Posted August 7, 2007on:
After the ridiculously full reading month of July I crashed right at the end. Not only did I not want to re-read any books I had waiting for deadlines, I wasn’t up for writing the four reviews I wanted to (and still do) about novels with which I had so much fun. (You saw how the Radclyffe Hall novel sorta got short changed.) Poetry and fluffy novels have lead me on the path to recovery. A new release from Shannon McKenna was a nice surprise; it certainly delivered on its promise but was wholly predictable with no spark. Either McKenna will have to find a new narrative arc in which to stretch her muscles or I’ll settle with re-reading old favourites.
Diana Wynne Jones provided a bolstering quick fix with Eight Days of Luke, a random choice from the meagre offerings the on-campus libraries had on the shelves. As usual it took me about thirty pages to get involved. (I try to stay within her more YA offerings and though this book supposedly had a reading level of *9-12 years I’m pretty sure I stopped reading books with such simple diction when I hit that age group.) There aren’t many who can write such consistently winning books. I kinda wish she were my grandmother so that I could get her to tell me stories all the time. (Is she old enough to be my grandmother?)
Demons by Dostoevsky is proving surprisingly readable. Surprising because he is supposed to be one of those frighteningly intimidating authors, no? Complicated subjects, yes, especially for one a bit light on Russian history, but of the manageable sort, the inner workings of which remain within reach. Something with which you can wrestle. At least so the lively narrative voice persuades me to think.
I think I’ve discovered the sort of graphic novels I prefer. Ian at Upper Fort Stewart praised the talents featured in the Flight series, volumes 2 and 3 in particular. I remembered the name of the series when I made the weekly hop and skip from Starbucks to Chapters, but when I happened to stop by the “graphic novels” section I spied volume 4 and picked it up. I was a goner after a rousing opening with “The Saga of Rex: Castaway” by Michael Gagné, which made me gasp in dismay, laugh and sigh at various moments. It hadn’t a single line of narrative or dialogue. Flight does what Blankets and Fun Home do not: it takes full advantage of the visual medium. Hmm, now that I’ve written that I don’t think it’s fair. Certainly Thompson’s and Bechdel’s stories were not possible without the accompanying images; what I really mean is that both felt constrained by their narrative models. The Flight stories by Amy Kim Ganter, Israel Sanchez and Jon Klassen (his story was one of the most visually distinctive) display the kind of dynamic, forceful imagery that scream “graphic” to me, that more fully embody the promises of the medium than their “literary” counterparts. Neither do all of the stories stick to traditional story telling (beginning-middle-end, expected resolutions, use of words etc.). Reading the collection reminded me of my first flip through one of Frank Miller’s Sin City books, after I saw the film adaptation. I was amazed at how alive, un-static the images were, how the film truly imitated the series’ stylistic sensibility. (I wasn’t going to do more than a flip because the skinny sucker cost over $20.)
Flight is so so good I now have volume 2, which opened with another Rex story! Update: I just read the craziest visual interpretation of a T.S. Eliot quote:
What we call the beginning is often
the end, and to make an end
is to make a beginning: The
End is where we start from.
It involved elephants, flying boats, cranes, innocent city dwellers and a cliff made of fossils. It blew my mind. I kept on mouthing, What, what? as each page took the concept further and further. I’m still thinking, what? to myself, but in an amazed tone. It’s called “Twenty-four Hours” by Andrea Offermann who may have stolen the crown from Klassen for visual distinction, not so much for style but for content: how she rendered the results of the elephants’ last meal; and the cliffs. Oh, and 98% of these stories? Effortlessly re-readable. (I’m not sure why I didn’t put it at 100%; waiting for the glow to fade so I can give a more measured response, I guess.)
*Worse, Publisher’s Weekly rated the reading level as ages 12 and up. Huh?? At that age I was in grade 8 reading Animal Farm and Smile Orange (Commonwealth Prize winner by Olive Senior). The Amazon page has a Search Inside feature so you may sample the writing for yourself and assess whether my perspective is irrationally skewed. Or something.