Saturday, October 31, 2009

Getting the Hell Out of Dodge

About half an hour ago, I finished updating a spreadsheet for work and uploaded it back to the company portal, meaning that I've officially finished all of the work I needed to do and that I can now consider myself On Vacation.

And so I am.

Tomorrow morning, very early, all four members of the Hornswoggler clan will be boarding one of those newfangled aeroplanes and jetting off to balmy Orlando, Florida, where we will spend the next week and a bit firmly ensconced in the arms of The Mouse.

I've scheduled at least one post to pop up every day that I'm gone, including several reviews (and one it's-not-a-review) and some more frivolous stuff as well. But actual real-time blogging will not resume until the evening of the 9th at the very earliest.

Don't do anything too ridiculous while I'm off the grid, O Internet, and I'll see you in a week.

At Least It's Not Yellow...

My "Manga Friday" column for this week featured a review of a collection of gekiga stories -- in this case, historicals set about a hundred years ago in small Japanese villages -- Susumu Katsumata's Red Snow.

Next week I'm on vacation and pretty much incommunicado, but if I manage to write something later today and get it into the ComicMix system, there may be a post or two from me there. But I wouldn't bet on it.

My Deadly Sins

Another one of those Internet quizzes, which I suspect I may have done before...but it's a Saturday, so it's an easy post. I got this from James Nicoll.
Wrath:Very Low
Envy:Very Low

Discover Your Sins - Click Here

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Every reader needs comfort: something to retreat to when things aren't going as planned, a calm oasis of perfection while the storm rages outside. For me, the books of P.G. Wodehouse perfectly fit that bill. Even better, he wrote over a hundred of them in his long life, so I'm still able to read new books when I need them.

And so I turned to The Inimitable Jeeves after Gail Carriger's Soulless, a nice novel that wasn't what I had thought it would be, an aborted reading of The Sheriff of Yrnameer, and some other things that weren't just as I wanted them to be.

Inimitable is from 1923, and was the first novel-length appearance of Jeeves (and his employer -- "master" would be entirely the wrong word -- Bertram Wilberforce Wooster, one of the idlest of the idle rich and dullest of the Drones), though it was actually a fix-up of eleven previously published stories. It's stop-and-start pacing betrays that origin, but Wodehouse has turned the stories into a continuous plot, so it all feels like one book, even if it isn't quite a novel.

As always, Bertie is dim and continually getting into scrapes -- the ones in this book mostly concern the lovelife of his friend Bingo Little, who keeps falling into love with unlikely females and calling for Bertie's help to win them. Bertie, of course, is very little help, but Jeeves's plots are cunning and true...though they're not always designed to do what Bingo or Bertie would like.

Inimitable is not quite top-drawer Wodehouse; it sees him still tuning the instrument of the Jeeves-Wooster stories, and organizing the elements that he would later turn into the most exquisite of farces. But "not quite as good as Wodehouse later got" is still vastly better than most modern humorists, and the world of Jeeves and Wooster is so timeless -- one part Gay Nineties, one part Roaring Twenties, one part pre-war gaiety, and several parts pure Wodehousian invention -- that it never feels dated.

And, as always, I have to give high praise to The Overlook Press, which has been publishing Wodehouse's books, four or six of them a year, in these wonderful small editions, for about a decade now. They make Wodehouse's work not just a joy to read, but a joy to have on the shelf.

Quote of the Week

"It is not economical to go to bed early to save the candles if the result is twins."
- Chinese proverb

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Publishers Weekly Also Thinks the Year Is Over

To me, this is like having Christmas decorations up in August -- there's still sixty days left in the year, folks! it's not over yet! -- but clearly no one listens to me. PW has just posted their top ten books of 2009, excerpted from a longer list of 100 top books which they'll publish in next week's issue.

And that's another thing -- you do the long list first, and say that the Top Ten list will be coming later, to build interest and get debate going. Geez Louise, do I have to tell these people how to do everything?

(Oh, well. At least the list has one book relevant to my interests on it -- David Small's not-as-great-as-everyone-says-but-still-pretty-darn-good comics memoir Stitches.)

Don't Go There! by Peter Greenberg

Greenberg, as the cover of Don't Go There! helpfully notes, is the Travel Editor [1] for NBC's Today Show, so many of you may already have heard of him. This is his latest breezy book about traveling the world, with an emphasis on the places he expects people will want to avoid.

Don't Go There! has seventeen chapters, each of them focusing on one particular kind of unpleasantness -- they range from air pollution to political corruption, from disease and natural disasters to unsafe and unpleasant trains, roads, or airports -- and counting up the worst offenders both in the USA and around the world. Interspersed are a half-dozen shorter sections which are not numbered in sequence with the chapters, but provide very similar lists and commentary in a few other areas, such as the most expensive cities, the most depressed destinations, and the most dangerous theme parks.

Most of us are unlikely to have the hugely widely scope for world travel that would make Don't Go There! particularly useful; those of us who do regularly travel to lots of different destinations are likely to do so for work purposes, and so have less control over those destinations than leisure travelers would. But anyone who likes to travel at all knows that the armchair kind of travel is almost as much fun as the real kind -- and cheaper, too. Don't Go There! is like hearing stories of someone else's travel travails while sitting comfortably wherever you happen to be. It has a lot of charts and statistics, which are fun to look at but probably won't make anyone change their bookings.

In short, this is a fine book if you come across it something like the way I did: in a library, to read on a whim. It doesn't provide much depth, and doesn't really cross-reference the different measures of horribleness to make a grand index of places to avoid, so it reads a bit like a collection of separate essays. Still, if only a few isolated facts stick in the reader's head, that will probably be useful.

[1] This implies that some people at NBC don't know the difference between what a text editor -- of magazines or books -- and a video editor do, since Greenberg is apparently the soliciting-pieces kind of editor rather than the cutting-it-to-fit-in-a-time-slot editor. Either that, or they just don't care. My money, as always with TV folks, is on "don't care."
Listening to: Future of the Left - The Hope That House Built
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Melding with the Mainstream

There's a new Mind Meld post up at SF Signal, and I'm part of it.

