Graphic novels read in 2012, so far

I realized that I have only posted one review on my blog of a graphic novel that I have read this year, Bloody Chester. I have, though, read around 17 of them this year so far. I generally don’t have much to say about graphic novels since I am relatively new to the art form. So, I thought I might collect them here in case anyone is interested.

Daytripper – 4 stars

Daytripper DaytripperGabriel Bá and Fabio Moon; Vertigo 2011WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

A man dies repeatedly as he lives his life. Brás de Oliva Domingos is a writer of obituaries and this is his. Writing, friendship, family, love, death, it is all written—and exquisitely drawn—here.

Cairo – 4 stars

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

Ancient myths and legends, Arabs and Israeli soldiers, do-gooder and potential jihadist Americans, and an enchanted Jinn-containing hookah all come together in a tale of good vs. evil, sacrifice, and love set in Cairo and surrounds.

I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Bloody Chester – 4 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

I’m not going to copy my review here as I wrote a bit more in my blog post.

Luba – 3 stars

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

It was kind of odd but I did enjoy it. Sometimes there seemed to be too many characters and I’d get lost in who was who or what their relationships were. Also, the stories and vignettes are not in strict chronological order so it makes it difficult to fully grasp. Lots of sex.

Mnemovore – 4 stars

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

This was interesting; very dark. I like how it is self-contained. There may be a follow-up some day but this is it for the nonce. It is complete while remaining open.

Addresses memory and its mutability.

American Vampire, Vol. 1 − 4 stars

American Vampire American VampireScott Snyder; Vertigo 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Found browsing the shelf at Deschutes Public Library.

Found this at the library today when I discovered their graphic novel shelves. I enjoyed it and may try to track down further volumes.

Miss Don’t Touch Me, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 − 4/3 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

Quick read of murder and intrigue in a Paris brothel in the 1930s. I hope the library has vol. 2 available soon.

Cow Boy – 4 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood – 4 stars

Recommended by: Unshelved

Hark! A Vagrant – 3 stars

Recommended by: SQT

I mostly enjoyed this. Some (most?) of the Canadian history was lost on me but I had at least heard of most of the folks. My favorite bits were the literary ones although some of the historical ones were pretty funny also.

I found it a fast read.

Are You My Mother? – 3 stars

Recommended by: SQT

This was OK. Sara got it from our new public library so I read it. It is fairly narcissistic, to say the least, but some of the info on D. W. Winnicott was quite interesting. Like any psychoanalyst’s views they are sometimes immensely enlightening while generally being more like, “Seriously WTF?!” Far more interesting for the we all have these kinds of issues angle (not explicitly in the book) than the specific issues or analysis Bechtel gives us.

Page by Paige – 4 stars

Recommended by: SQT

The Odyssey – 4 stars

The odyssey The odysseyGareth Hinds; Candlewick Press 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Recommended by: Unshelved

I thought this was a very good adaptation. Of course, having read the Odyssey twice now makes it somewhat difficult to judge this as a standalone. I know what happens and may be filling in details that would leave one who hasn’t read it baffled or perplexed.

Sara read it a long time ago and hardly remembers it so perhaps she can provide some commentary on the above. I last read it last fall for a class in which she discussed it in a fair bit of detail.

Based on an author’s note in the book he seems to know his translators and editions so it seemed pretty accurate and complete.

Habibi – 5 stars

Recommended by: ?

Feynman – 4 stars

Recommended by: Margaret Heller

Wonderstruck – 5 stars

Wonderstruck WonderstruckBrian Selznick; Scholastic 2011WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Recommended by: Reading his previous book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which I also gave 5 stars.

Not really a graphic novel but close.

What can I say without giving the book away? Not much.

It is lovely and has many items we librarians will love, including an homage to the Dewey Decimal System. I wish I could say more but most anything I did say would give away far too much about this wonderful, slowly intertwining tale of two kids who lived 50 years apart.

I will say that it is very sad in several parts. If you are not crying you may not be human.

Thus, recommendations so far this year: 6 via Unshelved, 5 via browsing public library, 3+ via my wife (SQT), 1 via Margaret Heller, 1 via reading the author’s previous book (and SQT and Jen!!), and one unknown.

