You don't have to be ashamed. Go ahead. Call it a graphic novel if it makes you feel better. If you're worried about the stigma of reading *gulp* a coYou don't have to be ashamed. Go ahead. Call it a graphic novel if it makes you feel better. If you're worried about the stigma of reading *gulp* a comic book, let me assuage your fears. Moore's "Watchmen" is firmly planted in a world far too scary -- or even identifiable with -- the stock good v evil battles of the Spiderman or Superman universe. No, instead the reader is presented with a creeping sense of Armageddon brilliantly translated through a stable of failed superheroes (and yes, with accompanyingly cryptic illustrations). Watchmen succeeds mightily in bringing to light the foibles of mankind, the nakedness of our faults is ironically exposed through the prism of heroes. And the ending -- well far be it from me to spoil anything -- but the word 'chilling' comes to mind. We are offered neither the apocalypse or humanity's renewal, but instead a sort of pragmatic resolution, stunningly lifelike and equally troubling. This uneasy feeling ultimately prevented me from awarding Watchmen its full five star due (this is a great book, but I offer no quarter as a demanding reader), since a Comic book where humans realize scientific breakthroughs reserved solely for fiction and of course, people in costumes, shouldn't be so damn misanthropic!
Yes, I can hear you mocking me! No, I wouldn't prefer the last panel to feature the characters interlocking arms for a 'Kumbaya' rendition. I'm simply saying, in the vein of the work, couldn't we reach a rosier outcome? Maybe? Fuck it, let's move on. Reading the book I was struck by how much the Watchmen influenced Dr. Dre. Hey-- I hear you laughing again! Yes, Mr. NWA himself, clearly buried his head in the comic book before recording the landmark album 'Chronic 2001'. Still unconvinced? To wit, I present the annotated lyrics to 'The Watcher':
Things just ain't the same for gangsters Times is changin, young niggaz is agin Becomin O.G.'s in the game and changin to make way for these new names and faces but (1) the strangest things can happen from rappin when, niggaz get wrapped up in image and actin Niggaz get capped up and wrapped in plastic and zipped up in bags when it happens, that's it I've seen em come, I've watched em go Watched em rise, witnessed it and watched them blow Watched em all blossom and watched em grow Watched the lawsuits when they lost the dough Best friends and money? I lost them both Went and visisted niggaz in the hospital and saw the same shit all across the globe (2) I just sit back and watch the show (the watcher)
Chorus: Dr. Dre
Cause everywhere that I go ain't the same as befo' (the watcher) People I used to know just don't know me no mo' (the watcher) But everywhere that I go I got people I know (the watcher) who got people they know So I suggest you lay low (the watcher)
[Dr. Dre:] I moved out of the hood for good - you blame me? Niggaz aim mainly at niggaz they can't be But niggaz can't hit niggaz they can't see I'm out of sight, now I'm out of they dang reach How would you feel if niggaz wanted you killed? You'd probably move to a new house on a new hill and choose a new spot if niggaz wanted you shot I ain't a thug - how much Tupac in you you got? I ain't no bitch neither - it's either my life or yo' life and I ain't leavin - I like breathin Cause nigga we can go round for round Clip for clip, shit fo'pound for pound Nigga if you really wanna take it there we can Just remember that you fuckin with a family man I got a lot more to lose than you, remember that when you wanna come and fill these shoes (the watcher) (3)
[Dr. Dre:] Things just ain't the same for gangstas Cops is anxious to put niggaz in handcuffs They wanna hang us, see us dead or enslave us Keep us trapped in the same place we raised in Then they wonder why we act so outrageous Run around stressed out and pull out gauges Cause everytime you let the animal out cages It's dangerous, to people who look like strangers But now we got a new era of gangsters Hustlers and youngsters livin amongst us Lookin at us, now callin us bustaz Can't help but reminisce back when it was us Nigga we started this gangsta shit! And this the motherfuckin thanks I get? It's funny how time fly I'm just havin fun, just watchin it fly by (the watcher)
(1) The Watchmen confronts the pesky question of superhero immortality straight on. They die. This is established in the very first chapter as a government sponsored vigilante named 'The Comedian' is shoved out of a very tall building with predictable results. In fact, the banality of our heroes is such that they even age. Much like Dre notes how a new breed of gangster is usurping the OGs of yesterday, the main characters in the Watchmen are updated versions of older iterations. For instance, Dan Dreiberg, the 'Nite Owl' inherited the moniker from a predecessor embodying that hero. Both Dre and the Watchmen are cognizant of this cycle.