The question this time is:
INTRO: Recent events and discussions once again bring the topic of genre fiction's mainstream respectability to the forefront. So we thought it'd be timely to ask this week's panelists:

Q: In your opinion, does literary science fiction and fantasy have mainstream respect? Why, if at all, does it need mainstream approval? What would such approval mean for genre fiction?
(This is actually the second part of a diptych answering the same question -- in best SFF form, the document got too long and had to be split in half for publication.)

To see my answer -- and those of my fellow Melders Lucius Shepard, Adam Roberts, James Enge, Tim Akers and several others -- go check it out. But you might guess that I didn't have a lot of sympathy for those who whine about not getting literary respect for their wish-fulfillment space operas.

Thy Neighbor's Wife by Guy Talese

This is the great smutty book of the baby-boom Seventies, one of the cornerstones of the mythology of the Me Decade and a major work in the canon of the New Journalism -- the exemplar of several things at once and tremendously popular and influential for many years. Coming to it thirty years later, though, the reader is struck by how diffuse it is, lacking a real through-line or conclusion. Perhaps there could never have been a conclusion to a book that was so thoroughly "the way we live now" -- we all did not stop living in 1980, and the way we lived kept changing, as it always does -- but Talese doesn't even make an attempt to sum the book up, just drags himself into the last chapter to explain what he wanted to do, or thought he was going to do, before bowing out quietly.

Thy Neighbor's Wife only explains itself in that last chapter, with Talese taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of all of the books that Thy Neighbor's Wife didn't become -- a consumer guide to massage parlors, Talese's own sexual autobiography, an in-depth look at the Sandstone Retreat, an examination of the intersection of nudism and sex -- before ending suddenly. Before that, it ran through twenty-five chapters, each one on a discrete topic, only slightly connected to the chapters before and after -- though he did circle back to a few topics: Sandstone, Hugh Hefner, and the place of Chicago in America's libido. Talese begins with a photo of Diane Webber (the model immortalized on the new edition) to tell the story of the late adolescence of a Chicago teen, Harold Rubin, who then disappears for several hundred pages. The narrative jumps from Rubin to Webber, on to Hefner, off to the couples who will later form Sandstone, and then wanders away into describing obscenity cases for a while (with the requisite thumbnail sketches of the then-current Supreme Court justices) before bouncing back to many of those earlier subjects for a while and bounding onward.

It's a scatter-shot approach, dizzying at times, and Talese's workmanlike prose moves it forward ploddingly, less leaping from topic to topic than building isolated foundations for various buildings in the same development. Talese hints at larger structures and plans, but refuses to speculate about them -- he'll only concern himself with the particular. One particular love affair of Hefner's is given in great detail, while a myriad others are left unmentioned or swiftly skimmed over -- probably because the one woman in question agreed to be interviewed by Talese, and the others didn't.

Talese wants to tell a grand sweeping story -- of how all of America changed its view of sex and love over the course of the decades of the '60s and '70s -- but to tell it entirely in particulars, and to tell it while keeping himself out of the story almost entirely (until that last chapter, unveiling his part in the proceedings like the Wizard of Oz). Unfortunately, the story is too big to be told that way -- Talese, from what he tells us here, never even visited most of the country, and didn't do any general or sociological research. He wants to present his subjects as exemplars of changing Americans -- but without saying what they are exemplars of, or how the exemplify anything.

And so Thy Neighbor's Wife comes across -- especially now, thirty years later -- as a collection of primary documents from the period, not a coherent single narrative. We see Hefner as he puts together the first year or so of Playboy, and then again at the height of its success in the early '70s -- but not how he got from one to the other, or what that meant (to him, or to America). We also see very little about what Playboy meant to the young men who read it -- and nothing about its place in the lives of the young women who appeared in it. In fact, if there's one single glaring flaw in Thy Neighbor's Wife, it's women -- they exist here almost entirely as objects, as beings seen from the outside. Talese is a man, and he gets into the heads of the men in this story -- from Hefner and Rubin to Al Goldstein of Screw and John Bullaro of Sandstone -- but not the women. The women here, as in the traditional American male view, control the access to sex, and are capricious and ultimately not understandable -- men can just try to figure out the rules so as to get as much sex as possible. And the problem then with this era was that the rules were changing radically and without warning -- that was good for men, since it generally meant that more sex was available, but it was also bad, since getting that sex required entirely different methods and plans.

I kept wanting Thy Neighbor's Wife to either stay on one subject long enough to cover it in depth, or to zoom out to a big picture once in a while to provide some context. (Sandstone was an outlier even in the sexual revolution -- but how many couples were swapping partners, in one way or another, in those mid-'70s years? How did the loosening of sexual morality affect people in the middle of their lives? How were the teens of the '70s different from those of the '50s, in ways that can be traced back to Playboy and Lady Chatterly and Henry Miller?) But Thy Neighbor's Wife is a book of reportage, not of analysis -- Talese never makes this clear, but his aim was to show what he saw, and not presume to make judgements about anything larger. And so Thy Neighbor's Wife is a book focused primarily on Chicago and Los Angeles, and even there on the Playboy Mansion and Sandstone, because that's where Talese spent the most time on the ground, talking to people. (And, as he coyly hints at in that last chapter, screwing around with at least a couple of those newly liberated young women before going back to his marriage.)

Thy Neighbor's Wife is still an important book, but all of the things that it did have been done since -- and mostly done better -- by many other books, each of them focusing on one aspect of that era and examining it in more depth. It's a decent starting point to the world of the sexual revolution, but it only leads on to other books that make more of an effort to answer the questions that Talese only raises.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time to Quit Working; 2009 is Over

...because Amazon is already counting down the top 100 books of the year.

I say this every year, but what the hell?! There are a good ten weeks left in the year, folks -- you can hold your horses at least until it's December. It's not like the best books of the year are going to get away from you if you don't start nailing them to the wall in mid-Summer.

Movie Log: King of California

I haven't seen a movie as stripped down as King of California in a long time; it has two (and only two) major characters, with a third that's important but doesn't get much dialogue, and then a lot of walk-ons. Those two characters are a father and daughter, Charlie and Miranda, living somewhere in suburban California. (If the movie ever gave them a last name or a hometown, I didn't catch it.)

Charlie (Michael Douglas) has just been released from a mental institution as the movie opens, and this leads us to have severe doubts about the efficacy of the California mental health system. To be blunt about it, he's still quite crazy. (In flashbacks throughout the movie, we see that he always was at least a bit cracked, but that he's probably gotten worse as he's gotten older.) He's now obsessed with a treasure that he's sure a Spanish priest hid somewhere in their vicinity in the 1600s, which is just the latest in a long line of things he's been obsessed with.

Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) is the sensible grown-up in this relationship, despite the fact that she's not even seventeen. But she's been living on her own for the two years that Charlie was in the institution, and clearly taking care of both him and herself for years before that. She at first resists this latest crazy plan of her father's, but, finally, goes along with him and begins to believe in its possibilities.

Netflix defined this as an "indy comedy," which is why I saw it...but that's only true if "indy," as a modifier, means "not primarily funny and without a traditionally happy ending." It's a well-acted movie -- Douglas probably though he had a shot at an Oscar nomination, though I don't recall if he was talked up for it two years ago -- that tells its story well, but it is yet another indy-drama about dysfunctional families trying to make their way in the world. It will be entirely understandable if any particular viewer has had more than enough of that particular style of movie for this decade.

Poison Penmanship by Jessica Mitford

Jessica was once the most famous Mitford on this side of the Atlantic -- her The American Way of Death being of more interest locally than her older sister Nancy's almost autobiographical novels of the backbiting British aristocracy in love -- but her position may be slipping. And any of the Mitford sisters are always in danger of being subsumed into the myth of the Mitfords, that legendary six-headed female aristocrat that was simultaneously fascist and communist, married to all of the crowned heads of the world after being the most famous debutante ever, and speaking in private tongues to itself.

Poison Penmanship is a collection of Jessica Mitford's shorter journalism, most of it -- as the subtitle, "The Gentle Art of Muckraking," makes clear -- in the declamatory, j'accuse style of the '60s and '70s. It's been out of print since the original trade paperback edition of 1980, though, coincidentally, NYRB Press has a reprint planned for the middle of next year. (So this may perhaps be the time for a Jessica Mitford revival.)

Mitford structured Poison Penmanship as a primer in muckraking -- journalism that goes after a practice or industry hated by the writer, taking a strong position but also doing solid research to aid in the attack -- with a long introduction on the principles of her work and afterwords for each article bringing them up to date (to 1979) and providing background. She doesn't seem to have noticed that the articles collected here show her moving from advocacy and muckraking (tackling large issues like prison reform, racism in the South, newspaper prejudice and the funeral industry) towards more general journalism -- particularly since she closes with the long piece "Egyptomania," from the German travel magazine Geo, in which she investigates the then-current digs in the Valley of Kings without any particular point of view. So an unfriendly reader -- someone inclined to muckrake Mitford, perhaps -- could use this book as evidence that success ruined Mitford, turning her to puffier pieces like "Egyptomania" and a similar investigatory journalism piece on a super-expensive Elizabeth Arden desert beauty clinic.

In 1979, muckraking was still exclusively the province of the Left; the very idea of similar work being done by the Right would be ludicrous. But the world has changed since then, in part because of Mitford and her fellow muckrakers, and now muckraking is not only bipartisan, but universal. (What are Perez Hilton and Gawker if not muckrakers of the most frivolous sort?) The Internet sometimes seem to exist purely for the raking of muck, and subsequent lobbing of said much at one's targets. We are all in the world Jessica Mitford built, but we have found that it's no longer "we" who attack "them" -- the war is now general, a Hobbesian war of all against all.

And so Poison Penmanship might be more useful now than ever before. Its specific examples might be old and out-of-date -- though the causes are still strong, often complaining about exactly the same abuses as Mitford did forty years ago -- but the lessons in advocacy journalism, in research and in getting the story solid before a reporter confronts a major hostile witness, are still as strong as ever before. And looking at the poor quality of muckraking currently -- since most of it could more honestly be called mud-flinging, with no serious attempt at research, analysis, or coherent thought behind it -- shows that Poison Penmanship is sorely needed now. Kudos to NYRB Books for bringing it back, and we should all hope for a rise in the general quality of muck raked about a year from now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dumb Sentences, Day 26,349

Today's Dumb Sentence comes to us via a tweet from Don Linn. (As always, we must exercise caution: tweeting something is not necessarily the same as agreeing with it.)

The sentence comes from Cody Brown, and reads:
"News is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible."
What's so dumb about it? That first noun can be replaced with literally anything and it still makes sense, positioning the speaker as a radical, tough-minded proponent of the cloud against the elite, as a free-thinker striding valiantly into the future. In short, it's utterly content-free, and serves only to say "I am a smart 21st century person. Please hire me as a consultant for your organization."

Try it yourself!

Policing is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

Government is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

Fire prevention
is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

Literature is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

Banking is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

Garbage collection
is so important that leaving it to a group of people in an office downtown is irresponsible.

Movie Log: Paul Blart, Mall Cop

Thing 1, my older son, asked specifically to see Paul Blart, Mall Cop for one of our Family Friday Movie Nights, and I thought it was worth losing eighty-seven minutes of my life to make my son happy. Then he spent most of the movie hiding in various other rooms, since he really doesn't like emotional conflict of any kind. (Remind me to tell you the story of how he had a love-hate relationship with Thomas the Tank Engine at the age of three, since the trains were mean to each other. For that matter, remind me to tell you how I'd leave the room myself at about his age when the Star Trek re-runs got too much to handle. Genetics can pick up the things you never wanted to pass on to your kids.)

Mall Cop is a paint-by-numbers loser-shows-his-worth action comedy aimed at tweens, and I refuse to spend more than the time spent during the movie thinking about its plot. It's not bad, given what it is, but it's not in any way a "good movie," either. It's a cynical slab of entertainment that succeeds on its own terms, primarily because those terms are so low. And, yes, all of the funny moments are in the trailer -- the first half of the movie is slow and dull.

The most interesting thing about Mall Cop is that I could swear that it was actually filmed not at the "West Orange Pavilion Mall" -- which doesn't exist -- but at that mall near the Readercon hotel. But I don't care enough to check.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/24

Disclaimer: these "Reviewing the Mail" posts go up early every Monday morning and list the books I saw in the mail the week before. I have read exactly none of these books, though I hope to read at least some of them. This post contains whatever I already know about these books through rumor, innuendo, common knowledge, and whatever marketing materials were included.

