Let me start with this: I'm prepared to admit that I might be wrong. This might be a really good book. A lot of people I respect, people whose opinionLet me start with this: I'm prepared to admit that I might be wrong. This might be a really good book. A lot of people I respect, people whose opinions I respect, really dig this. I don't want to convince anyone they're wrong, and I don't want to change anyone's mind. I disliked the book, and I feel compelled to say why, maybe only to explain it to myself.
With that out of the way...I don't think I really understand this book. Or understand its appeal.
The premise is this: Take a framed scene, in this case a living room, and then imagine what happened in that space throughout the history of the planet. Swamp days, natives hanging out, the 60's, the 70's. What the book does is to show this same space, and through the use of frames, show what happened there throughout time. Sometimes the bulk of the image is the house in 1971, while a small frame in the middle shows a bird flying through, which happened in that space in 1654. The basic idea.
And I think my problem is, I didn't see a lot going beyond that premise. It's an interesting premise, but I didn't feel like it was 300+ pages interesting. Also, it's total fiction.
For me, a fiction is only as strong as its combination of voice and story. An imbalance in those two can be made up for by one or the other. A boring story told really well can still be pretty compelling. Think David Sedaris. A great, great story told in a mundane way can still work. I read a memoir by a guy who contracted HIV, and although the prose wasn't super, he was really open and honest about how his life works now, and that meant that the book worked.
In this book, there is essentially no voice. The reader is an omniscient observer floating in the corner of this space. There is very little written dialogue. The art is pretty, but I would say it's more accurate than anything. Accuracy isn't a crime, but I think accurate, architectural art feels less voice-y than something more stylized. Again, not a criticism of the art, but an expression of the fact that I didn't feel the art style could stand in for a narrative voice.
So what about the story?
I didn't feel like there was a lot of story either. Stuff happened. But it was minor stuff. Which I suspect is the point here, that a million minor things all happened in this one area, and that means there's a story. But the stories within are things like "A man hangs a deer head on the wall, which his partner does not care for." "An old man falls out of a chair." "Benjamin Franklin(?) argues about the monarchy."
Here's the thing: I think this book definitely relies on the reader to do the heavy lifting. Which I am somewhat able to do. But I also think this book, the appeal is about the reader doing the heavy lifting outside the story. Imagining all the things that happened in her office, all the stuff that happened on that spot throughout history. Imagining all the things that happened where a guy plays pool. If you read this book, it can help in that it gives you a very zen experience the next time you're in line at the post office and it sucks. You can just think about how this spot probably used to be a literal smelly hellpit bog instead of a metaphorical one.
My writing teacher has a saying that he likes to break out when a writer is concerned that his or her work is too mundane. Too navel-gazing. He says, "You can tell a boring story about an exciting person, or you can tell an exciting story about a boring person, but you can't tell a boring story about a boring person." That's how I felt about this book. The story didn't excite me, and the way it was told was very static.
I recognize that the very things I disliked about it are at the very core of the story and the way it was told. That my reasons for disliking it are kind of the purpose of the entire thing.
Oh, wait. I have one more thing about this.
I'm sorry, I know it's a fictional story, but it all felt so damned convenient. All this stuff happened in this one spot. Natives had sex on this very spot where Ben Franklin argued with some redcoat jagoff!
It feels like genealogy to me. I have never in my life heard from someone who is interested in genealogy who discovers that he is related to absolutely no one of interest. That his family is very basic, never did anything exciting, and never made history. But let's be honest. 99% of humans on this Earth will not do anything on a level of interest that warrants keeping track of. Most people are born, they write some bad book reviews, and then they die. Most of us will be branches on the family tree that are used only as footholds in an attempt to climb up to the point of a person of interest. After I die, some distant relative will step on my proverbial branch-y face to reach up to the next branch in hopes of climbing to the point of being related to Abraham Lincoln or something.
As most people are uninteresting, I think most of the square footage on this planet is also probably VERY uninteresting. Yes, I'd totally watch a time-lapse of my apartment from the dawn of time until now. But would I ever re-watch it? I have seen all of 'Black Mirror' so maybe, but it's pretty unlikely.
So while it's fun to think about, it's less fun if you're a pessimist like myself who kind of feels like things are way less interesting that most people think.
Oh, I have another, last thing to say.
This book fits into a sort of This American Life idea, which is the idea that every person has a story, and every story is interesting. Which I think is false. Someone much smarter than me pointed out that This American Life isn't just a great idea. It's not just a matter of walking up to someone on the street and pointing a microphone in their face and saying, "Tell me your best story." It's a well-produced show that's very thoughtful, and the stories they tell are ALMOST NEVER mundane, boring stories. They represent, perhaps, boring sectors of our lives, but the stories themselves are almost always remarkable or take a remarkable twist on the ordinary. A father taking his baby for a walk is very unremarkable, but if that father was totally blind and taking on fatherhood, now that walk is interesting.
