Funny pictures and scary pictures and thoughty Mormons


069) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, finished July 17

This is the first of the City Guard books and, of the ones I've read, the least. That said, it was still smart and funny. No one can turn a phrase like a Terry Pratchett character. No one. And it did make me want to plow through the rest. I started with a mediocre short story in his short story collection (he wasn't joking when he said he's less good at short stories; the quality varies, but has not yet reached the level of his novels), and we have a couple more in our collection I haven't gotten to yet. But I'm making a possible error and instead of making the next in-the-car book another Pratchett, I'm trying on something very very different.

I'll miss you, Discworld.
just over three months


068) Dial H: Into You by China Miéville et al, finished July 15

Dial H is based on one of the hokiest concepts in DC Comics history. And that's saying something. But it's been recreated here with intelligence. Yes, the hokey aspects remain, but somehow Miéville found a way to bring it up to the "normal realism" of superhero books. (Whatever that means.)

Must be a fun book to write (and draw), being able to make up new characters---as absurd as you like---for each issue. Some are pretty great and I can imagine fans demanding to see more of them. Others are . . . hokey. And they do seem to run out of ideas now and then (the number of characters that, instead of arms, have everyday objects is striking), but still. It's fun.

One thing I like about this particular collection, is that after the first story ended, it included two other stories with very different flavors. Sure this happens a lot in The New 52, but these ones actually function to build the world rather than feeling like the writer needed a week off. The final story in particular, sending the Dial far back in time and introducing a sensible explanation with accompanying threat for those who use it, raises the stakes in a reasonable, manageable way. In short, pretty good stuff. One of the better New 52s I've read.



067) Benny Breakiron: The Red Taxis by Peyo, finished July 15

I've never read anything by the creator of the Smurfs, as I recall. This book is sort of a cross between Superman, Tintin, and Richie Rich. I think that's the best way to describe it.

Fun book. Very midcentury European. Very kid.

New to the U.S.



066) Bossypants by Tina Fey, finished July 14

If you love Tina Fey as we love Tina Fey, you will love this book as we love this book.

(Lynsey read it when it was new, then returned it to the library instantly, before I could touch it. So we got to have Tina read it to us over a couple long drives instead.)
a week


065) Liberating Form: Mormon Essays on Religion and Literature by Marden J. Clark, finished July 12

I received a copy of this as part of the booty (or pretty much "the booty) with my AML Award and have picked up another copy since. They seem to float around Mormon arts circles.

Anyway, it was great. You can get a taste of what it's like by reading this abbreviated form of the title essay as published in the Ensign, 1977. It leaves out Flannery O'Connor, but includes the sonnet. That part of the essay I often share with my AP classes. It's good stuff.

Anyway, having taken so long to finish the book, I've forgotten most of what I wanted to say about it. Which was a lot. He talks about literature and religion and society and specific works of art and life and academics and . . . he talks about a lot of stuff. But it all centers around the paradox hinted at in the title: how limiting forms set us free.

It's a wonderful book and I commend it to you. In fact, if you want to swing by, I'll give you my extra copy.

The only sad thing about this book is that it's barely aged at all. Published in 1992, collecting essays that go back decades, and still very much the conversation we're having today.


Well. At least we can still read what the best minds have had to say. Let's start there.
maybe five years


064) The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope and J. T. Petty and David Rubín, finished July 12

This is a prequel to Battling Boy (see below) starring that novel's other young hero. As a prequel, I would call it a great success. It connects to book one in useful, intelligent, unexpected ways. In other words, it's not gratuitous.

We meet Aurora's parents in more detail. And if her father is "Batman without the baggage," well, Aurora's mother was killed and her father will die in Battling Boy. She gets to bring the baggage.

Pope only wrote this book. The art apes Pope's style ably, but it does feel like an aping---character's eyes are misplaced, but it doesn't feel like Pope's chaotic, black-smudged impressionism. It feels like a knockoff.

Still. It was pretty great. I'm looking forward to an addition to this series come October (a sequel to this book, not Battling Boy).

two days


063) Battling Boy by Paul Pope, finished July 11

I read this a year ago. It totally holds up.

I love the humanity of the monstrous villains, how prosaic the edges of their lives.

I love the youthfulness of the young heros

Man is Pope something.
one day


062) The Last Days of Video by Jeremy Hawkins, finished July 6

(Awesome cover, right?)