First this time out is Elizabeth Bear's novel By the Mountain Bound, a prequel to last year's All the Windwracked Stars. (I still haven't read Stars, though it is on the giant stacks of books to be reviewed. And am I the only one whose urge to read a book decreases noticeably when that books spawns a series before I manage to get to it? I know there are people who prefer stories that don't end, but, at this point in my reading life, I'm much more likely to read a book than to commit to a series.) This series, as I understand, is fantasy, and inspired by Norse legends, with Stars set after what sounds like Ragnarok. Tor will publish By the Mountain Bound tomorrow in hardcover.

Cory Doctorow's new novel Makers will also be published in hardcover by Tor -- this one on November 2nd. But Makers has also been serialized for free online at, so the dead-tree edition is not the only way you can read this story. I've read plenty of Doctorow's nonfiction (especially the online agitprop essays), but only one novel -- last year's Little Brother. But Doctorow is clearly one of the most important and inventive writers working in SF today, so I should read this.

Eoin Colfer has written a sixth book for Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide" series, because Adams's widow asked him nicely, and because the publishers offered him a sizable stack of cash. (Whether or not the readers were consulted, or would have wanted this, is a separate issue.) And so And Another Thing... exists; it was published by Hyperion on October 12th. I should reserve any further comment until I actually read the thing, and so I will.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Great American Comics series returns for the fourth year with a 2009 edition. The series editors are still Jessica Abel and Matt Madden -- they took over last year from founding editor Anne Elizabeth Moore -- and the guest editor for this year is Charles Burns. This heavy book -- it's on nice glossy paper, and has the heft to stun small animals if thrown with vigor -- was published on October 8th, though HMH oddly neglected to include any flap copy to explain the book to potential buyers. (There's a long-running struggle between designers and marketers within publishing -- one wants to make beautiful objects, and the other wants to sell as many widgets as possible, and their two aims do not always coincide. To my eye, those empty flaps are a case where the designer won a major battle with the marketer.)

I know CLAMP is a famous manga collective, and that their series xxxHolic is well known and respected...but the title always makes me think it's about a porn addiction. (And, not having read it, I'm not to clear on what kind of story it really is. So I've never been put straight in a way that sticks.) Anyway, I have here something called The Official xxxHOLiC Guide, which is the kind of thing a publishing company schedules in an attempt to keep a successful property going after its actual end. It's being published by Del Rey, and it will be in stores tomorrow.

There's a small press from Philadelphia called PS Books -- not to be confused with the small SFnal PS Publishing from the UK -- that mostly publishes a small magazine called Philadelphia Stories. (They've also published at least one novel -- Christine Weiser's rock 'n' roll story Broad Street -- because I've seen that, even if I haven't gotten to read it yet.) And they've just published a second anthology of the best work from that magazine, under the utterly appropriate title The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Vol. 2. It's available now from better booksellers, in trade paperback.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's new novel Diving into the Wreck is based on her acclaimed novella of the same name (and its sequel, "Room of Lost Souls"). It's a medium-future SF novel about salvaging and exploring ancient derelict spaceships -- which sounds right up my alley, since that's the next best thing to an enigmatic alien artifact -- which Pyr is publishing in trade paperback in November.

Kodansha Comics -- the American arm of the similarly-named largest publisher in Japan -- debuted with a bang on October 13th wit the publication of new collections of two of its best-known and most iconic properties. (At least to Americans; I have to assume that Kodansha hasn't stayed the biggest publisher in Japan by being known best there for stories two decades old.)

First is Akira, Vol. 1, the beginning of the Katsuhiro Otomo series that manages to be post post- and pre-apocalyptic. (Not to mention mid-apocalyptic, near the end.) I think of Akira as being something like the Japanese Watchmen -- it's not as formally complicated and knotty, but it both epitomizes and transcends the standards of its genre, and certainly was massively influential over here. (And probably in Japan as well, though there have been three or four entire generations of new manga-ka since Akira debuted.)

And the other one is Masamune Shirow's The Ghost in the Shell, which -- as far as I can remember -- mostly didn't take the definite article in its previous American incarnations. This book is also one of the major holes in my reading; I've never gotten to it, but it's nice to get another chance.
Listening to: Heartless Bastards - Searching For The Ghost
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Day

I intended to spend this afternoon working down the pile of books sitting on my desk to be reviewed -- I've read an even thirty books at this point that I haven't written about, going back to very early this year -- but I discovered new heights of work-avoidance instead.

My mother-in-law took The Wife and my two sons off to go apple picking in the wilds of New Jersey today, leaving me alone for about five hours. (Don't snicker; New Jersey does too have wilds. Even up here in the North. You just need to head in the direction of Pennsylvania until you hear banjo music.) I banged through two movie posts and one book, and then paused to move some books around.

Six hours later, I'd finally put up the bookcase my brother gave me when he moved to Portland back in February. (It's a tall one with glass doors, so it's very front-heavy; I needed to use two straps to attach it to ceiling joists and hammer a few shims under it, too.) And I'd moved a lot of books around to neaten up my office/study/hole in the ground. (I'd even done almost as much vacuuming as the space needed.)

What I hadn't done was to get back to the computer at all, for book reviews or time-wasting or anything else.

I'm going on a long family vacation one week from today -- very similar to the vacation I took at the same time last year, actually -- and I still hope to load up a lot of reviews for the days I'll be incommunicado. But some of them may be bunts, since I don't want to come back from vacation to these big stacks. (I warn you now...)

Movie Log: Absurdistan

In the Land of "Foreign" Movies -- that place primarily populated by humorous peasants of an ethnic group never precisely defined, whose words are heard mostly in voiceover (the better to dub them into a thousand languages) and who regularly find themselves in whimsical plotlines that eventually reaffirm the essential brotherhood, and unity, of mankind -- there is a district called Absurdistan. It would not do to concern oneself too closely with where, exactly, Absurdistan lies, in this German production filmed in Russian, but it's clearly in "that" part of the world -- away from the audiences for this movie, among the simpler people whom we either look down on for their primitivism or exalt for their simplicity.

There is a small, nameless village, presumably in central Asia (though it could be in Eastern Europe; all we know is that it was in the path of the Mongols), where about a dozen families live far away from everywhere else. The husbands are lazy and lusty, starting each day as if they're going to work but spending most of their time in the tea shop and then coming home at night full of desire; the wives do all of the work but seem to be only very slightly less lusty. The men are, of course, much happier with this arrangement than the women.

