This is the Grant Morrison I love and admire most. This tackles a lot of the same meta-concepts as his Doom Patrol & Flex Mentallo but squeezed ou...moreThis is the Grant Morrison I love and admire most. This tackles a lot of the same meta-concepts as his Doom Patrol & Flex Mentallo but squeezed out the tunnel of a kid fantasy story. Wild with ideas almost too big for the story, give it a try if you like his other meta-works. If that's not your thing you'll probably hate this.(less)
Still love this series, although I think this is the weakest volume so far. Lemire takes some chances in pacing & storytelling, some of which work...moreStill love this series, although I think this is the weakest volume so far. Lemire takes some chances in pacing & storytelling, some of which work out & some don't. Also a new character is introduced who leads into a revelation about Jeperd that came on a little too fast & felt a bit clumsy.(less)
I have to say this book was soooooo different from what I expected. I've read his other series Possession, which is a cute but fairly light story. One...moreI have to say this book was soooooo different from what I expected. I've read his other series Possession, which is a cute but fairly light story. One Soul is neither of those things.
It's a very ambitious premise----Fawkes looks at the lives of 18 different individuals across time (from primitive society to today) and tells their life story from birth to death, panel by panel. But the panels are mixed together----instead of breaking the tales down by giving each individual a section or chapter, the perspective jumps from panel to panel, forcing the reader to make connections between their lives they might otherwise not see. As we go from the primitive hunter to the punk rock chick, our brains want to make those connections and think about how their lives are different, yet the same. I've read prose that works like this before but I've never seen a graphic novel attempt this. It makes the work challenging, but very rewarding for anyone willing to do the work it takes to let the story unfold. I loved this and came away very impressed by the craft, but I'm afraid a lot of readers will find the style in this title a bit difficult and inaccessible.
A beautifully written, somewhat autobiographical collection of loosely connected vignettes, anecdotes, character studies and sketches. Most of the cha...moreA beautifully written, somewhat autobiographical collection of loosely connected vignettes, anecdotes, character studies and sketches. Most of the characters are artists or writers of one type or another and live with varying degrees of self-delusion. There's the struggling author who is pleased when he learns of his wife's affair, knowing that if it leads to divorce he may get some of her money and still afford to not have a job. There's the poet turned translator turned academic professor, whose inflated sense of self-worth drives his every decision. And so on.
Each section is fairly short---I think the longest is 3 1/2 pages. Some by the end of the book are short little paragraphs, almost blinks that read like unfinished pieces. And they very well may be, with this being Sorrentino's last work.
I've read a number of his short stories over the years, but the only novel I've read before is Mulligan Stew. Not being familiar with all the pomo cultural references a lot of it went over my head. But this one is more accessible because the pieces are mostly about character and language. Wonderful just to soak in, I would have rated it higher if the pieces connected together a little more firmly. If nothing else, this makes me want to go back and read some of his other works. (less)
Although I loved it, this is a really difficult book to describe. Probably in part because it was originally published in short strips and there's not...moreAlthough I loved it, this is a really difficult book to describe. Probably in part because it was originally published in short strips and there's not really an overarching narrative, at least one that really matters.
In a bare plot sense, the story starts by focusing on Emile Delilah, an oddball travel addict who makes his way to the Tencint Island to see their world famous bathroom ruins. As the story develops we meet two others who live in the same apartment building as Emile. There's Boreal Rince, the exiled king of the tiny Island nation Outer Canthus, and Elijah Salamis, a wacky theorist who wants to destroy all the cultural, lingual and political barriers between different people. Through looking at the odd lives of these three men Katchor experiments with odd political theory, linguistics, cultural identity, religion and a whole lot more.
Katchor's artwork is almost boring, for lack of a better word----black lines with gray watercoloring to bring out the odd but all very similar looking characters that populate Katchor's world. But the "boring" artwork is in stark contrast to the prose, which often borders on the surreal with crazy descriptions, dialogue based on non-sequitors and a confusion but often fun play with language. I read it twice---the first time completely confused. The second I understood it well enough to find it funny, although I'm afraid I drove my wife mad by reading random sections to her while she was trying to watch t.v. A third reading would probably be worthwhile, but I need to set it down a bit before diving back inside this world.
