Abouet & Oubrerie – Aya

Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie (illus.); Helge Dascher (translation)

Date read: 29 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016transl

Cover image of Aya by Abouet & Oubrerie

Hardback, 96+ pages
Published 2008 (2nd hardcover ed.) by Drawn & Quarterly
Source: OSU-Cascades at Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [CASCADES PN 6790 .C854 A92 2007]

A slice of a coming of age story set during the late 1970s in the Ivory Coast, which was undergoing profound economic growth. That growth faltered and now economists term this as “growth without development” (from Preface by Chase, iv).

Despite that, this is a fairly timeless story primarily focusing on a couple young women/teenage girls. Making out, male harassment, unwanted pregnancy, thwarted desires, etc.

Recommended for anyone wanting stories from outside their own backyard, so to speak.

This is the 10th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 6th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Way and Bá – The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

The Umbrella Academy, volume one: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá

Date read: 28-29 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Way and Bá's The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

Paperback, 1 volume
Published 2008 by Dark Horse Books [This volume reprints the comic books series The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite issue #1-6, and the story from the 2008 Free Comic Book Day book, published by Dark Horse Comics. This volume also includes The Umbrella Academy short story originally featured on darkhorse.com.]
Source: Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [PN 6728 .U43 M39 2008]

Here is the description from the back cover:

“In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-three extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.”

These seven children for the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. There first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by a fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.”

The author of this is (or was) a supposed rockstar according to the various commentaries in the book. Not even sure I ever heard of the band (My Chemical Romance) but whatever. According to those same commentaries, he had this world and its characters fully fleshed out in his head. I think a bit of that might’ve been lost in the translation, so to speak, but it was definitely interesting enough that I have requested the second volume from my public library.

I have heard of the artist, Gabriel Bá, and have read a couple books done by him.

According to Wikipedia there are two extant volumes and two in development, along with a TV series in development. This volume also “won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series/Limited Series.” [Wikipedia]

I did enjoy this and want to see how it is further developed.

This is the 9th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Tezuka – Ode to Kirihito

Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka; Camellia Nieh, transl.

Date read: 26-27 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016transl

Alternate cover image of Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito

Paperback, 822 pages
Published 2006 by Vertical (originally serialized in Japanese as Kirihito Sanka in Biggu Komikkui, Shogakkan, 1970-71)
Source: OSU-Cascades at Central Oregon Community College Barber Library [CASCADES PN 6790 .J33 K5713 2006]

Rape, murder, conspiracy, intentional infection, pride. No doubt, there are probably several other “deadly sins” in this work. I quite enjoyed this. Do not be put off by its size; it took me maybe three hours to read it.

People in a remote village in Japan are turning into dog people and then dying. A promising young doctor is dispatched to determine the vector of Monmow disease. From that remote village we travel the world with a small cast of characters all connected in various ways. The disease is found in a remote mining operation in Africa. What is the cause? Can it be cured or at least halted?

The author, Osama Tezuka (1928-1989), is “the godfather of Japanese manga comics. He originally intended to become a doctor and earned his degree before turning to what was still then considered a frivolous medium” (back inside flap). So he is imminently qualified to write a medical thriller.

This book is not in manga form and I assume the original was since we get this disclaimer on the title page verso: “The artwork of the original has been produced as a mirror-image in order to conform with the English language.”

Highly enjoyed it. Not for children: sex, naked bodies, more than one rape scene. I need to look into more work by Tezuka, including “his eight-volume epic Buddha, winner of the Eisner and Harvey Awards” (back inside flap).

This is the 8th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 5th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Pond – Over Easy

Over Easy by Mimi Pond

Date read: 25 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Pond's Over Easy

Hardback, 271 pages
Published 2014 by Drawn & Quarterly
Source: Deschutes Public Library

A fictionalized memoir of the late 1970s placed in California when hippies were becoming punk rockers, drugs were rampant, as was causal sex still. Running out of money to attend art college, Madge gets a job at the Imperial Cafe where there is non-stop drama between the regulars and staff.

Enjoyable.

This is the 7th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Modan – Exit Wounds

Exit wounds by Rutu Modan; translation by Noah Stollman

Date read: 22 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016transl

Cover image of Modan's Exit Wounds

Hardback, 172 pages
Published 2007 by Drawn & Quarterly
Source: Deschutes Public Library

I enjoyed this. I don’t feel like I can say a lot about it without giving away the story, though.

