All due respect to Mr. Bradbury, but quite frankly I don't really see the point of this book.
The thing is that doing something and teaching others howAll due respect to Mr. Bradbury, but quite frankly I don't really see the point of this book.
The thing is that doing something and teaching others how to do it are vastly different skills, and they don't necessarily overlap. I spent the past year tutoring kids in reading, and the first thing I learned was how difficult it was to translate a skill that came naturally to me into something that would help beginners. Ray Bradbury was clearly someone for whom writing came naturally (he has a lot to say about books or stories 'finishing themselves' in the course of a day), but the advice he has to offer here is, at best, vague.
From what I can tell, his main points - repeated throughout the book - are this: 1. Write what you know, a catechism which is often misinterpreted to mean 'write your own limited experiences endlessly'. Bradbury, instead, is talking about using your own experiences and strong emotional reactions to fuel your writing, regardless of what exact resemblance it may have to what you experienced.
2. Have passion for what you do. He is emphatic and uncompromising when it comes to the idea that you have to write every day for years, probably decades, before achieving substantial success. While these specific recommendations don't apply to everyone (not everyone who writes wants to work exclusively or predominantly in short stories), the general idea is definitely applicable. It is here where I think Bradbury comes through clearest, because his own passion for the craft comes through even when his advice seems muddied.
3. Get out of your own way. The titular essay of this collection, 'Zen in the Art of Writing', is close kin to the advice given during NaNoWriMo to 'turn off your internal editor'. Bradbury advocates working, but not being wound up about it, until the words simply begin to flow on their own. Nowadays, this is an actual, recognized psychological concept.
One minor annoyance: though this is unsurprising for the time, Bradbury treats male as a universal default throughout the text. Everything is about 'the man' or 'the boy', including one sentence in which he refers to the reader, specifically, as a man:
...so you are that precious commodity, the individual man, the man we all democratically proclaim, but who, so often, gets lost or loses himself, in the shuffle.
Later, he references a book by Dorothea Brande, saying that it details "many of the ways a writer can find out who he is and how to get the stuff of himself out on paper". Now, I get that male-default is an archaic writing convention only recently overturned, but assuming that the writer-persona is inherently male in a description of a book written by a woman seems particularly rich.
Several of the essays in this book are just about the genesis of particular works, which might be interesting if Bradbury were a little more reflective on the topic, but he glosses over a lot of the mechanical aspects of writing. I suspect this book may be more interesting to people who are seeking inspiration and motivation as writers; if you're looking for actual craft tools, it's not a very rich resource. There are some great quotes, though:
We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
I love Pacific Rim with all my heart, but I'd heard years ago that this graphic novel was just... not very good, so when I picked it up at the libraryI love Pacific Rim with all my heart, but I'd heard years ago that this graphic novel was just... not very good, so when I picked it up at the library to finally take a look, my expectations were low. And they were met at that low standard, sadly.
A lot of the best content from this graphic novel is stuff I'd already seen online - Tamsin and Luna, Tendo and his grandfather, the tiny glimpse we are given of Caitlin Lightcap. I was deeply disappointed that the graphic novel didn't really delve further than what I'd already gleaned from a few screencaps/photos - there's hardly anything more about Tamsin Sevier or Luna Pentecost, and what new information there was about Dr. Lightcap was... well. I'm still not sure how I feel about that story, but I don't think it's positive.
I love the philosophy that Beacham has that "the world doesn't fit in its story, the story fits in its world", and I do feel like one of the things Pacific Rim did was convey that. For a flashy summer action movie, it's jam-packed with implied history, societal shifts, and relationships below the surface, and I suspect that's why it has so much emotional depth, despite the premise being 'what if giant mechs punched giant monsters in the jaw'. However, I feel that Beacham did a much better job bringing that philosophy to life in his conversations with fans online after the movie came out than he did in this graphic novel. It was on Beacham's Tumblr that we got more information about other Jaeger teams, including Nova Hyperion (a Korean Jaeger piloted by two women who were formerly fencing rivals); he also dished out lots of juicy details about the Drift and its mechanics and effects. Those conversations were far more expansive than this book could be, and in my opinion, more enjoyable. If you're curious, he has an extensive list of tags on his blog, and I recommend browsing through them, as well as reading the FAQ. ...more
Harlequin romance manga: it exists! Did you know this? I did not know this, until I was idly browsing through my library's e-checkout system last nighHarlequin romance manga: it exists! Did you know this? I did not know this, until I was idly browsing through my library's e-checkout system last night and happened to stumble across a bunch of these. Naturally, I browsed through them until I found the one with the most ridiculous title + synopsis combo, and I checked it out. Because... that's what you do.
