I am usually pretty skeptical of fictionalized comic book autobiographies; not because I am disinterested in a writer's personal, fantastical project...more I am usually pretty skeptical of fictionalized comic book autobiographies; not because I am disinterested in a writer's personal, fantastical projections onto the life of his subject matter, but because I am wary of cheesy, cardboard-y dialogue and exposition. Well, Lovecraft, although a pleasant enough diversion,confirmed my fears of the comic book-biography. I think the book suffered due to its short length- there is no room for the story (Lovecraft finds his father's copy of the Necronomicon, opens the gate for eldritch beings to seep into our world, is tormented by said beings throughout his life and must keep them in check via the pen,etc etc) to elegantly unfold and allow us a richer experience of Lovecraft's world. The storytelling is distractingly two-dimensional; there is a lot of awkward dialogue and exposition that seems randomly plucked from the academic pages of a Lovecraft biography and thrust into the story. There are two confusing panels where an editor of Weird Tales tries to convince Lovecraft to ghost-write for Houdini and persuades Lovecraft to hear his pitch through an ice-cream bribery. It comes out of left field and seems like an in-joke for fans of the writer perhaps more steeped in his life story than myself. Lovecraft is a fantasy story that reads more like a fan boy's high school English project.
The art for this book is beautiful, however. Contemporary interpretations of Lovecraft's world tend to leave me cold, but the muted watercolors and careful, tight pen lines of Enrique Breccia suited the story well. Breccia's caricature of Lovecraft's long mug is pretty dead on, although his depictions of Rhode Island are not. His drawings of New York are highly detailed, but when he gets to Providence the backgrounds become cluttered, ambiguous clusters of 18th Century houses. Butler Hospital does not look like Butler Hospital, and Swan Point Cemetery does not look like Swan Point Cemetery. Just sayin. I would love to see what comic book artists and writers more steeped in pulp could do with Lovecraft's story. My first picks are Charles Burns and Richard Sala. They seem more suited to the task than these guys.
For anyone interested in a Lovecraft fan's projections onto the weird writer's life story, check out punk band Rudimentary Peni's album Cacophony . Like the pages of a Lovecraft story, the music and lyrics are ghoulish and rambling. It's an amazing album and one of the only intentionally Lovecraftian works I have found that successfully captures the spirit of Lovecraft's world. (less)
This book is pushing my taste further in Jaime Hernandez's camp. Unless he is writing and drawing science fiction, I just get impatient with Gilbert's...moreThis book is pushing my taste further in Jaime Hernandez's camp. Unless he is writing and drawing science fiction, I just get impatient with Gilbert's take on soap operatics. I read the first Love&Rockets book in its entirety, but I am finding myself skipping through the Palomar stories to get to the Maggie and Hopey bits. Jaime's style is just more appealing, and although Gilbert draws some great wrestling women, Jaime's girls are just hotter. In my busy, nerd-ass theatre school schedule, I can't waste time on boring comics! I will write more intelligently about this later. (less)
I will review these as a whole when I've finished the series (soon). Meanwhile, the plot twists and on/off relationship between Francine and Katchoo w...moreI will review these as a whole when I've finished the series (soon). Meanwhile, the plot twists and on/off relationship between Francine and Katchoo will continue to frustrate and engage me.(less)
Uuugggghh. Everything about this "graphic novel" is insulting and annoying. I'm a long time Neil Gaiman fan,and I was drawn by the cover art (an inky,...moreUuugggghh. Everything about this "graphic novel" is insulting and annoying. I'm a long time Neil Gaiman fan,and I was drawn by the cover art (an inky, softly rendered image of a wild woman caressing a sabretooth tiger), so naturally I was pretty excited to find this at the library. Unfortunately, The Facts In the Case of Blah Blah Blah was a ten minute waste of my brain space. Disappointingly, Gaiman seems to be cashing in on his name with this book. I wonder if it would have been a better read if he had written the comic script himself; instead,acclaimed letterer Michael Zulli fills in with an adaptation of Gaiman's "mostly true" autobiographical short story. Perhaps the smug, obnoxious dialogue of (whom I am assuming to be) Gaiman and his friends is a product of this. Zulli's crisp lettering, often with Photoshopped gradient background boxes, is glaringly sterile in contrast to the sketchy, lightweight watercolor drawings. All in all, bad. This whole book seems like it was churned out in a week, is the length of a normal comic book, and doesn't warrant a hardcover, a binding choice I feel was made simply to instill in readers some "collectible" impulses. What a rip off. (less)
I read this in the span of a few hours, having never read any previous Doom Patrol comics. Out of the other Grant Morrison series I've read (The Invis...moreI read this in the span of a few hours, having never read any previous Doom Patrol comics. Out of the other Grant Morrison series I've read (The Invisibles and the New X-Men), I liked this the best; however, it didn't blow my mind. I blame the artists. Their failure to clearly illustrate Morrison's absurdist dialogue and actions renders panels dull and nonsensical. For a book laden with so many Da Da and Surrealist motifs, you'd think there would be some visual interest here. NOPE! Additionally, I was surprised by how conservative this book tended to be. The protagonists are torn between fighting against oppressive, normalcy-enforcing Pentagon goons and demons/hippies/artists bent on relieving the world of emotional and physical repression. Huh? I guess the Doom Patrol are just caught in the middle of a war between logic and emotion, and they are looking for a happy medium. Honestly, the libidinous Shadowy Mr. Evans and the Brotherhood of DaDa don't come across as all that bad, and the digs at fetishism kinda offended me. Mixed messages aside, this was pretty engaging, even for someone coming into the series late. There's a cognizant street, a Charles Atlas mail-order super hero origin, and a goth chick. All in all, an entertaining read.
