This might be a 5-star book, but I feel weird giving yet another comic 5 stars. Especially since I've been giving so many 5-star and 4-star ratings toThis might be a 5-star book, but I feel weird giving yet another comic 5 stars. Especially since I've been giving so many 5-star and 4-star ratings to comics, yet regular novels have been getting 3 and 4-stars from me, even books from amazing writers.
But I'm not sure what Leviathan is. I mean, it IS a comic, but it's an allegorical comic that is deeply elliptical. It's nearly wordless, punctuated with intertitle pages with quotes from Moby Dick and The Book of Job and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, etc. The drawings are stunningly beautiful, as is the layout, as is the color scheme (blue and white and black). Jens Harder combines a realistic drawing style with numerous drawings cribbed from Medieval drawings of Leviathans and other monsters. Harder also uses extremely surprising "camera angles" and a good chunk of the book is from a whale's point of view.
The story itself isn't really a story. The story zips through antiquity and the present day; it follows the food chain, myths, historical sea tragedies, the whale in art and literature, and Apocalyptic scenarios all revolving around a marauding Leviathan. As in Moby Dick, it's hard to figure out if the whale is real, or a stand in for God. And although the book is a comic, and therefor a very quick read, I've read it over and over in a few days, and I'm still not sure what it's about. There is an underlying structure, and seems to be a philosophy of sorts, and perhaps even an argument of sorts, but I still don't know how to 'read' this book. It strikes me as high-modernism in comic book form, that is deceptively easy on the micro-scale but imposing, exasperating and intoxicating on a macro-scale. Something is being said, but it's hard to tell exactly what it is, but I, for one, want to keep exploring the depths until I figure it out, or at least get a semblance of understand that I'm comfortable with.
Bernhard with a smile... of sorts. This is almost Bernhard-lite. There's still the one-paragraph-book, still the despair, anguish, hatred for humanityBernhard with a smile... of sorts. This is almost Bernhard-lite. There's still the one-paragraph-book, still the despair, anguish, hatred for humanity (which includes, of course, Bernhard), focus on the base elements of our nature, and the bile, the endlessly spewing bile. But it is all leavened by the nature of the story, which is about Bernhard's brilliant and doomed friend who is Wittgenstein's nephew and equally as brilliant as Ludwig Wittgenstein, even if he never put his brilliant thoughts down on paper. It's weird reading Bernhard talk so highly about a person; talk so warmly. Bernhard tells of their adventures spurning the literary society, mocking the writerly cafe society, describing how literary awards are the State pissing on the writer, mocking the Wittgensteins who are a base money family who thought Ludwig embarrassing and never recognized his genius, etc. They bond in their bile.
But this book is also about the failure of friendship and about the looming whisper of death. As Bernhard is in the hospital for removed cancer, he finds out that his friend is nearby in the mental wing, but he can't bring himself to visit. He can't visit for various selfish, but well thought, reasons. And later, after his friend's lovely wife dies, and his friend spirals close to death, again, Bernhard can't bear to meet his friend, who smells of impending death. So this book, which is a rebuke of Bernhard's awful treatment of his friend, is also an eulogy. It sings the praises of Bernhard's dead friend, Wittgenstein's Nephew, who was also as brilliant, even if he never put his brilliant thoughts down on paper....more
I finished this book in my bookstore. The A/C is broken, it's the 4th of July and it feels as if everyone is at some palatial summer estate, leaving tI finished this book in my bookstore. The A/C is broken, it's the 4th of July and it feels as if everyone is at some palatial summer estate, leaving the city abandoned to the heat, the rats, and the roaches. This book is a short travelogue- hell, the title of the book is the plot of the book. We follow a writer, taking a break, wandering through the city from the mountain which he works. He watches snow; muses on the futility of writing; contemplates the self-imposed loneliness of his existence; watches strange people drink in a bar; meets a translator who tells him he's happy now that he's no longer writing; and generally meanders and mulls. I remember my old mentor once told me all of Proust can't hold up, quantitatively, to one moment in one quotidian day eating some schlock meal at Denny's. The pure quantities of information are simply too overwhelming to ever get down - impossible to transcribe in their infinite complexity. This book looks to get around that by spending such a small sliver of time with our author, our storyteller, but in effect, our author and storyteller exists primarily in his own head (as he himself observes, over and over) so in the end it's a futile gesture, but a beautiful one, more about the solipsism of a writer and how the written word can never truly capture that quotidian moment....more
Recently, I read Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, which was the basis of Tarkovsky's Stalker. I realized that I had never read the classicRecently, I read Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky brothers, which was the basis of Tarkovsky's Stalker. I realized that I had never read the classic source for Tarkovsky's other sci-fi movie, Solaris. And like Roadside Picnic, the book is significantly different from the Tarkovsky's movie, and different in wonderful ways.
