Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Read in August

This was the month of Bond; I started Casino Royale (and my run straight through all of the Fleming Bond books) on July 20th, but only got through the first three books before the end of July. All of the rest of them came in August, taking up most of my reading time this month.
  • Ian Fleming, Diamonds Are Forever (8/3)
  • Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love (8/6)
  • Jules Feiffer, Explainers: The Complete Village Voice Strips (1956-1966) (8/11)
    Here's an uncomfortable fact for the anti-blogging, journalism-is-exalted forces that insist that professionals always get paid: Jules Feiffer wrote and drew the weekly strips collected here, his iconic work for The Village Voice, the works that made his name and brought him fame and contracts, for seven long years without being paid a cent. Eventually, the Voice had to start paying him, yes. But, still: seven years of free content. Think about that. Explainers collects the first eleven years of Feiffer's great strip for the Village Voice -- I generally knew it as just "Feiffer," but it was originally "Sick Sick Sick" and had other titles over the course of nearly forty years. Feiffer starts this book almost fully formed -- some of the early strips look like they're drawn by a Kurtzman clone, but that's about all that's not pure Feiffer -- with his trademark wordy, witty strips, mostly with two people talking around some relationship or other. (The rest have one person, talking nakedly to the reader.) And those words are cutting, from the very first page. Whether he's writing about mothers and sons, lovers, politics, or the work rat-race, Feiffer's characters talk about precisely the things that no one really talks about, in the words we either wish we could say or the words that we would never want to say, because they're too true. This is a great, monumental book, some of the best cartooning of the 20th century by one of its masters, and I hope that Fantagraphics will continue and collect the rest of Feiffer's Village Voice strips.
  • Ian Fleming, Doctor No (8/12)
  • Ian Fleming, Goldfinger (8/14)
  • Kazu Kibuishi, editor, Flight Volume Six (8/16)
    Reviewed in my column in the December issue of Realms of Fantasy -- look for it at the end of October.
  • Patricia Briggs, et. al., Mercy Thompson: Homecoming (8/17)
    Reviewed in my column in the December issue of Realms of Fantasy -- look for it at the end of October.
  • Ian Fleming, For Your Eyes Only (8/18)
  • Ian Fleming, Thunderball (8/20)
  • Ian Fleming, The Spy Who Loved Me (8/21)
  • Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness (8/23)
    It's the third in the series, and all of the hip folks read it in 2006, when it was published. O'Malley includes a chart of the characters' relationships in the backmatter, which is helpful even for someone like me who read the second book last month. Our hero, young Toronto slacker Pilgrim, is trying to succeed with his band, Sex Bob-omb, and to stay together with his new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers. But he must first defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends, and this book sees #3, Todd Ingram, show up. Even worse, Ingram not only has vegan superpowers, he's both dating and in a very successful band with one of Pilgrim's exes, Envy Adams, who hijacked his first band, broke his heart, and became the girl he could never forget. It's just as distinctive a mix of 8-bit video gaming and slacker culture as the first two books, and that mix still works much much better that it has any right to.
  • Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter (8/25)
  • Ian Fleming, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (8/25)
  • Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, 1971-1972 (8/25)
    One of the things that kept Peanuts vital for so long -- and this book collects strips from a full twenty-two years into the series, and it's still excellent work -- is that Schulz built himself a large cast, and never stopped adding characters. Sure, eventually his ideas for what would work faltered -- Rerun Van Pelt, who would become just a smaller Linus, and then a vaguely different Linus exactly the same size, is born in this book, and he's probably the beginning of that trend -- but Woodstock and Peppermint Patty, both great characters, are still pretty new at this point, and the even newer Marcie is coming into her own as well. As long as Schulz kept creating new characters and situations -- these years also see two of the great camp sequences -- Peanuts was the vital beating heart of the American comics page. This series hasn't yet hit the first strips that I would have seen in the paper directly -- I was born in 1969, and started reading around Christmas of 1971 -- but I expect those will come in another book or two. And, for those around my age, the strips of this era are immediately familiar from the stacks of Peanuts reprint volumes of the '70s and '80s -- I can still see the display unit they had in my library then. Eventually, Peanuts started to hollow out, and wasn't as consistently strong as it was before. But, even in 1971 and '72, it was still a strip about loneliness and depression as often as not, with even Snoopy's Joe Cool reduced to hanging around the Student Union on a fall Sunday afternoon.
  • Brendan Burford, editor, Syncopated (8/26)
  • Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice (8/27)
  • Ian Fleming, The Man With the Golden Gun (8/28)
  • Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, and Anzu, X-Men: Misfits, Vol. 1 (8/31)
  • Ian Fleming, Octopussy and The Living Daylights (8/31)
And that's the end of the month. I expect to read more next time out, now that I'm done with Bond, but I often expect things that don't happen.

6 comments:

bingol said...

So I've been reading your blog daily, without the faintest notion who you are (why the hell is everyone sending -you- review copies, and not sending -me- review copies?) because it's a damn fine blog, and you even told me which Bond novels to start with, which is much appreciated.

But now I must register a complaint. You let a Parker novel pass without comment? That's a firing offense.

Andrew Wheeler said...

bingol: Well, this is the Internet, so there's a fair chance I'm a dog.

But I insist that I'm actually a publishing guy (ex-editor, currently doing marketing) who started getting review copies because I review books and because I know people in the business (mostly the former, these days).

And the Parker isn't actually a novel -- it's Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptation of the first book in the series. The link goes to my (thousand words or so) review of it for ComicMix.

bingol said...

Oh, a graphic novel. That'll teach me to fire off a comment without clicking the link! Nice review; I'm such a Parker fan that I'll probably buy the thing even though I'm pretty dubious about an adaptation. The language is what makes the novels so wonderful.

Sometimes I read a paragraph of a Parker book, then imagine how I'd change it if it were mine. Then I face the fact that I'd have edited the life out of it.

I'm still mourning the loss of Westlake. He was my favorite living writer. Now I don't have one.

And I don't know if I buy the 'ex-editor, now doing marketing' explanation. Sounds dubious. I'll stick with imagining you as an Aberdeen terrier.

mjlayman said...

bingol: I read Andy's blog because he's an ex-editor and gets books to review. I don't comment that often, and I put more DVDs on my Netflix queueueue (Dick, most recently) than I buy/read books mentioned here, but I used to buy a lot of the books he mentioned when he was an editor.

bingol said...

Sheesh. I'm always the last to know. He seemed like such a nice man, and clever, too. I'm even waiting for The Wrong Guy from Netflix on his recommendation. But an ex-editor?

Ah, well. I feel like the guy who in 2006 discovered this wonderful new thriller writer named Thomas Perry.

Still, I won't hold his credentialed past against him. I'm broad-minded, that way.

Gary Farber said...

You might find this old Schulz interview of interest. Or not.

Bingol, I'm another former publishing guy, who once did work for Andy and Ellen Asher at the Science Fiction Book Club, but I'm also another woof-woof, and actually am Andy under another name.

Who also knows mjlayman from the internet of years past, because it's all One Big Conspiracy.

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