(featuring Lucas, Steinbeck, Maupin, Woodbury and the Allreds)


080) Madman Gargantua by Mike Allred with Laura Allred, finished September 9
    I've been aware of Madman for a very long time---probably since, roughly, the time it went to color. But I never picked one up and read it, except a Madman/Superman crossover at the Provo Library that I started but didn't get, so put back on the shelf.

    "Getting" Madman can be a bit tricky. And I was well into this tome's 800-plus pages before I really caught the rhythm. But once I did---wow! I can see why people are so enthusiastic about it.

    I first started thinking about Madman again because of a post Ken Jenning's wrote that Mr Fob referred me to as I was writing my Motley Vision post on comics.

    As I wrote and read and talked with other comics people, I decided that the only way to start into Madman was to buy the book I've just read. Problem: it costs $125 retail. Which is, say it with me, a crapload of money.

    But things fell into line all at once. Ken wrote me about the post and mentioned some other things I suddenly had to read (and were in the big book). My mother-in-law gave me giftcardery to BnN. BnN online had a retailer selling the big book for $60. Which is still the most I've spent on a single volume since college textbooks, but I did it. And I don't regret it.

    Most of the reviews quoted within the book cite the books manic pop-sensibility. Sure. You betcha. But I'm much more interested in the Mormon philosophy. Not so much the shoutouts to the Three Nephites (mere throwaway references, really---they could be anybody), but the lead's delving into questions that have a very Mormon flavor, and his arriving at very Mormon-sounding answers.

    Allredian Madman

    My only complaint about this book is that even when on the cusp of 900 pages, it's still not enough. It doesn't have the preMadman Frank Einstein. It doesn't have the crossovers (eg, the Superman one). And, most awful but most forgivable, it doesn't have the new stuff. Crap. This means more money leaving my pockets.

    Let me know when the collections start being released.... Because I really want to read the wedding scene.

    In the meantime, I'll let you know as soon as I find and watch my dvd of G-Men from Hell.

    under a month

Star Wars paperback from my library. 079) Star Wars by George Lucas, finished September 9
    Yep, it's about as poorly written as you'ld imagine. But, especially at the beginning, there was something so wonderful about reading the book and have the movie play out in my mind.

    I haven't watched Star Wars, I'm pretty sure, in over ten years. But it's still deep in my psyche and I loved reading this book, no matter how lightweight it was. And it was also fun to note the differences and see proof that the Star Wars universe of 1976 (the book's copyright date) didn't have things like midichlorians (not surprising), the Luke/Leia sibling connection as revealed in later films (not that surprising either), or the correct face of Chewbacca (pretty surprising). More interesting were ways in which Obi-Wan isn't much like Alec Guiness or Han Solo like Harrison Ford.

    This merits saying: George Lucas was crazy lucky to have the cast he had---especially Ford. Some of those lines, removed from the actors' delivery, are just ridiculous. Without the in-front-of-the-camera talent the film had, it would have been a disaster. Lucky Lucas.

    Lucky us.

    since last October

078) Angel Falling Softly by Eugene Woodbury, finished September 1
    I renoticed early on in reading this book (as I've noticed and renoticed with other LDS fiction) that I tend to be hypersensitive to others' depictions of the Church and its membership. But unlike the atrocities in Miss Misery, I force myself to recognize my experiences are not universal and a book's version of things must be valid when the author is as LDS as Theric is.

    Angle Falling SoftlyProbably my main issue of this sort in AFS was in the depictions of Rachel, "the bishop's wife" (see more here). Whos she seemed to be and who she was expositorially described to be did not mesh for dozens and dozens of pages. For a long time, I feared my report on this book would read like the thesaurus entry for disappointment.

    Disappointment was, after all, my first experience with a Zarahemla-published book. I pulled my punches when I reviewed Brother Brigham because, at the time, I had a working relationship with Zarahemla myself (although this hasn't stopped BB's author from publicly blasting me as an unskilled reader and an elitist; his wild-eyed insistence that only story matters and quality of writing be damned suggests I should not introduce him to my brother). That bookshared a lot of qualities with this one, notably the collision of Normal Utah Mormons with old Halloween standbys. (though I rush to point out that the halting beginning of AFS was only a problem with the beginning).

    In theory, I don't have anything against this juxtaposition of Mormon and monster. In fact, I think it's exciting and fascinating and a marvelous challenge for the LDS writer. In a world where a hand to the square takes care of most anything, how to scare me with the supernatural?

    Woodbury's solution is to remove the supernatural from the equation entirely. His vampires are purely natural (although in a wholly unlikely manner--but hey! this is fiction! suspend your disbelief!)

    Since I've already gone on in some length about this book, I'll stop before I fill up too much more space. I hope some of you will read it so we can talk about it. It's a book that welcomes discussion.

    since late the previous week

077) The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin finished August 29
    Postmodern commentary:

    So I picked up this book after Lady Steed left me. I had seen it around and when I opened the cover and discovered, holy crap, it was dedicated to me, that I had to read it. So I bloody well did. Although I took some breaks for casual truckstop sex and for the deaths of several relatives. And to answer the phone.

    When I finished the book, Lady Steed turned towards me in bed and said, How was it?

    Pretty good, I said. Pretty good.

    about a week

076) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, finished August 25
    It's been over fifteen years since I read this book and developed an everlasting hatred for it. I'm only reading it now because I have to make my sophomores read it (I'm giving them two days). My take now?

    It's extremely well crafted. It offers a litany of human suffering. It's perfect in its concision. It's excellent in many, many ways.

    And it's a total downer.

    Freaking Steinbeck....

    two days



  1. .

    You bet.

    Do want to insure that borrowing?

  2. That's a very apt description of the Steinbeck. And now that I'm partially through Understanding Comics, I'm feeling decidedly less cultured that I've never read any comics and/or graphic novels.

    Suggestions for a starting place? (Preferably something that's a quick read, so I can actually read something for enjoyment in the midst of all this theory reading I'm doing . . .)

  3. Oh, also re: Steinbeck . . . in college, I had a business major friend who took an American Lit class with me for fun. After reading Steinbeck, she declared it to be a miracle that so many English majors make it out of their program alive . . .

  4. .

    Confuzzled, this. I particularly recommend Jimmy Corrigan, Blankets, Maus, American Born Chinese, and Persepolis (to narrow it down to five).


    My next Steinbeck will be Travels with Charlie. And I swear if the dog dies I am NEVER reading East of Eden or the Grapes of Wrath.

  5. I just realized I'll be reading Persepolis for one of my classes! Look at that . . . I generally avoid looking farther than a month ahead in any of my syllabi, lest I should feel overwhelmed and suffer a complete breakdown.

    Hmm . . . I'll have to see if the library has any of your other recommendations . . .

  6. .

    The more time goes on, the less I think of The Night Listener. All its virtues are diminished by an overreliance on tired tropes of postmodernism. Shame. It could have been a good novel.