Six through eleven send you to heaven


012) Wag the Dog: A Study on Film and Reality in the Digital Age by Eleftheria Thanouli, finished February 17

Searching for Wag the Dog in the library catalogue, I also came across this work of scholarship by a Greek academic.

Let me test your memory: what broke first: Wag the Dog's theatrical release or news of the Monica Lewinsky* scandal?

Ends up the movie came out just a few weeks earlier than the scandal. But the alignment has connected the ideas in the American (and the international!) psyche, perhaps permanently.

Did you know Wag the Dog was played on Serbian and Sudanese television in an attempt to shame the U.S. away from warlike actions? Or that it may have worked.

This volume is not a collection of fun facts and anectotes, however. It's a work of theory with a vocabulary to match. It was a heavy read---at times nearly opaque---but insightful and thrilling in that higher-education sort of way.

Plus, I'm reminded of some films I've wanted to watch and accepted some suggestions I otherwise would not have seriously considered.
under three weeks


013) Flaming Carrot Omnibus: Volume 1 by Bob Burden, finished February 17

I first bought a copy of Flaming Carrot in 1992, the second in the TMNT crossover.

It was hilarious.

I read it over and over, but other Flaming Carrot comics were not just available in Tehachapi, California. I did get one more issue of that run and a one or two more here or there. But I was never able to Just Read Flaming Carrot without some hassle upfront, aka collecting.

For I am lazy.

Anyway, walking the floor at Comic Con last summer, I picked up a itsybitsy handout alerting me this book was coming out in September. I dropped egregiously obvious hints what I wanted for Christmas. I got it for Christmas.

Ends up, 400 pages really isn't as much as it sounds like, printed on a tiny card. This is issues 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 25, 26, and 27 of Flaming Carrot Comics. And, happy day, it includes the beginning and my teenagehood favorite, it feels grotesquely incomplete.

And very funny. I did laugh and a lot.

But I need to hear Bob Burden do Flaming Carrot's voice, because I'm quite flummoxed how his bad grammar and goofy phrasing translate into speech.

Anyway. The nearest modern comparison I can think of is Axe Cop, but I doubt that five-year-old was reading a lot of Flaming Carrot. More likely, Burden tapped into childlike nonsense in a true and honest way.

Burden's sense of gesture is also a source of pleasure.

Such said, the fact remains that Flaming Carrot is like a more insane version of Batman who engages in horrific (if silly) violence and casual acts of sexism. Sure, this is satire, but the nature of satire is such parsing satire versus celebrating the target of satire is an ever-moving borderline. So just remember: not only may your mileage vary, it may vary from read to read.

Still. It's Flaming Carrot. You owe it to yourself.

under two months


014) The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag, finished February 22

I'm starting with this image because it a prefect rendition of Mojave, California as imagined in this alt-history scifi version of Mojave back in the Nineties. Wonderful. Amazing.

Now I'm going to complain for a while.

SOMEHOW, you drive from Barstow TO MOJAVE then take THE 395 NORTH in order to find a way WEST over THE MOUNTAINS and end up in CARSON CITY.

Now, I know this is an alternate reality, but this is bonkers. Just bonkers. Even with a couple north/south issues explained by novel's end, the driving from Barstow to Mojave thing to get in the 395 is just one of the craziest things I have ever---

And Stålenhag knew he was wrong! He intentionally left off the bits of broken reality from his map so no one but locals would notice!

But oh oh oh WE DID NOTICE. We did.

This is the third experience I've had in the last twelvemonth with Europeans fascinated with the bit of desert I grew up beside (the other two are Supermarket and Bagdad Cafe). I'm starting to think Godson needs to be a standalone novel aimed at European readers....


My other big complaint about the novel is the subplot which a) I didn't realize was a subplot until b) it ended abruptly and in a way that rendered it seemingly pointless. A strange choice to be sure.

Besides those two (not insignificant) complaints, I admire this books a great deal---the interplay of text and art is great, the slowburn is great, the time spent with the narrator is naturalistic, etc. I'm confused by the ending, but it would kill in, say, The Paris Review, so there you go.

Here's the skinny: this is a postapocalyptic 1997. Best I can tell, history diverged from our world in the '60s when people learned to interface their minds and their machines directly. This changes the nature of war, state (national?) boundaries, public health, you name it.

One aspect reminded me of Peck's Leere, only instead of corporations being the new alpha organism on the planet, it's drones, collecting humans and essentially turning them into neurons.

Now you know the gist.

It's a quick read and if you didn't grow up next to Mojave, you'll like it more than I did. And maybe you can explain the ending to me.

NOTE: Looking for images, I discovered this all began on Kickstarter. Not all the images at that link made it into the version of the book I read.

three days


015) The October Faction Vol. 2 by Steve Niles and Damien Worm, finished February 24

I picked this up at the library and read the first couple pages and though maybe I had finally found a new dark comic to inherit the mantle from Sandman. I didn't realize it was a volume two.

That didn't matter so much. And it was a fun little bit of monsterhunting. Overall, it wasn't much, but, as Stephen King says, maybe the best way to measure a work of terror storytelling is by its highest moments, and volume two of The October Faction certainly has some excellent moments including one right up top that I saw in the library where the teenage girl in the family predicts the pre-forty deaths of some girls at her school who are tormenting her. That was a great moment.

I doubt I'll bother to pick up another, but if this sounds like something you've been looking for, it's worth a shot.
one night


016) Minus by Lisa Naffziger, finished February 26

Father taking girl to college to meet her new roommates! Yay! Sweet!

But slow down, partner. Dad pulls a gun from the glove compartment when he sees a cop car in the other lane?

Hang on. What's going on at the gas station.

Hold up---who just shot whom??

This poor, poor girl.

WHAT is going ON in her life?
two days


books from the recent and distant past

books one through five
001) Titiana in Yellow by Dayna Patterson, finished January 1
002) The Tree at the Center by Kathryn Knight Sonntag, finished January 5
003) After Earth by Michael Lavers, finished January 12
004) Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, finished January 15
005) The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford, finished January 17

books six through eleven
006) The Marriage of the Moon and the Field by Sunni Brown Wilkinson, finished January 25
007) My Parents Married on a Dare by Carlfred Broderick, finished January 26
008) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl (volume one) by Scott Hales, finished January 26
009) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl (volume two) by Scott Hales, finished January 27
010) Solid State by Coulton / Fraction / Monteys, finished February 9
011) Into the Sun: Poems Revised, Rearranged, and New by Colin B. Douglas, finished February 16

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