110) The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, finished December 2
- Everything that I complained about the last Minx book I read is remedied in this beautiful book.
First of all, every cliché in this book is shattered almost before it hits your eyes. Even the evil popular girl is a fully realized human character. And her humanity reflects well upon her father who is the book's closest thing to cardboard.
Then the story, although at times it almost tastes like a typical teen empowerment tale, never succumbs to the temptations of lameness. From the first page, we are somewhere new and real and striking.
Page one: a bomb goes off.
Page fifteen: a girl rejects popularity for the weird crowd.
Page twenty-three: boy in coma.
Page seventeen: math.
And meanwhile, the art is dropping hints so subtly you don't realize you've caught them until they matter.
So kudos to Jim Rugg whose art this is (and forgive me, but the protagonist's face is the loveliest bit of ink I've seen in some time), and kudos to Cecil Castellucci whose words are the genesis of this terrific terrific book. (Worth mentioning: Cecil is a girl.) This gives me great hope for the Minx imprint. (Or did until Mr Fob sent me here.) Also: want to read the sequel.
(DC: contact me here if you change your mind)
109) Re-Gifters by Mike Carey et al, finished December 2
- Re-Gifted is published by Minx, DC's "graphic novel imprint designed exclusively for teenage girls." When a (male) student saw me reading it today, he told me how great it was. He's a strikingly literate 15-year-old and so I was surprised. Because the first three quarters of this book pile on cliché after cliché --- this is the work of multiple-Eisner-nominee garnerers? (Then add to that the weirdly off Koreanisms [just off enough that they are wrong, but few so wrong so's to make them obviously not mere editing errors] and you've got something I can barely stomach.) Also, I have a problem with the book's manga-derived drawing mannerisms that prevent me from determining if the protagonist is 12 or 17 --- rather an important distinction. If the words solved this riddle, fine, but they don't. And that's not all! The class the above-mentioned kid is in is currently reading the Scottish play and we talk about the purpose of every single scene. But what purpose the breakfast scene in this book? Answer: none.
But, redemption!, this book pulls itself out of the morass in the final pages. How? With the unclever application of a couple more clichés. But these clichés replace the expected clichés and somehow the final result is quite charming. So bully for the creators. Way to go, guys. [Note: they are, in fact, guys. As are most of the creators of extant Minx titles.]
108) Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater, finished November 30
- The Big O got this book for Christmas last year and we started it almost immediately afterward, but even though he himself was a penguin, he never really got into it and we didn't finish it till today. (And only today because he wanted to start Christmas Carol again. I don't know why. It's a classic; it has penguins --- we parents thought we had nailed the book present, but instead, we nearly killed the reading aloud of chapter books in the Thteed household.
The book hasn't aged that well from my perspective. I like the illustrations a lot, but the book itself is pretty silly. As a cultural snapshot of Depression-era America, good; as literature, lacking.
The Big O's: "It was pretty good. I liked the whole thing. All the favorite parts were all of it. Can we read Mr Popper's Penguins next year?"
So maybe I'm totally off in all I've said before.
over eleven months
107) Old School by Tobias Wolff, finished November 28
- I've been avoiding this book since it came out five years ago. And then, when Lady Steed read it for her book club and she told me I would like it, I kept avoiding it. Obviously, she finally prevailed upon me, but if the first five pages hadn't been so well written, it wouldn't have happened.
What did I have against a book I had never even read? Well! It's a book by an english major written for other english majors who need affirmation for being an english major. It's self-stroker, in other words. And although I love reading about writers as much as the next writer, I generally feel like it's a copout. Especially when being a writer is all the story's about. Add to that the fact that this book takes place among dinner-jacketed private school boys in the woods Back East, and why would I deign to read it?
But the first few pages were fun and delightful and on I read.
I've spent sometime finding old interviews with Wolff about this book and they all discuss things he has in common with this book's protagonist, but never did an interviewer ask where real life and fiction diverged. So I'm left wondering: is this 100%/95%/75%/50% true? How much? (This is something else that irritates me: when the memoir/novel divide is indistinguishable.)
