Thursday, September 7, 2017

Tropic of Cancer



Tropic of Cancer
by Henry Miller
read: 2016
Time 100 NovelsModern Library #50, Guardian 1000 Novels

Why did people think On the Road was so revolutionary? Miller was doing almost the same thing 30 years earlier. I have to be in the right mood for this sort of thing, and I wasn't here, but I did enjoy some passages:
Every time I pass the concierge's window and catch the full icy impact of her glance I have an insane desire to throttle all the birds in creation. At the bottom of every frozen heart there is a drop or two of love - just enough to feed the birds.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

100 Bullets



100 Bullets
by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
read: 2017

Having finished the 13 volumes of 100 Bullets, I'm tempted to immediately begin reading it again for what I missed. When did the plans of Graves and Shepherd diverge? What was Echo Memoria up to? What's the deal with the painting? How did Graves plant the trigger words? What was Wylie's plan, and did it work? Why did Shepherd recommend Lono as the Medici warlord? Why didn't Graves engage Victor sooner, and why did Victor team up with Lono's squad? What was the significance of Mr. Branch? Even after seeing how things wrapped up, many of the actions along the way still seem murky; I'm looking forward to reading it again knowing how things play out.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth



Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
by Chris Ware
read: 2017
Guardian 1000 Novels

It took me a while to get into Jimmy Corrigan. I was expecting something funnier, but it was more of an introspective, personal graphic novel; I'd probably liken it Daniel Clowes' David Boring. The most interesting element to me was the shifting between the perspective of Jimmy and his grandfather as a child, dealing with the same elements of abandonment, isolation, and depression amidst the backdrop of the 1893 World Fair in Chicago.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Notes of a Native Son



Notes of a Native Son
by James Baldwin
read: 2017

Notes of a Native Son was published in 1955, and yet ...
No one was interested in the facts. They preferred the invention because this invention expressed and corroborated their hates and fears so perfectly. It is just as well to remember that people are always doing this. Perhaps many of those legends, including Christianity, to which the world clings began their conquest of the world with just some such concerted surrender to distortion.
... so many of Baldwin's insights still ring true today.
The rage of disesteemed is personally fruitless, but it is also absolutely inevitable; this rage, so generally discounted, so little understood, even among the people whose daily bread it is, is one of the things that makes history.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Parable of the Talents



Parable of the Talents
by Octavia Butler
read: 2017

Jarret's supporters are more than a little seduced by Jarret's talk of making America great again. He seems to be unhappy with certain other countries. We could wind up in a war. Nothing like a war to rally people around flag, country, and great leader.
No comment. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Parable of the Sower



Parable of the Sower
by Octavia Butler
read: 2017
Nebula Award

Parable of the Sower reads like a post-apocalyptic novel, but its world has no apocalypse. Rather than a cataclysmic event plunging the world into darkness, society erodes. The poor become poorer, cannot get jobs, and cannot buy anything - even basic services from the fire and police. Corporations become stronger while the government loses effectiveness. Drugs and crime run rampant. People become more and more afraid.
When apparent stability disintegrates, as it must - God is Change - People tend to give in to fear and depression, to need and greed. When no influence is strong enough to unify people they divide. They struggle, one against one, group against group, for survival, position, power. They remember old hates and generate new ones, they create chaos and nurture it. They kill and kill and kill, until they are exhausted and destroyed, until they are conquered by outside forces, or until one of them becomes a leader most will follow, or a tyrant most fear.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Death in the Family


A Death in the Family
by James Agee
read: 2017
Time 100 NovelsPulitzer Prize

I have a beef with indie films: they never show anything. There is a tragedy, and the heroine gets a knock on the door, and she opens it, and the sheriff is standing there with his hat in hand and a grim look on his face, and then the camera cuts away. The audience has to imagine so much of the core emotional content. Movies are visual and auditory and we never really get inside the character's heads, so any reaction will probably feel forced and hollow, but I still feel cheated. A Death in the Family, by contrast, takes us into the heads of the people directly affected by Jay Follette's death, especially his wife Mary and small children Rufus and Catherine.

The role of religion looms large in the novel. Mary finds solace in her Christian belief, while her father and brother do not. At times, Agee shows religion as a negative force. Mary's retreat to her religious beliefs distances her from her children at a time when they need her support, and Father Jackson is perhaps the closest thing the story has to a villain. On the other hand, we see almost a dogmatic atheism from Andrew, who sees things he can't explain but won't accept them as being supernatural or spiritual.

A Death in the Family was published posthumously, and therefore there is some mystery about Agee's intentions around the order of some of the sections.