Some of the greatness of the book is the same as some of the greatness of the movie: i.e., a deeply philosophical examination of existence, human exceptionalism, memory and desire. You might know the story. A psychologist goes to an outpost on Solaris, a planet that has spawned a whole branch of science for nearly a hundred years. The planet seems to be covered by a living "ocean," which somehow stabilizes an orbit around two suns, but no one is sure how, and no one is sure if the ocean is conscious. As soon as Kris, a psychologist, reaches the Solaris station, it's obvious that something is deeply wrong. Soon enough, the psychologist runs into his dead girlfriend. His girlfriend, btw, killed herself, and it was partially his fault. He figures out, with the help of the other members still alive at the station, that everyone has dealt with people from their past (or even worse, their fantasies). It appears that the ocean has created these people based on readings from the members' brains.
What's great about the ocean is how damn foreign it is. A great part of the book is spent reflecting on the past century of Solaris Studies, describing the various regular and irregular structures the ocean 'builds,' and guessing why the ocean has recreated physical versions of the members' memories. What's great about their experiments and discussions is that they are up against the limits of their human-ness. Solaris Studies have persisted because the ocean is so damn alien. It is Other in a fundamental way. And the researchers, being human, simply can't think past their human-constrictions. There's more to it than that, but it's a thoughtful cool book. Like a comic I just read, Leviathan, it's hard to tell if the ocean (like the leviathan from the comic, is a stand in for our deity worship, or if it's just meant to be up against the limits of our understanding. What the book pushes is is philosophical questions: What does it mean to be human? How can we escape our boundaries? What is our place in the universe? The Tarkovsky film leaves out the last question (and how could he? it would require a massive budget and several more hours to successfully reinterpret the part of the book that dealt with the hundred years of Solaris Studies) but both are beautiful and thought provoking pieces of art.
One other note: the book I'm reviewing is translated from the French. It reads well, but I wonder if someone has translated a new version directly from Russian?...more
I had closed my book store but didn't want to go home. My home isn't comfortable; recently my bedroom ceilingWow.
My love for Didion grows and grows.
I had closed my book store but didn't want to go home. My home isn't comfortable; recently my bedroom ceiling collapsed and was half-ass fixed, a few days ago my kitchen ceiling collapsed, and all despite warning my lazy super that the pipes in my ceiling were damaged and if not fixed would result in a collapsed and destroyed kitchen ceiling. Anyway, I was hanging out with my friend Red and we had closed the store. I picked up this book and started reading it aloud. Forty pages later, my voice was raspy and tired, but I couldn't stop, even if I couldn't continue reading aloud.
I blazed through the book, loving Didion's characterizations, use of punctuation, and experimental shifting of time and place. In the beginning, Didion ends questions with periods, which creates a character whose voice is flat and affect-less; the character, a former model named Maria (pronounced Mah-rEYE-ah) is completely opaque, utterly ill at ease with the world and perhaps in an insane asylum. She perhaps was involved in someone's death, and is mixed up in endless suffering, but all surrounded by Hollywood players and beautiful affect-less and flat people who, unlike her, smile and laugh constantly, even if the laughs and smiles are about as sincere as a hyena's and a crocodile's (respectively).
Beautiful, beautiful, ugly book.
Loss; bad decisions; regret; the terror of life; and the occasional stubborn decision to go on. ...more
As good as comics get. Just pick up it up and see for yourself.
I'm not even into "maya" or "piercing the veil" or any metaphysics whatsoever; not thatAs good as comics get. Just pick up it up and see for yourself.
