Friday, May 27, 2011

V for Vendetta, 23/100

Finished Alan Moore’s and David Lloyd’s masterpiece comic, V for Vendetta.  I read the collected paperback edition, which is 296 pages of wonderful.

V for Vendetta takes place in a near future dystopia (which, since the comic was started in 1981, means 1998), where a fascist government has taken charge of Britain after a worldwide nuclear war. Under this new regime surveillance is constant, control is absolute, and anyone who is not anglo-saxon or heterosexual is put into a concentration camp, experimented on, deported or killed.

Enter “V,” the mysterious anarchist, who wears a Guy Fawkes mask and commits acts of terrorism against Britain’s fascist overlords. He’s carrying out a personal vendetta, but also setting up the framework for a revolution by the people.

The whole thing feels like 1984 meets Nazi Germany, mixed with elements of Fahrenheit 451 and Robin Hood (I hope you click that last link). It’s a world built upon propaganda posters.

It really is a masterwork by Moore and Lloyd, and has the honor of being the second comic that has ever made me cry (although honestly it doesn’t take much). I couldn’t recommend it more – whether you care for comics or not.

Plus, you learn all kind of new “V” words to use next time you play Scrabble.

I vivaciously vie to view “V” as a vitriolic, vapid…umm…something something vampire vitamin. #alliterationfail

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vox, 22/100

Vox is a 1992 novella by Nicholson Baker. The 1992 is important, since it's about 2 people chatting over an adult hotline. The entire book is a transcript of their conversation. I love how the book seems like such a relic of its publication date. A phone conversation? 1992.

FUN FACT: Monica Lewinsky gave a copy of this book to Bill Clinton as a gift. How 1998!

But at the same time it reminded me of the internet. Or, at least the internet circa 1996-2004 or so. Back when it was somewhat anonymous. Back in the days of AOL chat rooms, message boards, and that poorly animated dancing baby. I miss the internet from the movie You've Got Mail. Yes, the Nora Ephron cheeser. It's embarassing how much I love that movie. Don't judge me.

In Vox the two characters, protected by anonymity, allow themselves to be completely open with one another. Sharing their biggest secrets, most embarrassing and painful experiences, their sincerest wants and fantasies.

And yes, they're on an adult hotline, so the focus of most of the conversation It's pegged as an erotic novel, although I don't really consider it as such. But to-may-to, to-mah-to.

Short novel without many quotables, but here's a paragraph I thought was beautiful.

That was my year of heavy stereo use. Unlike you I didn't have a big crush on anyone at the time. I think it was more that I had a crush on the tuner itself, frankly. I used to imagine that the megahertz markings were the skyline of a city at night. The FM markings were all the buildings, and the AM markings were their reflection in water...And the little moving indicator on our stereo was lit with a yellow light, and I knew where all the stations were on the dial, and I'd spin the knob and the yellow indicator would glide up and down the radio cityscape like a cab up and down some big central boulevard and each station was an intersection, in a neighborhood with a different ethnic mix, and if the red sign came on saying STEREO I might idle there for a while, or the cabbie might run the light, passing the whole thing by as it exploded and disappeared behind me. And sometimes I'd thumb the dial very slowly, sort of like I was palming a steering wheel, and move up, move up, in the silence of the muted stretches, and then suddenly I'd pierce the rind of a station and there would be this crackling hopped-up luridly colored version of a song that sounded for a second much better than I knew the song really was, like that moment in solar eclipses when the whole corona is visible, and then you slide down into the fertile valley of the station itself, and it spreads out beneath you, in stereo, with a whole range of middle and misty distances.

Until you read it a second time and you go OH, OH WAIT THERE'S SOME INNUENDO THERE.

Still beautiful though.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Internet Lovelies

it is one thing to like eating at the Olive Garden from time to time, but it is another thing entirely to go onto a website for chefs and foodies and post "Hey, who else is psyched about the new O.G. Tuscan Trio?" It is one thing to enjoy Rihanna on your iPod, it is another thing to go onto a hardcore punk message board and post "who else is jamming to Umbrella right now?"
Nathan Huffstutter, Link