Or take Found Magazine. It's composed entirely of found notes. Let me tell you, pick up every note you see, and almost all of them are unexciting or uninteresting. You get some gems, and it's worth it because, what the hell, I'm not above bending down to snoop in the life of a stranger. But as someone who has done this for years, who feels a tremendous guilt and thinks about it all day when he bypasses a folded note, I'm here to tell you that MOST times you pick up a note, it's a bust.
I'm somewhat against the idea that everything is extraordinary. The idea is a little...well, I don't understand why people who work very hard to create great works want to promote that idea, why they want people to think that they aren't working hard. In my own work, I don't screw from the rooftops how great something is, but if someone asks whether or not it's a lot of work, I'm never shy about saying, "Yes, writing and polishing that 1,500 words was a lot of work. It took a lot of time and effort." If someone asks whether podcasting is hard, I have no problem saying, "The recording is the easiest part. You have to master the file, get it online, and you have to get a feed that takes it all into iTunes, and there are about 1 million ways to screw this up. Yes, setting up that framework is a lot of work."
I guess I should wrap this up. And I'll just say my piece in a much briefer format.
1. I think this book lacks a voice.
2. I think the stories contained in here are not very meaningful (the exception being the joking old man at the end, who I enjoyed).
3. I think this book continues this idea that interesting things JUST HAPPEN if you dig beneath the surface. That fascinating material is just there waiting as opposed to created and honed through lots of hard work.
Okay, this is the third time, but this is REALLY the final thing.
Brunetti's work is really fantastic. I think that I spent years crediting Chris Ware with some of his stuff. Which is too bad because once they're sidBrunetti's work is really fantastic. I think that I spent years crediting Chris Ware with some of his stuff. Which is too bad because once they're side-by-side, they're really different.
This is a quick read, and it's worth a minute if you have a thing for comics and comic art. Which I most certainly do. But if you've never really looked at Brunetti, I would suggest his cartooning book. That one is a great, great read....more
This book takes on a topic that I think most of us really shy away from. And it's not the easiest read, but I think it makes things better.
We watch RoThis book takes on a topic that I think most of us really shy away from. And it's not the easiest read, but I think it makes things better.
We watch Roz's parents decline, and I think the thing I can't help but notice is how different this is from almost every fictional narrative of older people and death. It's not overly graphic or anything, but it makes it feel a lot less romantic. Less like older people tend to have much agency when they go. It's very realistic about the post-golden years, the time when, and it sound heartless to say this, the person can be very unhappy, very much unable to function on any level, and is slogging down the long hallway towards death.
I really appreciated the way Chast is open about the fact that she was never close with her mother. That even in death, they never really got there. I think that's the case for some of us. We don't always get close to our parents, even if we want to. We don't always get a revelation at the end.
The reason I think this makes things better, it helps to read about someone else who goes through this stuff. And it really helps if you're having a tough go of it too. It helps to know that dying is goddamn ridiculously expensive and sort of impossible as money goes. And it REALLY helps if you feel like you missed out on that last, big hugfest that's supposed to come at the end of a loved one's life. You're not the only one, and it's okay....more
I've been looking for some manga that would be great for folks who haven't found a good entry point into the format. And I think this might be it.
FeelI've been looking for some manga that would be great for folks who haven't found a good entry point into the format. And I think this might be it.
Feel free to start with this volume. I did, and here's what you need to know: There is a competition to create the perfect Japanese meal from which recipes and dishes will be passed down through generations. There are two main chefs involved in the contest. Really, that's about it, and most of that you can pick up in context.
It's a great food book. It goes pretty deep into different food topics, and it's also part mystery. Like watching an episode of House where some clever person has not only found the answer to a tough question, but anticipated pitfalls along the way.
Ugh, dammit. I'm trying really hard to not say it's like Food Network meets Sherlock.
So my office mate was reading me some publisher descriptions for upcoming titles. And can I tell you something? Every single goddamn one was "It's like X meets Y." Which gets old.
Some of them don't make sense. It's like Gone Girl meets The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I know those aren't exactly the same, but I think they share a tonal similarity that doesn't warrant them crossing.
Some of them don't make sense because you read it, and you're thinking "No, it's not. It's not like the Avengers meets Gran Turismo. Because that isn't a thing where the things can meet."
