I should have read this before going to Prague- I'm only the first halfway through and I'll write more when I'm through the whole-- so far my biggestI should have read this before going to Prague- I'm only the first halfway through and I'll write more when I'm through the whole-- so far my biggest comment is the essay "The Spirit of Prague" tells me more about the city than any number of travel books or any number of people I met there or any amount of time living there told me about the place. More soon...more
I picked this up on a whim-- actually, I saw it for sale for $1 and decided what the heck-- It turned out to be a real page-turner, it's just really wI picked this up on a whim-- actually, I saw it for sale for $1 and decided what the heck-- It turned out to be a real page-turner, it's just really well-written and enjoyable... One of the reviews on the inside cover say it somehow manages to be as exciting as a murder mystery, and I think that's right, which is surprising given its about a priest who goes to a small Italian village to decide whether a recently diseased man ought to be canonized.
The only real issue I have with it is that the ending wraps things up really swiftly-- (SPOILER ALERT) in the last few dozen pages, it seems like the author is kinda hurrying to a close, getting all the loose ends tied up really conveniently, having the main character run around solving things-- That was the impression I got, anyway.
But I feel like I will need to revisit my thoughts on this book at a later time-- I just finished reading it yesterday, and I think my true review will take some thought. But anyways, it's a book I'd read again....more
I read this over the course of a short flight. I liked it alot-- I thought his renderings of the landscapes and people of Bosnia/Yugoslavia were reallI read this over the course of a short flight. I liked it alot-- I thought his renderings of the landscapes and people of Bosnia/Yugoslavia were really sincere-feeling, if that makes sense-- it had a real authenticity to it. I would've liked more explanation of the historical context at the beginning of this book-- that happens kinda towards the middle. I look forward to reading Sacco's book Palestine, which is the work he is most well-known for. ...more
I just re-read this book, which I read first when I was a teenager (but this time I'm listening to a Libravox recorded version)
I definitely got more oI just re-read this book, which I read first when I was a teenager (but this time I'm listening to a Libravox recorded version)
I definitely got more out of it this time around than when I was teenage. I don't read a huge amount of literature from this period, but it is interesting to go mentally back there, when winter was life-threatening and people were helpless against illness and the elements. What I think the story really comes down to is a poor choice of marriage: that is, to have married with money and wealth in mind instead of love caused the ruin of far more people than just the one who made that choice. ...more
**spoiler alert** listened to it on audiobook this weekend- I don't read many books of this kind (historical romance) it did remind me of Jane Austin**spoiler alert** listened to it on audiobook this weekend- I don't read many books of this kind (historical romance) it did remind me of Jane Austin just for the language and subject matter and pace-- having not read much material from the period, I can say I'm somewhat aware that the level of open sexuality is slightly greater than it would be in, say, Jane Austin. I think I really want to read more about this book now, and how it fits into the history of literature, so I can become more aware of how it is seen as a significant work for its themes. I was glad in a way to listen to it on audio, because there were times when I thought the intonation-style of the reader provided a layer of meaning I wouldn't have gotten on my own. (spoiler alert) shockingly tragic ending I wasn't prepared for! I as well am not aware if that's a Flaubert-thing or if that's a 16th-c-France-thing or a 16th-c-lit-thing-- I am still turning in my head whether Flaubert just really felt the need to punish his heroine, and more harshly, to punish everyone *around* his heroine, even after a long book of relative free-revelry. ...more
it took a bit for me to warm up to the art style (its a bit more messy/dirty than you usually find) but i found myself really engrossed in it. i dontit took a bit for me to warm up to the art style (its a bit more messy/dirty than you usually find) but i found myself really engrossed in it. i dont want to go too much into details right now about what i liked/didnt like.. i feel confident id recommend everyone read this book who is into comics. i was impressed by the degree of research on the Victorian era, and its maybe for that reason i found the break-aways into the 20th century a bit less than pallatable, and the the way The Ripper interacts preachingly with those breakaways i just found tiresome. thats the only reason i dont give it 5 stars....more
only half way through but gonna make my notes right now.
I am so absorbed and impressed with this book! Probably not least because it so well reflectsonly half way through but gonna make my notes right now.