I'm not even into "maya" or "piercing the veil" or any metaphysics whatsoever; not that it matters when the story (and the metaphysics) is as multivariate and stunning as this. And the art? Unbelievable. ...more
I needed some fast noir. I needed some sex and violence and lots of speed (not crystal meth, but good old rapid movement, velocity, acceleration, chanI needed some fast noir. I needed some sex and violence and lots of speed (not crystal meth, but good old rapid movement, velocity, acceleration, changing of vectors). Or the representation thereof. And I got it.
We all know Boris Vian was a noir-obsessed French guy (but you might say, "but aren't all French guys noir-obsessed?" and then some surly looking bloke might say, "shut up, you,") and this guy Vian pretended to translate books by an imaginary friend who was also an U.S. American black guy, but the books were secretly written by Vian. But that's not why you're going to read this. You're going to read this because it's tawdry and full of sex and ends violently. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it deals with racism and classism, but that's not why we're here, and saying that you're reading it for Vian's French take on Racial Studies is like some dude from the 60s claiming to read Playboy. No, you're here with me because this book is basically porn with some intelligent thought in it's smutty and dirty little head. To make it more porn-like, the book is filled with poor editing (misspellings, misplaced grammar, malaprops, et al.) which only makes it more fun. And it ends with not one but TWO dirty and deeply dark jokes, which are seriously told....more
Years ago I saw a funny, erudite, brilliant hip young writer at a Barnes and Nobel in Manhattan. I was pretty sure his name was David Sedaris. About aYears ago I saw a funny, erudite, brilliant hip young writer at a Barnes and Nobel in Manhattan. I was pretty sure his name was David Sedaris. About a month later, I read one of his books and I was disappointed. This book wasn't erudite or brilliant, and although it was funny (and possibly hip, according to a certain standard of hipness that does not include my own standard of hipness). I decided that either a) I was mistaken about the brilliance of the writer, or b) he was a much better speaker than writer.
A few days ago, I finally picked up a book by David Foster Wallace. I mean, I had read oblivion, which was sent to me by an online friend and which was damn good and wildly experimental. A few days ago, I picked up this book by David Foster Wallace. The second essay was about his trip to a mid-west fair. And I felt deja vu. You know when you get that shock of recognition where you know exactly what's coming next? And you know that you know what's coming next because you've already read what you're reading right now. I had that. I knew the story about "Native Companion" and how she rode "The Zipper" and how the carnies stopped the car of "The Zipper" while Native Companion was upside down and how her dress flipped over her head so the carnies could stare at her underwear. And I remembered Native Companion telling him, "Fuck it. Enjoy the spin and ignore the assholes." And suddenly I realized that it wasn't David Sedaris who I saw those many moons ago in that Barnes and Nobel in Manhattan, but it was an altogether different hip and funny writer, David Foster Wallace. And his stuff was as funny, erudite and brilliant as I remember....more
I wasn't in the mood for this book. I've been so busy working on my movie theater and so angry with all of the tiny foibles and petty problems of consI wasn't in the mood for this book. I've been so busy working on my movie theater and so angry with all of the tiny foibles and petty problems of construction and opening a business that all I want to read is anger and vitriol and misanthropy. Basically, all I want to read is noir and Thomas Bernhard.
Yes, Walser can write beautifully, but the story alternates between nostalgia and quiet and cutting observations. All of the characters are opaque, which is something I love (I mean, I find it odd that I typically know more about a character I read about than any of my closest friends and lovers; on the contrary, I like when a book mirrors how well we typically know anyone's internal state - which is, not well at all). Anyway, Walser (or, his stand-end) works for an inventor. Walser lives with the inventor's family, and all, Walser, the inventor, the family, are all both reprehensible and lovable at the same time. But in the end, I'm just not in the mood for talk of as it was, even if it is brilliant and touching and beautifully written. Maybe I'll try another Walser book later, but not now....more
I love Bolaño but this came out as hurried experimental notes from an unpublished journal. He pulls out the worst aspects and tropes of experimental wI love Bolaño but this came out as hurried experimental notes from an unpublished journal. He pulls out the worst aspects and tropes of experimental writing and does little with them. ...more
Simenon can write noir. Hell, he never even visited the United States and he seemed to encapsulate the U.S. - or encapsulate a version of the U.S. thaSimenon can write noir. Hell, he never even visited the United States and he seemed to encapsulate the U.S. - or encapsulate a version of the U.S. that I recognize from Mad Men, 50s movies, and 50s fiction. Everyone drinks and smokes a lot, even when driving, or eating, or talking, or, well, they seem to be drinking and smoking just about all the time. You can picture people from the 50s drinking and smoking while having sex, calmly repositioning a leg over the head in order to maneuver a free hand to a tumbler of whiskey while the other person blows a freshly inhaled drag of tobacco into the other person's mouth (more efficient, you see).