It's 2007 and the college-town video store is unwittingly being hunted by Netflix and the obsolete-itself behemoth Blockbuster. But it's a great place to work if you love movies and have a tough time with people. And after the novel has ended, its some of those employees that are what linger. I had some issues with this novel, but I did love some of these stuck souls.

Plus, the references they provide the reader to film would certainly fill your summer schedule.

The novel is a bit sloppy at times---for instance, we're told that one character talks "like a smoker" then, at the bottom of a page, he smokes. Suddenly his voice is a lot less mysterious. This "like a smoker" this is less a simile . . . and more like . . . a fact.

That example comes from the final third of the novel which is the sloppiest. It feels insufficiently redrafted, almost as if the original was trashed late in the process and this was rushed in to fill its space. That final third is also the most self-aware though that's largely redeemed as things continue to move forward.

The epiloguey final pages revealed to me something I had not realized tho this point---what I mentioned above---that Hawking had introduced me to people I'd thought I'l known but hadn't, not really. And now I did. Now I did know them. This section went on a bit long, but I can forgive it. It took me this long to build sufficient empathy. It must have been hard for Hawkins to let go.
a small number of weeks


061) Arabel's Raven by Joan Aiken, finished July 3

[Note that my judgment of this book might not be fair. I slept through the middle half as it ran through our car's speakers.]

With a cover illustration by Quentin Blake, you have to assume the publisher's trying to sell us some substitute Roald Dahl. And a lot of the basic traits are the same. Young protagonist. Over-the-top adults. Fantastic situations. But (at least in the first story) these elements do not congeal. For instance, Arabel's mother is not internally consistent. You can be absolutely insane, larger than life, ridiculous---but you need to be consistent within thyself, O character.

Some elements work great (the raven eats stairs! meat-colored tiles! another example I've forgotten!) but ultimately it's just not magic. I think the primary problem is that Arabel's not an important character. The story abandons her for long stretches, she never actually does anything, she's not connected to the resolutions, she has very little character or personality. Yet we're supposed to care about her because, being the only child in a children's story, she's the nominal hero.

And somehow this merited a dozen sequels? Did they get better?
during our drive south


060) Templar by Jordan Mechner and Alex Puvilland and LeUyen Pham, finished July 2

For a book with wonderful action sequences and breakneck pacing and interesting characters, I found myself bored silly. Then I read an essay by Mette Ivie Harrison and it explained to me exactly the problem with this graphic novel. In fact, it predicted who would die in the penultimate scene.

The moral of the story is plotting according to preordained rules results in something a bit lifeless, no matter how well it's constructed.

There was a lot to like here, but your time's better spent with Mette's essay.


059) Heaven Knows Why! by Samuel W. Taylor, finished June 26

When Taylor's novel was first serialized in 1948 as The Mysterious Way in Collier's (see the layout of parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6), it passed before the eyes of millions of Americans. This was the first nonpioneer Mormon-charactered (contemporary) novel published for a national audience. The action takes place a long-day's drive from Salt Lake City and when it first came out, its geography became a matter of some debate among the Saints as to who was whom and where was where. Taylor, of course, rolled his eyes and happily defined the word fiction for any who asked.

Anyway. Millions of readers did not translate into bestseller status when it was rereleased under the "improved" title in book form (though it did fine and got good reviews). It would be republished a couple times over the decades. My copy (pictured) is a 1994 Aspen Books rerelease which Taylor says he was talked into by Richard Cracroft (though I suspect his intro was originally penned for a c. 1980 publication). Cracroft called it "the best Mormon comic novel to date" and he says that it's still the only humorous Mormon novel. (This claim is why I think the intro is older than the publication date. By this time Curtis Taylor's The Invisible Saint was out not to mention Joni Hilton's Relief Society novels and Orson Scott Card's Hatrack River was publishing stuff like Paradise Vue. So 1994 would be a crazy time to make that claim. But whatever.)

The important question though is this one: Does the novel hold up, almost seventy years later?

