Books Read – February 2008

  • 52. Vol. 1 by Geoff Johns – 2/3
  • 52. Vol. 2 by Geoff Johns – 2/5

    Year-long weekly comic series; the comic book equivalent of 24, as each comic issue covers one week. Purports to answer the question: what would happen (in the DC universe, mind) if the three big guns (ie, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) disappeared. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does DC comics. Sadly, of limited interest to the non-DC comics fan, which includes me. It’s occasionally engaging and funny, but it’s based on some pretty obscure stuff.

  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – 2/5

    (I read the Gregory Hays translation.) The force of personality beams through this book, written more than two thousand years ago. I was touched by it, but to apply its wisdom to my own life would take some re-reading and meditation. In essence, the only important thing is now, what action we take now and how we order our thoughts to achieve that right action. Well, that’s it in a small, poorly defined nutshell, at any rate.

  • Portable Childhoods by Ellen Klages – 2/7

    A book of short stories. Sadly, short stories fade from my mind rather quickly. There’s quite a variety here, all centered around childhood (surprise!) in some fashion. I distinctly recall the little girl who voodoos herself into a mouse; the time-traveling lesbian physicist who encounters hatred and love in the past; the seven librarians who raise a child to adulthood; and… well, that’s it. There was more, but they’re already gone. They were beautifully written, but I sometimes wearied of the… nostalgia…

  • Welcome to Tranquility by Gail Simone – 2/8

    A story of aged, former superheroes and their past heroics and villainy and the way young people are mired in the untold, half-forgotten stories of their elders. Clearly, in some ways, inspired by Alan Moore’s Supreme and Tom Strong among others. Worthwhile, if you like superhero comics, but are looking for something a bit different. Otherwise…

  • The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby – 2/11

    The book that inspired me to start doing this. (We’ll see how long it lasts. Heh.) Nick Hornby wrote a series of articles for the magazine, The Believer, about the books he’d read in any given month. (Apparently, still ongoing.) It was somewhat inspiring to read a book by someone about READING. I found it somewhat inspiring and thought that, perhaps if I started writing some things down about what I’ve been reading, well, maybe all the reading I’m doing will feel a bit more worthwhile. Also, dovetailing nicely with my impulse to start writing a bit more.

  • Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins by Rupert Everett – 2/14

    An autobiography. Charmingly written, though the celebrity name-dropping does get a bit tedious. There’s a scene early on where he describes going to the cinema for the first time to see Mary Poppins and being so overwhelmed by the wonderfulness of it all, that he had to be taken, screaming, from the theatre. Worthwhile for the crazy anecdotes and celebrity character sketches. The quality of the writing is what really carries it.

  • Boswell’s Life of Johnson – 2/15

    A biography. It’s odd that I finished this one just after the Everett book (even though I had been reading Boswell for months). In some ways, a more vivid sketch of a person (Johnson), than Everett’s portrayal of himself. There’s life breathed on these pages. Boswell spent three decades making Johnson his life’s study. Boswell’s love for the man shines through everywhere. I fancied that I could imagine Johnson himself, now, strolling the night-time streets of somewhere, shouting and carousing with his friends.

  • 0/6, vol. 3 by Youjung Lee – 2/17

    Manga found at a library booksale. Hardly worth the twenty minutes spent reading it. (Nick Hornby didn’t write about anything that he disliked–by editorial fiat–in Polysyllabic Spree. I may follow suit. Why write about a book if I didn’t find anything worth taking away from it?)

  • The Wind in the Willows, Vol. 1 (ill. Michel Plessix) – 2/18

    Charming artwork in this comic version of the book, but I was reminded again about how very bored I have always been by this book. In spite of my very great desire to want to like it.

  • Count Zero by William Gibson – 2/18

    A sequel of sorts to Neuromancer, which is why I read it. I had just listened to the BBC’s radio play version of it and realized I had never read any of the other of Gibson’s “Sprawl trilogy”. It’s excellent if you’re jonesing for some retro-cyberpunk. If you’re looking for a first-time William Gibson experience, though, you’d be much better off reading Pattern Recognition or Spook Country, which explore many of the themes of his earlier books, but are much better written. Gibson’s earliest works are strong, but they are fairly dated.