In this book, the male half of a Manhattan couple has a few move double martinis than normal. He (and she) is driving a few hours out in the midst of massive traffic jams to pick up their kids from summer camp. They (he and she, not the kids) are attractive and successful. But since this is Simenon, and since this is a Simenon noir, Bad Shit Happens. And we get a damning portrayal of the business-man's psyche. Or maybe of the 1950's Male's Psyche In General. Men worried about being Men. Are we not men? Or are we cogs in an industrial machine, merely living life as we are told? Mere conformist zombies drinking and smoking to alleviate our already-dead status?
I originally encountered Jacques Tardi's work in a small Penguin collection of Raw magazine. I thought the art work was beautiful, but it was weeks beI originally encountered Jacques Tardi's work in a small Penguin collection of Raw magazine. I thought the art work was beautiful, but it was weeks before I finally read the thing. Through out the years, I encountered more of his work in various anthologies, but never found any of the few collected English translations (Tardi is French, btw).
Anyway, finally Fantagraphics has started to translate and publish Tardi's work in beautiful hardcover editions. I hope they sell well, so Fantagraphics can afford to publish everything this master has ever made.
When I flipped through this book it looked exactly like the story I had read in Raw when I was young. So I excitedly bought it. And it wasn't the same story, but it seemed to be the same characters. The story in Raw was dreamlike and violent, like a noir Kafka, and this story You Are There was also Kafkaesque, but it was more like an existential crisis story, you know, the type written by Moravia and Camus and typified by the protagonist in Nausea staring at a handful of dirt or something. You Are There follows Arthur There (which almost puts you in a second person narrative, which is another trope of so-called existential novels) and he (and you) are stuck on a small isolated island in France. Arthur There (whose surname is assumed) used to be part of a prestigious family who owned the island but are now reduced to owning the borders between everyone else's property.
The story is dark and depressing and of course things go from bad to worse. The outside world intrudes and as is usual, when the outside world intrudes it is almost always a bad thing.
But back to me and Raw. As I read the story I thought that it was a precursor to the story in Raw. After all, the main male and female characters looked exactly the same. But the Raw story was set in a city and was filled with political intrigue, and You Are There is set in an island (primarily) and is filled with political intrigue. But in the end, I think Tardi just recycles the characters for a completely different story... but then again, I haven't read that Raw story in a decade.
But this is just rambles... The art is great. Some of the best ever in comics. The story is ok. It's a wonderful fantasy and full of interesting allusions and affects (it's written by the guy who wrote Barbarella) but the story is ultimately only Kafka-lite, or Maravia-lite, or Camus-lite, or... you get the idea. It's good, but not great. Still, the art makes it great. And I still don't know if this story and the story in Raw are somehow connected...more
This is one of the more beautiful issues of MOME, but I found a lot of storytelling luke-warm. Out of all of the stories, I really like Laura Park's rThis is one of the more beautiful issues of MOME, but I found a lot of storytelling luke-warm. Out of all of the stories, I really like Laura Park's ruminations on a bus, and Olivier Schrauwen deeply strange and utterly fascinating story of two white explorers in the Congo....more
This is the first Bernhard book that I didn't love, and which I only moderately enjoyed. It's watered down Bernhard, de-fanged Bernhard, a Bernhard raThis is the first Bernhard book that I didn't love, and which I only moderately enjoyed. It's watered down Bernhard, de-fanged Bernhard, a Bernhard rant that is not so different from an internet spew on a well-written blog, or a particularly insightful and nasty Jon Stewart segment. But the magic wasn't there. The bile, the dark and funny hatred towards the world is diffused and feels rote. Perhaps it's because Bernhard is a one-note writer and after I read the first two, which seemed so fresh and full of brilliance, the next books lost their luster, as they say, as I realized that Bernhard would tread the same ground. Or perhaps this book, Old Masters, simply isn't as good as The Loser, or the incomparably great Woodcutters. Or perhaps Woodcutters is only so great because I read it first; perhaps if I read Old Masters first, I'd be amazed by it, and would give it five stars, and would read Woodcutters third, and mark it poorly.