But I’m betting that several of the ones recommended by my wife were recommended to her by Unshelved. I know I read about them there before she got them from the library. If you do not follow Unshelved Book Club then you might want to consider it; they cover a lot more than graphic novels.

Horror stories, westerns, Egypt, ancient Greece, the Arab world, Brazil, Hispanic culture, memory, life and death, vampires, brothels, Canadiana, physics, psychiatry and psychology, big egos, and more. A fairly diverse group of reading materials, if I say so myself.

I am looking forward to reading several more before the year is out.

 

Revell, Tantivy

Tantivy TantivyDonald Revell; Alice James Books 2012WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

Found this at the public library when Sara discovered a much larger area of new books than the smaller area facing towards the center of the floor. I grabbed this and two other new books of poetry, along with the graphic novels and CDs I was checking out.

I recognized Donald Revell’s name but could not place it. Once I got home and did some poking I realized he had translated the edition of Rimbaud’s The Illuminations that I have. He has done several other translations and has published 11 books of poetry and two books of criticism (bio on back cover). No doubt I have read other poems he translated and have come across the odd poem by him here and there but this is the first book of his that I have read.

I want to say that it sucks but what do I know? I do know that it isn’t for me. The world is surreal enough that I see little need for surrealist poetry. Perhaps I’ll grow into it (or some of it) at some point as I do like a little of the surrealistic in other art forms on occasion. Earlier this year I read Surrealist Love Poems, ed. by Mary Ann Caws and I didn’t particularly care for it either. I did like a few poems in it, though, as love is in itself often surreal.

I also did not care much for The Illuminations, sadly, and while reading Tantivy I found myself wondering how much of that came from Rimbuad and how much from Revell. I think (and read) about translation a fair bit seeing as I am pretty much monolingual and I do want to experience other takes on the world. E.g., see this review of Selected Translations by W.S. Merwin by Joe Winkler that I read recently. Read the review, that is; the book is on order via ILL.

If you like surrealistic poetry or know already that you like Donald Revell’s work then check Tantivy out. Otherwise, you are on your own as to whether you read it.

Kundera, identity

Identity IdentityMilan Kundera; HarperFlamingo 1998WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is a smallish book at 168 pages and 8.5” x 5.75” in hardback with reasonably large type. Yet I had to almost force myself to read it. I stumbled across it the first time I browsed COCC’s Barber Library’s shelves with my new patron card a couple weeks back.

I truly enjoyed The Unbearable Lightness of Being although I read it for a grad sociology class on lived morality so my engagement with it was a little different. [See my blog post: The Unbearable Lightness of Being and morality]

A couple of years later I read The Joke and gave it 5 stars. I have also read two of Kundera’s books of criticism/lit theory, The Art of the Novel, which I gave 5 stars, and The Curtain, which I only gave 3. So I guess you could say that I generally enjoy Kundera. I do have plans to read other novels of his.

This book seemed very different. While you can sort of tell that it is Kundera it is also hard to see it as being his. I think it has to do with how telegraphed every topic he touches on is. Normally, or at least in the books I have read, he can go on at great length about something. There may even be whole sections of the book that are “about” a topic; e.g., kitsch in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. There is none of that here. Everything of interest is more like a drive by shooting with limited ammo. He throws out something interesting with a bullet or three in your general direction and then is gone, down the street and around the corner.

Some of these interesting teasers involve surveillance, friendship, daddies vs. fathers, three kinds of boredom, the mistaking of one’s loved one for someone else, ‘little boy’ as loaded future, is the loved one with others the same loved one as with only oneself, nostalgia for the present other, and of course, (loosely) woven throughout these, identity.

Most of these occurred in the first half of the book. There are 50 chapters in the 168 pages of the book and all of those things I mentioned came from the first 26 of them. I only made short notes on chapter 29 and 30 and they were actually directly related to the plot and not actually ‘interesting’ things.

Not all ideas need extended discursions—I know that—but several of these would have benefitted from a more Kunderian treatment.

All in all, I was disappointed in this book. I now fully understand my friend’s review, “As with Ignorance, I have no recollection of reading this.” I expect the same will be said by me in a year or two.

