Saturday, April 30, 2016

Incoming Books: April 29

I took my first vacation day of the year yesterday, because I guess I realized I'd better start if I didn't want to lose them. (Though the new job, along with longer hours in smaller spaces and a longer commute, also features substantially less time off than the previous job. I seem to be progressing through the classical Greek ages in my own life, and have now reached the Age of Iron. [1])

But, on this rare day off, I did get over to a bookstore, and brought home some good stuff. (At least, I hope it's good stuff -- no one wants to find the book they've been looking forward to is lousy.) And here's what those books were:

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy -- a comedic young-woman-in-the-city book from the '50s; the city in this case is Paris, and I believe, as required by the form, it's semi-autobiographical. New York Review Books republished this last decade, and I've picked it up at least half a dozen times (usually at The Strand) but never managed to buy it before now. I like humorous novels, and I want to read more books by women, and I'm contrarian enough to want to read half-forgotten books whenever possible -- so this pushes a lot of my buttons.

Flashman and the Dragon and Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, both by the inimitable George Macdonald Fraser -- the last two "Flashman" books I needed to get to re-complete my set. I will re-read the whole series through at some point, but "some point" could wait quite some time.

Great Plains by Ian Frazier -- he's a New Yorker writer than I've followed for a long time, and I'm slowly knocking off the last few books of his that I hadn't gotten to yet. The two major things in that category were his major nonfiction books of the '80s and '90s: this one and Family, which I hit around the turn of this year. This is, I think, a John McPhee-esque look at the big sea of grass and corn [2] in the middle of my country.

I Was a Child by Bruce Eric Kaplan -- BEK is a well-known New Yorker cartoonist and a successful Hollywood writer (mostly TV, I think) and has made a few odd dawn books (like Everything is Going to Be Okay) and books for kids (like Monsters Eat Whiny Children). This is his memoir, presumably of a childhood that was horrible in some way -- no one ever writes a memoir about their happy childhoods -- and which I didn't know existed until I stumbled across it in the store. (Even though our current world has much more information about books available to everyone all the time, I still miss when I was hyper-connected to the book world and knew about every book I might potentially be interested in at least six months before publication. Yup, Age of Iron once again.)

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro -- you might have heard of this one; Ishiguro is a big deal, and this was a major book last year. It's now out in paper, and I do want to read it eventually -- I've liked most of Ishiguro's books, and really loved his first few novels and the dark, difficult The Unconsoled in particular. I'm still a little Ishiguro-shy after his misfired attempt at SF in Never Let Me Go. (That book had some very good things -- it was psychologically true in a way very little SF ever gets close to -- but the SFnal aspects were so bobbled that the book was horribly grating to me.)

Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami -- Murakami's first two, supposedly much more realistic novels, finally translated into English. There was a time when I'd grab each new Murakami translation and read it immediately -- hell, there was a time when I would grab anything and read it immediately -- but the Age of Iron is upon me now, and I've got at least one Murakami on the unread shelves. (Maybe two.) This is short, though, and contains two novels, so I have hopes.

Medusa's Web by Tim Powers -- Powers is one of the great writers of our time, period. He writes novels with fantasy and history intertwined in them, and is a slow enough writer that even I can keep up with him. Some of his books -- Declare, The Stress of Her Regard, Last Call -- are as good as anyone's in the world, and the rest are pretty darn good, too. I'm hoping this is one of the sublime ones; it's been a while and Powers is usually good for one of those a decade. What is it about? I don't care.

[1] If anyone wonders why this blog is so quiet lately, I offer the following math: +1.5 hours at work a day, +1 hour commuting a day, +10 days at work = a very tired hornswoggler.

[2] I might be repeating myself there: is corn grass?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/23

I've long since run out of clever ways to open this weekly post, and of excuses why it's the only thing I can manage to post these days. So pretend one or the other of those is in this space.

These two books came in my mail last week, sent by the vast publicity machine that makes American book publishing such a hugely profitable and culturally central industry today. (My sarcasm is not aimed at publicists, in case you're wondering -- they do their job very well.) I haven't read them yet, but here's what I can tell you.

