A wonderful autobiographical graphic novel detailing the Kafkaesque story of Iranian cartoonistOriginal review by John is posted at Layers of Thought.
A wonderful autobiographical graphic novel detailing the Kafkaesque story of Iranian cartoonist Mana Neyestani, as he goes from idealistic writer, to detainee in the feared Iranian prison system, to homeless fugitive and refugee.
John’s description: Neyestani was a children’s cartoonist working for an Iranian newspaper. Despite the increasingly radical nature of the government he felt safe as he contributed to the leisure section of the paper and not the political section. But one of his innocent cartoons inadvertently sparks tensions with some Azerbaijanis in the Islamic Republic, who feel insulted as a cockroach in the story uses an Azeri word. In a tense political climate, tensions lead to demonstrations lead to riots, and the Iranian government needs someone to blame. Neyestani and his editor are called in for questioning.
After a Kafkaesque series of events they find themselves detained indefinitely in Iran’s horrendous prison system and then placed in solitary confinement. Eventually he is unexpectedly released – albeit on a temporary basis. Fearing for his future, Neyestani and his wife flee the country and travel through Dubai, Turkey, Malaysia and China, trying to find some form of freedom and a place they can call home. But they find life as refugees with no legal status is almost as stressful as the life they have left behind.
John’s thoughts: This is a powerful and eye-opening story, that is told with the help of some excellent illustrations and plenty of dark humor. You get an insider’s view of some of the complex political, cultural, ethnic and authoritarian issues within the Islamic Republic – and it is not a pretty picture.
Neyestani is put through an absurd series of events, and throughout the story draws some parallel’s with Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, even using a cockroach as a theme that runs through the story. He goes through his own transformation from a young easy-going idealistic writer, to a beleaguered and downtrodden prisoner, to a fearful and anxious fugitive. The absurdities are almost hilarious; but this really happened.
I’d rate this book four stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes intense autobiographies or who wants to better understand what it is like to live in a radical and authoritarian state. And don’t be put off by the fact that this is a graphic novel – I think that the format actually allowed the author to enhance the story-telling.
Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eveOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought
2.5 stars actually
Quick take: The story of Hughes’ rise to fame, descent into total drug addiction and eventual recovery.
Description: Glen Hughes joined the English rock band Deep Purple when they were at their peak. He was a highly talented singer, songwriter and bassist and had previously spent six years in the band Trapeze, but as part of Deep Purple he immediately achieved worldwide fame. After two years Deep Purple split up and Hughes then went on to make a lot of music with a string of bands and as a solo artist, in addition to being a session musician on a long list of recordings by other artists.
The book tells the story of Hughes musical career and his relationships with many people in the music industry, both famous and not so famous. It also describes in some detail the lurid lifestyles led by many successful people in the industry. But the main focus on the book is on his introduction to drugs, his subsequent addiction, his chaotic descent into a personal (and professional) hell, and his eventual return to sobriety and relative normality. He pulls no punches in describing what it is like to be a drug addict and the impact it had on himself and all those around him.
The book is liberally laced with quotes from a great range of people who have come into contact with Hughes throughout his life and career.
John’s thoughts: I loved (and still do love) a lot Deep Purple’s music, so I was a very happy camper when Shellie presented me with this book. I read with great interest the content relating to music, musicians and bands. It was interesting to read about who he interacted with and to find out more about some key people in the music scene.
What wasn’t so interesting was the drug-related content. I soon tired of reading about drug dealers, users, addicts and the impact of addiction. It is obviously important content, and telling that story is no doubt one of the big reasons why Hughes created this book, but reading about someone totally screwing up their lives and often being a jerk while doing it just isn’t a lot of fun. Plaudits to Hughes for finally getting his act together, getting clean and recreating his life, and I admire his brutal honesty in telling the tale. I just lost a bit of interest half way through the book.
It didn’t help that the autobiography wasn’t very well put together. It jumped around a lot and contained loads of snippets that just seemed to be patched together. Things didn’t really flow smoothly.
I’d recommend this book for any big fans of Deep Purple or Hughes’ other music, and it would also be a good read for anyone wanting to learn more about the perils of drug use and the travails of an addict. Unfortunately it left me a little cold. I’d rate this book 2.5 stars. ...more
John’s quick take:An excellent, touching and hilarious coming-of-age story, set during the Troubles in NoOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take:An excellent, touching and hilarious coming-of-age story, set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Also a “must read” for any ex-paperboys out there.
John’s description: In 1975, Macaulay was a twelve year old boy living in the Shankill Road in west Belfast. This was during the Troubles and the Shankill was a particular hotspot – a predominantly loyalist working class area, it was also the home of several loyalist paramilitary groups. Bombs were going off, mobs were clashing, shops and buses were being burnt out, paramilitaries were openly causing mayhem and an ever-expanding network of “peace walls” were going up to separate protestant and catholic communities. Against this backdrop, the young Macaulay gets a job delivering the local Belfast Telegraph newspaper each evening.
The story tells of a two-year period of his young life during which he delivers the newspapers without fail, despite all of the barriers and problems. It is a funny and touching tale. He cannot for the life of him understand what the Troubles are all about and sees madness and hypocrisy on a daily basis, but he remains cheerful and focused on things that are really important to a near-teenage boy – girls, pop music, clothes and trying to fit in at school.
We are introduced to a big cast of family, friends, adversaries, teachers and customers, most of them talking in a thick Belfast accent and many of them possessing slightly odd views of life. He becomes a star paperboy but remains fearful of his boss – Oul’ Mac. “Oul’ Mac smoked and said ‘f**k’ a lot. Of course, most men smoked and said ‘f**k’ a lot, but Oul’ Mac did both, simultaneously and ceaselessly ….. I never saw him smile, but sometimes his eyes twinkled and I couldn’t work out whether he was coughing or laughing”.
Macaulay and his friends got into endless pranks and scrapes, but through it all he remains determined to deliver his newspapers, polish his reputation and remain “the only pacifist paperboy in Belfast”.
John’s thoughts: This is a funny and a delightful book. It is also a clever read – while it remains light hearted it pulls no punches in skewering some of the idiocy (and idiots) of the Troubles. When Macaulay finally meets some catholic boys he surprisingly finds them just the same as his protestant neighbors and remains slightly bewildered at what the fuss is all about.
The story also resonated with me a lot on a personal level. I too spent my pre-teen and teen years in the 1970s delivering newspapers each day, albeit in England and not Ireland, so a lot of the cultural and historical references really hit home – though I didn’t have to dodge “wee hoods” that were regularly trying to rob me and I certainly didn’t have to worry about bombs and blocked off streets.
I found the Belfast humor hilarious, though I will warn that some readers might find the accents and some of the vernacular slightly tough to penetrate. I managed ok and actually found that rather than being a barrier it added to the enjoyment of the read.
I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to those who were growing up in the 1970s, anyone who enjoys light-hearted coming of age stories and anyone who wants to learn more about the Troubles. And of course this should be a compulsory read for the paperboy fraternity! I’d rate this four stars. ...more