 

wood music (poem)

I realized that I have never put my only published poem on my blog. In early 2011 I submitted 5 poems to annual contest of The Iowa Poetry Association for residents of Iowa as a first-time entrant with three in the Adult General category and two i the haiku category.

The following poem was selected in Adult General:

wood music

the music of the forest is old
old as the wood elves from which it has sprung

streaming through the canopy
light and ephemeral as a mote
caught in a ray of autumn sunlight

yet solid and strong as the ancient oak
to which the lungwort has tenaciously clung.

tonight, by the light of the Blood Moon
the wood elves will hunt
their ashen bows tautly strung.

quiet as a shaft of moonlight
clear and bright on the forest floor,

slowly, reverentially, they will stalk
driving the stag forward
until arrow and heart meet as one.

Travel Moon will guide them home
joyous wood music flowing from flute
words from lips sounding, unsung.

the elves of the forest are old
old as the wood music from which they have sprung.

 

Lindner, Mark R. “Wood Music.” Lyrical Iowa 2011 (2011): 68. Print.

I wrote this to put inside a greeting card I gave Sara the previous year. I had bought several cards each with a specific fairy on it–wood fairy, moon fairy, etc.–to give her. To me, they looked more like elves than fairies so for this card I took the liberty of making it a wood elf instead. [Yes, I did in fact play D&D and I played a fair few elves or half elves.] For whatever reason, I chose to send it in for the contest and it was selected, along with many others from other people.

 

Thoughts on book-spine poetry and a meta-poem

Recently I started writing (composing? arranging?) book-spine poems. I have been aware of them for a while now but have never tried them. Library Thing has, for instance, done it, and they seem to be inspired by Nina Katchadourian and her Sorted Books project.

I was recently reminded of them and inspired to try my hand at them by @admcgregor3 who I met through DigiWRiMo. Here is the post he shared that nudged me to tryHere is another.

I asked him whether there were any rules (that he followed) and he said “no rules. I just do what I think fits…”.

So here are my thoughts on what I am doing; no real rules but some guidelines for now:

  • Books are stacked from top to bottom—may try some left to right vertically—in reading order.
  • They may or may not have a title.
  • Use the pages side (opposite the spine) of a book as spacer between title and poem or between stanzas or for whatever reason I need space.
  • Subtitles will be generally ignored, although I am free to use as I like.
  • Punctuation may be added freely at the ends of lines but, for now, I will retain punctuation present in a spine title.
  • Generally, one title per line of the poem but free to do as I please.

I also could not resist making a book-spine poem about book-spine poetry, a sort of meta-poem, if you will:

This delicious madness (image 1) - pile of books

This delicious madness (image 1)

This delicious madness (image 2) - another pile of books

This delicious madness (image 2)

This delicious madness

Signs of writing
Describing language;
Mediated
Mimesis.

Reverence
Connected
The image
Beyond snapshots.

Seeking meaning,
Man and his symbols
Desire
Figures of thought.

This craft of verse:
Transformations,
Evidence,
The contrast.

How it seems to me:
Verses and versions
Shout out
The art of looking sideways.

My poems so far:

And to see some others around the interwebz just do a Google Image search for book-spine poetry (with or without the hyphen).

No idea how far I’ll take this or how long I’ll continue to putter with it but I have lots and lots of book titles at hand to work with.

 

On the cusp … (book-spine poem)

Book-spine poem

On the cusp of a dangerous year,
Facing the extreme
In the theater of consciousness,
The eaten heart
Under the jaguar sun
Tastes of paradise.
Look to the mountain top;
Endless horizons
In the light of the moon.
There’s treasure everywhere—
The mind of god—
In the shadow of man.

On the cusp of a dangerous year,
Facing the extreme
In the theater of consciousness,
The eaten heart
Under the jaguar sun
Tastes of paradise.

Look to the mountain top;
Endless horizons
In the light of the moon.
There’s treasure everywhere—
The mind of god—
In the shadow of man.

Rogers, Eating Bread and Honey

Eating bread and honey Eating bread and honeyPattiann Rogers; Milkweed Editions 1997WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is one of the first books that I checked out from COCC’s Barber Library with my community patron card. I found it just by browsing through the PSs.

