2018-07-27

High-quality reading

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051) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, finished July 18

Similar to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I suspect my experience was improved by knowing nothing before opening the first page. This was made easier by the edition I own (linked) which gives nothing away outside the novel's first sentence.

That said, like We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, this is a moving and beautiful book that I've no doubt would hold up to multiple readings. And, thus, knowing about the story before you dig in won't prevent you from having a marvelous experience. It will just take away the one specific experience of having it unfold into your ignorance, which is like a luminescent flowing blooming in darkness.

Anyway, the rest of this, in small text, is spoilery. The only nonspoilery comment I have left is this: a couple times Patchett didn't use the subjunctive and it was jarring. Her writing is so beautiful and I don't understand the choice. But that's the biggest negative I have.

Art overcomes violence, but only if you're listening.

Although time is stretched out, Aristotle's views on place are respected.

The epilogue is a bit haunting because it makes sense and is right yet is utterly wrong.

Lady Steed and I read this book simultaneously, but she missed (or forgot) the early first-chapter telling of how it would end. Her experience, thus, was quite different from mine.

This novel shows that we are all the same but our world will always keep us apart. And that's our tragedy.
maybe three weeks


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052) Hostage by Guy Delisle, finished July 21

This is an as-told-to memoir in comics form. It took the artist fifteen years to make this book, and no wonder. It's over 400 pages long, and although the art is reasonably simple and clean and single-color, it's still over 400 pages of drawings. Each of which has to be carefully blocked. When your main character spends most of his time handcuffed in place, you have to be excellent at your craft to keep it interesting and to continue building tension all the way through.

Christophe, the hostage, has to work to keep his sanity, and he makes some good decisions in that regard. I don't know how I would do in that respect---no one does, of course, not until it happens. We watch him live alone with his mind and minimal human contact. Unless you followed the story closely in 1997, you're not apt to know what'll happen next. And, of course, neither does Christophe. We at least know he will live but how is a mystery.

And thus the pages fly by, as we're trapped in the corner of a room.
three or four days


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053) The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, finished July 22

So the world was created by Kiddo and she was pleased with her work. But her father saw it was distressed by these human things. For many reasons, but primarily because they did not know of him and his greatness and so he took over the world and took to making things right.

That's the prologue.

Now we are in this fallen world with a violent patriarchal religion. The entire book is, in some respect, simple satire of our world run by men. But its mix of over-the-top grotesquery and silliness makes the book feel less dangerous. But in fact, it's those two elements that make it so very dangerous.

The basic conceit is that of Scheherazade---women telling stories in order to save themselves. The copyright page gives credit to two of the stories as being based on folktales (I only recognized the source of one of these stories---and it wasn't either of those). At first the stories don't seem particularly connected, but as the nights go one, storytellers are found within storytellers and they all start to fit together into a larger tapestry of beauty. The finale is tragic and beautiful and hopeful and fitting and satisfying.

The art, in terms of character design and perspective, is frequently reminiscent of medieval tapestries and illuminated manuscripts, which is appropriate. Greenberg also has the interesting quirk of just smearing ink over her drawings. I don't know why it works, but it does work. The drawings and witty and correct and quite wonderful. Their simplicity of design and color make even the more horribly moments lovely and welcoming. Which is also appropriate as one of the book's messages is we can find our heroism in our tragedies. Tragedy, perhaps, is less something to fear, but a step towards a world we would wish to live in.


I have Greenberg's first book already on hold at the library.
two nights


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054) Paper Girls, Vol 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, finished July 24

The hits just keep coming! This is my favorite ongoing book. (Not that I'm so well read, or anything.)

two days


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055) Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton, finished July 25

(The 2015 version, not the 1982 version.)

You'll know Sandra Boynton as the author of children's book although you may, like me, have never read one until you were wellll beyond the intended audience. And it took a few bumpings into her to arrive at the conclusion that I liked her work.

This book is a much clearer view into what makes her wit work. A nonfiction ode to chocolate, it's full of facts, but unfearful to be funny. And not stand-up funny---no, she's much slier than that. Some dumb puns, sure, but the best jokes are buried and easy to overlook. Read the recipes carefully, for instance. She'll reward you for your care.

one day


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056) [Aelian's] On the Nature of Animals translated by Gregory McNamee, finished July 27

I found this through a review in The Believer and I got it from the library without intending to read the entire thing. But I did! It was delightful! Short bursts of facts (or "facts") about animals from an old Roman's best research. Sometimes it's dead wrong (lions most certainly do NOT respect their elders), but even then there is something beautiful about the outlook we humans had in our ignorance. It gives me hope.

And while I have a couple questions about bolding choices, overall, props to Anne Richmond Boston for her wonderful design of the book. It was a please to hold, to skim, to read, to have around. Well done, Anne!

many weeks


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057) Blue Yodel by Ansel Alkins, finished July 27

I picked the book up from the library on the strength of one poem that showed up in my Twitter feed (included at the bottom of this review). I'm a sucker for good Eden poetry and this one is excellent. I don't think she's Mormon, but it definitely scratched my Mormon itches.

The collection is short but quality. Like Claire Ã…kebrand's recent book, I was struck by the repetition of images. Here it's wolves and corpses and a lot of other dark stuff that stick out, but hey---it works. She takes some daring chances, digging into stuff like the historical violence of American race relations, and does well, I think. I'm curious what black critics have said.

Overall, a strong beginning. I hope we keep hearing from her.

about three days


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The other books of 2018

1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

18 – 20
018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13
019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22
020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

21 – 25
021) M Is for Malice by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
022) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany; finished March 31
023) It All Started with Hippocrates: A Mercifully Brief History of Medicine by Richard Armour, finished April 6
024) Don't Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein, finished April 14
025) Coriolanus by Wm Shakespeare, finished April 16

26 – 32
026) The Trouble with Reality by Brooke Gladstone, finished April 24
027, 28) Coriolanus by William Shakespeare, finished April 26
029) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, finished April 28
030) Twisted Tales from Shakespeare by Richard Armour, finished April 28 or April 29 depending on when midnight happened
031) Bless The Child: A Romance of Redemption and Glory in the Ancient World by David J. West, finished May 1
032) The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy, finished May 3

32 – 34
032) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished May 9
033) Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami, finished May 9
034) Vader Down by Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato, finished May 18

35
035) The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition edited by Grant Hardy, finished May 23

36 – 50
036) Bad Kitty Camp Daze by Nick Bruel, finished May 24
037) I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, finished May 24
038) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua, finished May 30
039) Princess Leia by Mark Waid et al, finished May 30
040) Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral, finished June 12
041) Everything You Need to Know About a Mission by Ralph Thomas, finished June 13
042) The Invisibles by Grant Morrison et al, finished June 14
043) The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, finished June 15
044) Material Volume 1 by Ales Kot & Will Tempest & al., finished June 23
045) Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav, finished June 30
046) The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, finished July 7
047) Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier Vol. 1: The Man On The Wall by Ales Kos, finished July 7
048) Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10
049) Poems Dead and Undead edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10
050) Mary's Monster by Lita Judge, finished July 11


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2 comments:

  1. .

    Discovered where I'd read that fairy tale most recently: https://amzn.to/2OxOHOd

    ReplyDelete