This book, like his earlier book, Woodcutters, takes place in one sitting, in the Kunsthistorisches Musuem in front of Tintoretto's White Bearded Man. For half of the book, literally half of the book, the narrator, Atzbacher, stands behind the man he is supposed to meet, his friend and mentor Reger, who is the epitome of a bitter curmudgeon, and Atzbacher recalls various rants Reger regaled him with yesterday, a few days ago, years ago. Reger is a hater as we would say today, and he is filled with contempt towards his fellow man, his government, his nation, his world, and more importantly for Reger, the art that accompanies it.
Reger's wife has just died and Reger is surmounted with thoughts of suicide and eventually we learn about Reger's life and his love for his wife and his love for art, that is literature and philosophy and music and visual art, but Reger condemns art and claims it's all about failure and that surrounding ourselves with art is ultimately delusional.
The book is essentially one long rant. But it's not as brilliant of a rant as The Loser or Woodcutters. The ending, however, is surprising. It's oddly affirmative and is an oddly positive spin on the pursuit of art in the face of disappointment, failure, and ultimately death....more
Wow. This thing is amazing. I just found it at MoCCA, which is an indie comic book expo here in New York City. This book was sitting amongst a bunch oWow. This thing is amazing. I just found it at MoCCA, which is an indie comic book expo here in New York City. This book was sitting amongst a bunch of great books at the Norwegian table, and after a few minutes flipping through the pages and drooling, I decided I had to have it. And I'm happy I bought it because it's amazing. Hell, just look at some of these images.
This book alternates between turgid/dense and fast/insane. I read it because I recently read Deleuze's The Logic of Sense and in that book Deleuze coThis book alternates between turgid/dense and fast/insane. I read it because I recently read Deleuze's The Logic of Sense and in that book Deleuze consistently talks about Lewis Carroll, the Stoics, and Artaud. I haven't read Artaud since I read The Theater and Its Double which I honestly don't remember very well, even though I remember I loved it. Anyway, I see why Deleuze loves this book; a lot of Deleuze's thought, and a lot of writing style, is encapsulated by Artaud.
The first part of this book sets up Artaud's thoughts on Heliogabalus, the utterly debauched teen Roman Emperor. The second book dives deep into Artuad's world-view, and the book at this point slows down to frozen latex. It's here that Artaud prefigures Deleuze with his talk of levels, the reality of principles, Love, the Will, religion, numerology, etc. But the last section of the book sings. It's here that we get a sense of why Artaud thinks the debauched emperor Heliogabalus was an anarchist. Artaud explains how the boy was both an anarchist and creating poetry and theater. He was an anarchist because he was out to destroy the stratification of Roman society and the plurality of Roman religion. According to Artuad, he attempted to do that through destruction of what is sacred, and one of his prime weapons was sex.
It's not a perfect book, and some of it is both boring and deeply slow going, but the end is worth it. The end is a brilliant take on art, anarchism, destruction, and creation....more
I love Zweig. This novella is similar to his novella Chess in that they are both taut psychological suspense stories. In both books the protagonist meI love Zweig. This novella is similar to his novella Chess in that they are both taut psychological suspense stories. In both books the protagonist meets some one with a shattered past and the rest of the story is about what happened to them. It's kind of like Hitchcock meets Henry James.
I can't tell you too much about the book because it's an easy book to spoil. It starts right after a verbal fight at a resort and spirals away from there. It's about chance and free will and the ramifications of actions. The story examines the circumstances where our sense of self, where our entire world, can fall apart after a few passion driven decisions. For us contemporary readers, the "shocking" event at the heart of the novella isn't that shocking. But the emotional impact and ramifications still hold true, even though the event itself is no longer that shocking.
This is how good the story is: I started reading this to a friend in the park. We were surrounded by beautiful people, and had every intention to people watch. I started reading the book to her as a joke. But quickly we were sucked into Zweig's world, and I read, out loud, half of it before my voice grew gravelly and tired. Then we both went to eat and took turns reading the book until it was finished....more