(2) This first generation of heroes eventually fall from grace in varying degrees of ignominy. One is a lesbian, another whisked away to a mental hospital, all rather sordid fates for these masked crusaders. Incidentally, the film 'Watchman' expertly captures this process during the title credits sequence set to Dylans 'Times Are A'Changing'
(3) The Watchmen is set in an insanely paranoid version of the 1980s, an alternate history where term limits are abolished and Nixon is serving his fourth term. Something tells me if it were written today Dick Cheney would fulfill this role. But the connection to Dre's lyrics? Much as he's retired from the gunplay and assocaited shenanigans, the Keene Act has forced all heroes to retire, save for the government sponsored Comedian and mutant Dr. Manhattan, both essential for national security. But while Dre is content to basically remain outside the fray unless confronted, the Watchmen features one hero, Rorshach, who is very much willing to stir shit and continue his path of vigilante justice.
-- Yes, I even have more here, but this isn't my job, and your probably not still reading, so I must adjourn for now. Want more or can't fight the urge to disagree, please comment!--...more
I'm all for inventive literature, but I have to suspect crafting techno-thrillers with one eye towards the future must be extremely shaky ground for eI'm all for inventive literature, but I have to suspect crafting techno-thrillers with one eye towards the future must be extremely shaky ground for even the most daring souls. Combine the blinding speed of technological development with the sharp unpredictability of popular sentiment and your futuristic vision is subject to looking abjectly ridiculous in only a matter of years. Not that authenticity is necessarily the aim -- its not like Orwell's 1984 is revered for paralleling history -- but in science fiction like Stephenson's the techno-babble grows to a roar and therefore we are depending on his world to make some sense. Luckily, Stephenson's computer savvy is matches his creativity in creating a future America devoid of much national identity but possessing a 'Metaverse' very similar to the internet (and specifically the Second Life community), functioning as a virtual hub for the largely nondescript denizens of 'Reality' (how drab!).
Look, attempting to distill the plot of Snow Crash into a brief review would be as rewarding as reading the cascading bitmap of binary digits a computer infected by the Snow Crash virus displays. The novel oozes Cool (point in case: the main character is named Hiro Protagonist), which I can dig, especially towards the beginning there are a number of LOL-funny comments, Stephenson is noticeably snide towards capitalism and in the present economic imbroglio its hard not to chuckle. Furthermore, the action is inventive and engaging, although the reader may find it hard to piece together the exact specifics of the action there are enough wiz-bang moments to forgive Stephenson's deficiencies as a scene-setter (it is a book and not a screenplay).
I really wanted to give this five stars, I haven't delivered that resounding stamp of approval in too long, but just couldn't pull the trigger since the book delves heavily into Sumerian myth, citations and the whole nine yards, an effort surely satisfying to the author but not the most compelling text for this reader. Regardless, mama always told I had to eat my vegetables before having dessert, so I was willing to make the sacrifice, but if thats the difference between Stephenson's superb novel receiving a four or five, well that's his just desserts. ...more
Set in the fateful summer of '98, the Lewinski scandal sets the backdrop for Roth's provocative exploration of the conflict between unbridled individuSet in the fateful summer of '98, the Lewinski scandal sets the backdrop for Roth's provocative exploration of the conflict between unbridled individualism and social conformity. This friction manifests most obviously in race, epitomized by Coleman Silk's decision to subvert his ancestry and pass as a white Jew, an effort to avoid characterization as part of the larger 'we' associated with his black identity. Roth is careful to extend the notion of 'stain' beyond race, Les the embodiment of history as a pyschotic Vietnam vet, and smartly inverting class in Faunia, who is ultimately viewed with scorn as a lowly janitor at Athena college. Two pivotal scenes portray our very humanity as the 'stain' sullying the pristine natural world, as Faunia yearns for an uncomplicated crow's life in the Audobon society and later the lasting image of Les ice-fishing on an immaculately remote lake. Roth mockingly undermines our tendencies to tidily categorize characters (or individuals we meet in society) turning our superficial first impressions through lengthy back stories.
