Monday, November 14, 2022

Reading Into the Past: Week of November 12, 2001

Can I admit that I'm doing most of my posts well in advance these days? (I mean, I think that's clear for the book-review posts, but maybe not for things like this.) I like to be prepared; I don't like things sneaking up on me, so I prefer to get things done early. That has nothing to do with what I'm about to type, but I guess I'm feeling confessional this morning.

The RNG gave me 2001, and my old reading notebook shows I was very active that week - looks like I was in one of my intermittent read-a-GN-a-day binges to reduce the size of the stack of books on the printer - so I'll see what I remember about this stuff:

Eddie Campbell, Alex: Three Piece Suit (11/6)

I should probably just point you at my 2011 post about the giant omnibus of (nearly) the whole series of Alex stories, "The Years Have Pants." This book collects a chunk of that work; I think the second batch of stories? Anyway, it's an outdated version at this point; look for the big book.

Scott Adams, When Did Ignorance Become a Point of View? (11/7)

I could say something rude about Adams following up on that title, but he was never ignorant. Nutty, misinformed, utterly wrong-headed, stuck deeply inside a bizarre news bubble, yes, but he always knew stuff. It was mostly false stuff, agreed, but calling that ignorance would be a misuse of the word.

Millennials probably disbelieve Dilbert was ever less than tendentious and horrible, but, for almost a decade, it was really good, and electric in the ways it could crystalize the ways people worked and talked in offices. This is about the point when that started to falter, in retrospect: Adams had been out of a cube for several years, and his correspondents started to tend to the techy and the opinionated. Sin transit gloria mundi.

Lawrence Block, Hope to Die (11/8)

Block is one of my favorite writers, and this is a book in probably his best series: the mysteries about Matt Scudder. But I'm not going to be able to tell you anything about the plot twenty years later. I recommend the series, but don't start here. Start at the beginning, or maybe at When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, the best book. You might get here, if you have the time and inclination: this is #15 of 17.

Michael Dowers, editor, The Tijuana Bibles, Vol. 2 (11/8)

You know what these are, right? Pornographic comics using then-popular characters, created in the early to mid 20th century, sold very much under the counter since they were doubly illegal. There was a big hardcover collection of them around that time, with an actual scholarly apparatus, and a series of paperback collections as well. This is part of the latter; I followed both of those for all of the obvious reasons (quirky comics history, prurient interest, wacky stuff, often surprisingly good art). No idea if this one has Moon Mullins or Popeye or Jiggs in it at this late date; they're all pretty much the same thing.

Richard Stark, The Mourner (11/9)

This was a random book in the Parker series; I later took a month and read through all of them. So let me point you to my later post on this same book and to my introductory post on that blog series.

Andi Watson, Skeleton Key, Vol. 4: Cats & Dogs (11/9)

This may have been new at the time, but I've since gone back and did a re-read of the whole Skeleton Key series. So let me point you there for anything coherent I have to say about that excellent comics series.

"divers hands," Harlan Ellison's Dream Corridor, Volume One (11/10)

This was definitely a comics series based on Ellison stories - kind of a nutty idea, frankly, even at the time - and I think, from my weird editor-credit, that it wasn't clearly assembled or managed by anyone, to keep H*A*R*L*A*N at the center of all the publicity and hype, as he always insisted. I have no idea who the artists were, or what Ellison stories they adapted, and, at this late date, I don't actually care. My copy of this was destroyed in my 2011 flood, and it's now super-expensive, so I don't think I will ever read it again.

Various Artists, Expo 2001 (11/11)

What on earth is this? Let's see if google is any help, but that's a very vague title.

OK, so the Comics Legal Defense Fund seems to have done a benefit anthology for a few years, associated with and published at the time of the Small Press Expo of Bethesda, MD. This was that book for 2001.

On the positive side, it's clearly a worthy cause. But the first-credited person is editor Charles Brownstein, and I'm not going to try to explain anything to do with that. I have no memory of this, though the cover is vaguely familiar, and it would be difficult to find today if you wanted it.

David Clement-Davies, The Sight (11/12)

OK, this is going to sound crazy, but I'm going to guess before I look. I think this is a fantasy novel (maybe YA?) about a deer or elk, something like that, set in the UK though I think in some long-ago historical period. If it's the book I'm thinking of, I liked it, and remember it vaguely two decades later.

But I'll check: Oh, so close! Fire Bringer, Clement-Davies' first book, was the one about the deer (Red Deer, 13th century Scotland, mostly YA, check). This one was his follow-up; it was about wolves in the Carpathians. 

And it looks like Clement-Davies has continued to write dark animal fantasies for younger readers: he's got another three or four since these two. I like quirky writing niches, especially when I enjoyed at least one of the books, so good for him.

Chip Kidd, Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz (11/12)

I feel like I've picked on this book a lot here, even though I read it well before the blog existed. Kidd is a fine cover designer, but when he edits books of comics and cartoon art, he always presents the images as aged and battered artifacts instead of trying to present the artwork cleanly and clearly. To my mind, it's the take of a nostalgist: what's interesting is that this thing is old and worn, full of memories and related to moments in the past, rather than something specific and vital and valuable by itself.

I disagree entirely with that stance: it's distancing and prioritizes the Boomer viewpoint over every other potential opinion. So I've complained loudly whenever I see Kidd doing it. (See my post on a book about Jack Cole that Kidd did with art spiegelman for an example.)

So it's unfortunate that this is the standard Schulz art-book for this generation; it's more Kidd than Schulz. But, it's been almost another generation now, so maybe someone else will edit a book of Schulz's art - which is tight and precise, and has been a model and inspiration for hundreds of other cartoonists - and focus it on the work rather than his own memories.

That's what I was reading "this" week twenty years ago; how has time be treating you?

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