Saturday, August 13, 2016

Book Review
One of These Things First: A Memoir
by Steven Gaines
(Delphinium, 2016)

Publisher page:

I started my own coming-out process at around 19, though nothing is ever sharply or simply delineated that way.  Maybe it began when it dawned on me that "gay" applied to me, or when I stopped telling myself that maybe there was a girl out there who would make me certain I was bisexual (never happened).  Or maybe it was in younger childhood, when I had crushes on boys but didn't have the conception that such a thing was possible.

Is this a coming-out memoir?  Basically, though more in its coming-out to oneself than to the world.  In Gaines' story, it is his own fear and disgust at his own gay identity with which he must contend.  He does this in the face of a certain Jewish conservatism, a less-understanding time, and pre-enlightened psychiatry.  We are fortunate to have this book, because it is a story of a man who came of age before homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders, and then spans the time afterward (briefly, in the final chapter). 

So real were the adolescent physicalities of desire that I instantly found myself present in mid-century Brooklyn, side by side with the author.  Chest-to-chest is a concept similar to my own painful yearning for other males as I was growing up.  I had my own lawnmower boys, some stronger presences in my mental obsessions than others, and the reaching out and the eventual crawling inward.  No, my life is not a mirror to Steven Gaines', but there are enough points of connection that this story spoke to me deeply.

I won't go into specifics of the story, as I too had very little foreknowledge of what I was going to be reading.  "Gay autobiography" is enough for me to open a book, and when the writing is as immaculate as this, I'm in for the full ride.  I wanted the book to go on longer, but perhaps that was not the story Gaines wanted to tell.  Or perhaps he'll gift us with another volume.  I'm on board should that happen.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Kids on the Block's Hangin' Tough by Rebecca Wallwork (to be released 4/21/2016)

Odd, perhaps, to see a review from a 45-year-old man for a book such as this, but I'll offer my defense, should it seem necessary: at age 19, during the same year that the New Kids on the Block became famous with Hangin' Tough, I was beginning my journey out of the closet.  I was the same age as Jordan Knight, on whom I was seriously crushing.  I fell in love with these guys, knowing full well how cheesy their act was, and reveling in the shock people felt when I told them that I, a college-radio DJ into everything from Black Flag to Sonic Youth to Public Enemy to...well, hey, my tastes were quite broad.

Therefore, I figure, given how I wasn't able to explore my relationship stuff back in my early adolescence, there must have been some of that energy still going on for me.  I also learned that my very broad taste in music is tied to my complicated personality, but no need to get into that here.

I call it a defense jokingly, of course.  I'm not really shamed by it or embarrassed. I wouldn't have stooped to calling myself a "Blockhead," because I've always (perhaps to my detriment) resisted tribalism, especially silliness such as that.  I was even a more devoted Iron Maiden fan (kind of still am) but I never wanted to be called an "Iron."  Or whatever.

I bring all of this up because the most interesting part of this book is the cognitive science aspect of it, how music can have a dopamine-release effect on us humans, and how emotional things which happen when we are young teens are amplified for various reasons, and hence when we hear the songs we loved at that age we react more strongly than we might as an adult to a new song we hear and like.

We also get a bit of history of the band's development and of Maurice Starr, the band's genius founder and director, plus some quick fan-type reactions to the songs on the album and some discussion of fan/band relational reactions. 

I'm not sure we get a proper analysis of the music on the album, but that's okay.  It was an enjoyable enough read, if not entirely well-focused.  My three-star rating could be 3.5 just because I still have a bit of that fanboy in me, and no, I'm not embarrassed about it.

(With gratitude to the publisher and NetGalley for providing an ARC for this review.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Guapa by Saleem Haddad (2016)

I'm thinking about this book and my frustrating experience reading it, and it's difficult for me to shape a review for it. I guess I'll just plunge forward.

Saleem Haddad is very skilled in painting a scene's setting. My brain had no trouble filling in the details as Haddad provided everything necessary while never getting boring in his descriptions. In slums, checkpoints, fancy hotels, apartments, dorm rooms, campuses, diners, bars...I never once had trouble, and I have extreme respect for this skill.

Also, the sensual scenes between Rasa and Taymour were just lovely, leaving me wanting more. I mean seriously, but enough said there.

So what we have in Guapa is a story of injustices, power struggles between people, intolerance, governmental abuses, family tragedy, and the confusion of growing up different.

A very worthy endeavor.

