Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mome vol. 1 and Mome vol. 2

Mome vol. 1
Ed. by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds

Fantagraphics, 2005

Mome vol. 2
Ed. by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds

Fantagraphics, 2005

«Mome» is an anthology of comics coming out four times a year. This year the twentieth volume arrived on the shelves, and I'll start with the first two books.
Anthologies have their advantages and disadvantages. They open up new names (at the same time allowing to read works of already well-known authors), they can be read from beginning to the end, or starting with any story, stories in them are usually short, so they do not overtire even those who have distracted attention. By cons I would took the lack of completeness of some stories: to see what will happen next, you need to buy the next volume. And if you started with the second, then it is unclear how this or that story began. It would be much better to print the fully finished stories. (We should also mention that in addition to comics, there are also long and fairly thoughtful interviews with someone from the contributor of the book.)
In the first and the second volume there are a lot of things to enjoy. Stories differ both in length (there are one-page strips, too) and in narrative technique.

In the first volume in a simple black-and-white depiction of «I Feel Nothing» Gabrielle Bell presents her protagonist, a young girl who called to visit, just to sit, a young man, kind of a rich drug addict. In the midst of the evening the young man invites the girl to become his girlfriend, sniffing with powder, to quit work and sit at home all day in his company. This is a story, perhaps, in the vein of Jeffrey Brown (he is in this book, too), even in style. Brown himself is presented here in «Part Time». It is very funny story about how Brown makes procrastination at the time, as he is pressing by deadlines. It is great comics, not even just comics, but metacomics! His comic strip in the second book is a real mystery. What not takes away from Brown is his self-irony.

Direct narration in the first volume is also in Sophie Crumb’s comics. She is represented by three things here. The first, «Eddy Bear Takes His Share», is a short story about how a girl brings home a beggar. The second, «Tanya», is about almost the same thing - the mysterious corners of life (Crumb writes and offers us a graphic story of the history of our compatriot trapped in the U.S. in the hope of a happy life). Crumb’s stories are almost always about one thing, but this is understandable: her comic are parables with clearly derived moral. Andrice Arp in both volumes contributed graphic stories on the material of Japanese mythology. They are well drawn, but they don’t have enough energy. In a completely insane way drawn story of Kurt Wolfgang «Passing Before Life's Very Eyes». These are memories of the old man, already almost breathing his last, and here in front of his eyes sweeping the whole his life. This is a comic about the opposition: in Wolfgang’s each fragment of page vie angel and devil, Robinson Crusoe and Friday, the old man and a young man, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. This is a story in yellow tones on how quickly you live and quickly die. In «Mome vol. 2" Wolfgang has more mundane story about two young punks in 1977. In the second book Martin Cendreda (in vol. 1 he had great one-page strips) has story «The Magic Marker» about, well, a magic marker, a kind of analogue of a magic wand. Of course, possession of a marker does not bring brightens to a faceless character, who looks like Pinocchio.

Two of the most bizarre stories in the first two volumes of «Mome» are "221 Sycamore Ave» by John Pham and «Overpeck» by David Heatley. Overpeck is the name of a town, where live a girl-duck that walks down the street completely naked, eternally quarreling Negro children, drawing pictures autistic girl. In Heatley’s all the time something moves, flashes, and the pages are like a scattering of colored beads in the form of dogs, bicycles, broken swings, trees. The three parallel storylines unfolds in this story. Where they will lead to, it is not clear, but it is still terribly entertaining. "221 Sycamore Ave» is drawn as if the comic book was made by the drawing teacher: solid right rectangles, circles, and prospects. In the first part we are introduced to a girl named Mildred Lee, which makes the lessons, and then crawls under the table and stays there. In a room at the same time there is the most mysterious character of all that are found in two books - a man-bag. All the time he just sits on the couch and never says anything. Soon, we are presented another hero, Vrej Sarkissian, who enjoys all the smells of the outside world.
In these two books there are a lot of interesting and confusing, enjoyable and intriguing.

Do not be a mome, read these first-rate collections of comics.

Null Immortalis

Null Immortalis: Nemonymous Ten
Edited by D.F. Lewis

Megazanthus Press, 2010

«Null Immortalis» is an anthology of 26 stories, the final part of a series of 10 books, where the stories remained unsigned, and the names of the authors reveal only in the next volume. «Null Immortalis» violated this rule: it is the first time the stories here are not anonymous.

However, to say that «Null Immortalis» is just another anthology of strange stories that are close to horror, would be untrue. It is also one solid megatext, zero-text, all the fragments of which are united not only stylistically and thematically, but formal: in all stories there is a common hero, SD Tullis. On the one hand, it's just a name, on another - the name of something more. SD Tullis is what we are pursuing all our life, this is what kills us, and what makes us strong. This is the secret of life, but also the mystery of death.

Art canvas of “Immortalis”, like all patchwork fabric linen, is very uneven. I am glad there aren’t straight horror stories whose purpose is to just scare the reader, but there are not so many outstanding stories.

The problem of fathers and children affected by Daniel Pearlman in «A Giant in the House». To young son, his father seems a giant. Gradually, the son is growing, catching up with his father. Their relationship is wavering, strained. Pearlman punishes the father for coldness toward his son. «Apotheosis» by D.P. Watt is, perhaps, the best in this anthology. This is a metastory where the protagonist, a writer, discovers that some of his prose is stolen and published under a different name, Tullis. The most striking thing for this writer is that he himself had sent his text to unknown plagiarist. Watt wrote a nearly perfect story about information and how it absorbs everything: information is nameless, and this is the worst thing in it.

Joel Lane's prose, as always, is measured and insinuating. So he begins his tale «The Drowned Market»: «History is always a problem. No wonder people are so keen to forget the past. You can get to a certain point in your life and you can't move for the fragments of history silting up the place. You can cover them up, but they won't go away. For a publisher, it can be especially difficult because people assume the past is all that matters to you. They forget that you still have to breathe ». Writer, confronted with the consequences of the financial crisis in publishing, begins to behave strangely: sends chilling manuscript to publishers and then suddenly disappears. Quiet, but a discouraging story.

About the emptiness - around and within us – is the story of Reggie Oliver «You Have Nothing To Fear». The protagonist helps his friend Lord acquainted with one model, which then becomes the object of the exhibition. Lord with one Tullis multiply and multiply her images, exploiting her. The elegant style of Oliver prose helped him to create a bleak story about the substitution itself. Plot of «Holesale» by Rachel Kendall might initially seem unoriginal: a crook sells black holes. But Kendall has a flair for details, piercingly sad intonation, so it brightens up the plot. «The Toymaker of Bremen» by Stephen Bacon has the same problem: not very original plot (the boy's parents disappear, and he lives in the house of strange toymaker Gustav, in whose house extraordinary things happens), but the author writes well enough to not spoil the plot. Children in his story are as living, despite the fact that they are ... (to look at the title).

It is an unusual anthology, which says: Each of us has own Tullis inside.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Best American Short Stories 2010

Best American Short Stories 2010
Ed. by Richard Russo and Heidi Pitlor

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

Guest editor of the new book in well-established series of «The Best American Short Stories» became Richard Russo. And if this year has turned out, whether Rousseau has made such a choice of the already-selected stories, but in the book there is not purely stylistic works. The editors have opted for Story.

I can not say that the stories selected are only with a plot, but in all of them there is well-told story, while the book does not include the stories of so-called genre writers (although there are a couple of science fiction stories here, but they are the representatives of McSweeney's).

The anthology truly lives up to its name: all included in it stories are worth reading, and few of them - admiration.