  • My Own Kind of Freedom by Steven Brust – 2/21

    A Firefly fanfic novel. I probably wouldn’t have read it, if I hadn’t already read about six or seven of Brust’s Taltos novels (sword, sorcery, assassination, etc). What a charming little book this is. Wonderfully snappy dialogue and the book is light on its feet, never feeling bogged down in pointless exposition. It also made me want to re-watch the television series. You can download a copy yourself at the above link.

  • Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith – 2/22

    I picked this one up because of Smith’s comic series Bone. Sadly, this one’s a bit forgettable, but it does have a thinly veiled John Ashcroft as primary villain. Methinks that particular touch won’t age well. (Or at least I hope not.)

  • The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders – 2/22

    A series of essays, containing quite possibly the best essay on Huckleberry Finn… that I’ve ever read, anyhow. Also excellent are his essay on his trip to the United Arab Emirates’ city of Dubai and his trip to visit a boy who had been fasting for some unreal length of time (6 months?). Well worth the price of admission, this. (Also, the title essay is quite good. Really gets to the heart of the rot in our (USA’s) body politic.) He has a way of writing in a simplistic style which manages to simultaneously convey a great deal of subtlety and information.

  • Nana, Vol. 2 by Ai Yazawa – 2/26

    Chalk this one up as a guilty pleasure. The manga equivalent of ordering a “girly-drink” (which I also enjoy). The story of two girls, both named Nana, who move to Tokyo (?) and end up becoming roommates. As you can see, I’m already at vol. 2. The die is pretty well cast.

  • Halting State by Charles Stross – 2/26

    A sidenote: I went to a reading that Charles Stross gave for this book in Seattle and watched Stross endure the most painful Q&A session I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. My heart ached for the man. He probably thinks that Seattle is full of autistic, half-witted, passive-aggressive thugs. I don’t know why he’d ever come to Seattle again, to be honest… Yeesh.

    That being said, the novel–told entirely in rotating second-person narratives, somewhat like text adventure games of olde–is serviceable. Not his best book (and I’ve read just about them all–I’d recommend Singularity Sky or The Atrocity Archive), but it does explore the future of the ubiquitous computing world we live in, extrapolated out 10-20 years. If you want some food for thought on where the cell phone ring in our nose is leading us, you’d do worse than to pick up this book.

  • Alias the Cat by Kim Deitc
    h – 2/27

    A fictional autobiography about a fictional account of the author’s discovery of a fictional proto-superhero comic. This is a story which starts “normal”–the author’s increasing obsession, fueled by eBay and etc, for a sort of cat-like character (a sort-of Rated R Mickey Mouse stand-in) and which rapidly veers into midget-villages and magical cat-beings. I can’t really emphasize how… odd… this book is. Shades of Crumb and Harvey Pekar.

  • The Nightmare Factory by Joe Harris – 2/27

    A graphic novel based on the horror (that is, the genre) short stories of Thomas Ligotti–a writer I’d never heard of before. One story is particularly Lovecraftean. The artwork is good, but in general the horror genre doesn’t really do it for me.

  • Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim – 2/27

    A fun little young adult oriented comic–probably geared more towards girls–about a 16-year-old girl whose 5-year-old, 30-year-old and 60-year-old selves arrive in her current time, complete with their memories and everything, with no explanation as to how they got there, which is the right choice, I think. (The why is suggested by the mechanism of their eventual disappearance.) A charming little comic that I probably would have enjoyed more (or been too embarrassed to read) about 15 years ago.

  • Flight, Vol. 4 ed. by Kazu Kibuishi – 2/27

    An aberration in that it’s a sequel that exceeds its predecessors (particularly Vols. 2 and 3). Essentially, an anthology of comics. A really excellent collection.

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