We're served a journey in Rasa's mind, a journey in which he philosophizes and rages (though also illuminates with some very nice anecdotes throughout). At times, at least for me, I need to retrace steps to remember where the novel was in its present-time, which wasn't a problem, but it's also not ideal in the flow of reading to be right at a crucial point of action or dialogue but first get moved into another flashback. Lots of good material in the flashbacks but the execution felt messy and even sometimes muddled.

By the end I was quite weary of an endless parade of one-dimensional characters who served as examples of the types of attitudes Rasa encounters in his living. One horrible person after another, often delivering a self-righteous speech with very little context to trigger it. Many unresolved threads (Like I said, the book was frustrating for me) and a melodramatic, unsatisfying ending.

Saleem Haddad is an incredibly strong writer, and I'm hoping his follow-up is more successful than Guapa.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this book.
The Other Catholics: Remaking America's Largest Religion by Julie Byrne, (Columbia University Press, to be published 5/24/2016)

My own spiritual journey has gone all over the religious map, but my childhood was within the framework, if loosely, of the Roman Catholic church.  I was baptized as an infant, we went to church weekly, and I went to catechism (CCD) classes most of my young life.  In 8th grade I attended a Roman Catholic school for one year.  In my 20s I felt called to become a priest in that church, though I didn't get very far along that path.

One of, if not THE, most important message of this book: "Catholic" is not - NOT - shorthand for "Roman Catholic."  Some use it that way, and it's important to realize that for the sake of communication.  However, while Roman Catholicism implies Catholicism, Catholicism does not imply Romanness.

This is huge.  Even if we don't change our word usage, the meaning is vital.

"Other Catholics" refers, here, to all the Catholics who do not claim Romanism.  Specifically, this simply means they are not answerable to the Pope.  These churches span the ideological, theological, and political spectra.  They can be very strict theologically or quite syncretic, bringing in various mystical truths from a variety of seemingly disparate traditions (they aren't THAT disparate, but opinions will vary).

Julie Byrne's primary focus is on the more liberal churches because, as she clarifies, these are the ones with the most influence really, the change-makers.  Frankly, I'm glad, because they are also the more interesting in my opinion (and I don't merely lean Liberal...I own property there, so I'm biased).

Even more specifically, Byrne centers her social study on the Antioch church, founded by Herman Spruit with roots traced all the way back to the Reformation.  Through this lens, we get a nice journey through religious history, and so at least for me, one of my passion pairings, history and religion, was feed generously.  I really enjoyed this book.

At a personal level, in reading the book, I feel inspired to re-integrate Christianity into my spiritual path.  This includes Catholicism itself.  The ritual, the sacraments, the holy orders therein.  A Christianity which allows me the freedom, without outside pressure, of exploration within and without the specific traditions.  A Christianity in which my mother or my sister could become a priest or a bishop should they feel called to do so.  A Christianity wherein my queerness is not only accepted, but is exhalted in the celebration of marriage, should I feel called (and partnered) to accept it.

The weaknesses are minor: there were many repetitions of stories, and redundant re-uses of examples, which I felt grew tiresome at times.  But this is easily forgivable, given how the complicated history is navigated here.  This is a solid four-star book, and I recommend it to anyone who has interest in the topic.

My gratitude to the publisher and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an ARC of this book.  It is forthcoming, and I have already pre-ordered a copy for my personal library.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Liberator, Vol. 1: Rage Ignition by Matt Miner (2014)

I'm happy I purchased this book back when it came out; the message is spot-on and it's the kind of work I really want to support.

The art is mostly great.  I especially love how Damon is drawn.  If I was much younger I'm sure I'd want to "ship" him with someone (I mean, I'm surely too old for that now, right!) but there's not really anyone to do that with in this comic, unless I did hetero-shipping, which, you know, like, ew.


I'm in that mode because this is definitely a book geared to the younger set.  The young teen set.  I would have loved something like this as a kid.  Not because it's great storytelling (because it's not), but because it would satisfy my own rage.  Rage is the theme of the book.  Rage is not really explored, but it is the theme.  It's presented, and very briefly, a character or two thinks about the implications of it.  But it would be an overstatement to say it is explored.

Bits of plot are thrown in to justify (and this leads to watering down) the actions of the characters.  Do the actions need justification?  Maybe not.  But for some reason Matt Miner thought it important to add sexual abuse to the past relationship of a fur-farm overlord and our hero, which allows for a bit of moralizing of "are you doing it for the animals or are you doing it for yourself?"

