Comics and Cults, Columbus and Kael


052) Vertigo CMYK, finished on June 5

Apparently first published in four quarterly pieces, CMYK consists of four sets of nine eight-page stories. Each set proclaims a focus on one of the basic colors of printing, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK.

This is the sort of thing I might have just picked up had I seen it at the library, but the reason I got it in covid times is that it came up in the library search when I was collecting Sweet Tooth.

And K did include a bonus Sweet Tooth story. It was a good one. But Y and K included a higher percentage of good stories than the earlier two sets. I wonder if because the later writers had a chance to read the earlier writers' pieces and see what did and did not work? I don't know. But the only one I thought was good with C was the final piece (by Fabio Moon, whose work I've enjoyed before, and who tells parts of the same story at the end of all four volumes---these four pieces make my favorite part of CMYK). By K, a significant percentage of the stories were good (or at least interesting). And no, I do not think it was me changing. Pretty sure it was the quality of the stories.

a week

053) Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Eme Lenox and friends, finished on January 5

I believe this is the last of the Jeff Lemire books that were put on hold while I was collecting Sweet Tooth (see above). It's another good one---a good reminder that Lemire's a quality writer and not just amazing with ink. (Although Lenox clearly based the grandmother character on Lemire's art.)

Anyway, five kids find the dead body of a superhero in the woods near their neighborhood. Four of the five are junior-high-aged monsters of varying types. And it seems like we're going to get a nice coming-of-age story. And that's mostly right. But the backblurb comparing it to Stand By Me should have warned me that nice might be overstating it.

Anyway, I thought it was really good. And I loved how the artist was just right for the job. I admire a writer who can do that.*

one early morning

054) The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael edited by Sanford Schwartz, finished on June 9

Including the intro, this is over 800 pages of writing. Yes, I read an 800-page book and in just a matter of months! Which is wild.

Naturally, I didn't intend to read the entire thing. At first, I read reviews of movies I knew (E.T.) or was already interested in getting to know (Pennies from Heaven) just to see Kael's take on them. But I really did enjoy reading her. At least as much as I'd anticipated, maybe more. And so I started reading chunks of essays. And then I had to mark what I'd read so I could read what I had not read. Finally I read the final essays followed by the opening essays followed by the introduction followed by the first essay (which I had thought was another introduction).

This is the Library of America collection and it follows her career chronologically, from the '50s to the '90s. It's also incredibly generous (see that page count). Following her career over such a long stretch (and reading it out of that order) reveals certain themes she held from the beginning, others she refined over time, and even some she came to see in new ways.

And, over all, I just enjoyed her company. I'm not convinced she's right about everything but I came to respect all of her opinions. And there's no doubt that 800 pages of Pauline Kael will affect my own critical opinions for a long time to come. Fair warning.

I just flipped through the book after writing that last paragraph, thinking I might include some quotations. I dogeared all the pages I had previously marked to make them easier to find (but I'm sure I missed most of them) and noticed that over half the words I highlighted came from her essay "Trash, Art, and the Movies." It's long but maybe start there. Me, I fully intend to teach it next spring.

six months or maybe more or maybe less

055) Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card, finished on June 11

This is one of the Card novels people are most likely to claim as their favorite. I've heard it many times but I was always a bit leery of the novel. Perhaps the idea of redeeming Christopher Columbus is unpleasant? Perhaps the title felt a bit academic? Maybe I didn't love the cover? Who knows. But it was a longstanding disinterest. But then the older two boys took it on their backpacking trip last summer and loved it and so it was time for me to try.

I will admit there was one vignette near the beginning that I was never able to fit into the novel as a whole, but perhaps that is the result of Pastwatch being my car book in a year where the car never really went anywhere. This would be the longest I've taken reading a Card book except I still haven't finished Keeper of Dreams (more on that here). I bought the book new thirteen years ago and one of the early tales is a story about Pastwatch---I misremembered the provenance of the story when the time came to read Pastwatch and so thought it was a sequel of sorts, but in fact it is an expansion of an early event. And considering how much I loved that Noah story, one might think it wouldn't take me over a decade to read the companion novel. Another way in which I, a human, make no sense.

Anyway, I don't want to spend much time on plot, but I love how humanistic the novel is. It really does provide a redemption for Columbus---Columbus and, by implication, all of us. Card, at his best, understands people in a deep and holy way. He sees the villains and finds their moral core. In a way, this redeeming of one of history's great villains, is the task he's set himself in, say, the Ender books or any of his finest fictions.

