cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Larson, Erik: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
(yeah, I'm so on top of the bestsellers. After three years of stocking this on the paperback favorites table and finding it for customers who needed it for their book clubs--book club customers are always women; do men not join book clubs? why not?--I finally read it now. A hundred times, I have been asked, "Have you read it? Is it good?" and I, being unwilling to repeat a petty lie a hundred of times, always honestly answered, "No, but I've heard it's good; it's popular and sells well and everybody I know who's read it loved it." And they'd always pull a disapproving face, because people who don't venture past the bestseller racks are nervous about booksellers who don't read books they've heard of. (I feel bad for them; they're uncomfortable readers, and they want reassurance that they're reading something worthwhile. Lacking the experience in reading that will help them judge whether or not they'll enjoy a book, they ask, "Have you read it? Is it good?" as if the only possible answers are "yes" or "no.")

It is good, and attention-grabbing, and it is easy to see why was a bestseller that morphed into a very strong book club favorite. I decided to read it after reading the Rick Geary graphic history of H.H. Holmes, A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Beast of Chicago, and what surprised me the most was that Larson's account of Burnham and the building of the Chicago World Fair was as captivating as the gruesome horror of Holmes and the architectural details of the Murder Castle. I feel a keen interest in 19th century America right now; I'd like to read more about it).


Graphic novels/comics:

Johnson, R. Kikuo: Night Fisher
(indeed, not your average cliched high school story. It contains many of the recognizable elements of the high school story, but the setting and the execution are refreshingly individual, and it feels emotionally real. It is depressing, though. Fantagraphics).

Eisner, Will: Last Day in Vietnam: A Memory
("A Purple Heart for George" just about did me in. The staggering amount of death in that war, in any war, ought to render George's drunken foolishness and his friends' efforts to protect him from himself meaningless...and yet it still hurts. I understand why Eisner felt he had to include it here...it's just the kind of story that ought to be told).


Abel, Jessica: Mirror, Window: An Artbabe Collection
(my introduction to Abel, and I like it. All the pieces are good; my favorite story is the second one, "Chaine," which is about a 22-year-old professional ballet dancer taking a day off to meet up with a friend she hasn't seen in a while; they discuss the ballet dancer's career, which is going nowhere, and the dancer makes a realistic, rather downbeat assessment of her career prospects, which her non-dancer friend is incapable of understanding or accepting. I love the dancer's internal monologue, which flits between her musing on her past and future in ballet, fretting over needing to clean up her apartment after a break-in from a few days ago, and memories of a friendship with a former roommate and fellow dancer that apparently went sour. It's a rich character study, and a melancholy wag at what it means to be only moderately talented in the field you love).

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cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Graphic novels/comics:

Baldock, Kirsten, writer, Fabio Moon, artist: Smoke and Guns
(shades of "writing a story based on what you love"--in this case, girls in fetishy outfits, lots of cigarette smoking by women young enough that they aren't showing any of the outer signs of the way cigarettes destroy your body, and lots of guns and gunfire. We do get to see some of the outer signs of how guns destroy your body, though. Whee? Well, Baldock and Moon clearly enjoyed themselves making this, and it's a fun romp if you don't mind all the male-oriented fanservice, casual violence, and the most over-the-top glamorization of smoking I've ever seen. Really, I think the only way you could make the smoking/sex thing more obvious would be if you created a line of cigarette-shaped dildos and sheaths...).

Eisner, Will, artist and adapter, Herman Melville, author: Moby Dick.

Sipe, Harold, story, Hector Casanova, art: Screamland (issues 2-5)
(ahhh, the high-concept comic. I kinda dig Dracula--Dracula in the closet to protect his movie career as a ladies man/sex icon is certainly a clever undercutting of the trope. None of the rest of it feels that inspired to me, but it's cute).

Masereel, Frans: Story Without Words: a novel in pictures, Passionate Journey: A Vision in Woodcuts, The City: A Vision in Woodcuts
(I dig the more precise, detailed style of The City to the rougher, thicker lines of the others, but all of it works pretty well. I do keep having to remind myself that this would have been more mind-blowing to an audience that had not grown up reading comics and graphic novels and wasn't already utterly familiar with wordless art sequences. To me, these are good pieces of work in a style I already know (and like less than genuine word/image fusions), but I know that once upon a time, this was revolutionary).

Swain, Carol: Foodboy
(eek).

Dupuy, Philippe: Haunted
(D&Q. The back says this is Dupuy's second solo effort away from fellow creator Charles Berberian, distinct from the tightly constructed narratives and urbane, elegant graphics of his projects with Berberian. Frankly, I'd think I'd rather see the tightly constructed narratives and urbane, elegant aesthetic of those projects; the loose, floppy, and rather pointless shorts that make up this book did not interest or impress me).