The narrative lags at points, and Zuckerman's idealization of Silk becomes tiresome, but by virtue of this 'screen' I cannot be sure this is a function of the author or the narrative voice he develops. This being my introduction to Roth, the incongruously graphic sexuality served little purpose but I am aware of its prominence within his work. FWIW, I was inspired to re-read the Starr report (for the first time since I was 10 learning about Monica's dexterity with a cigar), and was struck by the ridiculousness of it all, the sanctimonious assault Roth condemns in the novel. A "vast right wing conspiracy" it may not be, but a glaring reminder of our own pettiness Roth soberly portrays in The Human Stain...more
Were he still writing in America today, I am not entirely convinced Vladimir Nabokov could avoid the overcoming sense of dread Chris Hansen evokes whiWere he still writing in America today, I am not entirely convinced Vladimir Nabokov could avoid the overcoming sense of dread Chris Hansen evokes while asking you to 'Have a seat over here' on a NBC Dateline sting operation. OK, OK, linking a world-renowned novelist and caught-in-the-act child molestors is a bit of a stretch, fair enough, an outrageously specious connection. Truly I only demand some recourse from this strange Russian for luring me into dark recesses of the human pysche, brandishing delicious wordplay as a simulacrum for the candy Mother so fervently warned us against taking. Reading Nabokov's Lolita a few months back I was unwittingly enthralled by the musings of an unabashed pedophile, a wholly discomforting experience coincident with possibly the finest novel I've eve read. And indeed, in my estimation Lolita is the better novel, but only because Pale Fire is ultimately unlike anything I've ever read, a puzzle game under the auspices of literature.
As previously alluded to, having read two of Nabokov's books in fairly quick succession, my overactive imagination conjures up the author as a sinister (think Hitchock during the trailer for Pyscho) figure guiding me to a labyrinthine underworld where flouting societal conventions is commonplace. Existing in such a world is troublesome, but with Lolita Nabokov allows the reader to put down the book, escape from Humbert's psyche and reflect on the dingy avenues fiction can lead us while pleasantly grounded in our everyday reality. Pale Fire unceremoniously robs us of this detachment -- reading the commentary makes us an accessory to Kinbote's criminal misinterpretations of John Shade's poem. Eventually, I recognized Nabokov's Pale Fire is akin to an elaborate house of mirrors, each successive mirror revealing an image of self so distorted as to be unrecognizable, only a final untampered mirror revealing it was me all along. The mirror analogy is decent insofar as Kinbote, Shade, and Nabokov are representative of human tendencies, specifically those inherent to the reading process. Conversely, one could convincingly could argue Pale Fire is about creative development, Nabokov provides ample evidence this is so. Yet limiting the scope to such a individuated process hinders the book's universality, whereas reading, the exercise of sifting words in hopes of meaning, is the author's chief concern.
And what a laughingstock he makes of it! In Pale Fire, reading is an absurd undertaking, whether we seek for clues into Shade's life or simply bask in the legends told about the fancifully-named kingdom of Zembla. Kinbote's interpretation is assuredly madness, but what does it mean to truly read something accurately? Once appreciated by others, Shade's poem becomes something outside of himself, art that may never match the intentions of its creator. Nabokov gradually lifts the layers of abstraction and before long we are questioning our own reading practices, in the process of reading! Translation is another major theme of the work, fitting the multi-lingual Nabokov and simultaneously re-affirming and undercutting the power of words.
Too much scholarship is printed on Pale Fire for me to exhaust my thoughts, however many I need to justify my unorthodox perspective. Yet book-readers are especially suspticible to fall under Nabokov's trap, metaphorically burning the text in front of your eyes (a pale fire) once finding the 'true' story hardly that, and ultimately discovering a phoenix from the ashes once forced to scrutinize the way we perceive the world, in particular through the act of reading. ...more
Extremely challenging text concerning an unnamed narrators travails from an all-black college to the tumultuous streets of Harlem. Exquisitely writtenExtremely challenging text concerning an unnamed narrators travails from an all-black college to the tumultuous streets of Harlem. Exquisitely written to preclude any pretensions this book solely considers the African-American plight, the futile attempts at forging self-identity and resulting cynicism comprise a universally (and beautifully) American quest. Readers must hurdle the obstacles placed before the narrator leading to his self-discovery in the benefits of invisibility.
Ellison proves astonishingly adroit at setting a scene, lingering on those peripheral details often proving most effective (note the continual motif of smoke). Furthermore, Trueblood's story is one of the most fascinating interludes in my literary experience, written in uneducated vernacular but majestically constructed.
Three stars not for the quality of writing or the dearth of themes but instead unnecessarily odd plot twists and dragging episodes in the second half of the considerably lengthy text diminishing the intensity with which this reader finished the novel.
