that is not a hinderance to the film whose inherent cinematic motion helps the same material feel more rounded and full.
In no way does my luke-warm interest in this volume reflect on the importance of the story. Indeed, after reading, I was inspired to do a little research on the region prior to and during that era, and I'm glad I did. But if you want to read a graphic novel that is a much more effective portrayal of a war-ravaged society, I recommend Joe Kubert's "Fax From Sarajevo".(less)
Whereas Marjane Satrapi's most main-stream work, "Persepolis" is a graphic novel, "Chicken with Plums" is more of a graphic short story. The limited p...moreWhereas Marjane Satrapi's most main-stream work, "Persepolis" is a graphic novel, "Chicken with Plums" is more of a graphic short story. The limited page count belies the power of the story, and indeed forces a precision upon the bittersweet musician's tale that brings the point home all the more effectively.
The story ostensibly covers eight days in the life of Satrapi's great-uncle and renowned tar player, Nassar Ali, but the use of flashbacks provide insights into the family and personal histories which ultimately give weight to the story's sad climax. As each day goes by, Satrapi peels back the layers of the relationships with Ali's seemingly bitter wife (who ends up far more sympathetic than you would have suspected), his goofus of a son (whose heart is bigger than you would have suspected), and even with a stranger on the street. Even Ali's seemingly selfish obsession with his music is transformed into something haunting and beautiful when that part of the story is revealed.
This series of emotional turns is what marks Satrapi as a really great writer. The fact that she is also a great illustrator is almost a bonus. Her style is loose, used to humorous effect at times, but always sturdy enough to bring to life stern and somber characters like Ali and his wife.
Though based on the life of her actual great-uncle, one would assume some poetic license was taken to enhance the story's literary elements. Satrapi's ability to take her uncle's life and to fold it, origami-like, into such a moving tale marks her as a great story-teller, and elevates "Chicken with Plums" to a remarkable level of quality.(less)
"Stiches" conveys a surprising volume of sadness and lonliness considering author, David Small's sparing use of words and lines. There is a quivering...more"Stiches" conveys a surprising volume of sadness and lonliness considering author, David Small's sparing use of words and lines. There is a quivering nervous quality to every line and shadow that drew forth in me an uncomfortable sympathy for the character, young David (this is an autobiography, if you didn't know), and his mostly pathetic family.
These are sad people about whom David writes, and its kind of nice reflecting that the poor soul in these pages goes on to have a successful career as a graphic artist. But while you're reading about his life, you kind of get the impression that young David will throw himself off a tall roof before he reaches the age of 30.
I think one of the reasons the sadness struck me so effectively is because although you obviously feel connected to David (as he is the protaganist) and although you feel revulsion toward his mother (her refusal to show any real affection is certainly a shortcoming worth despising), neither character serves as a straight-forward hero or villain. Once he's grown up a little, David is kind of a jerk, and his brooding angst gets a little annoying. Similarly, his mother is obviously not a very good mother, but when viewed through the context of her own personal history (as provided in a sad and touching coda by Small) you realize that she's not being a bad mother on purpose. That Small, who was on the receiving end of her tortured parenting could paint this woman in this light was very touching.
The few awkward attempts at affection between the various characters are sad because they're so misjudged and usually give way to some kind of emotional disaster. These people are so pathetic, you kind of feel sorry for them even when you don't like them.
The artwork itself aids in the despair as well. Small has an amazing ability to convey the labored pacing that heightens even the tiniest moments into things of great importance. And though the tone of both writing and art are very dark, there is just the faintest touch of whimsy that prevents the whole thing from collapsing into a depressing mess.
Final thoughts: this is surprisingly similar to another depressing work I just finished, "The Road", in that it intertwines hopelessness and hopefullness in a way that engages your emotions in opposite directions at the same time. The result is a sad but touching tribute to a troubled and misunderstood mother that manages to earn sympathy for someone who seemed to deserve so little.(less)
As a long-time skeptic of EVERYTHING, I could never really get behind most of what I read in the Bible. I was raised in the Baptist Church, and memori...moreAs a long-time skeptic of EVERYTHING, I could never really get behind most of what I read in the Bible. I was raised in the Baptist Church, and memorized my Bible versus and went on mission trips like a good boy, but once I was old enough to look past all the little bits of obvious rhetoric littered throughout the Bible (but make up about 99% of all sermons), you quickly discover that huge chunks of it have nothing to do with morality or spirituality and are just plain weird. The Book of Genesis is no exception, and all of the slightly off-centered parts are highlighted in a R. Crumb's surprisingly neutral, straight down the middle graphic representation of the most common King James translation.