it is beyond jerk—jerk is an offset of a nuanced initiative, sometimes even provocative (Brando was habitually a jerk—so what? Etc.)—and asshole is understandable, as we all can relate. We are all assholes sometimes in the same way we occasionally get embarrassingly drunk, and it’s OK to say, “God, I was such an asshole…” But douche bag? That’s a pariah. I will drink beer with 99% of humanity, but not a confirmed douche bag. Never. Ever. If someone’s a douche bag, they are a douche bag, done. A douche bag is loathsome, a contemptible phony. It implies a past wrong, a meanness, a paucity, Bad Faith and bad intent. Like a serial liar or a poor tipper who then steals tips off tables when no one is looking. A turd on a wedding cake (whose simile did I just steal, I forget). A douche bag is a douche bag. Fuck them all. A D-bag. A douche. A douche bag. It is a good term, I like it, I like saying it and hearing it said, and it does provide one clear goal in an oft diabolical life of puzzling. To not be one.
Sean Lovelace, Link

I just want someone to point a finger at me and say, “YOU are FUCKING GREAT.” Like an Uncle Sam poster, but instead of Uncle Sam, it’s Jon Hamm.
Apocalypstick, Link

Assembling a distinguished private place for your books is largely the milieu of private people collecting data they've already inputted, in case they should wish for that input to happen again.
Somebody from This Recording, Link

Simply ignore the fact that up close swans are spiteful, nasty creatures, and that too much cake can induce vomiting.
Jessa Crispin, Link

Kubrick once said: "One of the conclusions of the film is that there are limits to which society should go in maintaining law and order. Society should not do the wrong thing for the right reason, even though it frequently does the right thing for the wrong reason."

When I think of all the people who once meant everything to me and now mean nothing, I get a little sick to my stomach. I wonder how it could’ve happened and why things couldn’t have stayed the same. And then I remember that just like the dissolution of a relationship, friendships are casualties of time. I mean, time is the silent killer of everything. It chips away at things that were once thriving. Tick tock, chip chip. And it will continue to do so. You just have to understand that time will preserve the special relationships. It won’t kill anyone off who’s not meant to be killed off. It’s hard to come to terms with that realization though when you’re in the thick of all the relationship death and all you would like to do is call up your old best friend again and tell them about your day.
Ryan O'Connell, Link

On the internet of the 90s:
You were an internet nobody if you didn’t have a Geocities or Angelfire site. How would anyone know that you love Counting Crows and glittery horses if you didn’t build your own page? You’d make sure all of your cyber guests felt welcome by placing a sparkling 3D “Welcome to my page!” .gif front and center – the one that rotates 360 degrees on loop. Don’t forget two glitzy shamrocks – screw it, you’re not Irish, but every homepage needs shamrocks. Don’t ask me why, I don’t make the rules.
Stephanie Georgopulos, Link

I stopped reading. I give myself permission. Because written words were doing their thing long before I was born and will be doing it long after I’m dead. I only have so many books I can read in my lifetime. I now stop a book when I’ve read enough to feel I need to stop. And then pick up another.
Sean Lovelace, Link

The only thing about starting books and then dropping them halfway through is that when you're trying to fulfill a quota (say 100 in a year), it's gonna look like you're not reading anything.

Are you watching? Because I'm failing to read 100 books this year. SPECTACULARLY.

The Sandman : Preludes and Nocturnes, 21/100


Every now and then NPR holds an online I-will-if-you-will book club. A handful of NPR bloggers pick and read a book that people might be reluctant to read and lead discussions on twitter, through comments posts, live chats, etc. I missed the past two times they did it, when they picked the first Twilight book (didn't care to read it) and Moby Dick (didn't care to read it). Back in November they took votes to see what they should read next. We voted. And waited. And waited. They never chose. I gave up and stopped checking in on it. Then last week I read somewhere on a blog that they finally decided to read The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman. Hoorah! I'd like to read those! Oh, but wait. They've already started and are almost finished. Of course.


I still decide to try and participate, even in the late stages, and pick up the first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes while at the comic store (shout out to D and B comics!). OH. But wait again! Turns out they're reading VOL 3 for some reason. And only volume 3. They're starting--and finishing--in the middle of the series. Because that makes sense. And it's only one volume. They're allotting readers 5 whole weeks to read a 160 page comic book.


I still read the first volume I bought. It's good. Not "I'm-gonna-go-buy-the-rest-of-the-series-now!" good, but still good. The stories follow The Sandman (or Dream) who is...well, he's the Sandman. He brings you your dreams. Except here dreams are something more. They're really stories. The basis of all stories.

The whole volume was an interesting exploration of stories and their creators. Especially in the chapter '24 Hours,' which I think will haunt me for a while to come.

