**spoiler alert** On this lonely Sunday evening, I plucked The Walking Dead: Vol. 1 from the stack atop my bed's built-in shelves and devoured read it**spoiler alert** On this lonely Sunday evening, I plucked The Walking Dead: Vol. 1 from the stack atop my bed's built-in shelves and devoured read it cover-to-cover. Funny, you know – I bought this purely on impulse when I had some giftcards to fritter away at the bookstore, and it was the last line on the back cover that grabbed my attention: "In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living." As someone who certainly doesn't always feel alive, I'm a big fan of ideas that propose we get people to finally start living.
Later, I felt sheepish doubts that I'd misspent my twelve-fifty. But that was last Christmas; since then I've kept glancing at the spine with interest, and now that I've finally read the thing, all doubts have been transmuted into a zombie-esque hunger for more. I knew as soon as I read Kirkman's introduction that this was the right zombie lit for me. And I quote, again: "To me, the best zombie movies aren't the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society ... and our society's station in the world. […] The Walking Dead will be the zombie movie that never ends." Don't turn to this graphic novel if you don't want to read, or think, further than the glorious gore of most post-apocalyptica. Kirkman takes his characters and their relationships just as seriously as he promises to.
I was impressed, for example, by his attention to the gender dynamic in the survivors' camp. Rick's attitude is recognizably sexist at times, such as after a near-fatal attack: "Nobody was prepared for this, Shane. You think those girls know how to fight?" The thing is, almost none of them know how to fight. Rick and Shane are cops, and Jim is trigger-happy. All the others, male or female, appear quite lacking in fight skills. Also, in Rick's analysis of Donna: that she's "just an old housewife who doesn't have soap operas to keep her small mind occupied." I don't find Donna an appealing character – say, in her Victorian disapproval of Dale's "living with" two young girls (more below), but on the other side of the gender line, there's her fury about the women being stuck with laundry duty "while they go off and hunt. When things get back to normal I wonder if we'll still be allowed to vote." She's a bit of an inconsistent figure that way, but she's strong if nothing else. Besides, its revelation of human hypocrisy is key to the novel's excellence.
One of my favourite elements is old Dale's fatherly care for Andrea and Amy. The recently-made widower has welcomed them to sleep in his camper, and instantly for some characters – and readers – Scandal Must Be Suspected. Because that's how we think. As minor a detail as this is right now, though, I can't help trusting Dale completely. He's simply a big-hearted man who isn't willing to let an insidious taboo stop him from offering kindness to a pair of orphans, when their world has gone insane. The page of four panels showing Dale trying to comfort Andrea will guarantee heart-ache.
There is, of course, the lurking unfaithfulness of Rick's wife and police partner. AAAND in Volume Two, will Rick (and the drooling eager reader) find out WHAT exactly the short-lived bond was between Shane and Lori? And will Lori's resentment of Rick, for turning their son into a sharp-shooter, grow into a more serious rift as her buried feelings for Shane broil toward the surface? The plot congeals thickens.
I can't leave out the appropriateness of the graphics. Everything is black-and-white, only nothing is black-and-white anymore. And you realize as you read that even outside the book nothing is black-and-white, nor was it ever meant to be. At its deepest, this story succeeds in scrutinizing who we all are and why we live (or fail at living) like we do. This volume ends with a death for which the zombie epidemic is blameless, a death at the hands of a terrified seven-year-old protecting his father from Shane's murderous jealousy. "It's not the same as killing the dead ones, Daddy!" he weeps, in the arms of a father who can no longer shelter him. And the truth staggers into view.
The end of what we optimistically call 'civilization' doesn't start with the zombies. Quite by itself, that madness is alive and well in us.
*afterthought: I know this review reeks of "I just took a class in early British Modernism", which is partly because I did - but honestly, these thoug*afterthought: I know this review reeks of "I just took a class in early British Modernism", which is partly because I did - but honestly, these thoughts are my own. Have no clue if my prof would agree with what I've said (luckily, he's not on Goodreads). So perhaps I fail on two counts. Anyway.