Although I did like two poems in here and she comes highly lauded, all in all, I did not care for these poems. Rogers uses language beautifully, But then she chains those bits of beautiful language together until it becomes a constant cacophony of metaphors and comparisons between the natural world and the human-constructed world or the human-constructed world and itself or the natural world and itself, or all at the same time.

E.g., see this excerpt from “The Long Marriage: A Translation” (87-88):

In among the alder’s highest black
branches making a complicated map
of depth and elevation against the dull
white sky, winter waxwings in a flock
settle, coming, going.

They depart, altering the design of cold
and season in the tree, return
in gatherings of six or seven, flying
in quick staccato against a largo
of motion relative to one another,
As if they weren’t birds alone
but a constantly changing syntax
in a history of place and event.

Several sail together over the fallen
field with an expansion and contraction
of pattern that might sound like a wheezing
of wooden organ or bagpipe, were there sound
to vision. And eleven spiral up, angle
into the evening like eleven dead leaves
with stunted wings and no more purpose
nor will than to illustrate eleven
different motives of the wind at once.

Gliding to gully, to river brush, a wave
of them parts easily, rejoins in crossing
familiarities that might impress like lavender
and sage, were there fragrances
to involution and grace.

This poem comes almost at the end of the book. By itself it doesn’t seem so bad. Birds flying, musical metaphors, sensory modalities veering into others. It is actually kind of beautiful. But this is 80-some odd pages in and it has been incessant. I really like the last stanza I included. But as a whole, for me, it is just too much.

If you like what you see here and you would enjoy it in quantity then this book is for you.

Harrison and Kooser, Braided Creek

I was alerted to this book by Dave Bonta in early May of this year, so I picked it up on 5 June from The Book Store in Des Moines and read it on 26 September.

I probably ought just say to go read Bonta’s post as you’ll learn far more about the work and the authors than I can tell you, and I highly suggest that you do read his post, but I want to say a little myself. I will try not to duplicate much.

First, let me say that I am highly grateful to Bonta for writing about this lovely book again so that I might see his review. I have read a couple books by Jim Harrison and although I know he is considered to be an excellent poet what I have read of his has not really grabbed me. As for Kooser, I have read the odd poem here and there but never a book of his poems, although I have read his, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets, which I truly enjoyed and need to revisit.

As Bonta writes:

Braided Creek is the result of a poetry correspondence between two old, white male poets at the top of their literary game, struggling to come to terms with aging and all its associated ills.

The poems came out of a series of correspondence between the two longtime friends “comprised entirely of brief poems” “[a]fter Kooser was diagnosed with cancer” (back cover).

The poems are unattributed and as the blurb on the back states:

When asked about attributions for the individual poems, one of them replied, “Everyone gets tired of this continuing cult of the personality… This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials.”

Many of the poems are almost aphoristic:

A coffin handles
leaves a lasting impression
on a hand.

The face you look out of
is never the face
your lover looks into.

Many are quite humorous:

I want to describe my life in hushed tones
like a TV nature program. Dawn in the north.
His nose stalks the air for newborn coffee.

Oh, to be in love,
with all five buckets
of the senses
overflowing!

Almost all of them contain something quite deep and meaningful despite their brevity:

Each time I go outside the world
is different. This had happened
all my life.

Elaborate is the courtliness
of the imagination, on one sore knee
before beauty.

As Bonta mentions, they are four to a page and often seem to go together, some in a call and response sort of way. Nor are they afraid to get into social commentary or politics—as these two contiguous poems do—although they rarely stray there:

So the Greeks had amphorae
with friezes of nymphs.
We have coffee mugs with ads
for farm equipment!

How evil all priesthoods.
All over the earth Holy Places
soaked with extra blood.

Time, memory, nature, beauty, longing, wistfulness. The book is full of these and more:

Last year the snake
left her skin on the floor,
diaphanous like the name
of a lovely girl you’ve forgotten—
but not her flesh.

And then there are the simple truths of a person as they age:

Like an old dog
I slowly lower and arrange myself
in a heap of sighs.

I can definitely relate to that one.

I’ll end with one of my very favorites, to which I also can highly relate:

The moon put her white hands
on my shoulders, looked into my face,
and without a word
sent me on into the night.

This is a lovely book of poetry that is also so much more.