***I did enjoy the frequent Withnail & I references (including a Withnail cameo) and was amused/disappointed by the inaccurate depictions of Rhode Island. (less)
**spoiler alert** I borrowed La Batarde from one of my dearest friends to have something comforting to read while away at school. Being a "really old"...more**spoiler alert** I borrowed La Batarde from one of my dearest friends to have something comforting to read while away at school. Being a "really old" (as one sniveling teenager had described me) freshman living on a secluded college campus has been an isolating experience so far; reading Violette Leduc's memoirs of unending loneliness was a good way to hush my own feelings of isolation.
It is interesting and almost comforting that Leduc began writing seriously after a lifestyle of wandering around for the first two decades of adulthood, when most people seem to have figured themselves out (she began writing cheesy copy for magazines in her twenties and didn't attempt to write a book until her thirties). The book is beautifully written and often times lacking punctuation as if she was ranting breathlessly for the book's 488 pages. Her injections of poetry into descriptions of her everyday life is gorgeous; aside from her stormy love affairs and WW II black marketeering, Leduc didn't have wild, life-shaking events to recount but made the most mundane morning activities a captivating read. Her words are focused on her everyday and her vanity of self-loathing. I love this abbreviated line, which is featured in a misty, vague description of her wanderings by the Seine and her ability to drive people away : "My empire of invalids, my crustacean cemetery." Her words are reminiscent of Lautreamont, yet her grotesqueries are gentle and elegant rather than shocking.
In regards to Leduc's descriptions of her sexuality, I was surprised by her fascination with male homosexuals. Her friendship with the homosexual writer Maurice Sachs was propelled by her difficulties in accepting the idea that a man could solely love other men. Her attitude seemed unlikely, considering she was exclusively in lesbian relationships from her teen years to her late twenties and her desire for the male sex was described as vague and confused for that majority of the book. Perhaps this attitude was a product of her bisexuality, which she accepted early on in life and thus spared the reader the familiar "Why do I feel this way about my own sex? I'm a FREEEEAK!" narratives. I suppose if one had already accepted his/her bisexulaity as the norm, heterosexuality and homosexuality alike might have seemed strange.
I applaud Leduc's gender ambiguities: the author's feverish trip to Elsa Schiapparelli's Parisian boutique with her long term girlfriend, Hermine, is recounted as an eroticized and unquestionably feminine scenario. While involved with Hermine, Leduc became a fashion plate for her girlfriend to lavish with hand-sewn clothing, couture accessories, and elegant meals. With her friend and future husband, Gabriel, Leduc was masculinized; she dressed in men's clothing, asked to be made love to as a man, and adopted the role of Gabriel's "little fellow." It is refreshing to read about someone capable of balancing masculinity and femininity, and the only people who seemed to take issue with Leduc's ambiguity were the two lovers in question.
I read this book quickly. It was sexy, engaging, a good escape from my own woe-is-me-isms, and featured a lot of time-capsule worthy descriptions of fashion from the first three decades of her recorded life. (less)
Gee, I really wish this book was longer. I agree with another reader's review of From Hardtack to Homefries... that Haber could have more fully utiliz...moreGee, I really wish this book was longer. I agree with another reader's review of From Hardtack to Homefries... that Haber could have more fully utilized her resources as curator of the culinary collection of Harvard University's Schlesinger Library. The book features nine essays detailing very specific periods of American eating history. Each chapter is fascinating and easy to read and feature plenty of good research and recipes, but the most interesting chapters are those regarding cooking and eating under strict socio-economic limitations. I found the chapters on the Irish Potato Famine and 19th Century food reformation (you'll learn that the namesake of the Grahm cracker preached culinary austerity and sexual repression and that the man behind Kellog's cereal was an enema-obsessed health quack)the most fun to read, but the profile of how female P.O.W.s in the Phillipines managed to eat was equally interesting. And this is where my complaint takes effect: Haber could have given us so much more!
