Monday, January 11, 2021

Reader's Diary #2161 - James Thurber: The Curb in the Sky

 James Thurber's "The Curb in the Sky" tells of a man who winds up in an asylum due to his wife. A tragedy, I suppose, on the surface but the tone is more amusing than anything. The wife's biggest flaw seems to be cutting everyone off and finishing or correcting their sentences. Annoying, sure, and I suppose we're supposed to side with the husband, but to be honest I found him to be weak. I don't mean necessarily that he had to leave like so many other men had done prior, but never does it state that he tried communicating his frustrating to his wife. It's hard to blame her when she's never been told how her habit was so problematic. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Reader's Diary #2160 - Trung Le Nguyen: The Magic Fish

Trung Le Nguyen's The Magic Fish is a beautiful graphic novel for younger readers that tells of a mother and son who use fairy tails as a way to bond and communicate. Revolving mostly around the young boy Thien, there's a language barrier of sorts as his mother is a Vietnamese immigrant having difficulty with English plus Thien faces a personal struggle to come out to his parents. While their mutual love of fairy tales doesn't exactly erase all of these issues, their modifications to the classic tales help.

It's a story with a lot of heart and complexity, complete with beautiful art that reminded me somewhat of Little Nemo comics.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Reader's Diary #2159 - Tobias Haglund: Direct Democracy

 Tobias Haglund's "Direct Democracy" has a satirical tone and tackles themes of democracy including the ways it's manipulated to give the façade of democracy. 

But speaking of façades, I'm also hesitant to call it a short story as there's not much of one and instead it comes across more as a way to make political points using the guise of a story. Perhaps that's why it felt a little condescending at times, even if I agreed with many of the ideas presented. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

My Year in Review 2020 - Fiction and Nonfiction

The FICTION ranked from least favourite to favouite: Novels, Novellas, Short Story Collections, Plays, Picture Books, and Poetry (Graphic Novels recorded separately):

7. Ryan Strain - Out of His League
6. Jose Saramago - Seeing
5. Yoko Ogawa - The Memory Police
4. Katłįà - Land-Water-Sky
3. Johanna Stoberock - Pigs
2. John Kennedy Toole - A Confederacy of Dunces
1. Daniel David Moses - Coyote City

The NON-FICTION ranked from least favourite to favourite:

7. Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon - One Good Reason
5. Lily E. Hirsch - Weird Al: Seriously
4. Andrea Warner - Buffy-Sainte Marie
3. Steven A. Benko and Andrew Pavelich (editors) - The Good Place and Philosophy
1. David Kyle Johnson (editor) - Black Mirror and Philosophy

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Reader's Diary #2158 - Katłįà: Land-Water-Sky

I read Catherine Lafferty's memoir Northern Wildflower a couple of years back and despite enjoying it, I was nervous to read her latest, Land-Water-Sky (this time published under her Dene name Katłįà). It was largely because this time around it was a novel and I've discovered before that liking a novelist's nonfiction and vice versa, isn't always a guarantee.

I am happy to report that I enjoyed Land-Water-Sky a great deal. It is an epic tale beginning in the north prior to colonial invasion and moving into the present. There are fascinating, legendary creatures that survive these hundreds of years shifting themselves to navigate the changing world, but hanging on to grudges that predate even the humans. It is when they intertwine their lives with the humans that things really get interesting.

Mixed in with the story are important themes of domestic abuse, Indigenous rights, and so on, but these are worked in seamlessly with the unique story and well-defined characters. One thing I haven't seen pop up in other reviews of this book, surprisingly, is that it's often quite scary! As a horror fan, this was a really pleasant surprise and if Katłįà ever decides to write a full-on horror book, I'll definitely have no qualms about digging into that one immediately!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My Year in Review 2020 - Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels

Here we go, the first of my year end countdowns. In a year when I had every excuse in the book to read more, I read less overall. In my defense, I feel I read denser this year and that slowed me down across the board, including graphic novels. A few comments on my selections: 

  • shameful that I didn't read any manga (a couple have manga-ish art)
  • for someone who prefers Marvel to DC, I only read one more Marvel title and DC had a higher ranking
  • I read a lot more people of colour (writers and characters)
  • I read a lot more music biographies