I am so absorbed and impressed with this book! Probably not least because it so well reflects my own experience with living abroad (probably going to create some kind of collection for books I've read that are about the expat experience... I am increasingly in awe at how many similarities there are across the different accounts of young people going to live in another country-- the mistakes and travails and joys-- honestly I think everyone who has lived/worked abroad for some time should read this and also Persepolis, if only for your health of mind :) )
I keep being so disgusted by the character Mono, and from the very first page that he stepped on the scene I was hoping he would go away soon. I continue to dislike him and be struck by how she increasingly attaches herself to him (though by the way the story is going, you can tell that her older self looking back is totally also agonizing at her younger self for being so purposefully, determinedly blind to his flaws.) I actually find that his character is more interesting the more I read, though I still just hope she ditches him as soon as possible. Halfway through the book, where I'm at now, she's totally surrounding herself with toxic individuals and personalities, and is in a really poisonous environment. And believe it or not, that actually makes this whole piece more valuable and cathartic to me: because she's being totally honest about how things went on her quest. Actually, the whole book is dripping with brutal honesty from the very start, about her delusions and expectations, and how her experiences quickly ripped them apart. I really think that probably every young person who goes to live abroad has something similar-- unless they go with a really concrete plan and guaranteed sponsorship and no visa issues and someone holding them by the hand. The book is not just about being an expat but it's about being young-- it can be hard to be both of those things and then also without money, and living to some degree with one's illusions about where one is and what one is doing, and who your friends are. I think this book is really valuable to me just because, when you put yourself in a really difficult situation while you're young and deeply infected by your many dissatisfactions and desires (many of which you don't yet understand or see where they're from) then you're in both heaven and hell at the same time and its very intense, and it's very difficult or perhaps even impossible to establish a calm-seeming life that's even moderately under control, and the aftershock lasts for years after (and influences who you grow into when you're not so young and many of the obsessions have subsided); a person really needs to know that there were others, all over the world, visiting many other countries, *from* many different places, that have gone through the same thing. We tend to forget that: because expats are, though they seem to be many sometimes, the minority. While it's true that everybody's expat experience is different, just like everybody's youth is different, there is alot that spans the gap and connects us all. I'm so glad that somebody's written about a particularly difficult and trying expat experience-- and in an intricate-enough way that you can see that it's really a swirling pool of heaven and hell, being immersed in one's dream of what one wants to be doing, not yet knowing that those dreams are not even one's own but someone else's, surviving to tell the tale.
In some ways living in another country makes everything more intense: and attaching ones self to toxic individuals, being self-punishing enough or self-depricating enough or self-disgusted enough to gravitate towards people who hurt you, is such a thing that when done in one's own home is bad enough but when one is alone and 1000 miles from home, without much in the way of life-stability, and in a place where actions have different consequences than one is familiar with, is just that much more intense. Thus the growing-up process, or the overcoming-ones-illusions-process, might happen faster or more catastrophically or more dramatically, or it might just happen differently, or it might happen in the same time and way as it would happen if one had never left home, it is up to the looker-back to decide. The value in the voyage might just be, though it comes at great cost, a perspective or perception that could not have been achieved from the comfort zone, at any price. And that is never the value you expect to get when you set out: because the actual value is something you could not have imagined before, and that's what makes it so rare and difficult to achieve.
I'd suggest this book to every expat, and ex-expat.
UPDATE: Oh apparently this is *not* based on fact but is fiction... Actually, that also means I have to rethink my whole review haha... well, I'll be rethinking all this, and read the second half of the book in light of its being fiction and not autobiography, and probably rewrite all this haha
UPDATE Again: So now I've started on reading the second half of this book, now with the knowledge that it's a work of fiction. I am just at the part where the sh*t is starting to hit the fan in a big way-- and part of me is glad that I found out this isn't based on fact in time for this (honestly part of me was, in the few pages up to this, starting to wonder if this could possibly not be based on true experience, for one because what with the kidnapping and all, I was starting to wonder if this was going to turn out to be a true-crime documentation and whether there'd be news articles I could find on this kidnapping haha.... I was however also a little bit suspicious that she learned perfect Spanish in less than a year-- [I mean, I'm sure it can be done, just seemed a little over-impressive] and then on recent pages, the fact she apparently doesn't have a visa [has the author ever lived abroad, I wonder? Even a person in a total state of disarray life-wise is bound to be made aware of their visa status, and to be in a state of major panic if it's not in order. The lack of any discussion of her visa up till this point was actually leading me to believe she had a Mexican visa due to her father...])