This has been on my to be read list for a while now but I recently read Modan’s The Property so I went ahead and moved this one to the top of the heap.

This is what I said about The Property and I think it equally applies, although the walls and directions are different in this earlier work:

“I quite enjoyed this quick read; I read it in [just] under an hour.    Walls are put up only to be dismantled from another direction. Affections of all kinds, and how quickly we can gain and lose them, are beautifully illuminated. Old animosities are reinforced and challenged. It is a properly complicated look at our world and some of its complications.

The art work is lovely and effective at conveying subtle and rapidly changing moods.”

The ellipsis covers the few story detail I gave which are different, of course. For this one let me quote from the publisher’s blurb on the back cover:

“In modern-day Tel Aviv, a young man, Koby Franco, receives an urgent call from a female solider named Numi. Learning that his estranged father may have been a victim of a suicide bombing in Hadera, Koby reluctantly joins Numi in searching for clues. As Koby tries to unravel the mystery of his missing father, he fide himself not only piecing together the last few months of his father’s life, but his entire identity” [back cover, Exit Wounds].

Accurate as such. I think “entire identity” is a bit of a stretch but you will learn plenty.

Recommended if you like reading graphic novels that help illuminate what it is to be human. I think I enjoyed The Property just a bit more.

Talented author, indeed. Checking library catalog(s) for other works…

This is the 6th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 4th book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables John J. McKendry, selector

Date read: 18 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016transl, 2016gnc

Cover image of Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

Hardback (Museum issue), 96 pages
Published 1964 by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Source: COCC Barber Library

Gorgeous in so many ways! Boy did I luck out listening to the universe on Friday.

Four stars as many of the morals are as or more cryptic than the fables themselves.

There is a five plus-page introduction by McKendry, the Assistant Curator of Prints, that does a wonderful job of situating Aesop’s Fables as possibly the finest work to show “the history of the printed illustrated book,” along with providing an overview of the evolution of the illustrations made for it and the various translations, along with revolutions in printing and image-making technologies that accompanied it.

In this lovely edition the images paired with the fable are fairly contemporaneous. For instance, the first eight are translations by William Caxton in 1484 with illustrations from four different sources, with the biggest difference being all of thirteen years. There are a couple at the end translated by Marianne Moore in 1954 with the illustrations from between one and nine years difference.

The introduction mentions that:

“Although the fables had been illustrated from early times, the invention of the printing press produced a virtual onslaught of the illustrations and made them a major par of our pictorial history. Before the end of the fifteenth century, there were over twenty different illustrated editions of them. The earliest editions are those of Mondavi, Ulm, and Verona, all published between 1476 and 1479, which are among the best books of the fifteenth century” 97-8).

Holy cow! That is insane and seriously supports the selectors contention regarding their importance to the history of the printed illustrated book.

There are forty fables included, with translations ranging from William Caxton (1484) to Marianne Moore (1954) and including ones from every century in between.

If you read this book PLEASE read the introduction. It provides so much context and makes watching the evolution of printing/image-making technology as it advanced and is represented by the included illustrations far more understandable and interesting.

The copy COCC holds has a bookplate which states: “Donated by Dr. Orde Pinckney to Central Oregon Community College Library.”  

Highly recommended but more for its description and depiction of illustrated book history than for the fables, many of which are in hard-to-understand English, irrespective of when translated.

There seems to be copies in some shape that are affordable. May look into acquiring one.

This is the 3rd book in my Books in Translation Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Brrémaud and Bertolucci – Love, volume 2: The Fox

Love, volume 2: The Fox by Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci

Date read: 17 January 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Brrémaud and Bertolucci - Love, volume 2: The Fox

Hardback, 74+ pages
Published 2015 by Magnetic Press (first published in France in 2011 by Ankama Editions)
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Highly recommended for all ages. But in a bit of social responsibility I will quote the ratings sticker: “This book contains depictions of violence and survival within nature. It is intended for ALL AGES.” So perhaps if you don’t want to explain a pod of killer whales attacking a baby whale and its mother to your young child or grandchild then wait a couple years. They may well miss some of that anyway. They won’t miss the two bears fighting though. Or the ….

It says it was written by Brrémaud and illustrated by Bertolucci. I guess they mean storyboarded or such as there is no story in the strong sense and there are no words, except for an epigraph and epilogue. But it is full of amazingly gorgeous illustrations of assorted animals and their varied habitats. There is conflict, terror, natural disaster, violence and the turning away of violence. And there is love.