The collection opens with stories by Steve Almond and Marlin Barton. They at first seem very strong, but once you get to the middle of the book, one realizes that they are not so stand-out: Almond’s story of relations between the two card players, a doctor and a patient, seems a bit artificial, and Barton lacks stylistic depth. Much more powerful looks «The Cousins» by Charles Baxter, and it is, probably, the best story in the book. The story is told from the face of one of the brothers (they are not very similar to each other), and with that Baxter acted very advantageous. The image of himself that the elder brother makes in his own words, in the end is not the same image which it is seen by the others. «Safari» by Jennifer Egan is also a family history, but with more exotic entourage. «Safari» is a more complex story, Egan passes narrative needle through the present and the future of heroes of the story, the father and his two children. Egan's prose here is the melting air, wild and dangerous animals; intoxicate style.

The old man Arty Groys, the meaning of his life had been returned by the young prostitute, is memorable hero of the story by Joshua Ferris «The Valetudinarian». Perhaps the author of this story was too straightforward, not so many tasty details in the story. Had the author more sense of humor, this story would have become a burlesque story. Unusual twist with usual components (husband owns repair shop, he can not longer repair engines, as before, while his wife sleeps with the youngster, who works in this shop; youngster, in fact, is the protagonist of the story) is using by Wayne Harrison in his «Least Resistance». The author has vigorous style, it perfectly matches to the story of how everything is always possible to fix. Rebecca Makkai in «Painted Ocean, Painted Ship» managed to turn usual plot about how a university professor is unjustly condemn for misunderstood words and deeds, in a vivid story, painted colors of love, confusion and sadness. Kevin Moffett played with narrative in «Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events». The narrator writes the story, his father writes the story, and the narrator quotes the six rules of storytelling, which narrator was taught once by his mentor at the university. The comic, laminating one layer of narrative on another, story about fathers and children. The story of Tea Obreht «The Laugh» is with a touch of the supernatural.
The most laughable story in the book is «All Boy» by Lori Ostlund. In it eleven-year-boy lives with his parents on the verge of divorce, likes to read and to his 11 years knows a lot of unusual words for a child of his age. Sarcastic «Raw Water» completes this collection. Wells Tower wrote a satire on the well-fed society, and yes, it's fantastic (and science-fictional a bit)!

Not all stories are equally good: some are overly sentimental; some are like scenarios of a mediocre Sundance movie.

Copious book.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


China Miéville

Macmillan, 2010

The beginning of this novel, perhaps, would elicit a sigh of disappointment at someone: another story of the secret police department that investigates cases involving otherworldly phenomena. However, after 60 pages it becomes clear that «Kraken» is much more - large, commensurate with the grandeur with kraken novel, both realistic and postmodern.

Billy Harrow, the protagonist of the novel, works in the Natural History Museum, where in the Darwin Center main exhibit is a giant squid, Kraken. Billy conducts a tour, the group is approaching the room with a huge clam, but entered in the hall, everyone can see that kraken has disappeared. The police interrogate Billy, but he does not know anything about theft, he is in shock. Interrogating Billy policemen are a special department, the FSRC (the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit) and offer him to work for them. Billy is scared and does not want to get involved. Soon our hero is kidnapped by the two most dangerous men in London, Goss and Subby. They lead him to the Tattoo, another criminal who actually is tattoo - a tattoo on the body of a man. Tattoo also wants to know from Billy, where kraken and how Billy was involved in its theft. From torture by Goss and Subby scared curator is saved by Dane Parnell, he worked as a security guard at the museum. Moreover, Parnell is one of krakenists: his church worships kraken. Parnell also needs to know who stole his god. All parties need kraken, but no one knows who took it.

«Kraken» is a very funny novel. Miéville puts one layer of absurdity to another, one mad plot twist to another, one original method on the other, if all taken at face value, you can be sorely disappointed. But if in the overall dark atmosphere and in anticipation of the apocalypse you could make out the irony of the author, you will laugh and laugh page by page. Well, in fact: the giant squid as a god; iPods as a means of protection; people folded in the form of origami to the size of the box; tattoo GG Allin on the body of a century dead; flickering bulbs as a sign of SOS; one of the possible kidnappers of clam is a fan of Star Trek. Almost every chapter has something that makes at least smile, but it should be understood that «Kraken» is not a parody. It's not a parasite on any topic, it is quite original.