Over Your Dead Body is the fifth novel by Dan Wells about John Wayne Cleaver, a young man clinically a sociopath and deeply worried he will become a serial killer. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily for John, he lives in a world where a secret group of "demons" -- humans who thousands of years ago gained supernatural powers and immortality but became obligate predators on normal humans -- are alive and active in his near vicinity. So far, he's been able to channel his homicidal tendencies in that direction, but killing anyone isn't exactly good for his stability and control. Cleaver narrates all of these books in the first person, and it's a great, conflicted, compelling voice -- I've read and deeply enjoyed the first four books. (See my big review of the original trilogy and my slightly less massive review of the fourth book, The Devil's Only Friend.) Dead Body continues from the ending of Only Friend, and is a Tor trade paperback, available everywhere on June 16th.

The other book I have is a "light" novel, which is a publishing category -- not really a genre, more a style or type of story that can run in several genres -- in Japan, which (at least from this side of the Pacific) seems to roll up into the manga/anime/merchandise media empire world, often serving as a test-bed for concepts that then become eight other media properties. (But I also think light novels are at least mildly author-driven -- they are novels, written by single people, telling stories they want to tell. So the transmedia stuff comes later, for the successful ones.) Anyway, Kazuma Kamachi created a successful series, which has turned into several other things along the way. But it started as a light novel, and here's the latest one to be translated into English: A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 7, with illustrations by Kiyotaka Haimura. The series is usually a magical-school story, but this particular volume seems to be mostly about nuns and their missing magical book (nuns are horrible at library organization, I'm sorry to say), which the series hero needs to retrieve to save the world or pass his Retrieving Magical Books course, or something like that. This is a Yen Press paperback, and you should be able to get it right now.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/16

Here I go again...these are books, they arrived over the past week, and I haven't read them. Maybe I will, someday. Maybe not.

For now, though, here's what I can tell you about them, in hopes you'll say "that sounds awesome; I've got to read that":

Nichijou: My Ordinary Life, Vol. 2 comes from Keiichi Arawi, via the fine folks at Vertical, and it's a manga that seems to be a surreal take on high school life. In fact, it looks interestingly odd to my eye, so I'm going to poke around and see if I have the first volume here. (I probably do; I have more books than I know what to do with.)

Also from Vertical is Fumi Yoshinaga's What Did You Eat Yesterday?,Vol. 10, the latest in the slice-of-life culinary-themed manga series about a gay couple and their circle of friends. I count about three things in that description that would never fly for an ongoing series in the US, so I like the idea of this series...even if I'm not into Japanese food enough to read it all that regularly.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/9

Someday I'll actually decide if Antick Musings will go back to being a book-review blog (which would require me, y'know, reviewing books) or if it will be something else. But, for now, it'll stay as it is.

The good news with that is that you get a brand-new Reviewing the Mail post for this week, with seven varied books that arrived in my mailbox last week. They're all interesting for different reasons, each will definitely be someone's favorite book this year -- and that could just be you.

As always, I haven't read any of these yet, and I make no promises as to when or whether I will read any of them. But here's what I can tell you about them right now.

First up is the new raksura novel from Martha Wells, The Edge of Worlds, which follows three earlier novels (first was The Cloud Roads) and two books of short stories. (And I used to read all of Wells's books, but I see I've fallen really far behind -- don't take that as any judgement on her work, since I still want to read them; I'm just that far behind on everyone these days.) This one is a hardcover coming April 19th from Night Shade, and it begins a new series in this world -- so it would be a great place to start reading Wells, if you haven't before (or have been away for a while, like me).

Log Horizon, Vol. 2: The West Wind Brigade is the second in a manga series about gamers trapped in an online game (yes, another one of those), adapted from the light novels of Mamare Touno by Koyuki. Despite the cover, this one does not seem to be mostly about scantily clad young women frolicking in the water, which may disappoint some of you. It's available from Yen Press right now.

Also from Yen is the hardcover omnibus Emma, Vol. 4, collecting what I think was originally two paperback volumes of Kaoru Mori's series together. And I keep hearing that this story of a maid in Victorian England is one of the better manga stories -- and Mori is definitely well-respected -- so I might have to see if I can find the earlier omnibuses and just read the darn thing.