The artwork was incredible throughout. Not particularly my style, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it. I think my favorite things was that the storyline is also inhabited by characters from the DC Universe. So there were mentions of the Justice League, Batman, Arkham Asylum, John Constantine...pretty cool.

Plus...did I just find the origins of the raisins face meme?

See it? SEE IT?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


David Foster Wallace's marginalia in a Delillo novel

There's a really interesting article on the New York Times website regarding marginalia in books. In it Sam Anderson argues that you can never truly "own" a book until you've written in it.

Underlining, notes in the margin, circling keywords, reactive exclamation points and question marks, doodling snails in the corners (okay, maybe that's just me)... For Anderson, he considers marking in books to be meditative:

Books have become my journals, my critical notebooks, my creative outlets. Writing in them is the closest I come to regular meditation;

I know the feeling. I didn't really start marking up my books until college. Prior to that I would just keep a notebook handy (preferably with something gaudy on the front, like a Lisa Frank unicorn), writing down favorite passages and reactions to the text. It made me feel like Harriet the Spy. Except instead of spying on real people, I was spying on the characters in stories. How ironic that while reading Harriet the Spy, I was actually spying on Harriet, the spy.

My first year in college, one of my English professors retired and let students take as many books from her office as they wanted. From all the books I grabbed, the thing I noticed were how marked up they were. So much underlining, comments in the margin...I still have her lovely marked-up copy of The Death of the Heart. Going through those books I learned how to become a quintessential English major book destroyer. (Thanks Dr. Keyser!)

After college I stopped my marginalia craze. Possibly because I'm a librarian deep at heart. Or, no, more like a bookseller. With every pen mark, dog-eared page, tear and crease, I'm calculating the price-reduction in the back of my mind.

And that's really why I started this blog. I didn't really intend, or still intend, to do book reviews. Not exactly. I just thought, how can I still collect my favorite passages, personal reactions, reflections, references, and notes so I can access them anywhere? Even without a Lisa Frank notebook? Even if I no longer own the book itself? Because, sure, I'm gonna have my heavily-marked up copy of Fahrenheit 451 forever. But the latest Nick Hornby novel? Probably not.

Also, doing this whole virtual marginalia thing has become even more handy since I've started getting e-books.

in a world in which we’ll no longer own books as discrete physical objects, the only really meaningful thing we’ll own will be the reading experience itself.

In the article Anderson suggests e-book providers consider getting on board with the marginalia revival and offer a means for readers to not only make notes in the e-text, but also have the capability to share those notes.

Marginalia — with its social thrill of shared immersion — is what the culture is moving toward, not away from. We are living increasingly in a culture of response. Twitter is basically electronic marginalia on everything in the world: jokes, sports, revolutions.

Could this include not just friends, but also...authors? Past and present? I know I would pay a great deal to see, say...Chuck Palahniuk's notes in a Nicholas Sparks novel. It'd be like a literary Mystery Science Theatre 3000!

I am so tempted to start up a literary MST3K blog now, you have no idea. MSB3K.

So although there are plenty of doors that seem to be closing with the move to e-books, there are even more opening up.

I’ve long been frustrated with the “distance” between criticism and reading itself. Most critical energy is expended in big-picture work — situating texts in history, talking about broad themes — all of which is useful but hardly touches the excitement of actual reading, a process of discovery that happens in time, moment by moment, line by line. What I really want is someone rolling around in the text. I want noticing. I want, in short, marginalia, everywhere, all the time. Suddenly that seems deliriously possible.

There's another article on the NY Times website that discusses some pretty interesting examples of historical marginalia. Like, did you know Mark Twain was a cynical old grump who liked to argue with authors within the pages of their own novels? Well, yeah, I guess that's no surprise. Somehow I've always pictured Mark Twain as being the Gary Busey of authors.

But until celebrity e-marginalia is possible, you'll have to stick with buying marked-up books the old fashioned way (over the internet? is that old fashioned?) has had a special From the Library of Anne Rice feature that's been going on for awhile. All the books are from her library, although only some have her notations in them. So being the gulla-bull that I am, I bought her copy of Frankenstein a few months ago. I figured, it's in her genre, it's the reason her genre exists, and I could always use another copy.

I was a bit disappointed, seeing as how her markings end after the first chapter. But I do love this one line she bracketed in the preface:

A perfect description of everything her writing, and the entire science fiction/horror genre, is derived from. Lovely. Worth what I paid just to see this marked by her.

