Thursday, October 01, 2009

Read in September

Looking at my posts for the past month, I see that I've neglected to review/mention a whole lot of these. I suppose a massive lassitude descended on me in the aftermath of "James Bond Daily;" that tends to happen when I finish up one of my bizarre reading projects. But let's see if I can't catch up, either here or elsewhere, on those other books that I've read recently.

As always, title links alone go to my review of a book, and links above my quick thoughts about that book go to that giant Internet bookseller, for more opinions or a chance to buy the thing yourself.
  • Yuji Iwahara, Cat Paradise, Vol. 1 (9/1)
  • Hosana Tanaka, Ninja Girls, Vol. 1 (9/2)
  • Donald E. Westlake, Get Real (9/2)
  • Julia Wertz, The Fart Party, Vol. 2 (9/3)
    I reviewed the first collection of Julia Wertz's rudely engrossing webcomic for ComicMix last year, and this book collects another big chunk of it. It's pretty much the same kind of stuff -- Wertz is a bit like a less self-consciously artsy Julie Doucet, with a shorter-story, webcomics ethos, and she tells stories about her own day-to-day life and troubles, mostly -- though this book sees her making the big move to Brooklyn and has fewer "my horrible day waitressing" strips.
  • Rick Geary, The Adventures Of Blanche (9/4)
    I'd been thinking about doing a "real review" of this book, but I saw it several months late to begin with, and I'm beginning to believe that I don't have anything much to say about it. Blanche collects three one-shots -- in which the title character goes to New York, Hollywood, and Paris in 1907, 1915, and 1921, respectively -- from 1992, 1993, and 2001. The Blanche stories have the casual frivolity, loose-limbed plotting, and anything-can-happen atmosphere of Geary's earlier, shorter stories, and it was a real treat to have that kind of Geary story back again. We've mostly seen the serious Geary over the past couple of decades, as he worked at the Treasury of Victorian Murder, so it's wonderful to be reminded just how silly and funny he can be. Blanche isn't as oddball and bizarre as Geary's early gag strips -- try to hunt down At Home With Rick Geary, or Housebound, for those -- but it does see him using that sense of humor in support of a more defined story, and indulging his love for period detail without having to have a historical murder at the center. This book is frivolous, but in the best possible way.
  • Melissa Marr & Xian Nu Studio, Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales: Sanctuary, Vol. 1 (9/8)
  • Christopher Buckley, Losing Mum and Pup (9/8)
  • David Mazzucchelli, Asterios Polyp (9/8)
  • Yuki Sato, Yokai Doctor, Vol. 1 (9/9)
  • Atsushi Suzumi, Amefurashi: The Rain Goddess, Vol. 1 (9/10)
  • Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim, Vol 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together (9/11)
    I've been catching up on this series, about a book a month, for the mid-part of this year, and I'm now only one book behind. There's something fresh and exciting about these books -- particularly in the casual way that they mash-up the various spaces inside and outside the skulls of their young protagonists -- but others have written a lot about that already, and I haven't managed to articulate yet what I find really interesting and fresh about O'Malley's work. But I'm still enjoying this tremendously, and I'll be looking for Volume Five the next time I'm in a comics shop -- and that's probably the highest recommendation I can give; that I'll be actively looking to spend my own money on something.
  • Robert Silverberg, Other Spaces, Other Times (9/11)
  • Seth, George Sprott: 1894-1975 (9/13)
  • Daniel Manus Pinkwater, Fat Men From Space (9/13)
    I probably would have found this thin and unsatisfying if I'd read it on my own, but it was a wonderfully enjoyable experience to read it to my younger son over three nights in the middle of the month. Middle-grade books are hard to go back to as an adult; we get used to the more detailed descriptions of books for older people and lose the facility of creating entire worlds in our heads based on one carefully-worded sentence written right at a nine-year-old. I've re-read Pinkwater's young adult books with appreciation, but the ones for younger readers really need to be read with someone of the right age to make them sing. This is one of his best middle-grade books, and I hope someone -- or several someones -- will be inspired to introduce it to a smart and quirky third grader some time soon.
  • Roger Langridge, The Muppet Show Comic Book: Meet The Muppets (9/14)
    By all reasonable estimates, this book just should not work at all: in the first case, it's a licensed book, and we all know how those usually fare. Plus, it's an attempt to turn a puppet TV show -- an old one, too -- into a comic, which doesn't even make sense. Finally, Jim Henson has been dead nearly twenty years, and no one else has shown the care and grace he did in overseeing these characters. That's all true, but it's also all besides the point, because Langridge has managed -- through some sort of infernal pact, I expect -- to take what was best and most characteristic of the Muppet Show TV series from the late '70s and translate that into comics that are just as funny and touching and wonderful as those puppets manipulated by Henson and Oz and Goeltz and Hunt. I can't explain it, but Langridge did it. And if you ever liked those TV shows, this book is very much like four or five new shows from that era -- without the random guest stars -- unexpectedly popping up for your enjoyment. Meet the Muppets is appropriate for younger readers -- and the publisher, Boom!, seems to be aiming it mostly at them -- but it's not limited to them, and I expect many of the people who will like this best are those of around my age, those who saw the original Muppet Show on TV when they were kids themselves.
  • Jason, The Living and the Dead (9/15)
    Another short graphic novel by the Euro-cartoonist who only goes by one name -- I think he's Norwegian, but I don't feel like looking it up right at this moment -- this time with a dishwasher and a prostitute fighting off zombies. Reviews of Jason's comics use the word "deadpan" a lot; I'll note that and try not to use the word again -- even if it is the most obvious and apropos word to describe his work. I like his stuff, even if it is deliberately affectless most of the time. This one is really, really short though -- that Euro-album length that feels to Americans (at least to me, some of the time) like a slightly overgrown single issue of something. With that length and Jason's laconic, often wordless pages, The Living and the Dead reads amazingly quickly.
  • Danica Novgorodoff, Refresh, Refresh (9/16)
  • The Hernandez Brothers, Love and Rockets: New Stories, Vol. 2 (9/17)
  • Lev Grossman, The Magicians (9/17)
  • Neil Gaiman, Odd and the Frost Giants (9/17)
  • Adam Rapp & George O'Connor, Ball Peen Hammer (9/18)
  • Kage Baker, The Hotel Under the Sand (9/18)
  • Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Vol. 3 (9/19)
    The third volume of the bug-crushingly complete reprinting of one of the finest newspaper strips of modern times got stuck under a pile of other things for a couple of year -- I have a lot of books that I want to read, and probably a couple of dozen things with bookmarks in them at any given time -- but I pulled it back out about a month ago, and finished it off a few pages every night before bed. I don't know if I have anything to say about this volume that I didn't say about books one or two, but the Calvin & Hobbes strip is still as wonderful and funny as it ever was. I could also mention that my two sons have gone through a big Calvin & Hobbes phase since then, though I probably should also mention that they still like Garfield better. (Who ever said eight-year-olds have great taste?)
  • Neil Kleid & Nicholas Cinquegrani, The Big Kahn (9/21)
  • Johnny Ryan, Prison Pit, Book One (9/22)
  • Justine Larbalestier, Liar (bound galleys) (9/22)
  • Joe Daly, The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book (9/23)
  • Bruce Paley & Carol Swain, Giraffes in My Hair: A Rock 'n' Roll Life (9/24)
  • Peter Sagal, The Book of Vice (9/26)
  • Lilli Carre, Tales of Woodsman Pete (9/28)
  • Nicolas Mahler, Lone Racer (9/29)
  • Scott Mills, Trenches (9/30)
  • Gail Carriger, Soulless (9/30)
And that's what I read this month. Reviews to come quickly for that big mass of linkless books at the least I hope so.

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