In which our plucky heroine finally teams up with her idol and namesake, Captain Marvel, to rescue her kidnapped brother from deranged inhumans while,In which our plucky heroine finally teams up with her idol and namesake, Captain Marvel, to rescue her kidnapped brother from deranged inhumans while, across the river in Manhattan, the world is literally ending. Filled with her strong conviction to stand up for what is right and her boundless reserves of compassion, tempered only by her respect for her family and Islam, Kamala continues to grow into a hero worthy of the name. Longheld secrets finally come to light, the bonds of friendship prove to be unbreakable, and the human spirit is revealed to be the strongest power of them all- this volume is the best yet in a run that was nearly singlehandedly responsible for drawing me back to comics. And if all of that isn't enough to convince you to read Ms. Marvel, then perhaps only the adorableness of kittens could sway you:
Seriously, though, if you like comics and you're not reading this series then what are you even doing with your life?...more
Of all the stories that have been told on this little globe we inhabit, there are few tales that entice me more than stories of revenge and retributioOf all the stories that have been told on this little globe we inhabit, there are few tales that entice me more than stories of revenge and retribution. I'm not talking the brooding tales of violent stoic men pushed beyond their limit by an underworld that destroys their single shot at happiness, but vengeance that takes plotting, manipulation and, most importantly, patience. While there's always room for a grim-faced avenger tossing murderous thugs through plate glass windows, the revenge stories that grip me are those who play the long game. I like anger that burns cold and steady instead of flaring out in a furious moment of cathartic rage. I like protagonists who keep the fires of their anger stoked low and steady, feeding them slowly and setting the scene just so before claiming their personal justice. Think Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo or Shoshanna Dreyfus in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds more than Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest or the battered heroes of a James Ellroy novel.
Such a protagonist is Fleur Pillager. Last of her proud line, the sole survivor of a smallpox outbreak when she was a small child, the final remaining tie she has to her family and her heritage is the land that had been left to her, vast acres of pristine untouched forests and an island in the center of a lake said to house the unsettled spirits of her bloodline. Having lost this land to a rapacious timber baron at the conclusion of Erdrich's Tracks, Fleur has abandoned her daughter to the care of the state-run Indian schools meant to westernize and "civilize" indigenous youths, secretly taken the name of Four Souls after her mother, and trudged down the railroad line from her North Dakota reservation to bustling early 20th century Minneapolis in order to track down and claim vengeance upon the white man who has pillaged and destroyed her land, the fiend John James Mauser.
When she arrives and surreptiously takes a job as a laundress in Mauser's mansion she discovers that the unrepentant monster that she has come to do battle with is none too intimidating in person. Wracked by an unnamed ailment, which we now to be PTSD, acquired while serving in France during the Great War, the Mauser she finds strapped into his sweat-soaked bed is a shade, a convalescent gripped by fierce muscle spasms and ceaseless insomnia. There's no satisfaction in murdering a helpless invalid, so Fleur takes it upon herself to restore Mauser to health and vitality, winning his heart in the process and weaving a far more convoluted revenge than the simple assassination she had originally planned. Plunging ahead with the tenacity and strength that had made the Pillagers both feared and respected, Fleur finds that, even when in service to a righteous cause, anger has its consequences and the actions taken in its name will change not only those involved but will reverberate across generations.
This tale is not simply Fleur's, however. In between narrating bits of Fleur's story, the lovable rascal Nanapush finds time to continue his own misbegotten adventures. Whether it be seeking his own brand of vengeance on a neighbor who has been a lifelong adversary, tormenting his long-suffering partner Margaret Kashpaw (who is quite adept at giving as much grief as she receives), or seeking to preserve the borders of the Ojibwe reservation from death by a thousand bureaucratic papercuts. Sagacious and buffoonish, often simultaneously, Nanapush proves once again why he is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters in a cringingly hilarious scene wherein he finds himself drunk in front of the entire tribe, wearing his wife's newly-made medicine dress, using every shred of his wit and loquaciousness to save both the lands of his people and his own honor.