In this village, there are only two children -- at least that we ever see -- Aya (Krystyna Malerova) and Temelko (Max Mauff), who were born simultaneously and married at the age of eight. Now, they're in their late teens, and thinking about the first time they will have sex. A fortuneteller determines the precise time when they should enjoy bliss -- it has to do with two astrological constellations appearing in the sky -- and they wait the requisite time, with Temelko going off to "the city" for education, or work, or something (this isn't entirely clear).

But the laziness of the men has extended to the village's water supply -- the water comes via a long pipeline through the nearby mountains, but has not been maintained for years. And the flow of the water to the village's one outlet is now a trickle. The men, of course, will not fix it, since they won't do anything.

And so when Temelko returns, Aya runs from him, and tells him they won't be having any sex until the water is fixed. The other women hear this, think it's a great idea, and make the sex strike general. Soon, the village is divided into two zones, and the lazy men are using their ingenuity to get to the city and its whores, only to be stopped by the guns of the women. (They never even consider the expedient of actually fixing the water pipeline, of course.)

Temelko mopes around for a long time -- the actor Max Mauff has a very mopey face, unfortunately, and there is barely any dialogue in Absurdistan, so he gets even mopier in pantomime -- but eventually does what he has to do. The village is saved, love is restored...and all but one of the men still haven't done a lick of work. Sounds like someone's idea of Utopia!

Absurdistan is charming, but just a bit too deliberately so. There's nothing surprising or unexpected about it -- except perhaps when Aya appears naked on a roof in what I'd been assuming was a Muslim area -- but it runs through its well-worn plot with grace and vigor. The movie does know that all the men but Temelko are useless, but gives it an Easterner's shrug, as if to ask, what can we do about it? It should not be seen with any thought of real gender politics in mind, but will be quite entertaining taken on its own level.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stitching It Up

I reviewed David Small's NBA-nominated comics memoir Stitches on Thursday for ComicMix -- yes, I'm late in linking to it, but what can I do? I was not quite as positive as some other people have been, but that's typical for me. There is quite a lot that's impressive about Stitches, but I wouldn't consider it a masterpiece, and I'm not sure it would be on my ten best of the year.

Your mileage may vary, of course -- and it's a major graphic novel that should be read widely.
Listening to: Bess Rogers - Sunday
via FoxyTunes

Friday, October 23, 2009

How Sad I Am

I forget to set up Google Alerts for a lot of my books that I really should...but I have a "David Itzkoff" alert that comes through every day (mostly with a pile of "Arts, Briefly" Times blog posts) that I scour to see if he's doing anything SFnal. He hasn't for ages.

I feel like a boxer who's been out of training for too long...

BookScan Bestseller Lists Come to Wall Street Journal

Publishers Weekly reports this morning that the Wall Street Journal has come to an agreement with BookScan -- the Nielsen service that reports on retail sales of books in the USA -- to replace WSJ's old, self-created bestseller lists with new lists based on BookScan sales from the previous week.

The new lists will be available in the traditional WSJ flavors of fiction, nonfiction, and business, but will also include "genres such as travel and cooking, or topical interests such as presidential memoirs."

The lists were to appear first in the print WSJ and on today; I haven't been able to find them on the site.

Many civilians have expressed interest in seeing "real" BookScan numbers; this isn't quite that, but they will be able to see rankings based on actual reported numbers for the first time.

Yet Another Datapoint That Copyright Terms Are Too Long

Far too many literary heirs are complete assholes with massively inflated opinions of the worth of their dead minor-poet fathers.

Hands up -- who had even heard of Louis Zukofsky before this moment?
[via Bookslut]

Quote of the Week

"We think confidence games and hoaxes -- see, for example, most any David Mamet movie -- are sophisticated, elaborate schemes designed to slip by people's natural resistance to falsehood. But that's a mistake -- we don't have such a facility. A sucker isn't born every minute; a sucker is born every time someone is born."
- Peter Sagal, The Book of Vice, p. 111

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Book I'm Actually Looking Forward To

Blogging and reviewing can be a quick trip into cynicism -- if there's anything left to become cynical about after a few years in the publishing salt-mines. Most books look like widgets after a while -- they fill a particular hole in the market, and are interesting/useful/demanded by a particular kind of audience, but getting excited about books doesn't happen all that often.

But it does still happen, once in a while. And I'm already eager to read Swords and Dark Magic, an anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders that has the following very impressive-looking line-up:
  1. Introduction, Lou Anders & Jonathan Strahan
  2. “Goats of Glory”, Steven Erikson
  3. “Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company”, Glen Cook
  4. “Bloodsport”, Gene Wolfe
  5. “The Singing Spear”, James Enge
  6. “A Wizard of Wiscezan”, C.J. Cherryh
  7. “A Rich Full Week”, K. J. Parker
  8. “A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet”, Garth Nix
  9. “Red Pearls: An Elric Story”, Michael Moorcock
  10. “The Deification of Dal Bamore”, Tim Lebbon
  11. “Dark Times at the Midnight Market”, Robert Silverberg
  12. “The Undefiled”, Greg Keyes
  13. “Dapple Hew the Tint Master”, Michael Shea
  14. “In the Stacks”, Scott Lynch
  15. “Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe”, Tanith Lee
  16. “The Sea Troll’s Daughter”, Caitlin R Kiernan
  17. “Thieves of Daring”, Bill Willingham
  18. “The Fool Jobs”, Joe Abercrombie
I cut my SFF teeth on swords & sorcery, and have wished for more of it for the past two decades. And those are some damn fine writers, curated by two excellent editors whose taste I trust. It's coming from Harper sometime next year, which means I have some time to figure out what publicist I need to start hounding for an advance copy....

Happy Birthday, Earth!

According to the immortal Bishop Ussher, the Earth was created at dusk on this day in 4004 BC, at approximately 6:00 PM. (I'm assuming Ussher would have meant Greenwich Mean Time, if he'd had the benefit of timezones, and that translates into 1:00 PM EDT. On the other hand, Ussher might have burned at the stake anyone who dared to hint at timezones; it can be difficult to account for the prejudices of a man dead 350 years.)

Therefore, at this moment, the Earth is officially 6012 years old.