See, I know this is for kids, and possibly the kids who haven't had much experience in life at ALL, because life isn't compartmentalized like that.  The argument is false.  If you care deeply about animal rights and how they are treated, then anything you do on their behalf is also something you're doing for yourself.  It's not exactly healthy to somehow slice those things in half.

And idealism in itself isn't a reasonable justification for anything.  You separate your ideals from your heart and you're on the path to a happy dystopia, whatever the parallel would be to oligarchy, but with treatises leading the way instead of corporations and profit.

I'm making this too complicated, of course.  The story is simplistic and, toward the end, rushed.  We hit "the end" after big revelations are thrown at us and never developed.  The bad guys are ridiculous, exaggerated caricatures of demonic terror.  The characters soapbox a lot but never develop much beyond that.  I commend the message; I'm there with the creators here.  But I can't bring myself to inflate my review just because I share an ideology. 

PS: this edition comes with bonus features, like any good trade paperback: cover gallery, "pin-ups," some good (some not good) bonus stories from different creators, articles about different action groups.

PSS: I always love to see projects of the heart see the light of day because of Kickstarter and other similar programs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Cages by Dave McKean, Collected in a single volume in 1999

High on the wonder that was The Sandman, but near the end of my first phase of comic collecting, I started grabbing the first issues of Cages when they were being released, but stopped, and due to their odd physical shape and my constant moving, they became damaged and it appears I no longer have them.  I finally, over twenty years later, remembered that I haven't read these yet, and now I feel like a fool.

I mean, how had I gone so long without bathing in this wondrous work? 

Seriously, I mean, how?  Wit and one else needs to try to put those two together, because McKean already perfected the damn thing.  Or am I being ironic in saying that?

Cages touched me philosophically, artistically, emotionally, spiritually.  And who's to say those are really separate categories, or, ahem, separate cages?

We can stop caging things, and ourselves.

At one point I paused in reading in order to do some writing of my own.  See, I was inspired, and I was actually happy with what I had written.  If you know me, you know that's rare.

I just read a nice review I'd like to share with you all.  It was written back in 2002 (still a decade after the work was done).  Now, I see that they are doing a new printing of the full collection later this year (I saw that on Amazon myself).  Anyway, check this out:

Friday, March 25, 2016

Batman: Bruce Wayne, Murderer? (New Edition) by Various Writers and Artists (2014)

I've come and gone into and out of the comic book hobby since the late 80s when I was a teenager discovering that yes, I too could become obsessed with a hobby now that I'd outgrown being a lead singer in an air-band. The danger of leaving and returning, though, is that titles one used to like will become huge families of titles suddenly, and it's daunting to catch up. This is why I am very grateful for big omnibus kinds of books like this. During the period when the whole "bat family" (I don't recall that concept from the late 80s) is trying to figure out what happened that led to Bruce Wayne being framed for a murder, continuity apparently required that he be dealing with that issue in all the Bat-titles. So thank you, D.C., for helping me out here. I'll never catch up, but I can at least enjoy some storylines this way.

The creators did a nice job NOT being too jarring, it turns out. Good teamwork, good editorship, perhaps? I admire it though, regardless. The shifts in visual-art style was the only off-putting thing here, but I'm a grown-up and can adapt. I won't say I liked the styles in their entirety, but I must stress that this is not a criticism, but more about preference, though I wondered how the more cartoonish styles were supposed to fit with the writing at times.

The only storyline I didn't care for was that of Nicodemus. His motive was familiar and cliche. The story felt tired. I was also unsure of why (begin spoiler)around that phase of the book Bruce Wayne decided that he was not to be Bruce Wayne anymore and all of that - it seemed more like a way they could bring Batman back into the titles for fans to see their Batman kick-butt stories while still dealing with the murder frame-up storyline (end spoiler), but perhaps the next volume, which I will definitely read, will reveal something about this.

I have to say I really enjoyed the way the Bat-family has fleshed out. I like the characters, and the roles they have taken on. They have a really great team of writers and artists across the board. Reading this volume brought me back into the real of actually liking mainstream comics again. Most of my comics reading is more adult lately, fewer superhero titles. It feels like kind of a homecoming for me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (2014)

The puzzle of death is one that many religions claim to answer, though I suspect few, no matter how pious, devoted, or faithful, could with a sense of certainty honestly say they feel comfortable they understand it. Perhaps that is why those who embody what we don't understand - and therefore often fear - are so often looked upon as analytical problems to be solved with the outcome of prolonged living.