This is the third Erdrich book I've devoured in the past year and with every page I turned the esteem I hold for her increased. With a loose and digressive narrative style that fosters perfectly the notion that the reader is sitting at the storyteller's feet as she weaves the tale, it is all too easy to fall deep into her words and lose all awareness of the world passing around you. While a sequel-of-sorts to Tracks, each book reads just as well as a stand-alone novel and one need not be familiar with any of the preceding events in order to become immersed in Erdrich's captivating storytelling, though once you finish you may find yourself running to your library to pick up her other books....more
You'd think that with how much I read this would be old hat by now, but I always get a little bit anxious when a friend publishes something. What if iYou'd think that with how much I read this would be old hat by now, but I always get a little bit anxious when a friend publishes something. What if it isn't good? What if I don't like it? How do you walk that line between supporting their work and wanting to be honest about your opinion of their work? I've lost a lot of sleep over how to review books of this sort, that complex dance of criticism, the "well i liked this aspect, but this and this felt like they were superfluous" waltz of carefully worded critiques. Fortunately, when it comes to the stories of Casey Plett, this concern never even crossed my mind. I was in love from word one.
No stranger to the written word, Plett has previously written a column on transitioning for McSweeneys and had a story featured in Topside Press' 2012 anthology, The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard. Both marked her as a voice to be watched, a writer whose spare style and conversational approach evokes many comparisons to Michelle Tea's fictionalized memoirs of lesbian living. With the publication of her first short story collection, Plett makes good on the promise hinted at in her earlier stories, also reprinted herein, and offers us a sampler plate of the myriad ways that trans women are living, loving, and existing all throughout the country.
These girls are beautiful, at turns both fiercely strong and defiant against a world that loathes or fetishizes them and also so frighteningly fragile and vulnerable, so breakable that you'd like to capture them in a bell jar and keep them tucked away safe forever. Like Lisa, the recently single cam girl haunted by memories of her ex and crippling social anxiety, who ends up having a kink-fueled fling with an older lesbian in "How Old Are You Anyway?", a story which had me both titillated and nodding along in recognition as her conscious narrative devolved to a catalog of sensory input, those amazing spikes of pain that shoot from nipple to groin to neck and back again and all you want is for that ache to never end because for a moment you're so mercifully free of all concerns and actually home in your body and actually feeling and what does it matter that it's pain and hurt because for so long you've just felt nothing that to be able to feel anything physical at all is just so fucking transcendental. And then it's over. And the walls come back up and your thrice-damned thoughts come rushing back in and that blissful nothingness is just the faintest blissful memory.
Or the dynamics between "Lizzy and Annie," two Brooklyn trans girls negotiating their own uncertainty and fears to find love with one another, bouncing from bar to bed to breakfast all whilst ducking the attentions of chasers and the leering stares of their coworkers. Or the unnamed narrator of "How to Stay Friends" out for dinner with her ex for the first time since transitioning and simultaneously wanting to make a good new "first impression" and deconstructing everything that you did wrong and regret while you were dating and trying to maintain the facade of being a virile straight man. That particular story hit a little close to home and necessitated me putting the book down for a few minutes to catch my breath and get some distance from the material before returning. We all have those things we really regret from the times before transitioning, but it's always a bit disconcerting to see your own thoughts writ so clearly upon the page.
By far my favorite story is the largest, "Not Bleak," about Carla, a trans girl living in a small Mid-Western town near the Canadian border working at a book store and her friendship with Zeke, a mennonite trans girl who may or may not have stolen her hormones and her passport but who also really needed a friend and a community. Carla, ever of the warm heart and willing to extend the benefit of the doubt becomes close with her to the point of posing as her girlfriend and returning with Zeke to the small Mennonite community she grew up in so she could see her grandfather before he passed. Zeke utterly broke my heart, this poor little trans girl who was willing to hide her identity and be seen as a boy so as to preserve the links she had with her family. This girl who needs support so badly but who is her own worst enemy and continually brings people to distrust her. I want to say more but I don't want to spoil the story, but Plett's portrayal of an insular small-town queer community where everyone knows one another and has for years and how the lack of anything to do leads to some enormously silly hijinks in the name of entertaining yourself is absolutely spot-on. Of all the stories, this is the one that I've come back to and read several times more.
These stories are all about trans characters, which I love because there's a frightening lack of creative work by and about girls like me, but they appeal to a much larger crowd as well- those of us who have ever stood on the outside of a party and watched the interplay between people and wondering why it seemed so easy for everyone else, those of us who have ever dealt with fear, anxiety, or isolation, those of us who have ever gotten sloppily drunk in order to feel more at ease in social situations. Plett has an amazing eye for the fragile foibles nestled within everyone's hearts and I think that any reader, trans or cis, can connect with her characters. This is her first collection, but I'm certainly hoping it's not her last as Casey Plett's voice is one that is desperately needed within the realm of fiction. Her stories are the sort that I long to read. I don't know that I could ever recommend a book more highly....more