You might expect that Crumb doing the Bible would be ripe with subversiveness and mockery, but in his preface, the artist very clearly states that he is not setting out to make fun of the Bible, even though he is a non-believer. His approach was to take everything in Genesis and present it at face value. And he does! And its very odd!
All sorts of strange contradictions and counter-intuitive events occur in Genesis. There were places where things got so odd, I actually consulted my actual Bible, and I'll be darned if Crumb's text matched my Bible's almost identically! Which made me realize something very interesting about the millions of Bible's that float around in the hands of Christians worldwide: if you don't think your Bible is heavily influenced by the pre-concieved notions of man, think again!
Example: the story of Lot is thought by most people to contain just the tragedy of his wife, who turns into a pillar of salt after glancing back at the annihilated city of Sodom. This does happen, but Lot's story goes on: one night when Lot and his two surviving daughters are wandering around in the wilderness, the two girls mourn the fact that with their mother gone, Lot's seed can never be carried on in a male heir. Their solution [SPOILER!!:]: get dad drunk and sleep with him in the hopes of getting pregnant and bearing a son! So they do! On successive nights, they rape their own father and bear him two sons!
This was one of those moments where I just HAD to read that in my actual Bible, so I flipped over to Genesis, chapter 19, and sure enough, there it was, almost word for word. With one minor difference: in my Bible, published by Zondervan Publishing House, had inserted little subtitles to various passages to helpfully explain what's going on, and to maybe function as a handy tool for quickly finding whatever verse you're looking for. The subtitle for that particular passage (verses 30-38) read "The sin of Lot's daughters". I mean duh! Of course getting your father drunk and raping him is a sin! Only if you look just at the text of the Bible, there is absolutely nothing that indicates that what the girls did is wrong. And rest assured, there are ample examples of punishment and scorn and hideous death being reined down upon people who sin! Just not in this case, because nothing in the original text suggests that whoever wrote it considered it a sin!
And as a stark contrast, take the case of poor Ham, Noah's black sheep son. After the flood is all wrapped up, Noah gets mondo drunk one night on his homemade wine (the Bible claims he invented the vinyard!) and begins wandering around naked inside his tent. Ham stumbles upon Noah in his drunken nakedness and reports it to his brothers who proceed to walk backward into Noah's tent (so as not to see their father naked? drunk? both?) and cover him with a blanket. The next day, Noah gets super-pissed at Ham, and curses him and his children to forever be the slaves of his brothers and their descendents.
So if you're keeping score: accidentally seeing your dad naked and drunk = slavery for your progeny for generations to come! Getting your dad drunk and having sex with him = okay, because at least now he has male heirs! It's true! Its in the Bible!
These are just two examples of the uber-weirdness going on throughout Genesis. There's other stuff like back-to-back retellings of the Creation story that actually contradict one another. Or the almost comic-relief story of Jacob and his two wives and their two handmades, in which Jacob gladly seems to have almost constant sex with all four women in an attempt to have as many children as possible. Or the way God comes off as an eccentric and cranky old man who smites and curses and blesses with all the arbitrary logic of last night's loto numbers. Or the way apparently holy men pass their wives off as their sisters and let them sleep with Pharoahs, keeping in mind this wasn't the Pharoah being greedy for women. In both cases, the Pharoah actually gets angry when he finds out the women he took to bed are other men's wives!
In stripping away modern interpretations and illuminating some of the more obscure sections of Genesis, Crumb actually casts the Bible is a far different light than most people view it. Because most people only want to hear the parts that confirm their idea of what the world should be like. When taken as a literal whole, there is a lot more oddness going on, and seeing Genesis in all its strange glory makes this work totally worth your time.