This book dares to challenge all of us - both medical professionals and people like me, non-professionals who inevitably find ourselves at one time or many times helping people we know and perhaps love reach their end.  The challenge is one of humaneness.  It's one of respecting the wishes of the dying, and honoring their dignity.

Filled with stories, including of the author's own father's journey toward death, Gawande's book brings emotion to a clinical issue, and that's the way I think it should be.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Bhagavad Gita: The Oxford Centr for Hindu Studies Guide by Nicholas Sutton (2014)

The study of religion and religions, both for intellectual learning and for spiritual exploration, has constituted a large part of my mental world for my entire adult life.  Now in midlife, I'm starting to reconcile my desire to "land" in a religious home with the fact that said landing is unlikely to happen in a predefined way.  I've accepted that it's just fine for me to go where the wind takes me.  Every year, I take that "Belief-O-Matic" quiz online (link), and every year, my top two are Neopagan and Unitarian Universalist.  So the world is my buffet, and there's no shame in that. 

This is my second translation of the Gita, which I picked up because I liked the way it dealt with commentary.  No footnotes on this one.  Here are four or five verses, and then some commentary, with a summary at the end of each chapter.  I don't know Sanskrit, so I don't have the tools to comment on the translation.  The commentary includes many references to how certain phrases were translated, however.  The commentary also gives nods to different ways certain passages have been interpreted by different schools of thought.  This was personally gratifying to me, because it told me that not everyone in the Hindu thinking world thinks that each of us is God.  Happily, Nicholas Sutton does not take sides, though he will give his academic opinion regarding which interpretation seems to be most likely to be the intended one. 

I have learned a lot, and will keep this electronic text (which is only available as an e-book).  I spent a lot more time than usual on my first read-through.  I didn't see a point in rushing it.  I read small portions at a time.  I also discovered that there is much here that affirms and adds to what I've been observing spiritually on my own. 

The previous translation I read was for a course in Indian philosophy.  It was Barbara Stoller Miller's, which is also very accessible and was perfect for the context of that class.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Loner, a novel by Teddy Wayne. Expected to publish 9/13/2016 by Simon & Schuster

Loner is very readable.  The main character, David, has a strange kind of charm, and a different way of speaking, which personally I liked.  His perspective is skewed; he's defensive and as he does the manipulative and downright disturbing things he does to other characters in his small circle of peers, playing them off of each other, using them to reach deluded goals, it seems undeniable that he really buys into the untruths he tells himself.  This part is quite effective: he is a stalker, but he doesn't really see himself that way.  By "effective" I mean to say that I found him to be successfully creepy.

And now that I've finished writing my review I feel it best to put the large middle section as a spoiler.  I do give away significant plot points here!

Do I believe a person could really be that naive and directed at the same time?  I guess so, as I myself find myself missing cues not given to me succinctly.  But directed?  I don't know about that in this circumstance.  David really wants Veronica.  His manipulations, for the most part, are relatively innocent on the surface, showing up where she is and pretending it's coincidental, for example.  So maybe, in the end, when he attempts to rape Veronica after he discovers how she may have been manipulating him all along, I can accept that he felt he had a chance with her if he just showed her what a great guy he was.

But what he does to Sarah in order to get closer to Veronica, well, that's pretty directed and at the very best, cynical.  While he may not be as cunning as Veronica, he's definitely as cynical.

Overall, I experienced several things in reading Loner.
...a strange longing to revisit my own college experience, at least for the first quarter of the book, because I sheltered myself too much to have experienced the darkness explored here, and the personalized response dissipated pretty quickly when the stalking began.
...a growing dis-ease and eventually dread
...a mixed reaction by the ending...was it too predictable? was the author trying too hard to build a psychological case to explain the character's actions?

I don't know what to make of the book, to be utterly honest.  I liked reading it.  It's a good example of "the unreliable narrator."  I just don't know if the author wants me to take his novel as a warning, a character study, a philosophical exercise, a social commentary, something else, or a combination of these.  I suppose I'm bothered not because of unanswered questions, which is never a point against a work of art for me, but because I truly feel I am left flailing with these questions, and plugging potential answers into the final product leaves results which seem to me to be not quite right, and I'm left with puzzlement and not much else.

My gratitude to the publisher for an ARC of this book.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Funny Thing Is... by Ellen DeGeneres (2003)

I could almost leave a rating off of this, because the rating is irrelevant. the reason for this is that some of these chapters are five-star hilarious and some were zero-star non-chapters. 