One quote to before its return to the library -- I don't highlight books but this passage resonated with me:
"I stood there with the trains plunging in and out, throwing blue sparks. What did they ever think of us transitory ones? Ones such I had been before I had found Brotherhood--birds of passage who were too obscure for learned classification, too silent for the most sensitive recorders of sound; of natures too ambiguous for the most ambiguous words, and too distant from the centers of historical decision to sign or even to applaud the signers of historical documents? We who write no novels, histories or other books. What about us, I thought" (P. 439)...more
Having read (and greatly enjoyed) The French Lieutenant's Woman a few months ago, I hoped Fowles would duplicate the fascinating and entirely unconvenHaving read (and greatly enjoyed) The French Lieutenant's Woman a few months ago, I hoped Fowles would duplicate the fascinating and entirely unconventional narrative techniques employed in his Victorian era send-up. The Magus leaves these wishes unrequited, presented as a first person narrative through the lens of Nicholas Urfe, a strapping young man hardened by the death of his parents, emerging as a misanthropic cynic with a string of unhealthy affairs. Urfe is generally unlikeable, marked by pomposity and living a inculcated existence permitting antisocial characteristics to flourish -- elements which actually strengthen the book, as the reader bears witness to the annihilation of Urfe's elaborate self-construction under mental duress induced by mysterious Greek Islander Maurice Conchis.
A quick search on Google yields revealing interviews where Fowles acknowledges his first novel is anything but perfection, evidenced in the book's revision even after a successful initial publication. The latter work demonstrates his appreciable maturation as a writer, FLW featuring piercing metaphors and plainly evocative descriptions, so this revelation is hardly shocking. Perhaps due to my healthy appetite for reading (and thus move on to something else), plus the physical discomfort resulting from resting a 600-page tome on my lap, I have a not insurmountable resentment towards longer texts and wonder whether Fowles could pare this down. You can tell the author is enchanted by the setting on the Greek Isles, as he tries desparately to invoke the same sense of beauty tinged with wonder for the reader, but from my outsider perspective Fowles is playing darts needing only the bullseye to win, but instead encircling the center with multitudinous attempts while never hitting the target (an apt comparison given the frustration this tendency elicits during the competitive bar game).
Yet bloated verbiage and imprecision are willing sacrifices to the God of the Ideal Novel (quite an ornery bastard I may add) in return for the spectacularly inventive phalanx of puzzles Urfe, and in turn the reader, is charged to resolve. Urfe's ironic detachment matches our incredulity as readers yet as Conchis' web grows more complex distinguishing reality and staged events is disturbingly challenging. Ultimately The Magus is a metaphysical exploration best directed by the author, establishing a love triangle uncloaking Urfe's true self while undercutting traditional notions of causality. Sufficiently captivating for five stars, The Magus is man on the quantum level, characters take the role of atoms experiencing seemingly random collisions while interactions are truly constructed by the omniscient mastermind Conchis, a director of improvisational theatre never revealing the purpose to his performers, much less define the genre as comedy or drama....more
Hofstader's latest tome submits the rather disqueting notion that our sense of "I" is a myth. Using colorful analogies to explicate complex themes, thHofstader's latest tome submits the rather disqueting notion that our sense of "I" is a myth. Using colorful analogies to explicate complex themes, the author is generally faithful to his pledge to make the book accessible for laymen. It seems trite to commend a book for superficial qualities like readability, but Hofstaders universe of cutting edge research and groundbreaking theories is typically translated through scholarly papers (analogous to appreciating baseball solely through sabermetrics without watching a single game).
Unfortunately, in the middle of smooth sailing I encountered turbelent waters once the author turns to a "basic" discussion of Godel's theorems. I enjoy the field of science, despite my staggering ignorance, but mathematics is the perfect antidote to this enthusiasm. I dutifuly slogged through but it might as well been Mandarin Chinese for all my comprehension. Overall, I found myself far more engaged than during my ill fated attempt to read "Godel Esher Bach" in high school.
My summation of what it means to be a strange loop would invariably mischaracterize the theory, one best understood by following Hofstaders arguments. He brings fascinating insights into the nature of conciousness, and I would recommend the book to anyone with even a partial interest in the field.
Two complaints--a preponderance of personal examples and an annoyingly defensive tone surfacing whenever he attacks the competing theories of others. In fairness, he does acknowledge personal anecdotes will comprise a large portion of the book, but hearing from such a personal perspective in detailing a far reaching theory becomes tiresome....more