Beyond that, there is also the art itself, which is stunning in its detailed portrayals of the World of Abraham. I don't pretend that all the visuals are historically accurate. Crumb is no Eric Shanower. Robert Crumb actually admits in his forward that a lot of his original designs came from looking at stills from Hollywood's old Biblical epics. But the effect is a successful one, because from front to back, you feel utterly immersed in the world of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph. I was so immersed, I actually grew a little agitated at the thought that Crumb may not do a follow up illustrated version of Exodus, where even weirder stuff is happening! I'm dying to know what happens next! And who needs an actual Bible when there is the hope that the next chapter of the Ultimate Saga might be brought to vivid life by the likes of Robert Crumb?(less)
There is a very subtle tonal shift in the Peanuts strips once Charles Schulz hit the 70s. It's nothing drastic. Through the 50s and 60s, the series st...moreThere is a very subtle tonal shift in the Peanuts strips once Charles Schulz hit the 70s. It's nothing drastic. Through the 50s and 60s, the series still seemed very fresh (no small feat for a, at the time, 20 year old property!). Through those 20 years, you could almost see the tangible evolution of the characters, as their personalities solidified and even their visual designs began to settle down into a permenant state.
What this volume (and the last volume, '69-'70) sees happen is a final shuffling around of the cast, and and a settling down into a status quo, of sorts. Gone are Shermy and Violet and Patty (the original one, not the Peppermint one) who, one supposed, just weren't dynamic enough to keep Schulz's interest. In their place we get Woodstock, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, and a far more surrealistically humanized Snoopy.
None of these changes are bad things, but the strips I read in this volume of Fantagraphics' amazing series are a distinct comic strip from the one in the first 8 or 9 volumes.
There aren't really any bad things here in volume 11, per say. I was afraid there would be, as I could almost see a few chinks in the Peanuts' brilliance in the last volume, where the rather boring little Woodstock got far too much panel-time, and Lucy and Schroeder seemed to have fallen into the background. But '69-'70 seems to have been a transition era, with 1971 seeing Schulz finding a good balance, and workable voices for some of the new characters. Woodstock went from being a 1-dimensional sidekick to a pathetic little guy in need to some love. There was a strip where Snoopy realizes he's Woodstock's mother-figure, and that moment seems like the exact point where Schulz figured out what to do with him. Likewise, Peppermint Patty got a little depth of character as we see her pine, in her own awkward way, over Charlie Brown, and lament about never finding anyone to love her because of her looks. I guess Woodstock and Peppermint Patty prove that the more pathetic Schulz wrote his characters, the more alive they feel.
One weird thing: Linus and Lucy's little brother, Rerun, is born in May 1972, and is promptly never shown for the remaining 6 months of this volume. Now, back when Schroeder and Linus and Sally were first introduced, they were also spoken of before we ever met them, but they weren't forgotten about for 6 months! Usually just a week or so. I think he finally shows up in 1973, but still.
One bad thing: The introduction is just lame. I've enjoyed the little essays by various celebrities, and the diversity of the contributors is a tribute to how far-reaching the influence of The Peanuts is. And you'd think you couldn't go wrong with Kristen Chenowith. But apparently you can go wrong, if Kristen Chenowith doesn't actually write the introduction, and you merely take the transcript of an interview with her and label that an introduction. Even that wouldn't have been so bad, but the interview was kind of bleh. Pretty much just Chenowith saying how neat she thought playing Sally was on Broadway, without any real insight to what kind of influence (if any) the comic strip as a whole had on her. Pretty disappointing.
But none of that takes away from the simple brilliance of Sparky Schulz who was still creating some amazing stuff 20 years after he'd first penciled good old Charlie Brown. And maybe more incredible of all, in 1972, he wasn't even half-way through his half-century long run!!