Vertical tends to do quirkier manga than the bigger houses -- more to my taste, usually, than the standard shonen fare of teenagers battling demons between classes at the greatest magic school in Tokyo -- and so I have hopes for Riichi Ueshiba's Mysterious Grilfriend X, Vol. 1, which otherwise looks pretty standard. (Regular-guy high school hero, odd girl transfers to his school, and it turns to romance in a weird way.)

Also from Vertical is Kaori Ozaki's The Gods Lie, which is another semi-romance story about young people, though these two are slightly younger (middle school), it's a one-volume story (refreshing!), and there's a "dark secret" ominously mentioned on the back cover.

I am not generally the audience for self-published books -- being a publishing professional for many years, I have a vested interest in the vetting process of Real Publishing -- and self-published books by two authors that sound like minor '80s teen comedies are only slightly closer to my style. So I'm probably not the right person to convince you to read Practical Applications for Multiverse Theory, by Nick Scottt and Noa Gavin. But it's from Inkshares, and it's about two teens -- he's a geek! she's a cheerleader! together, they save all of the parallel worlds! -- who realize that universes are collapsing into their high school, and that they're the ones who need to do something about it. Practical Applications is a trade paperback, officially available on April 19th.

Last up for this week is the new fantasy novel from Steven Erikson, whom I'm also horribly far behind on. (He does write gigantic complex books, so I have an excuse.) Fall of Light is the middle book of his current fantasy trilogy, which reminds me that I'm still only about halfway through his gigantic ten-book Malazan Book of the Fallen, which I want to finish someday before I die. Fall is a Tor hardcover, available April 19th. And Erikson is probably the most epic fantasy writer imaginable -- his characters start at Elric-level and get more tormented, powerful, and complicated from there.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Unprivileged Communications

I find myself reading a lot more legal news these days, since law is at the core of the Day-Job. And, amazingly, I find that I can still become even more jaundiced about the world than I thought possible.

For example, I was reading this Corporate Counsel article on recent rulings on attorney-client privilege. (As you do.) And it seems to me that all of the rulings aim towards one direction: the outside counsel needs to control all aspects of an investigation, and directly control any subcontractors (accountants, forensic investigators, etc.) to maintain attorney-client privilege. (That privilege is the thing that means you or your lawyer can't be forced to testify about your conversations -- it's a big, big deal.)

A business, on the other hand, would prefer to have the choice of how to run those functions -- some companies would want to do them internally.

So it's really convenient for outside, bill-by-the-hour lawyers that the lawyer rules say they absolutely have to be in charge of everything, and bill for the hour on every last bit of them. Mighty damn convenient, if you ask me.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/2

There's no time for existential doubt -- I have a stack of books to tell you about!

(Eek, I accidentally rhymed. Oh well, leave it be.)

This week, I got a number of current books from the fine people an Yen Press, most of which are manga -- but I suspect there are a few light novels lurking in there to confuse and befuddle me. As always, I haven't read these, and have, actually, barely looked at them before this second. But here's what I have....

A Certain Magical Index, Vol. 5, a manga by Chuya Kogino based on the original (light novel, I think) by Kazuma Kamachi with character designs by Kiyotaka Haimura. This entire volume seems to take place on the last day of summer vacation, from which I deduce it's a school story. You're welcome.

The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 5 is another adapted-from-a-light-novel series, this time by Akio Hiiragi out of Satoshi Wagahara. And, yes, it's about an extradimensional Dark Lord who was cast out and now lives as a Tokyo teenager, where he works as assistant manager of a not-McDonald's. Wacky!

Deep breath for this one: Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story: The Ice Reaper, Vol. 4 has something to do with the long-running series of FF games, but it's only a "side story," so gamers can ignore it, I suppose. It's by Takatoshi Shiozawa, with supervision (right there on the cover, which is pretty darn supervisory) by Tetsuya Nomura. And that sword on the cover has a pretty impressive beard, if I do say so myself.

First Love Monster, Vol. 4 comes from Akira Hiyoshimaru, and is apparently about a high school girl dating a fifth grader. (Yes, I know -- but that's him on the cover, so maybe he's just really dumb and has been left back a lot?) I also suspect this volume has an epic jump-rope contest, from the cover props -- or, if not, it should.

High School DxD, Vol. 8 continues the fan-servicey story of angels and devils and fallen angels (and probably even more supernatural factions by now), from Hiroji Mishima adapting the light novels of Ichiei Ishibumi. It's also probably a harem manga by now. (See my review of the first volume for possibly more context.)

