- Let me start with a bit of puffery: This is one of the greatest short story collections I've ever read. So much better, for instance, than its overwritten misleading foreword which one would be wise to ignore.
The collection consists of 15 short stories (some no more than a couple pages) and a 64-page novella to cap things off. I want to start by talking about the novella, because its penultimate page contains what might be called the thesis statement for the entire collection (philosophical SPOILER alert):
These stories don't get told much in our church, David. We want stories of success without having to hear about the struggles of sin. . . . There has to be an opposition in all things, otherwise we could not be redeemed. And the opposition is part of the whole. . . . Please consider that as you write our history. Please record all of us. Let our lives be of use."
- This is the first 700+-page book I've finished in quite a while--and the first book in about as long whose cover made Lady Steed embarrassed to be seen with me.
Someone--Stephen King?--described the process of buying a book as reading the back flaps, flipping it open to see if the writer's on his game, then making a decision to read. I often try this, but rarely does a random paragraph catch my attention. This did, however:
- "My name," said Locke Lamora, is Lukas Fehrwight." The voice was clipped and precise, scrubbed of Locke's natural inflections. He layered the hint of a harsh Vadran accent atop a slight mangling of his natural Camorri dialect like a barkeep mising liquors. "I am wearing clothes that will be full of sweat in sevral minutes. I am dumb enough to walk around Camorr without a blade of any sort. Also," he said with a hint of ponderous regret, I am entirely fictional."
- This marvelous book is not only a great read, but also a perfect example of what's wrong with comics.
The story is of a dog living in a world peopled by anthropomorphic animals. He builds a robot to be his friend, but loses him. The robot is stuck on the beach, rusting, for nearly a year until he is taken to a trash yard. Eventually, both lonely dog and lonely robot find new friends and are happy. It's a short, mildly touching story told without words. It takes no time to read.
But here's the problem: it costs seventeen bucks.
I'm not usually in favor of reading entire books inside the bookstore, but with this there was no reason not to. I turned pages and was soon finished. And, yes, if I bought it, I would probably read it again, probably share it with my sons, $16.95? For a five-minute read? It was a nice looking book, sure, but the amount of entertainment-time provided doesn't seem to match the cost.
That's why I don't own Blankets--not because it isn't excellent (because it is most excellent), but because it costs s'dang much. And if I, a rabid comics lover, can't justify the expense, how long can this print-comics renaissance continue?
(click on the image to read an excerpt)
five minutes or so
So. Yeah. This one's awesome too.
Me, I'm off to the next one. To meet Peppermint Patty! And a Sopwith Camel!
I'm so excited!
almost three months
- I'm so relieved. I thought I had lost this book forever. I had been reading from it nearly every day and then it just disappeared. I looked and looked and finally decided I must have left it on a train or at a school. Then, a couple weeks ago, I pulled an old button-missing jacket out of a closet and there it was, in the pocket. Yay!
In case you don't know, SPA is a collection of poems, each written from the point of view of a different person. Each of these people is interred at the Spoon River cemetery and each has something to say. After these poems--most of which are quite brief--are two longer works, "Spooniad" and "Epilogue" (both of which are pretty lousy and not worth reading).
The Anthology itself however is pretty damn good (get it? get it?). I wish I could wax specific, but I read almost all the book months and months ago, and as I usually read from it as I was walking, I did very little underlining or notetaking or margin-writing.
The poems are all interconnected as the people dish on each other and and certain stories about militant teetotalers and abortions gone terribly wrong and friends run off to Europe and industrial accidents slowly become clear as each new point-of-view is revealed and I discover one person lied and another never knew the truth. The poems can be read as a wildly untraditional novel about small-town life. And a good one, too.
Some of the ideas Masters brought to this book are so good that even I might have been able to execute them.
Often I would be flying along reading reading reading when POW! one would suddenly sock me right in the gut.
Unfortunately, out of context from the other poems, even the best of them seem less sparkly. Which is a shame (but I guess explains why they are so rarely taught in schools).
And one last note before I share one that I think does okay standing alone: It's fascinating to hear the same arguments about America and what it means to be American that seem so fresh and modern today, spouted by these hundred-year-old corpses.
Anyway, the dearly departed:
Dippold the Optician
WHAT do you see now?
Globes of red, yellow, purple.
Just a moment! And now?
My father and mother and sisters.
Yes! And now?
Knights at arms, beautiful women, kind faces.
A field of grain—a city.
Very good! And now?
A young woman with angels bending over her.
A heavier lens! And now?
Many women with bright eyes and open lips.
Just a goblet on a table.
Oh I see! Try this lens!
Just an open space—I see nothing in particular.
Pine trees, a lake, a summer sky.
That’s better. And now?
Read a page for me.
I can’t. My eyes are carried beyond the page.
Try this lens.
Depths of air.
Excellent! And now?
Light, just light, making everything below it a toy world.
Very well, we’ll make the glasses accordingly.
020) Unorthodox Practices by Marissa Piesman, finished March 5
019) Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta, finished March 4
018) A War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card, finished Leap Day
017) Watership Down by Richard Adams, finished February 26
016) Old Boy Volume One by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, finished February 25
015) Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, finished February 18
014) Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley, finished February 15
013) Trusting Jesus by Jeffrey R. Holland, finished February 11
012) Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham et al., finished February 11
011) Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach, finished February 4
010) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, finished February 3
009) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished LDotFMotNY
008) Zombification: Stories from National Public Radio by Andrei Codrescu, finished January 22
007) Marriage Lines: Notes of a Student Husband by Ogden Nash, finished January 22
006) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, finished January 20
005) The Salmon of Doubt:: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time by Douglas Adams, finished January 14
004) Lord of the Flies by William Golding, finished January 10
003) Rising Sun by Michael Crichton, finished January 7
002) The Marketing of Sister B by Linda Hoffman Kimball, finished January 2
001) Animal Farm by George Orwell, finished January 1