So a friend of mine recently read "Ghost World" and didn't care for it much. I suspect this is partly due to the fact that she's a graphic novel novic...moreSo a friend of mine recently read "Ghost World" and didn't care for it much. I suspect this is partly due to the fact that she's a graphic novel novice, and she took the aimless personal trajectory of Enid (the work's protagonist) for a lack of anything happening. That would be a hard conclusion to argue with, so I'll leave my friend to her negative reading of the work, but I'll stick to my guns and maintain the opinion of the work I formed many years ago after my first time reading it: that's its a pretty insightful glimpse into the limbo-era between high school and college of a cynical and dry-witted hipster.
The story is told with a bare minimum of back exposition, which is a plus to me. From the interactions of Enid and Rebecca, you get a slim sense of the lives they led in high school. Two hipster teenagers reinforcing one another's snarky self-images. But as the novel opens, the bond between the two seems not so much to be strained, but to have just eroded away. The gentle tug of having to get on with your life pulls the girls in different directions, and by the time we meet them, they don't seem to have noticed this yet.
Again, this isn't a heavily plotted story with twists and turns and climactic realizations. Its the parting of two friends, in such a glacially slow fashion, that you (and the girls themselves) barely notice it happening.
Art wise, Daniel Clowes turns in a stunningly mundane and grotesque look at the odd hidden corners of every day life. He peppers the diners and lawn sales and record stores with all manner of pathetically oblivious characters just trying to live out their lives, and who provide fodder for the wryly sarcastic and rather mean-spirited Edid and Rebecca. Commenting on these innocent civilians seem to be the only point to their lives, and may seem to some readers (like my friend) to be the only point of the novel.
But a slightly deeper look reveals that all the ironical mocking commentary is just a mask for all sorts of deeper personal confusions and insecurities of both girls. As the novel ends, Rebecca seems to be finding herself and is well on the road to'normalizing'. Enid is still lost as ever, and the closing panels of her chasing after something which she can't identify are sad and bittersweet.
"Ghost World" isn't life-altering literature, but it does spark a strong memory I had after college, where I realized that one of my best friends from high school was someone I hadn't spoken to in many years, and didn't really know any more. I recall looking around and thinking, wow, when did that happen? "Ghost World" invokes that feeling rather strongly, which to me, is the sign of a worthwhile work of literature. (less)
I've been a big fan of "The Watchmen" since I read it many years ago. It was my first exposure to Alan Moore's writing, and Dave Gibbons' art as well...moreI've been a big fan of "The Watchmen" since I read it many years ago. It was my first exposure to Alan Moore's writing, and Dave Gibbons' art as well for that matter. In addition to being blown away by the mere complexity and depth of the story, I also found it quite fun to look for all the symbolism, which in my pre-sophisticate days, consisted mostly of finding all the smiley faces.
In the subsequent years, I've flipped through my "Watchmen" volume a few times and found other interesting little tidbits, aided at times by various websites replete with detailed annotations. I've read just about everything Alan Moore has written. And I've promptly ignored everything Dave Gibbons drew for the remainder of his career.
So I wasn't super excited when I heard this coffee-table type book compiled primarily by Dave Gibbons, and with zero involvement from Alan Moore was coming out. Alan Moore's reputation and aura, and their absence in this project, kind of overshadows what, when you stop to think about it, is kind of an interesting perspective on "The Watchmen".
Sure, an in-depth behind the scenes volume written by Moore would be infinitely interesting. But though it doesn't quite reach that theoretical level of fascination, Gibbons drops in enough in-the-loop material that this proved to be a very satisfying, if quick, read.
The text in this volume is a bit sparse, but what's there is interesting. Gibbons gives an account of his involvement in the genesis of the comics; the grueling pace of drawing each issue; his growing fame as he traveled around England and America to various comic conventions. We also get the tiniest of glimpses into the British comics scene (that's a book I'd like to read).
Art wise, there is a LOT of cool artwork. There were thumbnail sketches of nearly every page from all 12 issues, plus preliminary artwork for "The Watchmen" role-playing game and posters and issue covers.
There are even a couple of really cool diagrams Gibbons drew which offered a neat insight into the throught-process behind laying out a few scenes. One featured an overview of the city block where the giant-other-dimensional-squid-monster manifests. He drew the whole scene in a long shot (which never appears in the actual comic) in order to better help him plot out the placement of buildings and tentacles and victims in the several zoomed-in individual panels. That was pretty cool to see for a design junkie like myself.