Also, it gets frustrating. I feel like the late 90's were all about "It's like nothing you've ever seen before." Which was a lie. Everything from the late 90's was just repackaged Dark City. Don't even question it. But at least THEIR lie was based on new possibilities, not imitating something else.
The only time I'll accept it from now on is when it's not used as simile. I only want things that are literally one thing crossed with another thing. Cars crossed with robots? That's what Transformers are, and I accept that. Transformers crossed with nonsense? That's a Go-Bot. ...more
I've often wondered about whether or not it's possible to make a movie that's all comedy, no real plot or lesson.
And now I've got my answer.
There wereI've often wondered about whether or not it's possible to make a movie that's all comedy, no real plot or lesson.
And now I've got my answer.
There were plenty of jokes, and some of these references were clearly up my alley. But I need just a little more plot that runs through the whole thing. Something that gets the characters to do things. At the start of most of the issues, I was thinking, "Wait, why the hell is this happening? Where are we?"
My dream of a movie that's all comedy, no plot? That dream is dead.
And yet, the dream of a movie that's 90% comedy, 10% plot that forces the characters to keep chugging along like a moving walkway in an airport? Still very much alive....more
I enjoyed the hell out of this. Which I guess could be a sorta problem.
Here's the thing. There's some pretty weird, sexist stuff in here. Now, I shoulI enjoyed the hell out of this. Which I guess could be a sorta problem.
Here's the thing. There's some pretty weird, sexist stuff in here. Now, I should be clear. These were originally published in the early 80's, which is when I was a baby, and they were published in Japan. Do old sensibilities excuse racist/sexist material? And what about a foreign sensibility? And what about the combination of both?
I don't know. I honestly don't know. But here's what I did: I took note of it, I wouldn't say I cared for those portions, and then I let myself enjoy reading.
There's a perverted old man, and although he's kinda gross, the other characters ALSO seem to find him kind of gross and outlandish. There's some non-nude-nudity, which it turns out was nude-nudity until it hit the western world, at which point most of it was censored. They also censored some other stuff. I guess the characters have a penchant for flipping the bird, which was edited out.The name "Mr. Satan" was changed to "Hercule." Guns were turned into laser guns, which I guess we're cool with for whatever reason.
I'm actually knee-deep in a book by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund regarding Manga, book challenges, and where western culture and Manga tend to disagree. I wish I was a little further because I think it would give me much better perspective on the whole thing. From my limited manga reading, I suspect that the old pervert is a not-uncommon manga character, or at least a character that shows up a lot more in manga than does in western counterparts.
Which is kind of interesting, when you think about it. I mean, western comics certainly don't shy away from drawing a scantily-clad woman. I think we'd be lying if we said that this was just some sort of coincidence, that the artists drew them this way without even thinking. But where we've chosen to draw the line is having characters comment on it. Yes, today that's happening more and more, but I'm talking 1984 here. I remember reading the Phoenix Saga, for example, and there was a weird, bodice-bustin' romance-y sequence, but the whole thing felt pretty chaste, even to a young Pete who knew as much about sex as...well, he knew just slightly less than adult Pete.
What I'm saying is, mainstream Western comics were remarkably sexless considering how sexy the drawings were.
Here's another way sex is used in this book. The Goku character is basically a child raised by wolves. He hadn't seen another person his entire life. So he struggles telling the difference between men and women, and he just walks up to characters and pats them on the groin. This is the most surefire method he's come up with so far. Which in the comic, to me, feels very innocent and funny.
Oh, and you know what else? I just thought of this, but the lady nudity has been censored out for the western versions. But you see naked little boys every so often. Full-frontal, naked boys. It's always because the characters are emerging from bathing or about to swim or something like that, but it's definitely in there a few times.
I guess, in writing it out, I do feel like the nudity and the perviness and whatnot are played for humor in the book. That explains, to me, the boy/woman censorship inconsistencies. Male nudity is, in both the west and the east, often played for humor. Whereas lady nudity is seen as a more loaded subject in the west, certainly.
If it's played for humor, I guess that means I have less of a problem with a problematic character or scenario. Maybe I don't find the humor in it, but that amounts to a joke being funny or not more than it does a cultural criticism. Again, I'm only saying that in this specific instance. The world created in this volume is very interesting, very fun, and I have to say, I loved the ride. I think what I'm doing probably sounds like excusing bad behavior, but really what I'm saying is that I want to acknowledge that there's an old pervert in here, say that it will probably turn off some readers, and say that I enjoyed the shit out of this book anyway.