I'm giving this one four stars instead of five because many will find the book inaccessible. It's very post-modern and it read to me like a Ben Marcus novel (Notable American Women) illustrated by Bill Griffiths (Zippy the Pinhead). If that description catches your fancy, you'll probably love this. Otherwise it's likely to drive you mad.(less)
Sweet mother*******. I've been trying to restrain myself on the number of books I give five stars to. But if I could somehow hack goodreads to add an...moreSweet mother*******. I've been trying to restrain myself on the number of books I give five stars to. But if I could somehow hack goodreads to add an extra star, I would do it just for this book. Beautiful art, a story that is challenging in both structure and ideas. Plus it got me a little misty-eyes in more than one spot. I'll probably do a more formal review later after I've digested this a bit, but this is easily one of the great books of the year. At least for the kind of stuff that I really like to read. (less)
Absolutely brilliant. Very bizarre, very surreal, definitely disturbing. The price is unfortunate, because I see a lot of people not paying $25 for wh...moreAbsolutely brilliant. Very bizarre, very surreal, definitely disturbing. The price is unfortunate, because I see a lot of people not paying $25 for what is essentially the first chapter of a longer story. When this is complete in 5+ years it will be wonderful. (less)
Phew! This one really hits you right in the face, and I mean that in the best way possible. The main character wakes up one day to find his hands blee...morePhew! This one really hits you right in the face, and I mean that in the best way possible. The main character wakes up one day to find his hands bleeding and no matter what he does he can't make the wounds heal. The blood causes him to get into a fist-fight with the owner of the bar he works at, leaving the poor dude to wander homeless for a time. He stumbles across a travelling circus and joins up, first as a handyman and then as one of the attractions. His past catches up to him, though, in the form of his former boss. Although the main character is a bit of jerk through a lot of the book, it's hard not too feel sympathetic for him with everything he has to endure. Although the themes of redemption and struggling to come to terms with who and what you really are tie in quite heavily into Christianity I really appreciate how much Mattotti toned down the religious aspects of the story. That choice very smartly opens this book up to a lot of readers who might not otherwise pick this up.
The artwork is what really makes it---crazy, heavy lines swirl around these pages, carrying you through each trial the "hero" has to face. You really feel like this is a story of someone under great torment, and those feelings are largely communicated by the art. Absolutely fantastic and probably the most emotive book I've read so far this year. A great addition to any adult collection. (less)
It's a great concept that plays with the idea of racism and class. This is essentially the real world, except that one day chickens develop human-leve...moreIt's a great concept that plays with the idea of racism and class. This is essentially the real world, except that one day chickens develop human-level intelligence. Revolution slowly but surely develops until chickens are ultimately declared "human" and given all the rights of being human. Like Spiegelman's Maus, the bulk of the story is told retrospectively. Jake's father, the titular Elmer, dies at the opening of the story and Jake learns about his father's involvement in the early days of the revolution. It not only answers a lot of questions for him about his father but also about his own view on the world. Alanguilan's black and white artwork is very direct, almost blunt, but it works very well with this kind of story. An absolutely awesome tale that raises a number of big questions as you read. A great book for adult fans of indie comics---I'm not sure if I would have gotten this at all when I was 16.
Roughly ten years ago, a little book by Chris Ware called Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth brough me back to comics after a nearly ten year h...moreRoughly ten years ago, a little book by Chris Ware called Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth brough me back to comics after a nearly ten year hiatus. It took some bold choices both in story and art, and really stretched the boundaries of comics. Now Dash Shaw's Bodyworld has done it for me again, taking those next steps into the future of comics.
Now that I've tossed out the hyperbole, let me explain. Set in year 2060, the US underwent a 2nd civil war that's never really explained. The main story focuses on "Professor" Panther, a man whose sole job is to seek out, try and record the results for newly discovered psychotropic substances. One of these substances is an oddly shaped plant that suddenly appears in the woods behind a private high school in Boney Borough, Va. There's some high school drama as a backdrop, adding some odd, very Charles Burns-ish layers to the story. Turns out that when this new plant is smoked by two people near each other their minds develop telepathy between each other. Not in a Professor Xavier mind-reading kind of telepathy but a merging and mixing of the two minds. The drug only exacerbates everyone's problems and issues, creating choas in the little community. Visually, it's stunning. Shaw mixes ink, paint and digital effects to create an odd, slightly disturbing look, especially when he goes very abstract to represent the drug-induced states.
Don't get me wrong---this is far from a perfect book. Many readers will be put off by the disjointed narrative, the heavy drug use and rampant sex. Some will look at the art and see it as sloppy. The influences on it---Charles Burns, Gary Panter, PK Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, Terence McKenna----weigh very heavily at times. But if you're in the right mindset Shaw has created a fantastic, trippy ride to enjoy here and I really look forward to his future as a cartoonist and storyteller.