And you know, part of me is glad I had a moment during the first half of the book when I thought it was all based on fact... It was a totally different experience haha.. I think that I would probably have eventually put it together that it's probably fictional sometime around the middle where I'm at though, just because the events are so extreme and I probably would have started suspecting more and more (of course, as you may know from reading the above, I was fully buying it and not least of all because I felt I identified with it so much lol)
ONE MORE UPDATE Ok I just finished the book. And so here's currently my overall impression: I've reduced my rating from 5 to 4 stars-- On the good side, I can honestly say I found myself engrossed in the story-- even when I paradoxically was starting to find it kinda tedious (when things got out of control, strangely, was when I started to want things to be over) So for me the first half of this book is totally different from the second half-- the first half, I was *so* into it and so intrigued and excited and happy to be reading what I thought was a literal eye-witness account of being an expat in Mexico... Then I kinda found out it was in fact fiction (call me gullible, what can ya do, I also believed Memoirs of a Geisha was real until like the last 2 pages haha) and that kinda turned everything around for me... Once the story became all about this violent (and unprobable?) account of her ex kidnapped by her friends and her also held up but yet let out to still work etc etc, I totally kinda lost interest-- it became not what I thought it was about haha. In alot of ways I would have been so much more happy with this book if it had just been the first half (like by the end, even the takeaway is different than it seemed like it was leading up to... The first half got me all thinking about my own experience and what I got out of the harsher side of travel and about growing up and so on-- but the book ends on a note SPOILER of having totally lost the young optimistic person that one once was... I am just totally feeling like me and the author aren't on the same page anymore, that this book isn't about the expat experience but of falling from grace or something that I don't identify with... And so, I would still recommend this book, I might even still advise an expat or ex-expat to read it, but just to take the 2nd half as a totally separate project. That's how I see it....more
It was devastating and awesome as I expected-- Joe Sacco is a big name in the comics world because of this work and I had high expectations going in.It was devastating and awesome as I expected-- Joe Sacco is a big name in the comics world because of this work and I had high expectations going in. The art has a definite "underground comix" feel ala Crumb, which sometimes was a distraction for me, but the subject matter is so important and horrifying that I found myself able to forgive some distorted faces and perspectives... (you might be able to tell I'm not the biggest Crumb fan, for reasons to do both with style and anti-feminist attitude, and being reminded of that particular art-style was something I had to overlook a bit. I haven't read that much on Sacco's life, but assume that "comix" of that style must have been amongst his influences).
Sorry to seem so harsh an art critic, I only mention these things because when I read a comic these days, I am looking very closely at the visual presentation, and I take much longer to read comics than some because I do take time to look at every page, and I do try to notice things like anatomy and layout and backgrounds. It's part of my comic-reading experience these days to figure out how the artist might have involved a computer in the art process, whether the quality of the art changed from the beginning to the end and if so how, I also spent a bit of time each page looking over the hatch-marking and wondering if Sacco used a computer to make it so perfect... All this is probably just me :) This is a comic that really deserves a lot in the way of talking about the *subject* matter, this I know, I just figure that there'll be plenty, plenty of others better-spoken than me who will be tackling that end, leaving me to indulge in visual scrutiny :) On the one hand, I kinda feel like I have no place criticizing the great Joe Sacco, (thus this big disclaimer) but on the other hand I kinda simultaneously think one needs, in pursuit of one's own artistic improvement, to set aside fears of criticizing greatness in order to really see what makes it great, and where to direct one's own work in light of what one sees.
That said, I do have a few notes about the story itself. There are a few pages that are so devastating, so devastating, and it makes you re-think the problems you think you have and totally re-evaluate all that you've thought about this conflict. I do think we need as many works like this as possible: I actually think comics are an awesome medium for conveying an experience of a foreign land and way of life: it has the capacity to be all-encompassing and extremely personal, both to the audience and the creator. I kinda think this work wouldn't have been quite as effective as a film, or set of short stories, or photo-journalism work; it really is one of those works that shows what comics can do, I think....more