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.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Scanner Darkly



A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick
read: 2017

Philip K. Dick's novels always mess with the reader's mind The mindwarping of A Scanner Darkly boasts another layer to it, as protagonist Bob Arctor falls under the influence of powerful drugs that fracture and destroy his mind. In the afterword, Dick reveals that he himself suffered from drug addiction, making this the rare semi-autobiographical science fiction novel.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Big Four



The Big Four
by Agatha Christie
read: 2017

Poirot doesn't work as well in a spy tale as in a murder mystery. The humor in Poirot's mannerisms and in his relationship with Hastings seems out-of-place, and the much more linear plot in The Big Four didn't provokes as much thought as in the other Poirot novels.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd



The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
by Agatha Christie
read: 2017
Guardian 1000 Novels

The memorable twist in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (I won't give it away) works because I ended up somewhat attached to the villain. The reveal startles but also provokes feelings of pity.