Separate topic is the language of the book. The whole book is written in British English, sort of, full of slang and sophisticated swearing. Sometimes it is difficult to break through such language "windfall", but, first of all, it's almost always funny, and secondly, we must understand that almost all the characters in the novel in one degree or another connected with the criminal, and thirdly, Miéville is a great stylist (even difficult to say against this novel, what prevails here, a plot or a style), so after the first hundred pages you get used, and then you will get a huge pleasure, really. Here are a few paragraphs, for example:
«THE TATTOO WAS GOING ON. HIS HIRED GUNS RAGED AND VIOLATED trusts that had held for decades, all the way through everything, hunting for the quarry they had had and lost.
The Chaos Nazis were nothing, of course. Who was afraid of them now, drowned, screaming and up-fucked? The freelancers, the full-timer knuckleheads and others were happy to audition for the newly open position of lead bogeymen, and the UMA pickets were unwilling bit parts in these violent run-throughs and résumé-building attacks. Wati was gone from the room above Camden, back, gone, back, shoring up, fixing and failing.
“Tattoo’s gone fucking batshit,” Collingswood said. “What is he doing? Has anyone spoken to him?”
“Won’t talk,” said Baron. He puffed out his cheeks and exhaled. “We can’t bloody find him.”
“He doesn’t need our permission,” Vardy said. The three sat like a support group for the morose.
“Come on,” said Baron. “I don’t employ you two for your looks. Talk this out.”
“We’ve got the Tattoo declaring war,” Vardy said. “Sending Goss and Subby in here. Dealing with our prisoners.”»

Sometimes the novel is sluggish. It's a pretty densely populated, and it sometimes hurts the book: Miéville describes, extremely charmingly and even plausibly, various layers of London from Londonmancers to radio-in-his-body man, but behind the abundance of episodic character the author loses London itself, which was conceived was very important. As a result, a sense of impending doom is there, but that's in place of the city is white spot.

That «Kraken» is also metafiction indicates at least a presence in the book an important component in the form of ink, and in the final letters will play their role.

If someone says that this novel is not as good as the previous Miéville’s novels, I'm puzzled: what's better? Delightful reading, without any doubts.

The Ask and the Answer

Patrick Ness
The Ask and the Answer

Walker Books, 2009

The first volume of the trilogy ended very unexpected and darkly (and of course, on the most interesting part): Todd and Viola finally reached what they thought saving city of Haven, but there was no rescue, as was the mayor of Prentiss, one, without an army. Haven surrendered without a fight.

The second book starts with the fact that Todd and Viola are separated. Todd now works for mayor, and Viola, recovering after being seriously wounded, remains in a house of healing. House of healing is headed by Mistress Coyle, and she is dissatisfied with the new regime. Earlier mayor and now president, Prentiss again, as once in Prentisstown, separates women from men. Once it has already led to bloodshed, so that Coyle is confident that history may repeat itself again. President Prentiss also speaks to the people, declaring that the war is over and that soon Eden will be implemented, and they only need to wait for arrival of the ship with the new settlers.

If «The Knife of Never Letting Go» is a "horizontal" novel (the characters in it just ran and ran, encountering enemies on the way), then this book is rather a "vertical" novel: there is also quite running, but not on straight and vertical there is related to the power, the novel is primarily about it. Another difference between the two books: «The Ask and the Answer» is much more violent book (because there are almost no jokes), there are far more killings, and if not killings, so cruelly tortures. If in «The Knife» Todd could not kill, in «The Ask» he couldn’t, too, but he is well enough in torture of people: President Prentiss left him no choice.

In the new conditions Todd Hewitt is changing, and Ness is very good shows his evolution. Todd is no longer a boy, he broke down (not for nothing that he himself said: «Inside, I'm dead dead dead»), but he also feels that some force in it matures; and Viola and Prentiss see that power in him.