It is very difficult to read the light-yellow title of Horimiya, Vol. 3, so I hope the fans of this series are particularly fanatic. It's credited to Hero -- presumably not the ancient inventor from Alexandria, but you never know -- and Daisuke Hagiwara, and it seems to be a slice-of-life school story about two girls. (I don't know who the grumpy fellow in the middle is -- those girls on the cover might not even be the two girls, since manga tend to rotate covers among the minor cast to show everyone in color.)

How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, Vol. 2 is a title that I hope sounds less creepy and sexist in Japanese, and it's also a series adapted from a light novel. In this case, the novelist is Fumiaki Maruto and the manga-ka is Takeshi Moriki. And it does seem to be a bout a highschool boy grooming some girl to be his perfect girlfriend -- in a wacky way, I suppose.

Kagerou Daze, Vol. 5 was adapted from I need to say it?...light novel by Jin (Shizen No Teki-P) by the slightly more conventionally named Mahiro Satou. I have no idea what the series as a whole is about, but this volume sees the two main characters gaining eyeball-based superpowers.
So, I Can't Play H, Vol. 5 is the last volume of the series by Sho Okagiri adapted from Pan Tachibana's original story, which I believe means this finishes off the original light novel. It's some kind of harem comedy, and this piece involves a swimsuit competition and some missing pieces of swimsuit.

Taboo Tattoo, Vol. 2 features a woman on the cover who does not appear to be tattooed at all.
 But she also doesn't appear to be clothed, and I'm pretty sure she is, so maybe she's got tattoos lurking as well. The back cover copy is all about fighting and training, with not a word of taboos or tattoos. So I really don't know what's going on here.

Barakamon, Vol. 10 continues Satsuki Yoshino's story of a fish-out-of-water calligrapher and the down-home Japanese town that's humanizing him despite all his efforts. See my review of the first volume for more details -- at least, details of what this series was like about sixteen hundred pages ago.

The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 4 is not the prequel to the book above; this is the actual fourth light novel, as opposed to the fifth volume of the manga, which I expect is somewhat behind this point. One might think that it would be good to have a slightly different naming scheme for such closely related and easily-confused properties, but one  clearly would be wrong. This is by Satoshi Wagahara, has illustrations by something called 029 (Oniku) , and features the Devil King taking the summer to work at a beach house.

Handa-Kun, Vol. 2 is another highschool story, this time from Satsuki Yoshino (yes, the same creator as Barakamon). I don't really understand what's going on here -- it's in a four wide panels to a page format, something like 4-koma, but tells a continuous story -- and the characterizations are really broad and weird in ways that are clearly aimed at satirizing something, but I have no idea what.

And another light novel: Fujino Omori's Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 5. This is still the middle of the crawl through the first dungeon -- no idea how big that is, or if there's any standard dungeon measurements to compare it to.

Servant X Service, Vol. 1 is a 4-koma collection by Karino Takatsu about the new low-level employees of a local government somewhere in Japan. There are four of them, and they are presumably meant to be wacky in specifically Japanese ways.

And last for this week is Yowamushi Pedal, Vol. 2 by Wataru Watanabe, about a young would-be bicycle racer, his "granny bike," and the usual work-hard/do-your-best stuff that every shonen manga ever tries to indoctrinate its young and impressionable audience with.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Read in March

If you're reading this blog through in order, some time in the future -- and if so, I have to say both that I'm sorry that fell on your plate and to please go easy on me in the Truth & Justice Inquisition that is the only plausible reason for such activity -- you should know that the date is a lie.

I'm writing this in mid-June, having fallen that far behind in writing cursory blurbs about the books I've read, that being about the only thing this blog contains in the first place. (Yes, I am ashamed of myself. Please emphasize that point to the Head Inquisitor.) But these are indeed books I read in March, and here's what I thought about them -- it's only "late" if you expected me to be timely, which is a bad assumption these days.

