15th Five of 2008


075) Added Upon by Nephi Anderson, finished August 24
    If you don't know now, you should know before we go on the basic structure of Added Upon: Preexistence, Earth Life, Beyond. Boy Meets Girl. (Yes, this book is the alleged inspiration for everything from Saturday's Warrior on down.) First published in a shorter form in 1898, this is a founding Mormon novel and has been constantly in print since (allegedly it went out of print in 2005, but frankly, I don't believe it--a book this beloved cannot go out of print in the new millennium--won't happen).

    Although Nephi Anderson's most popular work, I've heard several times that Dorian is in fact his best. But me, I liked Added Upon (so much so that I'm already a quarter through Dorian). Not for my usual book-liking reasons, and I'll try to express why I liked it now.

    Granted, the preexistence portion of the book drags; the first post-Earth scene is truly awful; the ending poem isn't very good; the characters aren't brilliantly developed; a lot of its attitudes and assumptions are painfully dated. But! I still liked it, and more and more as I moved along.

    I'm a proponent of literature that asks tough questions and demands critical thinking, that pushes boundaries and hits bumps along the way. Added Upon doesn't do that. By taking us through the Plan of Salvation, the uncertainties and qualms of mortality are simply disappeared. Even a shocking early death isn't that terrible because the whole book is about answers, not questions, and we know we'll see him alive and reunited with his wife soon, just as they were on Earth, just as they were before Earth. This is a much higher certainty than real life provides.

    And you know what? That felt good. This book is warm and inviting, comforting. I feel happy when I read it, and when I roll my eyes, it's in love. I appreciate Brother Anderson and what he's done and what his intentions are. In fact, I find nobility therein.

    I can't scoff at people who want this sort of comforting simplicity in their reading---I may be developing a taste for it myself.---I might even write some such someday. I still argue the need for and worth of "challenging" literature, but Added Upon is a worthy part of any diet.

    three weeks, give or take

074) The Last Flower by James Thurber, finished August 19
    I can't be sure just how heavily I am influenced by James Thurber, but what is certain is that I am a LOT heavily influenced by James Thurber. In high school, I read very close to everything he ever published. Which is also a lot. A big lotta writin. And drawin.

    Soon I will be publishing (here) some cartoons I drew my junior year of high school.

    The striking thing about that chemistry/english binder is the thousands of Thurber dogs I've drawn on every surface (as well as a few Thurber women and several dozen attempts at his signature).

    The Last Flower by James Thurber -- image from FrugalBooks via AmazonSo finding this unremembered "parable in pictures" at a friend's house was about as exciting as finding a dozenth Dead Sea Scrolls cave would be.

    I read it and---

    I'm mystified.

    What the crap was that all about?

    This story is very easy to fit into Thurber's oeuvre, but what precisely it means is up for debate. I mean---I don't even know what I'm supposed to feel at the end.


    Guess I need to read it again.

    Wish I had my own copy.

    just a few minutes

073) Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form by Scott McCloud, finished August 17
    Brilliant again, Mr McCloud. I have now reread all three volumes in his Blanking Comics series since beginning to keep track of my read books online.

    This book, though probably the least appreciated, may be the most important and impressive. And if that's not enough to get you to read it, it's only because you don't respect me as a person and I hate you.

    Or something.....

    Seriously, reading this book made me want to grab people and tell them to read it. The first half of this book, for instance, should not be read just by comicistas, but also by people trying to sell Mormon lit (to pick one example I'm rather intimately involved with these days). EVERYBODY NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK! Whatever your connection to the arts, literature, comics, publishing, the Internet or the future, this book is worth your time.

    (Besides: it's fun to be amazed at how prescient the author was in 2000. With the exception of micropayments, he's predicted the now almost perfectly.)

    An angry McCloud.

    (Also: don't miss the online appendices.)

    couple weeks, plus or minus one

072) The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories by Nicholas Gurewitch, finished August 12
    Yes, I admit: a lot of the humor is based in sex and violence. But it's brilliantly funny sex and violence. If that makes a difference.

    Just go here if you're interested. (The first thirty aren't in the book.)

    What I'm not sure of is where I had seen so many of them before.....

    One last comment: the opening comments from Frank's Jim Woodring are maybe misleading. Not because they are untrue but because they are written by Jim Woodring. And these strips are nothing like Woodring's work except they are brilliantly colored and endlessly bizarre.

    Hope that helps.

    few hours

071) The Dreamer by Will Eisner, finished August 12
    I would like to read much more of Eisner's work (including some Spirit before the movie comes out) and this was a delightful place to start. It's the tale of an (extremely) Eisner-like man during the Depression and his ascent in comics. Recommended. A nice short look at Eisner's realism if you're interested in trying it on for size.

    few hours


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