Now I'm remembering why I originally went with FIVE books at a time. All these broken-up book posts are overwhelming Thutopia. Last year I finished so few I forgot how overwhelming book writeups can get. This year I'm already on track to over double last year's numbers! Hhhhh.

017) Best American Comics 2010 edited by Neil Gaiman, finished February 12

Another great year for comics. Neil Gaiman did a great job --- only one entry in this volume that I didn't like. Although I was upset that the excerpt from Genesis was the one I had already read.....

over one month, under two


016) Little Bee by Chris Cleave, finished February 10

I don't know how I feel about this book. At times I was audibly groaning and rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath at the annoying games it was playing. Then it would gain my respect by not screwing me as badly as I expected. It over-relied on the character's dialectical quicks and only about 80% of the gimmicks it employed worked. It plays some Upton Sinclair games, but it's never so obvious that you end up feeling preached to.

Simply, this is a good book in most respects, with plenty more very good elements than irritating elements. A book I would expect most readers to love and towards which specific complaints are difficult to articulate. A book that lets me say both this is a writer to watch and a writer I wouldn't go out of my way to read again. (Though if you disagree, there's his first book and his columns.)

Here's the story: a Nigerian refugee and a British woman, due to a shared horror, come together and bounce around for a couple hundred pages.

It was the book chosen for the high school's parent/student/teacher book club which is how I came to read it. Maybe I'll say more after tonight. Maybe not. I now understand why the cover said nothing.

(Note: Club meeting was canceled.)

i think eight days


015) Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, finished February 2

I've been saying I'm done with Steinbeck. That someday I would read Travels with Charley and, since Lady Steed loves it so much, perhaps East of Eden, but unless I loved them, I was done. I was sick of his cheap violent endings and unless those two books --- which I figured had good odds of not matching what I had read before --- broke the trend, I was writing Steinbeck off forever.

Well I'm pleased to announce that Travels with Charley has been a terrific read.

Travels is the nonfiction yarn of an aging Steinbeck taking his dog and a truck with a camper on the back and hitting the roads c. 1960. He wants to reintroduce himself to America, to gain a fresh sense of this land he writes about. He starts by heading north into Maine, then back down and over over over till he arrives in the Pacific Northwest. Down to his hometown, then down through the Mojave, Texasward, to New Orleans than back north and home. Along the way, he draws a fascinating and tactile vision of America fifty years ago.

The most powerful section is at the end. He heads to the South because, at this moment in time, this is where History is happening. And the emotional impact contained in the few pages he spends on the South's turmoil is devastating and hopeful all at the same time. Marvelous stuff. I'ld like to share it with my classes.

Another even briefer scene that I hope has been anthologized in books of animal tales, is the run-in with a bear in Yellowstone. Classic stuff.

But all in all, it's just this look at a lost America that I love the most. I see things I recognize from my Idaho childhood, but things now lost forever --- bits of the American experience and the American character my kids will never know.

I'm grateful Steinbeck captured it for us.

(I began underlining passages to share early in my reading [page 38], but in the end, there are just too many to type up. I'm afraid you'll just have to read it yourself.)

perhaps six months


014) Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition Vol. I by Jeremy Bastian, finished January 31

I helped out early on this book's Kickstarter, fully expecting that it, like all other Kickstarter projects I've backed, would fail to meet its goal. Boy was I wrong. In the end, $36,017 were pledged towards its $2,500 goal. So my $27.27 disappeared and just before the new year, I got a beautiful book in the mail.

And I do mean beautiful. Given Bastian's intricate style, a single page requires hours of attention to puzzle out its details. Chris Ware says it takes a thousand times longer to make comics compared to reading them. With Bastian it could very well be ten thousand times.

But given my attention to line, I am not, at the end of my first reading, really very sure if the story is any good. Claims are noised about that this is the new Alice in Wonderland (a claim that gets thrown out every few years --- remember when they were saying it about Coraline?) and I get the comparison (more than I did for Coraline, actually), but besides being able to admit this is a fantastic absurd adventure, I can't comment on its overall quality. But I'm pretty sure it was good.

The art, at least, is worth the price of entry..

I was thinking about super-hi-rez-scanning a page in then giving you zoomins deeper and deeper, but it ends up I'm too lazy. So instead here's a picture from Cursed Pirate Girl I found online (click for source, a review of part of what I read pre-collected version):

almost exactly a month

Previously in 2011 . . . . :

013) Sweet Tooth: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
012) Sweet Tooth: Out of the Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
011) Essex County: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
010) Essex County: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29
009) Essex County: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29

008) Magdalene by Morah Jovan, finished January 27

007) Knightfall Part Two: Who Rules the Night by a slew of DC folk, finished January 23
006) Bayou by Jeremy Love, finished January 17

005) Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, finished January 10
004) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, finished January 6
003) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished January 5
002) Batman - Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, with lettering by the famous Todd Klein; finished January 4
001) Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil et al, finished January 2


  1. I tried reading Little Bee, but once we got into the affair business, I was done and gave up. It just felt like that character needed some conflict in their life, and so why not have an affair! It's the most original idea ever.

    Since you seem 'meh' about it, I doubt I'll give it a second chance. Good to know that I can scratch that 'what if?' off my list.

  2. .

    Yeah, I will say it's one of the better affairs I've ever read about, but I'm still in 100% agreement with you.

  3. Sweet! Just to clarify: It wasn't that it happened -- it was the part where the character starts talking about the whys of the affair that I gave up.

    I am curious about the first part of your statement...

  4. .

    It felt like this was an affair that would actually happen, rather than something engineered solely to fill space.