The 21st Five Books of 2008


105) The Brave & the Bold, Book 2
by Mark Waid et al, finished November 16
    Well, no question, this was my favorite of the four books I just borrowed from Mr Fob. Although there was an overall arching story, most of the chapters were self-contained stories. And instead of focusing on big characters (eg, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman), most of the stories dealt with little-known characters.

    Dial H for HeroBack when I was borrowing from the Fobster on a more regular basis and starting to understand what the DCU was all about, I could understand the greater mythological underpinnings that keep that boat afloat. But now that I'm back to being a casual taster, reading about less mytheavy characters such as The Doom Patrol and Metal Men is much more enjoyable --- these are characters free to be fun. And that's mostly what I want from my major-publisher superheros these days.

    That and highend Batman.

    three days

104) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, finished November 15
    The first, oh, 120 pages of this book were nice basic simple YA stuff --- nothing remarkable, nothing terrible. Then it settled into the most horribly boring stuff I've perhaps ever read. Three hundred pages of it. A week would go by and I would look at my nightstand for something to read and see this enormous black hardback and be totally stumped: What in the world is that? Am I reading that thing? So I would pick it up. Oh yeah. That.

    Starting around the baseball game (which strikes me as utterly unfilmable, by the way) the book got fun. Not actually good, but fun. And that lasted up to the epilogue which was totally gratuitous.

    I read this book because I had a paper idea (which the editor liked), but the idea of delving back into it makes me shudder. Anyone have a searchable copy they'll share? Otherwise I might not have the will to do this thing. So . . . tedious . . . .

    This is why I'd been avoiding reading these books anyway. I really wanted to like them and greatly feared I would not. Which is exactly what happened.


    month and a half, ish

103) Dali & I: The Surreal Story by Stan Lauryssens, finished November 15
    In brief: Stan becomes a lying thieving art dealer specializing, mostly, in fakes Dalís (although, as it ends up later, even genuine Dalis are actually fake Dalís). Then his crimes catch up with him.

    The scoop: the first twenty pages or so are among the most fun, most delightful, most kick-in-the-pants fun pages I've ever read. Then the books gets overwhelmingly tedious. And the author's 'redemption' never feels even 3% genuine. He's only ever sad he gets caught, nothing else.

    But what kept me going was learning about all the shady shenanigans that surrounded the Dalí art machine. That information was fascinating, but the fact that you never feel like the author is trustworthy, you can't be sure how much stock to place in his revelations. Did Dalí really have a giant dildo with the face of Hitler on it? Did he really pay a set designer to paint some of his most famous works? Did he really sell impressions of nudes' bottoms to the Vatican? Or is this the author's attempt at redemption: to show that someone else was even worse?

    I don't know.

    But I am much more sympathetic towards and understanding of the legions who dismiss Dalí as a fraud.

    A note on the forthcoming movie: Pacino, fine, whatever. But I hope we only ever see him in a wheelchair or hospital bed. I hope they use old footage and let Dalí speak for himself.

    A note on a better I-was-a-reallife-con book: Catch Me If You Can.

    Swans Reflecting Elephants

    three or four months

102) Brave & The Bold Vol. 1: Lords Of Luck by Mark Waid and George Pérez, finished November 13
    This is a silly book. But it is shamelessly silly --- it glories in its silliness. And that is exactly what silly should do.

    Waid also wrote the topnotch Kingdom Come so it's not that he is capable of nothing else. Instead, I imagine that this was more of a chance to wallow in geek pride and let his freak flag fly (as it were).

    And nicely done.

    Plus, it's a nice crash course in the DC Universe. This is the first time I've read a Lobo story, for instance, and who knew Hal Jordan was still alive? The things you learn!

    ten days

101) The Black Whole edited by Jacqueline M Jones, finished November 13
    This short story collection's faults are legion --- the typos are just the first you'll notice.

    The sad things is I think I would have liked this book fifteen years ago, back in high school, when I was more likely to equate tricksy endings with emotional depth..

    The book's back copy wars the reader to "remember that your tastes tomorrow will be much different than today's. More than that, though, what you read here will alter you just a tad, so that tomorrow you might re-read with a totally different eye, with totally different taste buds."