Please celebrate responsibly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movie Log: Management

Steve Zahn plays even dumber than usual in Management, a rambling romantic comedy that has a sweetness that makes up for the aimless meanderings of the plot. He plays Mike, a guy who works as the night manager (and general gofer) at his parents' mid-level motel in Kingman, Arizona.

Mike is a fairly typical Zahn boy-man -- distinguishable from the various other modern sorts of boy-men mostly by being played by Zahn, and by being on the sweet side, rather than petulant or appalling -- and we don't get a good sense of what kind of person he is before Jennifer Aniston shows up, as traveling motel-art saleswoman Sue Claussen. Mike is smitten by Sue, but we can see his attraction is purely physical, and the audience suspects that he's reacted this way to dozens of women at the motel.

(To put it bluntly, he comes across as a borderline stalker: bringing wine to her room both nights of her stay and hanging around her room making uncomfortable conversation. He's probably supposed to read as sweet and innocent, but innocent doesn't go well with blind lust. She gets rid of him the second time by letting him touch her butt, which isn't as funny or sexy as the filmmakers might have hoped. Most of the first reel or so of Management is borderline uncomfortable to watch, actually.)

For no reason that I or The Wife could discern, Sue has a quickie with Mike in the laundry room just before she leaves town. This is badly motivated -- Sue is bemused by Mike, but there's no plausible reason for her to want to sleep with him; a random stranger from a bar would be at least as appealing -- but necessary to set in motion the rest of the movie.

For Mike is now completely smitten, and so follows Sue back home to a random office park outside Baltimore in a poorly-thought-out plan to...well, that's what happens when you don't think your plans out. Luckily, she's not instantly in love with him, or secretly carrying his baby, or such rot; she's polite and nice but bundles him back to Arizona before too long.

And the movie meanders on from there, with Mike making more cross-country trips in the course of ninety minutes than many of us make in a decade. They both end up in Aberdeen, Washington, where Sue has become betrothed to an ex-punk yogurt magnate named Jango -- played by Woody Harrelson -- and Mike gets a job in a Chinese restaurant and a sidekick in the owners' son. By the time Management detours to a Buddhist monastery, the viewer has long passed the point of being able to anticipate the movie, though it always stays amiable and pleasant.

Do Sue and Mike get together in the end? Is their a life-lesson to be learned? Are their plans for a life together massively unlikely, even if very good-hearted? Well, this is a romantic comedy, so you get one guess.

Management doesn't have a surplus of plausibility, so the viewer will have to spot it about a quart or so, or top off along the way when the tank runs low. It's a pleasant movie, but its characters are collections of traits rather than people and their motivations entirely controlled by the necessities of a very odd and rambling plot. Aniston and Zahn are both cute, which I suppose is the main draw -- unless you're looking for a romantic comedy that doesn't follow the usual cliches, in which case you are massively in luck: Management invents the cliches of the planet Zarquon as it goes.

Happy 80th Birthday, Ursula K. Le Guin

I know I've been snarky at times about "Bad Ursula" -- fannish shorthand for the tendency of some of her late-period works to rely rather more heavily on a thick thumb on the moral scales than the reader would prefer -- but she's one of the indispensable writers of SF & Fantasy. Even more than that, she's been a great writer for more than forty years, has never denied writing genre stories, and has been a wonderful voice of reason when speaking to and about the larger literary world.

If Ursula K. Le Guin had not existed, we would not have been able to invent her. So my heartiest congratulations on reaching this milestone birthday with her wit, vigor, and literary power undiminished -- her recent novel Lavinia, which I have not read myself, has been widely lauded -- and my most fervent hopes for at least twenty more happy and productive years to come.

Another Design-My-Cover Contest

This one comes from my colleagues over in Wiley's Higher Education division, and I'm particularly pleased to see two things that they're doing very right which other contests have gotten wrong:
  • It's targeted specifically at design students, and the contest reaches out to them through their professors.
  • It explicitly says that the winner (and two finalists) will get paid for the design, and how much that award will be.
All other make-my-cover hopefuls, take note. And if there are any design students out there, would you like to try your hand at the cover of the new edition of Robin Landa's Advertising by Design?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Movie Log: The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Cub Scout activities forced the usual Friday Family Movie night to reschedule for Saturday afternoon, and the Hornswoggler menfolk assembled over oven-bake pizza to watch The Pink Panther Strikes Again. (This time, I'll do my best to spell Peter Sellers's name correctly.)

It's a direct sequel to the previous movie, Return of the Pink Panther, and sees Herbert Lom's ex-Chief Inspector Dreyfuss seemingly ending his stay in a mental hospital, completely cured of his obsession with killing Sellers's Clouseau. But then Clouseau arrives, and Dreyfuss is sent into a fit of madness (a hilarious one), and the plot is set in motion. Dreyfuss wants to kill Clouseau, but he does it in a very roundabout manner. (And, confusing my sons slightly, the title diamond never shows up at all -- it makes for a fine, funny movie, but they expected it and wondered why the movie was called "Pink Panther" if the diamond wasn't in it.)

Sellers is more integrated into the main plot this time around, which is nice to see; his comedy bits are just as funny, and they don't seem like interruptions in the "real" plot. There's a particularly good fight with Cato early in Strikes Again, and several other strong Sellers scenes. (The plunge down the stairs and subsequent interrogating-the-servants scene is particularly wonderful.) Lom is also very entertaining, chomping down on the scenery with energy and verve and playing the supervillain role (complete with a castle and a death ray) to a T.

I think, all in all, Strikes Again is funnier than Returns, but it's close. We may end up having to see the modern Steve Martin movies for a true comparison -- though I hope I can avoid that, given my respect for Martin's non-pandering work -- but I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the top Sellers Panthers are at least as funny as the new ones, even for their target audience: TV-addled boys.
Listening to: Kate Tucker & The Sons Of Sweden - On The Radio
via FoxyTunes

Turkish Spam Update

After a long hiatus, the Turkish spam has returned. They're now trying to sell me women's clothing. (I think; I don't read Turkish.)

Turkish spammers are more professional and serious than their American and Chinese counterparts -- in fact, this message probably wouldn't be considered spam under the strictest definitions if it were delivered to someone who could understand it -- but they do clearly have trouble targeting the right audience.

They've also learned not to have the entire ad be one large JPEG, so they're advancing through the world of e-commerce in leaps and bounds. That does mean, unfortunately, that I can't just shove the whole ad here as an example. I did, however, pull one picture out as an example.