A non-chapter is one which just passed and you didn't notice it, because nothing happened and if it did it was neither insightful nor funny.

And if there are things in a chapter which give me the wet giggles, that's five stars. The phrase "freshly washed monkey" is enough for me.

What does this mean? Who cares? It's comedy. I'm happy to spend time with Ellen DeGeneres, because her personality comes through even when I'm not sure what the hell she's doing. 

Chronological tidbit: This book was released just before her talk show started.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review
The Boy in the Mirror by Tom Preston (2015)

Immersion, we learn in introductory linguistics, is a mysterious and effective way to become conversant in a language.  Want to know German?  Land yourself in small town in Germany where few speak in English, and don't go with a friend - no crutches.  Eventually, after a period of confusion and frustration, you'll discover you understand everything.

That's what they say.  Reading The Boy in the Mirror is immersion into sickness and the extremely surreal world of tortuous healing.  Poisoning the body to rid it of what is killing it.  Chemotherapy for severe cancer, in the body of a young man on the cusp from adolescence to early adulthood.

The immersion is so real, so intense, that I feel I may need to purge toxins from my own body.  I feel a cramp in my chest and I am chillingly aware of my own physical and mental fragility.  Tom wrote this memoir to heal, he says in the afterward, as he does not pretend to be over the experience.  As I was reading I wondered, wouldn't four months of aggressive chemotherapy give a person a profound case of PTSD?

I imagine so.

The delusions, the symptoms, the misery, the depression, the restlessness, the yearning, the comfort and sadness of memories and the cruel teasing of every bodily sense that comes through in this book? They were all my own even as Preston was describing his experience to us.  He's a gifted writer, and - not a mere gimmick - the presentation of the material in the second person seals the effectiveness completely.

I don't know what else to say.  The book flies by.  It's not always a pleasant read, and yet, oddly, it is.  It is because while it takes you into the lowest pit, it gives you the lifeline of hope, and it does so concretely and at the same time, absurdly, by appealing to the mystical within us.

Reviewed with great thanks to Netgalley and Inpress Books/Valley Press
Book Review
The Planets, by Dava Sobel (2005)

Confession time: I originally perused this book because the cover is beautiful. 

As a child, I was fascinated with astronomy. As a college Freshman, I took an astronomy course and dropped out after a few weeks. Perhaps now I would be able to grasp the difficult mathematics required for even elementary-level space science. Perhaps. But I think I'm better off with a text like The Planets, which dives into the fascinating history (and indeed much of the science) of our solar system with a sense of whimsy and poetry. 

Unlike, apparently, some who have written reviews of this book, I read a few pages before buying it. I do that regardless of topic or genre. To begin reading something is an investment of my time and energy. I've read criticisms of the approach used here, and I don't understand how that approach wasn't apparent from the beginning. I guess this isn't my problem, but I feel a bit sad to read negative reviews by people who really are not within the intended audience here. This is beginning-level stuff, surely, for a general readership with an interest in, not an expertise with, the material.

I know I haven't retained a lot of the specifics Dava Sobel has shared here, but that's not to say I haven't learned a lot. I also have a strong appreciation for how Sobel shaped each chapter, each treatment of individual bodies of the solar system. I'm happy to have read it.
Book Review
The Expendables: Stories by Antonya Nelson (1989)

This book came out in 1989, my second year of college.  I was 19, and beginning to embrace what became a failed hope that I would pursue the writer's life, specifically in fiction, and my first creative writing instructor at the college level was Antonya Nelson at New Mexico State University.  It was from her that I learned quite a bit, including the somewhat earth-shattering news that there was such a thing as literary fiction.  Literary fiction, to my not-quite-adult mind, was basically non-genre fiction.  Later I'd learn about magical realism, and even later I learned about post-modernism, but one of the most difficult things for me to get around was channeling my imagination into a literary, non-genre sphere.  I don't know that I ever really mastered that.

The more important message, though, something I still embrace and about which I learn more every time I explore the Genre (capital-G, which has to do with a different level of the writing sphere: capital-G for me encompasses Fiction, Poetry, Non-Fiction, Playwriting...and within that, you have Short Stories verses Novels, for example), is that short stories and novels are quite different.

I remember a conversation we had, about how frequently, if a novel can do the same thing as a short story, why would someone write a novel instead?  I suspect that it has to do with "what sells" and that's even more true now than it was twenty-five years ago.  Do people outside of college-level creative writing programs buy short story collections anymore, other than those written by Stephen King?

I hope so.