I mean, I don't know if this actually needs a review beyond 'Harlequin romance manga'. It really is exactly what you expect. There are sheikhs where there shouldn't be sheikhs! Former teenage lovers torn apart by parental meddling, whose present hatred for each other masks the fact that they're still in love! A secret lovechild to bring them together! The damsel in distress must be rescued via marriage! Neither of them has ever slept with anyone else, despite their years apart!
Poking fun aside - I've never actually picked up one of those little Harlequin paperbacks from the grocery store, so I'm not sure how long it would take me to read one, but I'm almost certain it would be longer than this. I've read reconciliation plots like this, and personally I feel like they work better with a longer reading time, so that the reader feels the yearning and torture drawn out and the eventual resolution has more emotional payoff. Manga is a much faster format, and allows for a lot less involvement in the characters' POVs, and left the story feeling particularly flat. I don't know - maybe this feeling of a list being checked off is something the novel version has as well? But I'm inclined to assume that even if that's the case, it was exacerbated by this format.
...That said, I'm kind of tempted to check out another one. Just 'cause....more
This is a book where I will fully admit that my modern perspective is a huge part of why I couldn't stand it. Studied as an historical text, with exteThis is a book where I will fully admit that my modern perspective is a huge part of why I couldn't stand it. Studied as an historical text, with extensive contextualization before reading, it might come off different, but... from a 2016 perspective, this is a deeply (insistently, even ardently) racist book about... supreme stupidity, to be honest, in the guise of honor.
It's the racism that bugs me the most, honestly. I know when this book was written, and I know that the Japanese Army was responsible for truly heinous war crimes during World War Two, and I know that people in this time very likely would have been this racist, and yet - none of that makes it any easier to ignore. The Japanese people and their culture are denigrated at almost every turn in this book, by the characters but also by the narrative prose. They're referred to as children, savages, incompetent at every turn, incapable of accomplishing the feats of construction that the British can, or of running a well-organized camp; the Japanese commander, Saito, is repeatedly said to be 'shamed' by Colonel Nicholson's behavior, and to lash out in petty vengeance for it - there's no nuance to this portrayal. It's cartoonish, almost outlandish; it reads like propaganda. Not a single Japanese character is shown to be at all capable, in any sphere, whereas all the Brits are uniformly excellent. (In the background, you can hear me making extravagant gagging noises.)
And Nicholson - I have this pet peeve, developed after reading a lot of substandard fantasy, about characters who cling to the idea of honorable comportment to the point of idiocy. They're always written as if it's supposed to be admirable, and it never is, because pragmatic action would do significantly more good. Write this as a heroic fault, absolutely, but not a heroic strength! And it's true, in the end Nicholson's pride is treated as the failing it is, but that's after over a hundred pages extolling how virtuous and worthy a leader he is, even as he drives his men to not only complete but improve upon a construction which will aid enemy forces in attacking more British soldiers. All of the fawning prose doesn't just get erased because, in the last chapter, his foolishness is called by name.
At least, if I put myself through reading such thinly disguised propaganda, it was only 150 pages of it....more
John Muir took me by surprise, though I really shouldn’t have been so shocked. For some reason, I assumed this book would be dense, erudite, and diffiJohn Muir took me by surprise, though I really shouldn’t have been so shocked. For some reason, I assumed this book would be dense, erudite, and difficult to read – but Muir wouldn’t have been the father of modern American conservation if his writing had been inaccessible. Indeed, Travels in Alaska is surprisingly readable, lyrically and beautifully written. While there’s no plot underlying this rambling travelogue, I found it to be nonetheless a fascinating and meditative reading experience.