Attention, Turkish Spammers! I'm not the audience you want. I suspect everyone with an e-mail address that ends in "" is not the audience you want. But you amuse me, so I will let you live, for now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Giraffes and Prisoners

Today, for ComicMix, I reviewed two graphic novels with autobiographical elements: Lewis Trondheim's Little Nothings, Vol. 2: The Prisoner Syndrome and Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'N' Roll Life by Bruce Paley and Carol Swain.

Read it or don't!

A Meta Note on E-Books

I'm actually seeing sales figures for e-books now -- only one format (yes, the one you think) and only monthly so far, but that's better than nothing -- so this is just to say that if you suddenly see me stop being cynical and depressive about the possibility of ebook sales ever amounting to anything...that just might mean something. (Remembering, of course, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.)

For now, though, I had a grand total of three books that sold even at double digits over the course of a month, so cynicism will continue for the immediate future.

The Evils of Bigotry

If you do much blog reading, you're probably seeing a lot of links to this post by Nicola Griffith about the horrible way Jackson Memorial Hospital of Miami, Florida treated the family of a dying woman.

It is absolutely reprehensible what these three evil people -- Jackson social worker Garnett Frederick and attending physicians Alois Zauner and Carlos Alberto Cruz, and, yes, I said evil and I mean it -- did to Janice Langbehn and her three children. (And I'm not looking all that kindly upon U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan, who is at the very least criminally deficient in compassion.) They took a horrible situation and found ways to make it worse at every turn; people like that have no place in the so-called "caring professions" and I hope there's still a chance they can be professionally censured, if not given more serious punishment.

I don't want to live in an America where things like that happen. This needs to stop happening. Deliberately keeping people away from their dying loved ones is evil, and there can be no justification for it.

A New Category of Spam

I got an e-mail this morning asking for "a cost to place this ad below in you paper and online in employment dept. i need cost for 9 weeks." From the shaky grammar and capitalization, I suspect it's from a bot and thus spam. It then list an ad that I should run in my paper -- I was momentarily tempted to claim that I'd done so and send an invoice for several thousand dollars.

I'm not entirely sure what the point of this message is, though -- perhaps it's just meant as a test to see if the e-mail address is valid. (If someone replies "I'm not a newspaper, you dummy," it means there's a person there.) If that's true, then this is from the subcategory of spam that only exists to pave the way for more spam.

And, of course, is the spam-meisters could be that inventive about something constructive, we wouldn't be in a massive world-wide recession right now.

Happy No Itzkoff Day!

Today is the one-year anniversary of Dave Itzkoff's last "Across the Universe" SF column for The New York Times Book Review, and thus marks one full year of No Itzkoff. I'm declaring it to be a national holiday.

Sure, some could say that perhaps the global financial crisis, and subsequent nosedive in print advertising, had something to do with it, but I prefer to believe that Sam Tanenhaus came to his senses and has barred Itzkoff forevermore from reviewing SF for the gray lady. That's a great first step, Sam, but now you have to move on: hire someone who actually understands the field to review it for you. I can recommend a few names if you'd like...

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/17

If you've read these posts before, you can skip the next paragraph; it's what I say every week. (Though I've seen links to these posts that state or imply that I'm commenting on books I've read, which is precisely and entirely wrong -- and that leads me to think that what I write isn't necessarily being understood.)

Below is a list of books that arrived in my mail last week; some of them I specifically asked for, and some came because I'm on publicity lists. (And I'm on publicity lists because I review books and try to make sure to notify publishers when I do so.) I haven't read any of them yet. Many of them I won't end up reading. But I do want to give them all at least a little bit of attention -- I work in book marketing myself, and want to help other marketers and publicists reach their audiences if I can.

So: these are books I haven't read. But here's what I can say about them from a quick glance or prior knowledge.

First is Jeff VanderMeer's new novel Finch, which I have in advance-bound-proof form. It's publishing in trade paperback from Underland Press in November, and its the very last book about VanderMeer's fictional city of Ambergris. And I have to admit here, once again, that I keep piling up Jeff's books -- I have a copy of nearly every book he's written -- but that I've only read pieces of any of them. This one is a detective novel, so maybe that will give me a good reason to dive in here. (It's getting embarrassing at this point not to have read anything by VanderMeer.)

I also got a big package of books from Tokyopop this week -- all books publishing in November -- and most of them are things I don't know much about. But let me see what I can figure out about...

Game X Rush, Vol. 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi is described on its back cover as both being about "Japan's greatest bodyguard and greatest assassin caught in a deadly game" and "hot bishonen action," which leads me to believe the two characters in that first quote are both men and that they're at least heavily flirting with each other (probably not knowing each other's secret lives). I would not rule out actual bodily-fluids swapping, either.

Liberty Liberty! by Hinago Takanaga is from the BLU imprint and is even more obviously yaoi. (Why don't these companies send me some nice boyish ninja action I can share with my sons? I don't want to complaint about all of the m/m content -- I find the generic qualities of yaoi and related manga fascinating, even if that's not my particular area of interest -- but I do see more of it than I expected.) Anyway, this seems to be another "got really drunk and fell into bed with cute guy who I then end up working with" story, and appears to be complete in this volume.

Shinobi Life, Vol. 3 by Shoko Conami is yet another romance story, despite the bait-and-switch of the back cover copy's talk about deals with the devil and time-traveling rogue ninjas. (But I could probably be persuaded to read even the middle of a romance story if it has time-traveling rogue ninjas in it.) The ninja time-traveler in question is living with a highschool girl, and it looks like there's more emotional scenes of non-stop talking than all-out ninja action here.

The title of I.N.V.U., Vol. 5 (by Kim Kang Won) either stands for the four gentlemen on the front cover -- respectively Innocent, Nice, Vivid, and Unique -- or, as the back cover explicates, is a phonetic way of saying "I envy you." (Or, most likely, both.) This one is another romance, though with girls involved this time -- girls and boys together, I mean, not just girls. (Not that there's anything wrong with just girls. Or just boys. Oh, you know what I mean.) Anyway, the back cover is the usual middle-of-a-long series confusion, with lots of names and their complicated relationships to other names. Everyone is tormented and in love, I expect -- and not in love reciprocally, either.