It's a little like dancing to a great song. You're having a great time, you're dancing like crazy, and then you catch the lyrics and realize the song is basically about climaxing on someone's face. Is that problematic on some level? Definitely. Am I going to stop dancing? No. And not just because I'm drunk. Although, if I'm dancing, that certainly plays a part. ...more
It's a quick read and a good laugh. Maybe like Hyperbole & a Half, but a bit more out there in terms of what happens and the illustrations.
Can IIt's a quick read and a good laugh. Maybe like Hyperbole & a Half, but a bit more out there in terms of what happens and the illustrations.
Can I ask something? Who decided that in the world, there are cat people and dog people? How are those the two options? What about a lizard? That seems a lot more different. Or a parrot. If someone owns a dog or cat, that doesn't necessarily tell me a lot about them. If they own a parrot? It tells me the one thing I need to know, which is that we will never hang out at their house.
Also, when are we finished excusing that thing where a cat brings you a dead bird? That's crazy. And where did that cat even learn to do that? That would be like if my mom did something really nice, and as a reward I went out, broke into the museum, and brought her a tiger pelt so that she would stay warm all winter. It's like a million thousand years since we did that. You say the cat is just showing its appreciation, I say the cat is kinda dim. I mean, hasn't this guy noticed how much time I spend making the place nice and clean? And I'm a human. Obviously, if I want a bunch of bird corpses around, I can make that happen. I have not made that happen, which I think is a pretty good indicator that I don't want it to happen.
Finally, can someone invent a pill that makes cat pee not smell? And by that I mean either a pill to change the chemistry of cat pee or disable a very specific portion of my sense of smell. Because that would really change lives....more
Pretty good stuff. Although I think this suffers from the fact that, although it came first, I only just now got my hands on it.
There was a big legalPretty good stuff. Although I think this suffers from the fact that, although it came first, I only just now got my hands on it.
There was a big legal battle over the character and the rights to reproduce these issues, it seems. Between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane, no less. There was some back and forth, a trade was made where Gaiman surrendered claims to characters Angela and Cogliostro, and then McFarlane violated the deal, Gaiman sued, and in the end justice won out. You know, after a few decades or so.
Interestingly enough, while I was finding THAT out, I also found that there's a guy named Al Simmons, which is the name shared by McFarlane character Spawn, and apparently Simmons wrote a book about his experience sharing the character's name and dressing in costume for promotional appearances. Aaaaand McFarlane sued the guy. The defense for Simmons mounted a good argument in saying that Simmons has never been mistaken for Spaen. Let me remind you, Spawn is a character who was a special forces dude who got double-crossed, died, went to hell, and then made some kind of deal with the devil and came back as this sort of demon creature thing with mystical powers and a rad outfit, including lots of chains and capes.
I tried for about 3 minutes to see if this book, The Art of Being Spawn, was available, and it's not. So my guess is that one way or another, Simmons' book was squashed.
The point here, I really hate it when these stupid disagreements keep comics and books off the shelves. Everyone wants a piece of everything, and as a result, nobody gets to have it. And that's bullshit.
I know for a fact that McFarlane had plenty of cash. I know for a fact that Gaiman is also doing just fine at this point. So when do we stop talking about who is right and start talking about whether or not I get to read goddamn Miracleman already!? Not to mention that the issues contained here were written by ALAN MOORE, not Gaiman or McFarlane, so what the fuck? Buncha jerks.
And the reason I'm all steamed up, it would have been great to read this prior to reading a lot of the other stuff I read in the DECADES since this got all tangled up. It would have made me feel different about a series like Mark Waid's...shit, what was that one I liked? Indescribable? No, that's not it.
Untouchable? No, that's the baby carriage movie. Unstoppable? No, that's the movie where Denzel fights a train. Inconsolable? No, that's how I felt after I hit a duck with my car once. Incontinent? No. Definitely no. Inconceivable? No. And don't say "ma-widge", okay? Unconditional? No. That's my love. Incredible? Hulk. Unassailable? That's probably the next Spider-Man adjective. Inappropriate? Closer. Warmer. Unintentional? Uninspired?
Irredeemable! That's it! Goddamn! I liked IRREDEEMABLE, and I can see why some other people might not have. It's a bit of a re-tread of stuff in here. But I have to come at it with what I know.
It's a little like watching a heist movie and someone says, "They did all this crap in the first Taking of Pelham 123." I'm sure they did. But I didn't see it first, and now I can't UNsee all the stuff from Ocean's 12.
By the way, what the holy fuck was Ocean's 12? I saw a portion of that, and it appeared that Bruce Willis was himself and Julia Roberts was a Julia Roberts impersonator? I'm to believe that in this Oceans world, there's Julia Roberts the movie star and then this lady who looks EXACTLY FUCKING LIKE Julia Roberts because she is Julia Roberts?