Anyhow, this is a solid volume that may not include the thoughts of certain involved parties that we'd all like to hear from, but Mr. Gibbons offers enough unique insights, and a plentiful bounty of artwork that will be something I can go back and browse through frequently and with great satisfaction.(less)
I bought this a few days ago when I spied it in a super-discount box next to the check-out line at Barnes & Noble. The s...moreWell that was interesting.
I bought this a few days ago when I spied it in a super-discount box next to the check-out line at Barnes & Noble. The spine caught my attention, so I picked it up. It was quite heavy; not metaphorically, but literally. The thing has to weigh a few pounds. Flipping through it, I was startled to see that it wasn't a novel, as I had assumed, but some weird collage-like collection of paintings and hand-written text that, at first glace, may or may not have strung together to form any kind of coherent story. It wasn't the kind of purchase I had shown up that evening to make, but it was really too eccentric (and too inexpensive) to put back down, so I carried it with me to the check-out counter, and later that night, read through the first few 'chapters'.
What I discovered upon reading the first few pages, is that Maira Kalman is a very gifted artist, with a quirky and innocent approach to sharing her thoughts about the world around her. Each little section of the book started with some random, isolated thought, then followed that thought through a winding and unpredictable stream of consciousness. Each time I'd get to the end of a section, I'd be a little befuddled trying to remember where it started, and how it ended up here. You could almost read each section as an odd little poem, complete with Kalman's nifty illustrations, which alternate between being childishly simple and beautifully lush.
I'd definitely say that I enjoyed reading a few chapters each night before I went to bed, but I'd have a hard time recommending this to anyone else, simply because its such an odd little duck. I'm not 100% sure everybody would be as charmed as I was by its clever, yet unassuming whimsy. It is a very quick read, though, so maybe I'll push this on a few people and hope they enjoyed it the way I did.(less)
I think, to my middle school English teaching colleagues, I portray myself as hating anything that is written primarily for adolescents rather than fo...moreI think, to my middle school English teaching colleagues, I portray myself as hating anything that is written primarily for adolescents rather than for adults. In practice, this is basically true. Most of what I've read with the "Young Adult" label is adequately written but thematically obvious, and kids who get excited about such works are the kinds who are then able to brag that they read a great book, but without having to do any of the heavy intellectual lifting that is required from reading a REAL book. And I don't mean to imply that teens and pre-teens should only read really difficult stuff [I personally enjoyed "Great Expectations" the first time I was asked to read it back in the SIXTH GRADE (!!), but even I think that's a bit much for the average middle schooler], but I do think books should challenge students to some degree. Not just toy with their world views ("Wow, I never knew that about the holocaust/civil war/that other culture!"), but actually make them do some of the work to find the meaning in the text.
So again, in practice, my hatred for "Young Adult" literature is very tangible. But in principal, I love stumbling upon works that are geared toward adolescents without being cookie-cutter coming-of-age tales or melodramatic glimpses into the lives of token representatives from other cultures.
Which brings me to Gene Yang's graphic novel, "American Born Chinese", which does a really good job of balancing on the fine line between challenging and accesible.
A colleague of mine dropped this off in my room recently (probably in response to my giving her a copy of "Good-Bye, Chunky Rice"), and in a few sittings, I was able to read its quick 233 pages. It begins as three seemingly disparate stories whose only connections seem to be their roots in Chinese culture. The first thread follows the legend of The Monkey King; the second follows Jin, a Chinese-American boy trying to assimilate into an American school; the third follows an American boy, Danny, who is visited by his laughingly offensive Chinese-stereotype cousin, Chin-kee.
The three stories eventually tie together in a satisfying way, and the astute young reader can draw from them some interesting lessons not only about the life of a Chinese-American boy in American society, but also about what it means to accept and deny your own personal heritage.
It is very simple and straight-forward, but not obvious, and this makes for a fun and engaging read. Combined with Gene Yang's clean and cartoony illustrations, I can say that this is definitely worth the time of a 'young adult' looking for a quick yet stimulating read.(less)