Mikansei No. 1, Vol. 1 by Majiko! is about a girl who time-travels back from the 23rd century to our time to become a pop singer. There doesn't seem to be much romance in this one, oddly -- I thought Tokyopop was trying to bury me with love -- but it certainly does look silly...though I imagine that's the whole point. The back cover also goes out of its way to mention that our heroine's skirts are scandalously short for her home century, which sounds like the Fanservice Alarm to me.

Zone-OO, Vol. 2 by Kiyo QJO is another fighting-demons book, though I suspect it might be mostly about one group of demons fighting another group. Anyway, there's the usual secret society of demons, battles for centuries, yadda yadda yadda, and the title "Zone-OO" refers to a drug that works on demons. I expect it has lots of fighting, but I wouldn't bet against a tormented love affari, since it seems to be that kind of month.

Aria, Vol. 5 by Kozue Amano is the source of an anime series I've never seen, if that helps any of you place it. It's the sequel to a previous series, Aqua, and is set on a Mars now almost completely water after terraforming led to the melting of its icecaps. (I think all of my hard-SF readers have suddenly had a coughing fit -- I just read 'em, I don't make any of this stuff up.) Other than focusing on a character named Akari and being set on Mars (now called Aqua), I can't really tell what the story is about, so it's probably not as high-concept as most manga.

Phantom Dream, Vol. 4 is by Natsuki Takaya, whom the cover helpfully reminds us is the creator of Fruits Basket. This one is yet another romance -- probably heterosexual, though I'm not willing to commit on the basis of glancing at pages of very very pretty individuals with very long hair all dressed in robes -- and I think it may be historical. Or maybe fantasy -- the back cover says someone has "new powers." It's about people in love against some kind of big background; I'm pretty sure of that.

The Twelve Kingdoms 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas is a light novel by Fuyumi Ono, not a manga at all. It sounds like a changeling fantasy -- there are two boys, each in a different world from the one he was born in and raised by strangers -- but the back cover doesn't say or imply these boys were actually switched for each other; it just sounds like chance that they swapped worlds. I don't know the series -- this is the third novel, as you might guess from the title -- so you're on your own from here.

I'm deeply confused about Tsubasa: Those with Wings, Vol. 3 by Natsuki Takaya (still the creator of Fruits Basket). I've seen something called Tsubasa: RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, from the CLAMP collective, and this doesn't seem to be related. (Is "Tsubasa" just some random Japanese word, like "sword" or "pomegranate"?) In this winged series, "The Tsubasa" is some kind of a thing, created by humans but with massive powers that various people fight over. (Over near the Reservoir, it seems to be a person's name.) Again, I'm entirely confused, and so just note that this thing exists, whatever it is.

And last from Tokyopop in November is Bloody Kiss, Vol. 2 by Kazuko Furumiya. There's a sword on the front cover, reference to a high-stakes tennis match on the back, and at least two vampires inside -- sounds like a typical Japanese highschool story to me! I have a sneaking suspicion that there's some deep breathing in this one as well, between the "ordinary girl" heroine and the obligatory dashing vampire.

Whew! That was the manga pile for this week, and now back to other things.

In the "seen again" category, there are two books that I saw in galleys (and haven't yet read) that are now finished books:

  • It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies!, a songbook for a very different kind of Christmas by Michael P. Spradlin with illustrations by Jeff Weigel. Look for it next to the checkout wherever you buy books starting on the 27th; it was published by Harper.
  • Sasha, the first in the fantasy series "A Trial of Blood and Steel" by Joel Shepherd and published by Pyr. It's hitting stores on the 20th.
I also have a self-published fantasy novel called The Demon Queen and The Locksmith, by Spencer Baum. (No relation to Lyman, as far as I can tell.) According to the back cover, it's a bout a teenage boy in a small New Mexico town who discovers that he's a "Hearer" -- one of the few (despised and outcast) who can hear a hum from a mountain north of town.

Steven Erikson has lapped me by an entire book despite the fact that he has to write several hundred thousand words for each of those books, and I only have to read them. I don't know if I'll manage to read the previous book (Reaper's Gale) before Dust of Dreams is published by Tor -- I am seeing it in galleys, so there's an outside chance that I can read both of those huge books to catch up before Dust is published -- but I do very much want to read both of them, and the impending tenth and final book of the series, The Crippled God, which will probably be along in another year. You know, it's just possible that Steven Erikson outputs as many words a year as supposedly more "prolific" writers like James Patterson and Nora Roberts; it's just that his words are packaged into bricks five or six times as large as those other writers'. Another interesting note: the spine of Dust of Dreams says "January-10," which I took as the publication date, but the back cover, which reprints the catalogue page, says that it's not coming until April (in both hardcover and trade paperback).

Christopher Hart wrote and drew Superheroes and Beyond, a book about how to draw overmuscled ubermenschen in the currently popular style. It's Hart's ninth book of how-to-draw-comics instruction and Watson-Guptill will publish it in November. I'm a cynic, so this looks to me like a huge catalog of exactly the sorts of cliches -- poses, actions, drawing styles, costumes, character types -- that I'd prefer to see expunged rather than taught to a new generation of still-innocent drawing students. But I suppose there are hundreds or thousands of young men (and maybe three or four women) who really want to draw this kind of lowest-common denominator comics, and maybe even a few with higher ambitions who want to know how to do this if they have to. Still, I'm not happy to be living in this world.

Del Rey sent me a copy of the "zero issue" -- and how I wish we could get rid of that utterly stupid concept -- of their comics adaptation of the Stephen King/Peter Straub novel The Talisman. The adaptation is by Robin Furth and Tony Shasteen, and is hitting better comics shops on the 21st. It has a flimsy sixteen pages for a low single buck, which I suppose is fair.

Last for this week is a smutty book -- perhaps that's why I buried it at the end? or maybe it's just the largest, so it stabilized the pile when I stacked everything up to write about it -- which is itself an adaptation of an equally smutty book. NBM's Eurotica imprint has reprinted Guido Crepax's comics version of that classic sweaty-palms book, "Pauline Reage's" The Story of O. (I remember sneaking peeks at the novel, in its then-current all-white-cover form, in a bookshop in Coconut Grove back in the summer of '85 -- some books you remember.) Crepax's O has been published before, in parts, but this is the first US edition to be in one hardcover volume.
Listening to: Lindsay Jane - I Can't Rescue You
via FoxyTunes