Rabagliati, Michel: Paul has a summer job
(Recommended! I loved this book hard. It's so lovely to read an graphic novel/memoir about someone who wasn't a wasted stoner asshole in his youth, even if he did go through a period of feeling frustrated and directionless. This is a beautiful, happy book about decent people something doing something good and enjoying it, and learning from it. A fun to read, well-illustrated account of what I baselessly assume is the author's experience of working as a counselor at a summer camp for underprivileged kids back in 1979, shortly after he'd dropped out of high school. These are either happy memories for Rabagliati or a really good fictional approximation of same, and he clearly enjoys relating them, but without any sense from the narrator of regret or wishing he could go back--it's enough to have had the experience and grown from it. I'm really impressed with Rabagliati, and will look for books by him in the future.

As I over the book again, I realize that it nowhere claims to be a memoir or non-fiction--I just assumed it was! I have edited my comments accordingly).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (flower of life)
Graphic novels:

Jason: Hey, Wait.

Eisner, Will: Minor Miracles.

Seagle, Steven T., writer/creator, Teddy Christianson, artist/creator: House of Secrets: Foundation
(called Rain's "secret." She was just too blase about it all--which contrasted very sharply with the way Traci told her own story--and the details were different each time. Good art, not a bad book, but not a very impressive one, either).


Horowitz, Anthony, author, Anthony Johnston, script, Takasaki Yuzuru and Kanako Damerum, artists: Stormbreaker: The Graphic Novel
(to paraphrase Berke Breathed:

"This has brought the word 'bad' to new levels of badness...this bad book just oozed rottenness from every bad scene...simply bad beyond all infinite dimensions of possible badness.

"Well, maybe not that bad, but lord, it wasn't good."

The art was actually fine, although I think I'd have liked it better uncolored, but jesus god, what an inane and pointless piece of writing this is. It was stupid and derivative without being entertaining, silly without being funny. Yes, I know it's a children's book, but that's no reason for it to stink).


Hosler, Jay: Clan Apis
(another winner. This is purely delightful; I laughed and smiled and squealed at almost every page (except for the times I got misty)--it's just so fun and clever! Hosler's biology-themed graphic novels deserve a place in every public and school library, and should be recommended reading in biology classes--they're not a substitute for a course of learning, but they'd make an excellent supplement to one, because they bring a sense of humor and wonder, and, no pun intended, a feeling of life to biology.

An exchange between worker bee Nyuki and her brother, the drone Zambur:
"I just gave you honey so you can go cruising for chicks?"
"Yes!"
"And if you hook up with a queen, it will be fatal?"
"Most definitely!"
"Give it back."

The whole book's like this, folks. I dare you not to love it.

Hosler is a good artist, a good writer, and an imaginative creator--his comics remind me just a bit of Watership Down, the speculative "what stories would these animals tell, if they were sentient and trying to understand the world?" grounded firmly in the physical reality of the animal's place in the ecosystem. So very cool. Again, recommended).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Graphic novels:

Talbot, Brian: The Tale of One Bad Rat.


Hernandez, Gilbert: Luba: Three Daughters
(I was initially freaked out by the big boobs, but eventually I realized that it was a deliberate choice of character designs, and the boob size is thematically meaningful. Stop laughing at me, you fucker, it is!

I've put off reading any of the Hernandez brothers' work because I knew it was going to be like jumping into the deep end of a pool: you shouldn't do it unless you're prepared to swim. Like swimming in the deep end, though, it's a lot of fun if you're ready. I look forward to more).


Richardson, Mike, and Rick Geary, authors, Rick Geary, artist: Cravan: Mystery Man of the the Twentieth Century
(Rick Geary work is fun even when there are no horrible murders!).

Eisner, Will: The Name of the Game.

Van Lente, Fred, author, Ryan Dunlavery, artist: Action Philosophers vol. 3
(I've nothing at all against popularizations of complicated subjects, but some of these feel uncomfortably pat. Maybe I just don't entirely agree with some of the characterizations of the persons under discussion).


Manga:

Otomo Katsuhiro: Akira vol. 2.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Graphic novels:

Geary, Rick: A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Beast of Chicago
(I kinda wanna read Devil in the White City now).

Maitena: Women on the Edge vol. 2
(That's right! Normalize those sexist double standards you hold for your male and female children, Maitena! It's so edgy).