The book begins in the 19th century and ends, essentially, in the 1940s, with a brief description of 1950s grilling machismo in the concluding chapter. Why stop there? Additionally, why begin there? I'm curious about the way new Americans ate in the 18th century, but perhaps the Schlesinger library just didn't have those materials.
Regardless of how little this book covers, what little it does it does in depth. It is written from a feminist perspective and profiles many strong women who worked hard and found fulfillment and empowerment through the domestic task of cooking. This is an entertaining, fast paced read. For a look at the history of American eating trends, read "Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads" by Sylvia Lovegren. (less)
What do I say about this book? I'm kind of mixed about St. Clair's stories; the content is creepy and unique sci-fi written in a bland and confusing w...moreWhat do I say about this book? I'm kind of mixed about St. Clair's stories; the content is creepy and unique sci-fi written in a bland and confusing way-and the confusion of the writing is enhanced by horrible editing. Typos and misspellings abound! Most of the stories end with Night Gallery-esque twists: I found my inner-monologue repeating a sarcastic "HUH?" at every "he'd been dead for ten years!" sort of conclusion. Regardless, I think the weirdness of her stories-intergalactic wine tours, carousels used for masturbatory purposes by smug aliens, a woman who accidentally turns everyone around her into sawdust stuffed mannequins-is exciting and very original. The last story, "Lazarus," especially creeped me out with its take on genetically engineered meat.
I say, check out Margaret St. Clair for some really weird and sexed up female-written science fiction. Just be careful to find an edition of her stories that was actually proof-read. (less)
Reading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic put me in the same irritated and impatient mood experienced when reading Toni Morrison's The Song of Solomon in...moreReading Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic put me in the same irritated and impatient mood experienced when reading Toni Morrison's The Song of Solomon in high school: both books feel like major wank-offs to the writers' cumulative reading endeavors. To put it in less crude terms, both books overflow with self-conscious references to classic literature (both use The Odyssey in a major way). However, this is not a review of The Song of Solomon, so I suppose I will set aside that grudge for now.
This is how I feel: any person, no matter how mediocre his/her life might be perceived, can be made into a great story. The key to this is good writing, and although Bechdel's writing is ORNAMENTAL, it's not engaging. She doesn't make me care about her, and I care only a little bit about her dad, whom the book focuses on. The constant literary references (Joyce, Camus, Proust, Wilde, etc) do not impress me and they do not enrich the story she is telling. Bechdel continuously draws parallels to anything and everything literary. Comparing the map in The Wind in the Willows to a map of her local terrain is one thing: comparing her first act of performing cunnilingus to entering Homer's cave of Polyphemus made me groan out loud. Bechdel also uses dictionary definitions as an ongoing motif, a cliche that ALWAYS annoys me ("'orgasm: or-gaz-um-' "what is an orgasm? what does it mean in the context of my own life? Let's examine this word and blah blah blah blah" <---bitchy paraphrasing).
I will say I have never been a fan of Dykes to Watch Out For or Alison Bechdel's drawing style in general (and my enjoyment of a comic, as is typical, is largely derived from the visual component) , so it is unfair to complain about that here;it's a matter of taste. However, if the facial expressions were rendered differently, and if Bechdel shook out the masturbatory references and word definitions, she might have sold me.
Oh boy. --------- Okay, here we go- My last foray into reading co-authored celebrity memoirs was a year ago, when I completed Made From Scratch, Food Ne...moreOh boy. --------- Okay, here we go- My last foray into reading co-authored celebrity memoirs was a year ago, when I completed Made From Scratch, Food Network star Sandra Lee's sentimental,self-centered "Footprints in the Sand"-ridden dreck. Have I learned from my past experience that ironic enjoyment of these sorts of books is near impossible? Apparently not. Yet how could I resist an angry Sophia Petrillo,haloed by a bubble of Estelle Getty-sans-get up, pointing an accusing finger at the reader? Or the ridiculous title?
Honestly, this book wasn't miserable, and the reader will be delighted to know that Estelle Getty is essentially Sophia Petrillo (and if you read her book, My First Five Husbands,Rue McClanahan reveals she is essentially Blanche Deboreuax). If I Knew Then What I Know Now... isn't an autobiography by any means-it's a lot of one liners and cheesy advice. Here's a Getty-ism: "You know the tags that say 'One Size Fits All'? I'd like to take a big red pen and write 'Like Hell!' on every one of those tags." I'm rolling on the floor with laughter, over here.
If you're like me and want to waste your time ironically reading 80s sitcom celebrity junk, this isn't a bad choice; it's really short and reads like a quarter of the Golden Girls. It doesn't hurt to read this out loud in a Sophia voice. (less)