The story has a brilliant bit of innovation by starting with a deus ex machina, then having the characters work through the mess that engenders. Old Moroni Skinner is up in heaven (heaven, incidentally, is a satire of midcentury American capitalism and has not aged as well as the rest of the novel) concerned with his grandson who's grown up to be the valley trash. He files the paperwork to make a visitation and so he does, making it up as he goes, dropping in on the town apostate and telling his grandson to marry the bishop's daughter (who is engaged to be married the very next day, unbeknownst to Moroni). And this descends chaos in the form of crazy and coincidence, capturing the very best elements of the comedies of Dickens and Shakespeare. It is exquisitely engineered. The characters are sharp and tear off the page in into the imagination. The hurdles to our protagonist's success just got greater and greater. And somehow---comedy!---it all works out in the end. (Unless you include the final chapter which returns us to heaven and adds on a painfully heavy dose of predestination to the mix.)

In short, this is a terrific look at midcentury Mormon-corridor Mormonism with its uncertain relationship with the Word of Wisdom and heldover pioneer-era Churchhierarchies and living breathing human beings.

Sp does it hold up? Yes. Most certainly yet. I may not have laughed on every page like Cracroft, but it was a fun, fun ride.

originally posted on motley vision
five days

Previously in 2014 . . . . :

Books fifty-sixth through fifty-eighth
058) Itself by Rae Armantrout, finished June 21
057) Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry by John Frederick Nims and David Mason, finished June 19
056) Matilda by Roald Dahl, finished June 15

Books fifty-second through fifty-fifth
055) Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil, finished June 14
054) Star Wars Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika by Mike Kennedy and Carlos Meglia and whoever, finished June 12
053) Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City by by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (et al), finished June 11
052) Deadpool's Art of War by Peter David and Scott Koblish, finished June 10

Books forty-sixth through fifty-first
051) Men of Wrath by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney, finished June 10
050) X-Men: No More Humans by Mike Carey & Salvador Larroca & al., finished June 9
049) Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, finished June 9
048) Miracleman Book 2: The Red King Syndrome by Alan Moore (not credited by name) and a bunch of other people, finished June 6
047) Coffin Hill: Dark Endeavors by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 6
046) Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 4

Books forty-second through forty-fifth
045) Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley, finished at midnight so either June 2 or 3
044) The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami and translated by Ted Goossen, finished June 2
043) The Round House by Louise Erdich, finished June 1
042) Best American Comics 2014 edited by Scott McCloud, finished May 31

Books thirty-seventh through forty-first
041) The Brothers K by David James Duncan, finished May 18
040) Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, finished May 18
039) Skandalon by Julie Maron, finished May 1
038) The Final Story by Jeff Shaara, finished April 29
037) Shutter Volume 1: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca et al, finished April 29

Books thirty-second through thirty-sixth
036) The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis, finished April 27
035) Zero Volume 1: An Emergency by Ales Kot et al, finished April 22
034) Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth by Rick Remender, finished April 19
033) Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species by Jeff Lemire et al, finished April 17
032) Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder by Charles Soule et al, finished April 15

Books twenty-eighth through thirty-first
031) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, finished April 6
030) The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith, finished April 2
029) The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin, finished March 29
028) Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits edited by John Maloof, finished March 23

Books twenty-sixth through twenty-seventh
027) Passing by Nella Larsen, finished March 18
026) Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, finished March 17

Books twenty-second through twenty-fifth
025) Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, finished March 16
024) Hawkeye: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction and some very talented artists, finished March 15
023) Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction and a large number of artists, finished March 14
022) Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja and Javier Pulido, finished March 12

Books twentienth through twenty-first
021) Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan, finished March 11
020) Babymouse #8: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished March 11

Books sixteenth through ninteenth
019) The Book of Mormon, finished March 3
018) Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos, finished March 1
017) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, finished February 26
016) Drawings II by Jake Parker, finished February 19

Books twelfth through fifteenth
015) The PreHistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson, finished February 18
014) Nation by Terry Pratchett, finished February 16
013) Fences by August Wilson, finished February 10
012) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished February 6

Books tenth through eleventh
011) Adverbs by Daniel Handler, finished February 4
010) Death by Chocolate: Redux by David Yurkovich, finished February 3

Books sixth through ninth
009) The End of the World by Don Hertzfeldt, finished January 31
008) Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, finished January 24
007) Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, finished January 18
006) Cardboard by Doug TenNaple, finished January 15

Books first through fifth
005) The Complete Peanuts: 1991-1992 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 10
004) City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus, finished January 9
003) Harem Scarem in El Cerrito by Neva Calvert Carpenter, finished January 4
002) iPlates Volume II: Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 4
001) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 3

final booky posts of

2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007

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