Watson, Andi: Slow News Day
(Everybody in this book is a jerk, and the improbable level of mutual cultural ignorance and intolerance displayed by people who are supposed to be intelligent and literate is more than I am willing to suspend my disbelief for. Did I mention they're all jerks? Ignorant, intolerant jerks? I didn't try to finish it).

Jason: I Killed Adolf Hitler
(I'm glad to have come so late to the Jason party, because there's a ton of books by this guy I can look forward to reading).


Eisner, Will: The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion
(I'm not going to argue that the world doesn't need another expose of the Protocols as a virulent anti-semitic fraud; it certainly can use as many exposes as there are revivals of it. However, I didn't learn anything new from this book, and it wasn't as powerful as Eisner work usually is, probably because it's more of a historical recap than an actual story.

There's something weird about the afterword by Stephen Bronner, and the discussion of bigotry and anti-semitism and scapegoating, something maybe about the way that the argument is constructed, not as: anti-semitism is bigotry and scapegoating--which it is--but as: bigotry and scapegoating are anti-semitism. I assume that's not what was intended. But I read Deogratias yesterday morning, and this afterword yesterday evening, and...it's just...please don't let's frame anti-semitism as the only kind of murderous bigotry in history. Tolerance is not a zero-sum game).


Moore, Alan, writer, and various: Swamp Thing: Love and Death.
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (so badass)
Graphic novels/comics:

Eisner, Will: The Will Eisner Reader
(this stuff never gets old).

Brennan, Michael: Electric Girl vol. 2
(Bugaloo! C'mon, someone had to say it. This was kinda only okay; I might have liked it better if I started with volume 1, but since the stories are all stand-alones, it seems like I shouldn't have to? It was sort of cute, occasionally rising to "mildly interesting"; the writing just passes muster; art's solid, cartoony, good stuff, but nothing earthshaking. I welcome the diversity of material in the field; I don't think I'd buy this for myself. On the plus side, it's always interesting to see superhero tropes handled outside of a superhero universe).

Alexovich, Aaron: Kimmie66
(another Minx offering, for anyone keeping track. I enjoyed this. I don't really dig the Nick-cartoon-style art, but Alexovich knows how to work it. The writing is solid, sometimes clever, and he's got a lovely ear for narrative voice; it's a lot of fun to read the words he writes. It's a good book, and worth picking up, and a treatment of futuristic virtual reality, net society, net identity, and artificial intelligence that did not at any point make me want to shake the author until their head snapped back. That's always refreshing).

Baker, Kyle: I Die At Midnight
(Jesus fucking christ I love Kyle Baker. I'd propose to him, but I'm fairly certain he's happily married and has a lovely daughter and also it would be weird for him. But he's just that good. And he's so cool! He has a dazzling signature style; his comics look completely amazing and not like anyone else's, he's clever, he can put together a solid story, and the madcap hijinks! And the wry, in-passing social commentary! And the in media res character sketches that plunge you into a brilliant, colorful, energetic story! Have I mentioned that he's frequently hilarious? My preference in comics art is for clean-ish black and white art, but brilliant Kyle Baker may yet seduce me into color).

Gaiman, Neil, author, and Clive Barker, artist: Violent Cases
(cool to look at, cool to read, ultimately probably pointless. It was a disservice to zip through this at the library, although I feel I gleaned the essentials. I will say that it likely deserves its praise; it is awfully readable for a style that can easily descend into irritating meandering (this danger exists for art and writing both, and god help you if they don't gel), and that that narrator looks suspiciously like Neil Gaiman. And I would take this over any of Gaiman's prose novels).


Manga:

Tatsumi Yoshihiro: The Push Man and other stories
(I'm not sorry I read this, despite it being depressing in a nasty, profane sort of way, and with no sense of redeeming importance, but boy am I ever glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it for $20.

I think it's good comics, and an interesting example of the variety possible within the medium. But unlike Will Eisner, this stuff gets old).

Hirano Kohta: Hellsing vol. 1
(I can see the appeal. It's silly and way too violent, but against my better judgement, I will probably read more; I like the ridiculous characters).

Tanaka Masashi: Gon Swimmin'
(containing: Gon Becomes a Turtle, Gon in the Desert or something to that effect, and Gon and His Posse or something to that effect. The word "posse" was definitely in the title. I didn't have pencil and paper at the library, sorry.

Please don't think less of me for this, but OMG OMG OMG HOW CUTE AND AWESOME. This is my first-ever Gon book, but I assure you it will not be my last, because this is brilliant and hilarious. TINY CUTE T-REX. AND SOMETIMES HE HAS A POSSE OF ASSORTED FELINE PREDATORS. WHY NOT? HE'S GON. HE CAN DO THAT IF HE WANTS. And the art, oh wow, what amazing art!