Beta is a shining example of an idea that was clearly just not thought through enough.
Its basic concept is one with obvious appeal: clones allow for aBeta is a shining example of an idea that was clearly just not thought through enough.
Its basic concept is one with obvious appeal: clones allow for an interesting exploration of ideas of personhood, and making them property of the uber-rich brings issues of class into the mix. This premise could have been a fascinating and philosophical one, but… instead it gets dragged down, reflection on the nature of humanity drowned out by romantic subplot.
Perhaps most important, though, is Cohn’s choice to tell this story from the perspective of a blonde, white girl who (as we are constantly told) is conventionally attractive. This is not a choice made with ill intent, but at the same time: as an American reader, it was impossible for me not to see parallels to historic chattel slavery in this book, from the roles the clones play (some relegated to physical labor, some favored playthings of their masters) to the sexual exploitation they face, the way everyone around them insists they are by nature soulless, the fact that they’re denied relationships amongst themselves, and finally (view spoiler)[Elysia’s ‘brother’, Ivan, brutally raping her - an act that his mother had apparently been expecting the whole time - perhaps the reason she bought Elysia in the first place (hide spoiler)]. While much of this is an element of any kind of slavery, given the background of the United States, I found myself wondering why a story touching on things that actually happened to black women was told through the eyes of a white woman.
In general, I got the feeling that the book never quite wanted to engage deeply with the issues it raised. Teen drug use is a major component of the plot, but is hardly examined. The inhabitants of Demesne live in absurd, over-the-top luxury, but even as the audience is shown how this is built on the back of enslaved clones, we’re also treated to pages-long descriptions of Demesne’s fashion and fripperies, as if we are also supposed to admire or long for this life. Elysia is property, but she’s uniquely privileged and (generally) better-treated, until the climactic end of the book. Much of the violence and tension of the building rebellion happens off the page, far from her seemingly charmed life, while romantic entanglements and teen drama make up the focal point of the on-page time.
The romantic plot is riddled with a lot of the usual attitudes towards sex found in YA. We get some slut shaming (one of the secondary characters is called a slut, and then brushed off as boring because there’s ‘nothing mysterious about her’; later, Elysia wonders if the First from whom she was cloned was a slut, because - gasp! - she feels lust for two different guys), an actual physical relationship, and then what feels like hasty reassurance that though the characters involved have been giving each other orgasms, they haven’t done “the actual deed”. Because… it’s penis-in-vagina sex that’s the capstone of all intimacy, folks. Everything else isn’t as real, and apparently nothing else they did qualifies as actual sex? (not a good message to have directed at teens, who often don’t get nearly enough information on consent and STDs anyway.)
Anyhow. This book was published in 2012, which is way too recent for this kind of crap.
The book’s ending is… well, it’s a mess. There’s a lot revealed/explained/set in motion in the last three chapters or so, and all this information is delivered in a rush. Additionally, the level of violence escalates rapidly and shockingly, with long-term consequences which make it all so much worse. By the time I finished the book, I was thoroughly worn out and disgusted, and you could not pay me to read a sequel.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Four stars instead of the five I gave the last two volumes because I have to agree with other reviewers: the art style changes were jarring, and partiFour stars instead of the five I gave the last two volumes because I have to agree with other reviewers: the art style changes were jarring, and particularly unfortunate given how large this cast is - it's hard to keep track of on a good day, let alone when everyone's being represented differently in each issue.
That said, I actually really enjoyed the backstory given here. I understand the objections people have to this digression from the plot, but personally I liked getting a look at some of the less prominent characters, and learning more about how they experience godhood. Tara's backstory was my personal favorite. Thus far she's just been 'fucking Tara'; in this volume she provides a window into the downside of the Pantheon, and the entitlement fans express towards their heroes. As a whole, this series has an interesting take on celebrity, and her story was the most tragic aspect of that so far.
I'm also particularly enjoying how conscious and deliberate this comic is. The scene with Amaterasu and Urdr over Hiroshima was incredibly well-handled, and it's stuff like that which gives me more confidence in the writers/creative team....more