«The Ask and the Answer» is a like-children book about not quite children things: terror, war, betrayal, cruelty and meanness. The Ask and The Answer in the title are the names of two organizations, Answer - female terrorist, Ask - men's torture. Ness shows here: what is the ask, so is the answer, during the war (for which it has quite a woman's face), there is no good and bad, everything is mixed.
This novel is not a blank filler between the beginning and end, as is usually the case in the trilogy. Bright, stinging, dynamic, very original.

Ask: Is it worth reading? Answer: Well, yes, certainly.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The South Korean Film Renaissance

Jinhee Choi
The South Korean Film Renaissance

Wesleyan University Press, 2010

In this academic study Jinhee Choi recounts how Korean films conquered the world and why it happened. It's no secret that South Korean cinema have had success both at festivals and among ordinary viewers in movie theaters, becoming the leading box office abroad, too. “Old Boy” had been seen by even those who are watching about a movie a year, so that in very general terms, the South Korean cinema has a representation of a huge number of film enthusiasts. But what was triggered the renaissance of cinema in Korea, not everyone knows.

Choi begins her book with exactly that: what was the impetus to ensure that state and private investors interested in the film industry and began to invest in it, as a result the first blockbusters (the author notes that the term "blockbuster" highly conditional and a blockbuster in the U.S. is different from blockbuster and its understanding of it in South Korea) appeared. The author considers in detail, how have its influence on the formation of a Korean-style blockbusters improving networks of cinemas, quotas on foreign films in local theaters, the political situation in the country, the interests of viewers, filmmakers themselves.

Having dealt with the causes of the Renaissance, Choi takes for the most popular genres of Korean cinema. In the chapter on gangster movies, it compares the crime films of Hong Kong and South Korea (finding the latter more emotional), dwelling on the gangster comedies. In the chapter «I'm Not a Girl, Yet Not a Woman» the author looks for reasons of the success of contemporary romantic comedies at the audience (mostly young). The main heroes of the chapter on so-called teen pics suddenly become horror movies. In the next chapter with the subtitle «« High Quality» Films» “high-concept” Korean films are compared to so-called arthouse films of other countries. The final chapter is devoted to new wave directors.

The book is rich in a huge number of movie titles that are so desirable to be rewritten in the notepad, then to watch everything, but this does not mean that the author has only used an extensive approach: in the chapters on genres, Choi examines some mise-en-scene, accompanying the description of the scenes footage from a movie.
To get more pleasure from the book, it is recommended to look at least a couple of examples of South Korean cinema – thus many places in the book will be more understandable.

Sometimes the author does not have enough pressure so that the reader threw the book at the half and ran to watch a movie just mentioned on the pages.

Highly recommended.

Animythical Tales

Sarah Totton
Animythical Tales

Fantastic Books, 2010

This is a pretty thin book (only 124 pages, very small print and that is inconvenient to read), so give it a short review.

It is difficult to call a general reason why I was quite disappointed after reading this book. Each time the problem of one story doesn’t become the problem of the next one, but there is another problem. «A Fish Story» and «Choke Point» are very well written stories, near the end of each of the stories you expect the unexpected culmination and denouement (if not, the story simply has nothing to show: he is too smooth, with the elusive plot), but they don’t show up. In «Flatrock Sunners», the story of a boy and his imaginary friends, there is all aspects to get an exemplary horror story about childhood, but the writer is too cold, overall temperature of the story goes below zero, and contact with reader gets lost.

Quite unexpected there is a story, with a sort of stylized British humor, about a man who wanted impress people, but did not know how. Jokes in «A Little Tea and Personal Magnetism» are mostly predictable, but they are all funny.
Best story in the book could be called «Bluecoat Jack». A very dark tale about loneliness and loss itself, where again the coldness in the description is admirable and add suspense, accompanied by a mystery.

Overall impression: it is a quite dull collection.