Quite an amazing anthology here. The book takes writings from four poets/writers tied to the Dada movements and looks at them through the lens of suic...moreQuite an amazing anthology here. The book takes writings from four poets/writers tied to the Dada movements and looks at them through the lens of suicide. They discuss suicide in ways normal to the bizarre, where the act of suicide is a form of poetry and theatre in it's own right. Unlike so many other anthologies of Dada writings, this one really holds together as a whole, largely because of the theme. Each set of writings is introduced by an essay that is scholarly in quality but still quite readable and relatively jargon-free. These essay really help set the stage for each writer, giving important pieces of their lives and relating them to the work that follows. I got this through the interlibrary loan service at my library, but I enjoyed it so much I think I'll try to find a copy for my own shelves. Still provocative and edgy today, this one is a must read for anyone with an interest in experimental or transgressive literature.(less)
An interesting concept---dig up old forms and styles of literature and see what current writers can do with them. Unfortunately by and large the conce...moreAn interesting concept---dig up old forms and styles of literature and see what current writers can do with them. Unfortunately by and large the concepts were better than the actual output. In general the poetry came off stronger; maybe this is because poets are used to working under odd constraints, or because they didn't have to carry on the gimmick for quite as long. The strongest narrative pieces to me were Mary Miller's "A Dialogue Between Two Maids in the Twenty-First Century, One of Whom is Skeezy", Douglas Coupland's "Survivor" and Shelley Jackson's "Consuetudinary of the Word Church, or The Church of the Dead Letter" because they used the old forms to tell a new---and good---story with a contemporary spin instead of just imitating the old format. (less)
A fun, if somewhat dated, novel by one of the more popular experimental fiction authors of the 60's and 70's. Barthelme uses the tale of Snow White---...moreA fun, if somewhat dated, novel by one of the more popular experimental fiction authors of the 60's and 70's. Barthelme uses the tale of Snow White----both the Disney version and the original fairy tale----as a prop for his textual and philosophical experiments. Although I like his short fiction better, this is a still a strong and fairly important novel of its day.(less)
Back in the late 1960's and up through the 1980's, it would have been hard to pick up an issue of the New Yorker that did not contain work or at least...moreBack in the late 1960's and up through the 1980's, it would have been hard to pick up an issue of the New Yorker that did not contain work or at least a mention of Donald Barthelme. One of the great experimental writers of his day, he also managed to breach through and gain a level of mainstream popularity. Now readers can finally get a thorough look at his often guarded life with Tracy Daugherty's thoughtful and beautifully written biography Hiding Man.
Son of a successful architect, Barthelme grew up in Houston, TX on the fringes of the mainstream literary and artistic world. While there he fell in love with adventure tales like Sabatini's Captain Blood and humor by writers like James Thurber and SJ Perelman. His father pushed him into the more esoteric influences of Surrrealism, Rabelais and others. After a stint in college----Barthelme never actually graduated----he worked for art galleries and as a newspaper man before following his ambitions in his early twenties to become part of the New York writing scene.
What follows after this intro to Barthelme's life is a grand tour of his work and how his life intersected with it. The main trouble with trying to read Barthelme today is that his work---especially his late 60's and early 70's writings----is very much of the time and understanding it today can be difficult. Daughtery carefully lays out the influences----both literary and worldly----making this a must-read volume for anyone who has troubles understanding why we still need to read Barthelme. Daugherty admits early on to his personal history with DB----he was a student of his and seemed to stay in good touch with him afterward----but Daugherty still manages to develop a fairly balanced book by including positive and negative views on DB's life and work.
Hiding Man extends well beyond DB's own writing. DB not only published some innovative fiction but also managed to exercise a profound influence on literature in general through his involvement with P.E.N., various awards committees and teaching. In one way or another he was an influence on Grace Paley, Thomas Pynchon, Vikram Chandra, Philip Lopate, and many many more.
I first discovered Barthelme reading the anthology After Yesterday's Crash; although Barthelme doesn't have any work in the book, he's referred to several times in Larry McCaffery's introduction. From there I picked up used copies of his collections The Teachings of Don B and City Life as well as Snow White, his first and still probably best known novel. Full of lists, Q & A's, strange bits of dialogue and collages that really pushed against the walls of what fiction can be, I loved his work at first. But by the time I got to Snow White I found the ideas behind these tricks and techniques at their best dated and at their worst empty. It's the later sections of Hiding Man that detail Barthelme's writing career and his desire to not just be an iconoclast but also a great writer that I found more interesting. His work becomes more personal with novels like The Dead Father and more outspoken politically with short story collections like Overnight to Many Distant Cities. I'm very curious to give some of these other ideas a try now.
Well written and thoughtful, I would recommend this to anyone with an interest in postmodern fiction, literary history or even someone just looking for a unique biography.