But still: I enjoyed the book quite a lot. Clear till the end. At the end (spoiler alert), the protagonist retells a story he heard in a bar in a manner that requires us to believe his retelling can only reflect the as-heard version in the most surface of ways. And at the end it is revealed that this bar story is a metaphor for the entire book and, instead of the book ending properly, the metaphor's ending does double duty.
Although not an inherently evil technique, I didn't like this ending much. But the book is good. Just feel free to set it down when the Hemingway portion ends.
(Incidentally, the depictions of Hemingway and even more Rand and most of all Frost in this book are marvelous. Kudos, Mr Wolff, on those resurrections.)
over a week
106) Madman Atomic Comics Volume 1 by Mike Allred et al, finished November 23
- The cover of this book, in big letters, screams "EXISTENTIAL EXISTS!" I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I think it's accurate.
This is one weird book.
For instance, my favorite part (artwise) is the section where Madman and his guide travel through dozens of artistic styles in the search for truth. One minute their in a Peanuts strip, then they look drawn by Herriman. Or Kirby! Or Tex Avery! Look, they're straight out of Popeye! No, Tintin! Lil Abner/Lulu/Nemo! Archie! Dr Seuss! Sendak! That one New Yorker guy! Prince Valiant! Groening! Crumb! And so on. It's a tour de force of comic history, but (on first read at least) distracting from the story at hand. Perhaps when I read this again it will mean more. Hard to say.
If you've been following my relationship with Madman since I first wrote about him, you may well know that I've been anxiously awaiting his LDS-templesque marriage for some time. It arrived on the final page of this volume but in such a perplexing manner, I don't know how I feel about it. As Allred says himself in some afterwordy notes, I just don't know if it "is a happy ending, or a numbing tragedy". Curse you, Allred. I've a long ways to go before volume two arrives and I have a strict not-paying-for-single-issues policy. (Which, I might add, may well be vital to the health of my marriage.)
One problem I met in this volume is the sudden appearance of the Atomics superhero team. Their backstories were not part of the Gargantuan and so their appearance here didn't fly. In part because they didn't behave like developed characters and I didn't know them from before (ie, they are not my friends). In fact, some of their lines are ludicrous, as if the author merely needed to give them all a speaking role as per union regulations, or he just had more characters on stage than he could handle at once. Perhaps this is part of the Atomics' manner of interaction, but I don't know them so I can't say.
I will say this: I appreciate ambition (of which plenty is on display here) and I trust Allred enough to keep reading. I trust that he will arrive somewhere after a full book with little but upheaval. I'm still willing to be impressed, my mind blown, but that experience is on pause until the next volume of Madman Atomic Comics comes out.
I will strive to be patient.
a few weeks
105) The Brave & the Bold, Book 2 by Mark Waid et al, finished November 16
104) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, finished November 15
103) Dali & I: The Surreal Story by Stan Lauryssens, finished November 15
102) Brave & The Bold Vol. 1: Lords Of Luck by Mark Waid and George Pérez, finished November 13
101) The Black Whole edited by Jacqueline M Jones, finished November 13
100) Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin, finished November 10
099) Batman and Son by Grant Morrison et al, finished November 9
098) The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, finished November 7
097) Manhunter Vol. 1: Street Justice by Marc Andreyko et al, finished November 4
096) Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can't Kick Militarism by Joel Andreas, finished November 4
095) Our America: Life And Death On The South Side Of Chicago by by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman with David Isay, finished October 22
094) Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt, finished October 21
093) Carrie by Stephen King, finished October 14
092) Barnaby by Crockett Johnson, finished October 9
091) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, finished October 8
090) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, finished October 6
089) The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, finished October 3
088) Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark, finished October 1
087) Concrete: Fragile Creature by Paul Chadwick, finished September 28
086) Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, finished September 27
085) A Lion and a Lamb by Rand H. Packer, finished September 20
084) What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills, finished September 20
083) The Lost Ones by Steve Niles et al, finished September 18
082) Dorian by Nephi Anderson, finished September 17
081) If You Want to Scare Yourself by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, translated by Rene Vera Cafiero, with illustrations by Helga Spiess; finished September 12
080) Madman Gargantua by Mike Allred with Laura Allred, finished September 9
079) Star Wars by George Lucas, finished September 9
078) Angel Falling Softly by Eugene Woodbury, finished September 1
077) The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin finished August 29
076) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, finished August 25
075) Added Upon by Nephi Anderson, finished August 24
074) The Last Flower by James Thurber, finished August 19
073) Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form by Scott McCloud, finished August 17
072) The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories by Nicholas Gurewitch, finished August 12
071) The Dreamer by Will Eisner, finished August 12
070) The Blot by Tom Neely, finished August 6
069) Strange Stories for Strange Kids edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished August 6
068) Survival Rates by Mary Clyde, finished July 30
067) A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux, translated by Marina Harss, finished July 29
066) Lehi in the Desert & The World of the Jaredites by Hugh Nibley, Ph. D., finished July 29
065) A Son Is Forever by various, finished July 29
064) Good ol' Snoopy by Charles M. Schultz, finished July 13
063) Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi, finished July 13
062) A Doré Treasury edited by James Stevens, finished July 12?
061) Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; finished July 8
060) The Enoch Letters by Neal A. Maxwell, finished July
059) Sock Monkey: The Inches Incident by Tony Millionaire, finished July 3
058) The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 by Thomas Ott, finished July 2
057) Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi, finished July 1
056) 300 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, finished June 16
055) Fox Bunny Funny by Andy Hartzell, finished June 16
054) Where Did I Leave My Glasses?: The What, When, and Why of Normal Memory Loss by Martha Weinman Lear, finished June 15
053) The Mystery Guest by Grégoire Bouillier, trans. Lorin Stein, finished June 14
052) The Legend of Spud Murphy by Eoin Colfer, finished June 10
051) Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood, finished June 10
050) Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney's, Humor Category edited by D. Eggers, K. Shay, L. Epstein, J. Warner and S. Kleid, finished June 9
049) Bikeman by Thomas F. Flynn, finished June 5
048) Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, finished June 5
047) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, finished June 2
046) Sixty Poems by Charles Simic, finished May 30
045) Replay by Ken Grimwood, finished May 28
044) The Age of the Conglomerates: A Novel of the Future by Thomas Nevins, finished May 27
043) W;t by Margaret Edson, finished April 19
042) Halo and Sprocket Volume 1: Welcome to Humanity by Kerry Cullen, finished May 17
041) Storm Front by Jim Butcher, finished May 16
040) 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, finished May 9
039) I Am the President of Ice Cream by Geoff Sebesta, finished May 4
038) On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, finished May 3
037) The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, finished May Day
036) The Drifting Classroom Vol. 1 by Kazuo Umezu, finished April 30
035) The Complete Peanuts 1965 - 1966 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 29
034) Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E Volume 1: This Is What They Want by Warren Ellis et Stuart Immonen et al, finished April 29
033) Batman: Hush, Vol. 2 by Jeph Loeb et al, finished April 29
032) Batman: Hush, Vol. 1 by Jeph Loeb et al, finished April 28
031) Chéri by Colette, finished April 17
030) Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett, finished April 13
029) Animal Farm by George Orwell, finished April 8
028) Macbeth by William Shakespeare, finished April 7
027) On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell, finished April 4
026) The Great American Citizenship Quiz: Can You Pass Your Own Country's Citizenship Test? by Solomon M. Skolnick, finished March 23
025) Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 23
024) The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, finished March 21
023) Robot Dreams by Sara Varon, finished March 10
022) The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 9
021) Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, finished March 7
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
The First Five ( 001 / 005 )
The Second Five ( 005 / 010 )
The Third Five ( 011 / 015 )
The Fourth Five ( 016 / 020 )
The Fifth Five ( 021 / 025 )
The Sixth Five ( 026 / 030 )
The Seventh Five ( 031 / 035 )
The Eighth Five ( 036 / 040 )
The Ninth Five ( 041 / 045 )
The Tenth Five ( 046 / 050)
The Eleventh Five ( 051 / 055)
The Twelfth Five ( 056 / 060)
The Thirteenth Five ( 061 / 065)
The Fourteenth Five ( 066 / 070)
The Fifteenth Five ( 071 / 075)
The Sixteenth Five ( 076 / 080)
The Seventeenth Five ( 081 / 085)
The Eighteenth Five ( 086 / 090)
The Nineteenth Five ( 091 / 095)
The Twentieth Five ( 091 / 095)