This novella finally brought me to a deep appreciation of Woolf's prose. As my English professor phrased it, "the narration is like a monkey with a video camera, jumping onto the shoulders of different characters who have nothing in common but the monkey's fascination with all of them." (Actually, that's the gist of what he said but much more elegantly stated. Gad, how do I do it. Anyway -) The interweaving of so many characters is Dickens-esque, but far more intricate, and with darker undertones, considering the 20th-Century shift in social awareness. Woolf's become one of my favorite Modernist writers. (Next stop: Orlando!)
I particularly, well, 'like' isn't the right word, but I am particularly moved by the passages about Septimus and Lucrezia. With their youth and Lucrezia's longing for home and Septimus's reaching, straining for some bit of wisdom to hang onto, and their love becoming so painfully complicated. They, the Septimuses and the Lucrezias, they are the most tragic casualties of the first World War. I can read Septimus over and over. His dying days will always be great and terrible, his memory of his friend Evans' fall at the Front choking him like gas. The irony and the pathos so tangled:
"Men must not cut down trees. There is a God. (He noted such revelations on the backs of envelopes.) Change the world. No one kills from hatred. Make it known (he wrote it down). He waited. He listened. A sparrow perched on the railing opposite chirped Septimus, Septimus, four or five times over and went on, drawing its notes out, to sing freshly and piercingly in Greek words how there is no crime and, joined by another sparrow, they sang in voices prolonged and piercing in Greek words, from trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death. "There was his hand; there the dead. White things were assembling behind the railings opposite. But he dared not look. Evans was behind the railings!"
Tangled in themselves and each other though her characters are, Woolf writes in a crystal clear voice with an equally clear understanding of her characters and of their time. That's not something that's easy to find before the Modern period, in my experience, and rarely with as artful a blend of poetry and prose. (Woolf's elsewhere-inflicted Three-Mile Convoluted Sentence of Death doesn't even make too frequent an appearance in this work. Apparently it doesn't come into its full glory till two years later, in To the Lighthouse.)
I can't articulate everything I like and admire about this book, but – not to make lazy excuses for myself – there is, after all, an unspeakable quality about it; there is a sense of irony because no matter how many words are written about the inner world of any person, that inner world remains what it always has been, inscrutable. Can we ever know each other? Woolf asks. I feel that her work offers no solution, but merely elaborates on the question. Perhaps, then – being one of the more astute writers of her time – she didn't believe in a singular answer. Mrs. Dalloway is an exploration, and that's how it asks to be read. Open-mindedly, with occasional breaks to run to your window and gulp the fresh air. And, subconsciously, to listen for sparrows and wonder how they could possibly be said to sing in Greek. ...more
- That socially-ubiquitous phrase, "The horror! The horror!" - ? It's from here. I really hope you knew tWhat you really need to know about this book:
- That socially-ubiquitous phrase, "The horror! The horror!" - ? It's from here. I really hope you knew that already. - Approximately every tenth word is 'darkness.' You'd think Conrad had patented it. - The fat woman and the slim woman knitting in the Belgian office are like guillotine ladies. Creepy-keen. By the way, the guillotine remained the official method of execution in France until the country abolished its death penalty in 1981. Their last guillotining was that of torture-murderer Hamida Djandoubi on September 10, 1977. - It's fun to make comparisons between Kurtz and Darth Vader. - Please, please DON'T make references to, never mind base your whole lecture around, this story's view of 'darkness' in relation to the holocaust. That unspeakable event had not happened yet and besides, the example is deplorably overemployed. - I believe there's a hell of a lot more to the portrayal of women in this story than my prof does, but that's just me. I plan to lengthen this review and my musings on the topic at a more opportune time. - Heart of Darkness can be tedious, can take a long time to read for so short a work, but (I think - ultimately, I'll go here with the general literary verdict) it's worth it....more