Friday, January 4, 2008

The Splurge

It's been a long time since I've felt I could walk into a bookstore and just buy everything I wanted. Ah, I miss the days when I had no bills and no debts. However, Borders was having a buy four, get the fifth free graphic novel deal. Probably better deals elsewhere (I'm sure Gene will point me the way), but if you figure I saved twenty bucks and got five books, not too shabby, eh?

So, here is what I got (and no, not much manga, oddly enough -- too cheap per volume to make it a truly sweet deal. And they were out of the Tezuka titles that I wanted).

I got Moore and O'Neill's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Black Dossier which just came out. I did read it last night, obsessively. Even all the fine print (perhaps, don't read if you don't want to be spoiled). What I liked: I always dig Moore's multi-media format. I like the text stories and the parodies of the ephemera of a past that may have never existed (especially funny was the short porn piece about sex in a 1984 scenario). I even liked the 3-D effect which could have come off as gimmicky (as is 3-D's claim to fame but the "third eye" on the viewing glasses was cheeky).

What I didn't like: I know that some of my gentle readers will really like this volume so at the risk of being contrary, gosh darnit, tell a story. It became too much like a game of "do I recognize this literary or famous personage" which is fun, I'll admit. At least my million dollar education can do something for me. But, it gets tiresome when that seems to take the place of narrative. It's an endless borrowing of other people's narratives. Just a bit too meta for even a meta-lover like myself (whoops, almost wrote meat-lover -- keep it clean kids). Elements come together in this volume that I have detected in other Moore's works. What I liked in From Hell were the grand visions which seemed to be the conspiratorial, yet maybe true, ravings of a madman. I like that dance of maybe, maybe not. Or the phenomenal apocalypse at the end of Promethea which was definitely in service to a story (or stories -- maybe even THE story). Also the references to big brother and politics, as in V for Vendetta and even Watchmen are really cool, but such an afterthought in this current volume. All in all, I'm disappointed.

Okay, what else have I bought but not really read yet. One I know that Gene has the Saturday works of "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" by Winsor McKay. I figured I needed that on my bookshelf. Maybe I'll even hurt some students' brains with it later this semester.

I bought Ware's Best American Comics 2007 because I'm tired of teaching Maus and wanted to see if this is something I can use. (why, oh why can't Persepolis be better than it is? Don't get me started although I will probably see the movie).

Also, Adrian Tomine's Shortcomings. I never really got into Optic Nerve but after flipping through this book, seemed mildly interesting. I suppose I'm tired of the quiet, pseudo-autobiographies that dominated a lot of comics work for a while, with the exception of Fun Home. (In general, this has been my attitude: "quit your bitchin' and drink your coffee").

And finally, for the comics 5 for 4 price, I bought Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan which is set in Israel. Also, a possibility for teaching and something different.

I re-applied for that summer teaching course about pop culture, but I'm hoping I'll be considered for the graphic novel course. It's good to dig into what's out there for now.

I also bought two volumes of poetry (another New Year's resolution is to buy more poetry). One is of Iraq war veteran Brian Turner, who visited my campus last year. Really good, moving, crying stuff. I gave that to my neighbor in thanks for being a surrogate parent to my animals ("here is my gift to you, something that will make you cry") The second was Mary Oliver's latest volume. If you haven't read any of her work, you are missing out, buddy.

Last, but not least, in service to my manga article, I purchased the magazines, Shonen Jump, and Shojo Beat. Jump was good and am considering to subscribe. Beat, less interesting (did you know that my astrological fruit is the grape? Don't you feel better that you know that?).

Well, it felt good to drop a chunk of change at the bookstore. All this working must be good for something at least. I'm beat.


Elena Steier said...

Ah, bookstores...

Rod and I made a detour home on New Year's through Barnett's Books in Wallingford. Every year at this time, they have a half price sale before they close down for the month. I go shamelessly crazy. I picked up twelve old European graphic novels including Ginger Fox, some how to draw books for my students, and numerous other books on a variety of subjects which are now on my "to read in the future" list like most of the other hundreds of books on my bookshelves.

Interesting you mentioned Persepolis. I found it very hard to put down. Persepolis 2 was quite another story. I think of it as the "Blankets" syndrome, referring to Craig Thompson's self-indulgent follow up to "Good-bye Chunky Rice". I've come to the conclusion that sometimes good stories happen completely by accident.

Cranky Yankee said...

Black Dossier...

It was okay, but I hated the ending. Too pat and too "out there" to fit the story line.

Part of the problem with this book, is that one has to be really familiar with British literature to "get" what they are refering to. More so in this story than in the original Victorian stories.

Joey gaffawed through out the book because he knows. I don't. In fact, I know less about 20th century Brit Lit than 19th century (weird, huh?). And this book really relied on those "inside" jokes and references more so than the Victorian ones.

Anyway, my two cents...

Other than that, it's always good to get out and buy books. I don't think people do that too much these days. except our little circle, but then again, we're all smarter that way. :-)

K. A. Laity said...

Cranky, you might want to check out Jess Nevins' annotations to the Black Dossier for more info -- there was enough obscure stuff that I made use of the annotations afterward.

I agree, story is more satisfying than endless winking. I suspect the next (non-DC) episode will return to that (or so one hopes). Moore is no doubt glad to wash his hands of DC now.

We have not been to Barnett's Books -- clearly we need to put it on the itinerary.

The Queen said...

The grape, huh? Well, that's a clear indication from the heavens that you need to drink wine.

So, are those graphic novels ones I should read for out Book Club? I'm apparently the only person who didn't yet read 'Black Dossier' & I desperately want to.

Oh, would anyone else like to join our book club? So far, we've gone great lengths to not read the Faulkner book I picked out. Any suggestions for something else we won't read?

Gene K. said...

Hey look, I'm late with a reply!

I'm pretty much in agreement with you on Black Dossier, Wendy, although I think the story is there more than it might seem at first. The laughing joey Zone and Kate the Great might have gotten more out of the story than me, just 'cuz they knew more references than I did[*]. From what I've heard, the more of the references you get early on, the more it all ties together at the end. Still, if a narrative is that deeply buried, is it still a narrative at all? Time to call in the Hermeneutics Squad[tm]!

I'm curious to hear what you think of rest of these books, especially Exit Wounds and Sortcomings. I've heard mixed on Wounds, and I grew increasingly tired of Tomine's 20-something angst once I got into my mid-30s.

Oh, and I don't have that McCay Rarebit book, actually. The publisher, Checker Books, has great taste in choosing what to reprint, but I fond the quality of the production and editorial matter really lacking. I'd still like this one, natch; however, I splurged on Ulrih Merkl's absolutely amazing, amazing edition of the Rarebit strips instead. Check out the book's website for all the details; it's so chock-full of info, it's like a Criterion DVD on paper. But hey - it does include a DVD-rom with the entire text of the book, plus scans of every ding-dang Rarebit strip, plus even more. However, at $114.00 it's intended for the fanatic (c'est moi), not the casual reader.

The Checker volume you bought is clearly the better alternative for readers not as insane as some (c'est moi). But if your library supports comics and comics studies at all, force them to order this book. And when ordering, be sure to mention that Gene sent you!

[*]Although I did laugh out loud when I grokked that Moore & O'Neil were working up to the origin of Fireball XL5! :-)