Paul Theroux, Deep South (3/1)

Jiro Kuwata, Batman: The Batmanga, Vol. 2 (3/2)

Frederik Peeters, Aama, Vol. 1: The Smell of Warm Dust (3/3)

This is the first in a science-fictional graphic novel series, from the cartoonist of the semi- autobiographical Blue Pills and illustrator of the I-don't-want-to-genre-type-it Sandcastle. It's set in a big, busy medium-future universe, with medium-strong AI (embodied in roughly humanoform robots, but not godlike), routine interstellar travel, and various kinds of super-science. Our hero is an amnesiac named Verloc, who used to be involved in super-science, and may yet be again. His companions are a robot that looks like an ape, and his estranged brother. I'm not sure where this is going, but it's serious and adult and complex in a good way, so I want to see more of it.

Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, Mr. Punch (3/7)

The second major Gaiman-McKean graphic novel, after Violent Cases, has a similar structure and set of concerns: it's another story about a boy who is not quite Gaiman in a world of adults he doesn't understand yet. (That's one of the core Gaiman worlds, of course: the boy who sees more than he knows.) This one is set in a decaying seaside resort, and is about the old British show business tradition of the title. It's gorgeous and atmospheric and allusive and precise and implies vastly more than it ever tells. I think Gaiman's shorter works are his best -- Ocean at the End of the Lane rather than American Gods, or this and Violent Cases rather than Sandman -- so it was good to revisit this book and remind myself of how he's so good at picking just the right words in a short space like this. And McKean seems to have the ability to draw absolutely anything in any style, as long as the story requires it. 

Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, Two Brothers (3/8)

This is a literary graphic novel of a different kind, based on the novel of the same name by Milton Hatoum, one of the great names in contemporary Brazilian literature. It's literary in a more old-fashioned way -- a family saga mostly about the two brothers of the title, with depth of characterization and a lot of buried secrets but a pre-modern sensibility and a narrative that stays outside of the thoughts of all of its characters.

Moon and Ba are deeply accomplished and thoughtful creators, and they tell this story very well, in both words and pictures. (Some people could give an opinion of who did what; I don't make any claim to that kind of expertise.) But there's something quaint about this kind of 19th century story as we get deeper into the 21st -- I liked this book but couldn't love it, and found myself wishing we could know more about what these two brothers thought and felt.

Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, Ronin: The Deluxe Edition (3/9)

Frank Miller's first big vanity project -- the warm-up for Dark Knight, the follow-up to his first Daredevil run -- was reprinted in a big fancy edition a few years back, for its thirtieth anniversary. And, since I lost my old copy of the '80s trade paperback in my '11 flood, I figured I'd get it and read it again.

It's shakier than it felt at the time, and the art is stronger than the story, which is full of second-hand tropes and ideas. (A ronin battling through time to reclaim his honor! Near-future technological wonders alongside fear cannibalistic underground dwellers! The techo-utopia rotten at its core! The chubby young man who has powers he doesn't understand! The tough-as-nails but super-sexy woman warrior! The new technology that will change everything but is secretly horrible! An evil demon from beyond time trying to destroy everything!) It's gorgeous, and the story moves well, but it's not a story that will bear deep mining or serious analysis. I'm happy to buy and read it again, though -- the adventure-story stuff is great, and it's an important link in Miller's career.

Riad Sattouf, The Arab of the Future (3/11)

This is another comics memoir, "I grew up in an oppressive Middle Eastern regime and escaped to France" subcategory, a la Marjane Satrapi. Sattouf begins his story earlier, since this book is mostly about his youth -- he's three years old for a large chunk of it -- and details his young life in Syria and Algeria. His father is an academic whom Sattouf presents as dangerously stupid about politics and the safety of his family, blinded by unquestioned expectations of his upbringing and some half-digested leftist/Arabist propaganda. (I'm not sure Sattouf meant to make his father look so buffoonish, but the elder Sattouf clearly didn't think for a second about taking his new French wife and young son to politically shaky places with horrible infrastructure or with leaving them to horrible hygiene practices and appalling relatives -- and he did it more than once, on purpose.) Sattouf has an engaging line, and had an interesting life, but this volume only sees him barely get into school -- there's clearly much more to come.

Guy Delisle, The Owner's Manual to Terrible Parenting (3/14)

Delisle is now firmly into the latest version of his cartooning career: short books of humorous cartoons about his life as a father of two young children. (This one follows A User's Guide to Neglectful Parenting and Even More Bad Parenting Advice.) It's very funny -- maybe particularly so to other fathers, which I'll admit -- and follows the usual stereotype of the corner-cutting, neglectful, distracted, unconcerned father. And his kids get the best lines, as usual. These books are nowhere near as deep or meaningful as his travelogues, but, then, there's no way they would be. And these are a lot of fun for what they are.