When Chuck Norris goes to bed at night, he checks under his bed for TOPH. When Toph goes to bed at night, she checks under her bed for GON. And when she finds him there, they cuddle up and go to sleep like Gon snuggling with an emu in the desert, because they are essentially the same soul split into different bodies. And species. And families).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Novels/prose books:

Heyer, Georgette: The Grand Sophy
(oh my. Now I know why this book is written of in the typed equivalent of hushed tones of reverence and awe; it's just wonderful. Sophy's a freakin' force of nature, a natural law, an accurate predictor of your fortune in life. Trust in the wisdom of Sophy: if she likes you and she is laughing, your life will be happy; if it is otherwise, you are doomed.

Heyer at her best. Highly recommended as pure, delicious fun).


Graphic novels:

Eisner, Will: A Life Force
(in this book, human beings are metaphorically equated with cockroaches, in all their skittling glory. This is neither as depressing nor as disgusting as it sounds. Eisner is a humanist. He is very intelligent and very aware, and very willing to plunge into the dark side of human existence, but he also fervently believes and convincingly argues that we're worth it, and life is worth it, and that somewhere in the profane mess that is life is meaning.

I really like reading his books, because I believe that, too).


Tan, Shaun: The Arrival
(human kindness and generosity do not stop an alien world from being terrifying, but they help you learn to survive long enough for the strangeness to stop being so frightening.

I kinda like to think I would have picked up on this being a visual metaphor of the immigrant experience without having being told so before I ever saw the book, but you never know. I don't know how to praise this work without repeating myself, but it deserves great praise and to belong in every graphic novel collection).


Baker, Kyle: You Are Here
(both the author and the work are recommended! My introduction to Kyle Baker was his take on Plastic Man, which gave me sort of a warm fuzzy predisposition towards him that has been well-rewarded by his other works. I really enjoyed this book. It's an unusual variant on comics art: panels of art accompanied by captions of dialogue (unusual in the sense that it's not commonly employed, not that it's unprecedented). Anyway, it reads very smoothly, like Prince Valiant if you increased the panel count by a factor of ten and allowed for a lot more to be conveyed by the art. Baker's a wonderful artist, very skilled at cartooning and narrative art, and a clever, insightful writer besides.

The ending is really not what I expected, but it was honest, and I appreciated it. I think I trust him, in the sense that I feel that I can cast myself on his artistic whim without fear of being disappointed, or needing to qualify what I'm reading).


Clugston-Major, Chunna: Scooter Girl
(I didn't finish this, but I did read enough to determine that I didn't like this any better than Blue Monday, and it's probably better for both Clugston-Major and myself if I stop trying to force myself to read her books, which for whatever reason make me want to throw up).
cerusee: a white redheaded girl in a classroom sitting by the window chewing on a pencil and looking bored (Default)
Bookblogging is a great way to procrastinate on finishing my Archives paper. FTW.

Novels/prose books:

Dodd, Christina: My Favorite Bride
(from the review blurbs on the back cover, I was hoping this would be better than it is. It's moderately entertaining, it's inoffensive, but I don't want to read romance novels that are just adequate; I want to read romance novels that are good. I'd go into detail about all the little details that keeps this stuck at "adequate," but it's not really worth it).


Graphic novels:

Dranger, Joanna Rubin: Miss Remarkable and Her Career
(It's, it's like someone put a tap into my brain. And I'm not even an overachiever. Damn).

Eisner, Will: A Contract With God
(the version or edition or printing that includes the other Dropsie Avenue stories. The Dropsie Avenue stories are new to me, but I'd read the Contract story before. It was worth reading again. In fact, I'm beginning to think it should be sort of a standard, to make Eisner your touchstone. Go off and read or write or draw comics for a year or three, then come back and read Eisner and realize what you've been missing that he figured out a long time ago.

Eisner draw the cohesive page before I was even ever born; he even explained it in the preface. Text/art/layout as a coherent whole, creating, forgive me, a visual synergy. He knew what he wanted to do, did it, published it, explained it. And it is good. Why hasn't the American comics industry learned from Eisner? They've had almost thirty years for this to sink in. How long is this going to take?).


Manga:

Ogawa: Tramps Like Us vol. 12
(hey, the plot's actually advancing. But am I ready, after a mere twelve volumes? And...cocaine poisoning? Oh fer crissakes. Was that necessary, Ogawa? Was it really? What is this ah, Bartleby shit?).

Takahashi: Musashi 9 vol. 1
(I've wanted to read this for a while, since it's early '90s, and manga from the '80s is generally so cool. Unfortunately, this isn't very good. But now I know, and knowing is half the battle).

January 2017

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