How could you do justice to this epic poem with a mere rating? It's one of the foundation stones of fantasy, and perhaps even our modern conception ofHow could you do justice to this epic poem with a mere rating? It's one of the foundation stones of fantasy, and perhaps even our modern conception of the novel. Hell, it's as fresh, vibrant, violent, and melancholy as anything being published today. Fagles' translation moves and grooves. This is essential....more
While there were a couple of way-too-convenient plot points, this novel is nevertheless very entertaining. Eisler's characters go a bit beyond standarWhile there were a couple of way-too-convenient plot points, this novel is nevertheless very entertaining. Eisler's characters go a bit beyond standard cut-out thriller types and the background on our nation's covert organizations is fascinating. ...more
I read this in preparation for Victor LaVelle's The Ballad of Black Tom. This is Lovecraft at his paranoid, racist worst. Donald Trump would probablyI read this in preparation for Victor LaVelle's The Ballad of Black Tom. This is Lovecraft at his paranoid, racist worst. Donald Trump would probably consider this mess a work of non-fiction....more
Note: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley for the purposes of a fair review.
Superheroes are all the rage and have been for some time now.Note: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley for the purposes of a fair review.
Superheroes are all the rage and have been for some time now. We are now at a point where academic articles and books on superheroes, graphic novels, and comic books are common. Some comic book readers grow up to be academics- it's a beautiful thing.
Gavaler's book focuses on the prehistory, rather than the history, of superheroes. As the author points out, a general "Big Bang" birth of superheroes is attributed to Action Comics No. 1 (the first appearance of Superman). Of course, it's not so simple and Gavaler takes the reader all the way back to Lascaux paintings in arguing that the notion of a "superman" has been thousands of years in its development. The book tracks these developing motifs and tropes, digressing at times, but always keeping its overall focus sharp. It's a fascinating journey.
The superhero is examined through various lenses. There are chapters that look at the superhero as the ultimate contradiction of cultural representation, both subversive and conservative at once. This is not really unusual; all genre thrives on this duality. There is also a compelling look at the superhero as a manifestation of America's hidden nightmares- superhero as Other, representative of our insecure psyche:
American culture is an enormous sleeping brain, always on the threshold of waking. Movies, TV shows, comic books, those are the dreams and nightmares playing on its 24/7 screen. Like any sleeper, it wants to stay asleep. Which means inventing stories when noises from the periphery- doors, gunfire, the Rape of Nanjing- disturb it. When threatened, the great American unconscious tells itself tales of gun-toting cowboys and caped crusaders, maverick heroes who use their powers to protect their vulnerable nation.
Gavaler goes on to convincingly argue that superheroes are both symbol of our unsettled dreams and the vanquishers of them.
This part of the book is easily the most fascinating to me, but Gavaler also delves into other areas, including sexuality and vigilanteism, while never forgetting to offer the promised historical and literary antecedents along the way. Napoleon gets big play here, as does the Scarlet Pimpernel, Zorro, Sherlock Holmes, John Carter, the biblical Jesus, and dozens more.
Women are represented, especially in the plots and heroines of Jane Austen. Gavaler argues that Austen's "romance formulas" is the foundation for the superhero romantic convention as we've come to know it. There are other nods to female antecedents to Wonder Woman, but the pickings are pretty bare. This should not be surprising, given that the creative realm of superhero comics was (is?) a boy's club. This comes to bear in the chapter of superhero sexuality, where the reader is treated to truly unsettling contemporary descriptions of and allusions to THE ACT!
Gaveler's writing style is relaxed but maintains an academic rigor. Let's call it business-casual. There are no footnotes, but the reader interested in further research is rewarded with a fantastic Works Cited section. Sometimes Gavaler is too cute- there is a US/THEM section that drove me crazy. I get it, let's move on! But for the most part, the author confidently leads the reader on a journey of the prehistory of modern superheroes. It's compelling, thought-provoking, and it really makes me wish I'd kept my childhood comic book collection....more
Like most short story anthologies, the content is a bit uneven. Stories by Bierce and Howard are surprisingly flat. There is some poetry th3 1/2 stars
Like most short story anthologies, the content is a bit uneven. Stories by Bierce and Howard are surprisingly flat. There is some poetry that simply didn't move me at all. But, thankfully, there are also some fantastic additions to Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, including his own "The Whisperer in Darkness." Chambers' "The Yellow Sign" is here, as is Derleth's "The Return of Hastur." Both of these tales add layers to Lovecraft's universe. Clark Ashton Smith's "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" is disappointing; the build up is great and then it ... just ... peters ... out. This is especially disappointing because it's my first experience with Smith, whose reputation in the field is huge.
Fortunately, the book ends strongly with Long's "The Hounds of Tindalos," and Bishop's "The Curse of Yig." Bishop's tale is one of the best horror stories I've ever read- it makes the book instantly worth the price of admission. Ramsey Campbell's "The Mine on Yuggoth" ends things in a satisfactory manner....more