Anyway, in recent weeks, Eugene England's review of Pastwatch has been getting play in my circles as one of the great works of criticism in Mormon letters. So I'm going to go check it out now, then return and report.

(Link, so you may do the same, if you wish.)

Okay. Yeah. That was really good. As one might expect, Gene took my vague inchoate thoughts and assembled them into something coherent and reasonable.

Also, now I feel called to spend more time with Spencer W. Kimball. Every time I bump into him, I think he might be even better than I had previously thought.

Love and sacrifice are the way to make a world.

maybe ten months maybe more

056) American Cult edited by Robyn Chapman, finished on June 12

For some reason, the pandemic led to me supporting a lot (a lot) of comics projects on Kickstarter. This is the first to arrive and it was a great read. Short nonfiction comics about a variety of American cults from Oneida to the Branch Davidians and a bunch of stops before and after and in-between.

Some of the stories are pure research (no one alive remembers Johannes Kelpius) and some are born of personal experience. Something I was happily surprised by is that most of the stories make a real attempt to treat the cultists---both leaders and followers---as fully human. The stories aim for sympathy and understanding and I think all but one were mostly (even entirely) successful.

As you might expect, many of the stories are filled with sex and violence. Some treat it more directly and some let it linger between panels, but cult life is life exploded into largeness while confined in darkness. That conflict makes even the most academic stories sparkle with tension.

a couple months

Previously . . . . :

books from this year

1, 2, 4, 5, 6

001) The Sun Has Burned My Skin: a modest paraphrase of solomon's song of songs by Adam S. Miller, finished January 3
002) You're a Pal, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 4
004) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished January 9
005) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished January 17
006) Shem in Zarahemla by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 19

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 3

007) iPlates: Zerin's Sacrifice by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 21
008) iPlates: Alma in the Wilderness by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 24
009) Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard, finished January 27
010) Served edited by Theric Jepson, finished February 4
011) The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, finished February 4
003) Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, finished January 6

12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

012) Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, finished February 5
013) My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, finished February 15
014) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, finished February 16
015) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, finished February 18
016) A Desolating Sickness: Stories of Pandemic edited by D.J. Butler, finished February 21
017) Nothing Very Important and other stories by Béla Petsco, finished February 22

18, 19, 20, 21, 22

018) Muppets Present "The Great Gatsby" by Ben Crew, finished February 24
 Uncanny Avengers: Counter-Evolutionary by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna, finished February 28
 Guts by Raina Telgemeier, finished March 2
 The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by D. Manus Pinkwater, finished March 4
022) Ghosts by Raina Telgemeieir, finished March 5

23, 24, 25, 26, 27

023) Consent (for Kids!): Boundaries, Respect, and Being in Charge of You by Rachel Brian, finished March 11
 Memoirs of an Invisible Man by H.F. Saint, finished March 12
 Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh, finished March 20
 The Invisible Saint by Curtis Taylor, finished March 25
 Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, finished March 25

28, 29, 30

028) Scrap Mettle by Scott Morse, finished March 26
029) Dugout: The Zombie Steals Home by Scott Morse, finished April 1
030) The Barefoot Serpent by Scott Morse, finished April 1

31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36

031) Is Sex Necessary? Or, Why You Feel the Way You Do by James Thurber and E. B. White, finished April 1
032) Boys Who Became Prophets by Lynda Cory Hardy, finished April 11
033) George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall, finished April 12
034) Stuart Little by E.B. White, finished April 14
035) Achilles by Elizabeth Cook, finished April 15
036) Have It Your Way, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 15

37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42

037) The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne, finished April 21
038) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished April 22
039) The Garden of Enid—Volume One by Scott Hales, finished May 2
040) Tiny Writings by Danny Nelson, finished May 5
041) Whispering Death! by R.A. Christmas, finished May 6
042) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, finished May 9

43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

043) T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton, finished May 14
044) Sweet Tooth – Volume 1: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
045) Sweet Tooth – Volume 2: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
046) Sweet Tooth – Volume 3: Animal Armies by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
047) Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition – Volume 2 by Jeff Lemire, finished May 22
048) Sweet Tooth Deluxe Edition – Volume 3 by Jeff Lemire, finished May 23

49, 50, 51

049) A Book of Lamentations by James Goldberg, finished on May 23
050) How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, finished on May 25
051) We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, finished on May 26

final posts in this series from

2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012
2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020


the most recent post in the books-read series *

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