Nelson is a master of the short story.  The Expendables was her first collection, for which she won the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction (if you've read the other reviews, you already know this), and whose book jacket bears a blurb from none other than Raymond Carver.

There are a few occasions where the writer's hand is perhaps too visible.  The most obvious for me is in "Helen in Hollywood," but even therein the content, if not the telling, is strong.  Others may disagree, of course. 

My favorite part of the book are the penultimate two stories, the paired "Mud Season" and "Looking for Tower Hall," about a family recovering from the sudden and bewildering death of one of its members.  There are many other strong stories here, and I certainly recommend it to those who like their fiction to explore (and thereby reveal) the humanity within the internal process of living, and questioning, one's place within the specific relationships people find themselves.  I revisited the collection this month, and I'm so glad I did.  I'm an adult now, after all.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review
The Color of Magic, by Terry Pratchett (1983)
Book 1 of Discworld

I've got a bit of a geeky side.  It doesn't come out as often as I used to imagine.  I used to think I could be "as one" with the cosplayers of the world, those who memorized episodes of TV shows and character names and plot points.  While I haven't analyzed this (and I may not even be qualified to do so), I suspect I'm too mystically and philosophically inclined to get caught up in that ephemera, that culture.  Don't misunderstand: I get very excited at the arrival of a new Star Trek film, and I went on opening weekend to see the second X-Files movie (which I thought was so terrible that I didn't allow myself to get excited about the recent season 10 reboot, and lucky me, because midway through the third episode I couldn't take any more).  I've tempered my reaction though.  Adulthood?  Existential crisis fallout?  Enlightenment?

Who knows?  But hey, I still have enough geek in me to want to pick up The Color of Magic and re-read it after the first time I did so, back in 2000 when I was thirty years old.  I picked it up because all I could remember was a giant turtle, a bar-fight, and a great tumble down a waterfall.  Oh, and magic luggage.  And there was also the little matter that I wanted to kickstart a new entry in my bucket list: to read the whole damn Discworld series.

In case you don't know, that series is 41 books long, plus some shorter interlude works and short stories, plus appendix-type books of things like maps and scientific treatises (or something; I haven't looked at those yet).

There's the geeky part kicking in.

By the way, you can see the entire glorious list right here.

(As an aside, that same geeky impulse drove me to look into the possibility of reading every Star Trek book, in order.  There's a Wikipedia page with THAT list, right here, and if you look you might understand why, at age 45, I decided I had more stuff I'd rather do with the last third, or second half, whatever, of my life.)

The Color of Magic is full of the British wit we all love, thanks also to folks like Douglas Adams and the Monty Python people, with screaming wizards and sighing frogs, and impossible metaphors that really get me giggling.  And you know, thanks for that, Mr. Pratchett.

Turns out, the guy also had an amazing imagination, which is a great thing considering how many volumes (and pages) fill out this series.  I noticed that the paragraphs didn't get shorter as this first book neared its end.  Pratchett wasn't rushing to the ending.  My point: he didn't skimp; the story was brimming from beginning to end with irresistible adventure, color, and humor.  I'll be back for more.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Graphic Novel

Much time has passed, so much that I don't recall the last instance of it, since I have felt as I do right now, having just finished this book.  The Notebooks are more about Russian atrocities against Ukraine and Chechnya, and the second half of the book barely includes any time under the Soviet fist.  The atrocities are multiple and horrific.  I found myself engrossed, appalled, and outraged by the end.

The point is, there's nothing warm or fuzzy going on between these covers.

At a personal level, I find myself grateful for what I have, a sentiment I once found sappy and trite, but how can I complain about my life's purpose when I have a job which allows me food and shelter, even if it's not a good match for my personality and skills?

I'm angry with the Russians in charge, and my anger is renewed towards the leaders and opinion-makers of my own country, who enable similar crimes against innocents in the Middle East and elsewhere.

I'm more disgusted than ever at the insanity of the supposedly normal people of the world, ranting about non-problems while real suffering screams and aches among populations we never see, never hear about anymore.

I don't know the last time I have heard or read a news story about Ukraine.  It's February 2016.  I don't know what's going on there right now, because I forgot, and because the media grew bored telling us about it.

Yes, it's all overwhelming.  But it's pretty sad too.

This book is powerful.  I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to read it early, via an advance copy care of the publisher and NetGalley.

Back in "business"

I want a place to post reviews of books I read, albums I hear, movies I see.  I miss having a blog.

So I'm resurrecting this.  No need to start from scratch.