SO. Don't be afraid to mark your books! Unless...unless you plan on one day donating said books to a library. Please spare this library worker. My black magic marker runneth dry from de-personalizing many a book. No, seriously. Please don't write your name in the front (and the back, and the spine, and on each exposed side) of a book unless you plan on having it buried with you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guys Lit Wire Book Fair

Every year the Guys Lit Wire blog holds a book fair, rallying the online literary community to donate books to a deserving library. I've participated the past 3 years, sending books to an LA County Detention Center, a day school on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico, and this year, to a deserving high school in Washington, D.C.

Honestly, the library I work in has about the same number of books...but that's a different story. For a high school library it's pretty meager. The school I went to had fewer students, but more books than this.

SO! If you're interested in helping out, check out this link right here for all the details. Donations will be purchased from Powells (I would fly all the way to Portland just to visit this bookstore, seriously), and mailed directly to the library. Personal donations could possibly be accepted, but you will need to contact the librarian directly.

But check out the wishlist! A really great selection to pick from. I went with Kindred by Octavia Butler, The Bell Jar, and Jane Eyre (big surprise).

Kindred is the only book I haven't talked about on here. It was the first novel I read by Octavia Butler, and it's really something else. Perfect YA read. Not quite science fiction, but more like speculative fiction. Like an episode of the Twilight Zone. Basically if you've ever sat around and thought "I wonder what would happen if I were thrust back into a place/time where my particular race/sex/sexuality/religion/what-have-you would cause me to be discriminated against/enslaved/killed/yada-yada?", then this book would be right up your alley. I chose it for the book fair since it has a strong female lead, discusses complicated race issues intelligently, and overall is just an incredibly interesting book.

Here's Octavia Butler, being all awesome.

Give generously! The children are our future! Etc!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Free Comic Book Day!


Today is Free Comic Book Day! Unfortunately I won't be able to participate, seeing as how I have to work, and this evening will need to start moving into a new apartment (buying all those books seemed like such a great idea at the time...didn't account for having to move them someday).

BUT. But. Might as well make a blog post recommending some comics, so you guys can take advantage of the FREENESS.

I've only recently started reading comics, so I feel weird giving recommendations. Like I'm that guy in the Dos Equis commercials: "I don't always read comics, but when I do I prefer..." (note: I am NOT the most interesting woman in the world).

But here goes:

What I've been reading most recently are the Buffy Season 8 comics. Taking place after season 7 of the canceled show, the comic goes all the places the limited budget of the show couldn't take us previously. So...giant goddesses, centaurs, flying cars, flying people. Good stuff. The art is decent, and the writing is hilarious. This is Joss Whedon at his most Joss Whedon-iest. Season 8 has ended, but word has it that Season 9 is underway. So, woo!

And then there's always the Scott Pilgrim series. This series gave rise to a film, a video game, an incredible sound track...(all of which I own. Sad little nerd.) And yet whenever I mention anything about it, I usually get blank stares. Weird. But if you're into 90s pop culture references and Canadian humor, by all means check it out.

It's probably along the lines of "something something I'm gonna kick you in the face."

Making a complete 180 into the serious realm of LGBT superheroes (um), there's Batwoman: Elegy. Even if you don't care about Batman/girl/woman/people, or superheroes, or comics in general, take a look at this one for the GORGEOUS artwork by J.H. Williams. Elegy is a hardcover collection of issues #854-860 of Detective Comics, and the artwork is as dark and gorgeous as the storyline. In this arc Batwoman has been dismissed from the military due to the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy (thank god this now makes it outdated). It even contains a prologue by Rachael Maddow, and a cameo by Lieutenant Dan Choi. So check it out, unless your a homophobe. Or a bataphobe.

Ghost World! Also known as the comic that makes me think think about Steve Buscemi's face all day. It's a story about two smartass friends who slowly become unfriends after graduating high school. Probably the most relatable thing I've ever read. Frowny face emoticon.

And I shouldn't be recommending The Walking Dead comics, since I haven't actually read them yet. I have the first book by my bed. I will get to it! But I just know it will be awesome, seeing as how the show on AMC was amazing. I could be wrong, but probably not. I will take full responsibility if this turns out to be false, by calling a press conference and officially retracting my statement. Then I will print out a copy of this blog post and set it on fire.

Words Blogger Didn''t Think I Should Use in this Blog Post


I assert my independence from you and your little red squiggly lines, Blogger.