Ranked in order from least to most favourite:

38. Terry Collins, Michael Byers - King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson
37. Jessica Gunderson, Pat Kinsella - Hip-Hop Icon : Jay-Z
36. Nick Seluk - Heart and Brain
34. Brandon Thomas, Khary Randolph - Excellence Volume One: Kill the Past
33. The McElroys, Andre Lima Araujo - War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery
32. Al Ewing, Joe Bennett - The Immortal Hulk: Vol. 1
31. Gail Simone, Adriana Melo - Plastic Man
30. Keith Giffen, Alan Grant - Lobo: Volume 1
29. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips - Bad Weekend 
28. Tiffanie DeBartolo, Pascal Dizin, Lisa Reist - Grace: The Jeff Buckley Story
27. Derek McCulloch, Shpeherd Hendrix - Stagger Lee
26. Ebony Flowers - Hot Comb
25. Victor Gischler, David Beldeon - Spirits of Vengeance
23. Various - Thor: Ragnaroks
22. Brianna Jonmie, Nahanni Shingoose, Nshannacappo - If I Go Missing
20. Charles Forman - I Am Not Okay With This
19. Various - Bob Marley in Comics
18. John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke - The Mask Omnibus
17. Sergio Aragones - Groo: Friends and Foes
15. Vivek Shraya, Ness Lee - Death Threat
14. Foenkinos, Corbeyran, Horne - Lennon : The New York Years
13. Jeff Lemire, Ivan Reis, Evan Shaner - Terrifics Vol. 1 : Meet the Terrifics
11. Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford, James Nevlin - Laguardia

10. Mezzo, J.M. Dupont - Love in Vain
9. chris (simpsons artist) - the story of life
8. Various - The Tomb of Dracula
7. Megan James - Innsmouth
6. Neal Adams, Denny O'Neil - Superman vs. Muhammad Ali
5. Vivek K. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson - The Fifth Beatle : The Brian Epstein Story
4. George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott - They Called Us Enemy
3. Gene Luen Yang, Gurihuru - Superman Smashes the Klan
2. Cole Pauls - Dakwäkãda Warriors
1. Michael Allred, Steve Horton, Laura Allred - Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns, and Moonage Daydreams

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Reader's Diary #2157 - Gene Luen Yang (writer), Gurihiru (artist): Superman Smashes the Klan

Though comics are often abused for propaganda, there's still a certain pleasure when the villains are pretty clearly actual villains. Captain America punching Hitler in the face was a milestone moment. I don't think we see such overt stories anymore as comic writing has largely gotten better, more complex and subtle in their societal commentary. 

Still as racism once again started raising its ugly head in the wake of Trump, it's nice to see a title called Superman Smashes the Klan even if I'd have liked to see him take a swipe at the Proud Boys as well. 

On that note, it would have been better had the book been set in the present day than 1946, considering we haven't exactly gotten rid of the Klan, let alone racism in general. Still Gene Luen Yang uses the setting not only to address racism, but also the history and evolution of Superman as well. In the endnotes he acknowledges that there was a radio program in the 40s in which Superman went after the Klan, and like Yang's update, described the Klan terrorizing a new Chinese American family that have moved into Metropolis. I found this especially interesting as most people tend to think of the Klan as an anti-Black group. In actuality, of course, they're undiscriminating in their discrimination, and hate anyone different than themselves. 

The fight against racism is a personal fight for Superman, as he, too is an immigrant. Unlike the Chinese American family in the book though, he can hide his "alien" identity. It takes the help of the young protagonist Roberta Lee to help him realize that he shouldn't. A great subplot involves another young boy who has befriended Roberta's older brother and wrestles with the fact that his uncle is a white supremacist. Yang handles the story with sensitivity and complexity, while still writing a kickass action tale. 

Gurihiru's art isn't typical of superhero comics, aiming perhaps at a younger audience than most DC Comics and resembling Archie comics with a dash of manga. It's bright and expressive and to be honest, as I've grown tired of superhero art lately, I preferred this.