Jan Morris, Contact! (3/16)

Morris is apparently one of the great travel writers of the 20th century -- I've never read her before, but I've heard her name a lot -- and this is one of those books that great writers emit when they're quite aged but their publishers still want to get out product on a regular schedule.

Contact! is subtitled "A Book of Encounters," which is one way of referring to a collection of excerpts from Morris's previous travel books. Contact! does not date or source any of the vignettes reprinted here -- it doesn't even have a card page or other listing of Morris's books, so the reader is given no apparatus to even try to figure that out for himself -- and instead just throws one moment after another at the reader, like an organ grinder tossing peanuts to his monkey. They're nice moments, generally -- Morris is a fine writer with a good eye for telling details -- but they're all small, and out of context, and they come at the reader rapid-fire, bouncing around the world and over five decades with no explanation at all. A better version of this book would at least give each vignette a place and time (Port Said, 1956, for example, or San Francisco, 1977), and an exemplary version would say what book each moment appeared in. The latter would be particularly useful if, as I assume, one purpose of Contact! is to induce the reader to buy more books by Morris.

Rick Geary, Louise Brooks, Detective (3/18)

Yes, Louise Brooks, the star of early Hollywood. Yes, detective, after she'd returned home after the flame-out of her career to Wichita, Kansas to teach dance. No, it's not true -- unlike most of Geary's work, this is fictional.

But it's set in a carefully-realized 1942, with the usual Geary attention to clothing and setting and curs and other accouterments of life. (And, yes, there are maps in the front matter -- if I didn't love Geary for a dozen other reasons, I'd love him because he nearly always includes maps.) And there is a murder, which Brooks gets caught up in, and eventually solves. There's physical danger, and mysterious strangers, and chases in the night across darkened farm fields. It's all a bit less sober than Geary's usual non-fiction murder stories, which makes a nice palate cleaner -- it's good to see him revving up his engines higher at least once in a while. And who's to say this all didn't happen?

Adrian Tomine, Killing and Dying (3/21)

Tomine creates low-key comics stories about the small triumphs and (more often) defeats in normal lives, and this is the most recent collection of his work. I got it from the library, and, as you may have figured out from context, read it about three months before I'm typing these words now. Low-key stories often do not linger with great precision in the mind, but that's no reflection on their strength.

So I can't tell you much about this -- the title refers to comedy, by the way; it doesn't see Tomine going all Grand Guignol on us -- but I can tell you he's one of our great short-story writers, one who happens to work in comics. Each story was a lovely gem, and the title story was particularly powerful. But if you don't like literary short stories in prose, there's a fiar chance you won't like them in comics, either, so keep that in mind.

Sarah Vowell, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (3/25)

Vowell has carved herself out a quirky niche career writing stories of early Americans and (usually) their religious foibles and/or how they decimated the local natives. (This is cheerier than you'd expect; Vowell is really interested in nitpicky details of Puritan schisms and pretty matter-of-fact about the incidental massacres.) Her most recent book -- the first since 2011's Unfamiliar Fishes, I think --  looks at the greatest foreign USA-booster of the years just before and after there actually was a USA, the Marquis de Lafayette.

Lafayette was one of those boy-men that are more fun to read about than to be near -- mildly narcissistic in the way only a French aristocrat could be, obsessed with battle and honor in the manner of a nine-year-old-boy, deeply ambitious without (apparently) a backstabbing bone in his body, and enamored of republican ideals while still being perfectly happy maintaining every aristocratic privilege he could get. Vowell tells his story in her usual overgrown-essay style, wandering through his young, his time during the Revolutionary war, and a later victory-lap tour of the growing USA in the 1820s when he was much older and a bit more settled. I still wish Vowell would find some structure for her books, which are awfully baggy for being so short, but I suppose this is the way she works, so there's no use expecting her to change now. This could be a good first Vowell book, particularly for the Revolution-obsessed crowd.

That was March; I'm going to dive into April now. (Now being mid-June, remember.) I may get caught up this summer...or maybe not.