    Yeah. Hubris. Of the totally unjustified variety.

    Let me be nice for a while and say that some of the stories were not repellent. And many more were based on genuinely clever concepts, even if the execution was disastrous.

    Some examples of the good: The representation of dryads was appealing. I never saw dryads as being worth a writer's time, but I'm rethinking that. The vampire-who-eats-old-people was a nice twist on vampire stereotypes. The 9/11 story avoided the hackneyed (if barely). The woman who fell in half was genuinely startling and a good start to---

    This brings me to a new subject. The halved-woman story was written by the editor (her other two delivered diminishing returns). Editing an anthology and including oneself is always dicey and smacks of hubris itself. Being an editor on such an anthology myself, this collection gives me pause and will, I trust, lead to harder more critical looks.

    Anyway, this collection failed in its goals. It approximated them a few times, but ultimately, no dice. And the shocking mistakes (eg, the author whose byline doesn't match her name in the bio) don't help. I like to give bitty publishers the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes they won't let me. Alas.

    perhaps a month


  1. (Does that joke make any more sense now that you've read that book? I mean, surrealism and all, okay, I get it, but it's always fish, and such consistency--I dunno. I just don't get it. There must've been a fish somewhere, no?)

  2. Geez, Theric:

    If I'd known Twilight was going to make you shudder, I wouldn't have asked for your feedback on my essay (which, by the way, I greatly appreciate--it was very helpful). Oh, and if you find it too tedious to venture into that world again, I won't be too disappointed if I don't see something from you. I was looking forward to it though...

    Anyway...I do see where you're coming from. Not exceptional stuff by any means--not even really great. I really only thought the book was decent, but took an interest because everyone was raving about how awesome Stephenie Meyer is and I wanted to offer a more critical perspective on the "phenomenon." Hence the journal...and the article.

    I enjoyed Angel Falling Softly much more. I thought it was more literary--tightly written and carefully crafted (although I agree that the first 30 or so pages needed work), rooted in the genre, and more demanding of its readers as it grapples with serious ideas.

    Anyway, that's my two cents worth.

  3. .

    On my essay-writing thoughts, I'll write you when I get things a bit more worked out. I now have a much better idea than my original (which won't really work as I intended it), but it will require me to read all four volumes.

    I'm still mulling over that.

  4. .

    Really, fish weren't Dali's thing. If the joke were meant to make a Dalian sense, you might yell Elephant! or Giraffe! instead.

  5. Don't worry about reading the other three Twilight books. They go a lot faster because as a reader you pick up on SM's tropes and know when to scan. Really. By the beginning of the third book I hardly even registered all the beautiful eyes, cold lips, and steely chests.

    Oh, and I hope you didn't steal my article idea! ;)

  6. Re fish, giraffes, and elephants.

    In my family, it's "My watches are melting" when something's simply to surreal.

    Re Twilight

    I so want to explore all the dominant/submissive sexual undertones and why I think SM didn't know what she was writing and how she might have pulled that fantasy from church patriarchy...

    ...but I pretty much just did in about 26 words and I don't know that adding another 1000 words to that's gonna help any.

  7. .

    Well, to quote no doubt a thousand SMers, "More can't hurt. In a bad way, I mean."

  8. .

    I hope you're right, Laura. It's often hard for me to skim --- particularly fiction --- but you've just given me something to strive for.

  9. MoJo:

    I'd like to see you expand that 26 words into a thousand or so for utterly selfish reasons--as an editor, I want an essay from you (and from Theric; oh, and Laura, too, of course).

    So, consider the gauntlet thrown...

  10. So, consider the gauntlet thrown...

    Crap. I'm a sucker for a pretty gauntlet.

    I owe Adam an essay, too.

    Verification word: Nosch.

    No thanks. On a diet.

  11. .

    Crap. This means I have to read the other three books. Because my new topic isn't really even touched on in this book. Not sufficiently, anyway.....

  12. .

    [Edit: removed extraneous > form Previously Read in order that it will not be repeated in future issues.]