The illustrations pay dividends by spending time with them. Even so, it is can be a fairly quick read by oneself. With a child on one’s lap or by your side it could take hours. That would be a grand thing; but only if you are prepared to explain some of the natural world to your young charge.

There is also a Love: The Tiger as the first “in a series of wildlife books, each focusing on a day in the life of a different wild animal across different natural habitats. I think I’ll try to get my hands on that one also. Yep. Just placed a request from Deschutes Public Library. According to Goodreads there is a 3rd volume out, Love: The Lion, but it may only be in French for now.

Highly recommended. One of the most beautiful looking books I have read in a long.

This is the 5th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

On why Aesop’s Fables

I wanted to make myself a quick note so I could remember in the future why I chose to re-read Aesop’s fables in the upcoming immediate future.

Friday morning (Jan. 15, 2016) I wrote this in my journal:

“11:12 AM Just had my third Aesop’s reference this morning! The beer place, Brontë, and now my crossword.”

I figured the universe was trying to send me a message of some kind so on Friday afternoon while at work I grabbed myself a copy of Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables, selected by John J. McKendry and published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1964.

My first reference came via Facebook to the article “Napa’s Mad Fritz brewery stakes out new terroir” in the San Francisco Chronicle. Mad Fritz’s beers are named after specific fables from Aesop, such as The Larks in the Corn, or The Viper and File. All in all, the brewery and beers sound fantastic and I might have to put a little effort into getting my hands on some. The labels are also beautifully illustrated and “The moral takeaway is noted on the back label.”

My second reference came while reading further in Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. On page 95 of the Oxford World’s Classics edition we read,

“If life promised no enjoyment within my vocation, at least it offered no allurements out of it; and, henceforth, I would put my shoulder to the wheel* and toil away, like any poor drudge of a cart-horse that was fairly broken in to its labour, and plod through life, not wholly useless if not agreeable, and uncomplaining if not contented with my lot.”

In the Explanatory Notes on p. 424 we learn that “put my shoulder to the wheel” is a “proverbial expression, from Aesop’s fable of Hercules and the waggoner. ODEP, 729.” [ODEP is the Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs, 3rd edn. (1971).

The third reference came as I waiting on my sandwich bread to toast for lunch. I was working on the 2 September 2015 Los Angeles Times crossword when 65 across popped up with “Greek storyteller” as the hint and who, of course, should be the answer? Our friend Aesop.

I’m not one much for “signs” but something was prodding me here.

I went with it. I hope that I can find what it is the universe may have been pointing at.

I have since seen several other Aesop references but that is the way these things go, isn’t it?

Lee and Hart – Messenger

Messenger: The Legend of Joan of Arc by Tony Lee and Sam Hart

Date read: 16 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc  2016nfc

Cover image from Lee and Hart's Messenger

Paperback, unpaged
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Another quick read which I quite enjoyed. I am counting it under my 2016 Nonfiction Challenge also as it is based on historical facts. Clearly, the conversations are not “accurate” and so on but that could be the case in any biography. Just because a biography is relatively short and adapted to a graphic novel format does not mean it is no longer a biography nor no longer nonfiction.

This is maybe an hour read so still not a ton of time invested. I am sure I could have found some other way to learn as much about Joan of Arc in as little time but the Wikipedia entry would not have been near as entertaining.

The final page is also accurate but oh so highly entertaining. The things the Church does in the name of God. History weeps.

Recommended.

This is the 4th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 4th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

MacLean – ApocalyptiGirl

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean

Date read: 16 January 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Image of cover of MacLean's ApocalyptiGirl

Paperback, 89 pages
Published 2015 by Dark Horse Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library

Aria is a tracker. Of what? For whom?

The back cover blurb states that it “is an action-packed exploration of the extremes of humanity and our desire for a home in a world beyond repair.” I can’t argue, or improve, on that.

There is certainly more going on than that though. Both in the story and via the story. That is what gives this quick read—you can probably read it in somewhere around 30 minutes—its depth and boosts its intended message. Not a preachy book by any stretch; not trying to suggest it is. There are as many questions left open as there are answered; although, thankfully, the ones resolved are of more importance to the story, in both aspects of “in” and “via,” then the ones left open.

Recommended.

This is the 3rd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups