Thursday, November 01, 2012

Read in October

This month I'm trying an experiment, to see if I can trick myself. I'll list all of the books I read here, and start writing about them here. If I'm like I have been recently -- and I hope that phrase makes sense outside of my head -- I'll end up with things of actual real-post length, which I can then harvest, extract, and turn into separate posts.

In any case, this is what I was reading this past month:

Kevin Huizenga, Gloriana (10/1)

Adam Skolnick, Lonely Planet: Pocket Los Angeles (10/1)

Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover, Gingerbread Girl (10/3)

Mary M. Talbot & Bryan Talbot, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes (10/4)

Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead (10/4)

Ed Piskor, Wizzywig (10/5)

Marc Hartzman, God Made Me Do It (10/8) -- You know how some people keep claiming that the dumb and/or insane things they do are really because of Yahweh? (And that probably bugs you as much as it does me, if you've noticed it.) Well, freelance writer Marc Hartzman is annoyed by those things as well, but he did something about it: he got a contract to write a book collecting all of those idiot's explanations, since they do become funnier the more of them you pile up together. And that book is God Made Me Do It: a compendium of the same bad excuse for an incredibly wide swath of bad behavior, insane ideas, and bone-deep stupidity. It does have a tropism for the modern day, since these idiots are sadly very common nowadays, but Hartzman has not shied away from digging into the archives to find the feebs, poltroons, and liars of the past when they've claimed divine reasons for their own earthly actions. This is not a deep book, or a scholarly one, but it does exactly what it claims to do, and will make any of us who are less than insanely religious feel quietly superior, which is a damn good thing for a book to do.

Neal Stephenson, Some Remarks (10/11)

Eddie Campbell, The Lovely Horrible Stuff (10/11)

Kevin Cannon, Far Arden (10/12)

E.C. Segar, Popeye, Vol. 6: "Me Li'l Swee'Pea" (10/12) -- Thimble Theatre was a great comic strip in its day, and "its day" precisely tracked the working life of its creator, Elzie Crisler Segar. This volume finishes up his run -- he died in early fall of 1938, after fighting leukemia (and taking time off from the strip to do so) over the previous year and a half. This book also reprints a few non-Segar Thimble Theatres to finish up stories and show the later work, but there's no comparison. If you haven't been listening to me -- I've reviewed volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 here with paeans of praise -- I don't know what else to say here now. Popeye, as Segar made him, is one of the great American characters: cunning but soft-hearted, brawling but a great friend, deeply knowledgeable about his own work but a good-natured naif in the larger world, and always looking out for the little guy, widows, and "orphinks." More than that, he's an icon of America itself in all of those things, a vision of what we want to be and can be, if we only eat our spinach and always do the right thing. Don't start with this book -- it's all middles and endings, though there's some great Wimpy stuff in the Sundays -- but do find that first book, subtitled "I Yam What I Yam!", and see what great American comics looks like.

Janet Groth, The Receptionist (10/16)

Alina Simone, You Must Go and Win (10/18)

Steve Martin, The Ten, Make That Nine, Habits of Very Organized People. Make That Ten. (10/29) -- Steve Martin has a Twitter handle (@SteveMartinToGo), and he's funny there, as he's been funny pretty consistently in most of his efforts for the last thirty-some years. Since he is Steve Martin, he can even get his Tweets collected into a book -- along with some responses and riffs by his followers, which he notes are often funnier than he is. (One of the never-fail signs of a great comedian is a generosity with praise for other funny people: the best comedians want laughs to happen -- they'd prefer to be completely responsible for those laughs, if they can, but, if not, they're happy to get an assist and make the laugh.) So, anyway, this book doesn't have much of a through-line, but it's witty and funny and shows a fine established comedian trying a new medium and doing a pretty good job at it.

Jeff Lemire, The Underwater Welder (10/19)

Jeffrey Brown, Darth Vader and Son (10/20) -- Absolutely any idea can become a book -- and I don't even need to say "these days," since I remember the fake-catalog and silly-lifestyle-guides of the '80s (remember The Preppy Handbook? Real Men Don't Eat Quiche?) -- and this is one of the perfect examples of that process. Cartoonist Jeffrey Brown started work on a "Google Doodle" -- their day-specific logos, which used to be rare but probably now are controlled by a gigantic spreadsheet and an epic series of meetings in Mountain View -- for Father's Day in 2010, involving Darth Vader and his son Luke Skywalker. Brown's own son was four years old at the time, so his ideas stayed in that realm: what if Darth was a "normal" dad, raising an energetic young boy? The Doodle itself never quite happened, but -- with LucasFilm's eventual blessing -- the idea did turn into this book, with about sixty single-panel cartoons (most of them riffing on well-known Star Wars lines, scenes, or characters) featuring those two. It's a cute little book and a great little impulse buy for the Star Wars lover (and/or newish dad) that you know.

Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, 1983 to 1984 (10/20) 

James Kochalka, Pinky & Stinky (10/22)

Rick Geary, Lovers' Lane (10/23)

Michel Rabagliati, The Song of Roland (10/24)

Ken Dahl, Monsters (10/25)

Well, I didn't fool myself quite as much as I hoped, but I did manage to break off a few pieces to post separately. The missing links should appear over the next few days, in some cases, or somewhat longer than that, for the things I haven't written yet. I could blame this month's problems on Hurricane Sandy, but I'd be lying: it did get me to waste most of a weekend in preparation, but it also gave me several work-at-home days with no commuting to suck up my time. (And complaining about something that hit several million people much worse than it did me would be epic Bad Form.)

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