Sunday, September 30, 2012

The 6th Canadian Book Challenge- September Roundup (Sticky Post— scroll down for most recent post)


How to add your link:
1. Click on the icon above
2. Add a link to your review. (Please link to your specific review, not an entire webpage.)
3. Add your name and in parentheses the title of the book, such as John Mutford (Anne of Avonlea)
4 In the comment section below, tell me your grand total so far. (ex. This brings me up to 1/13)

Friday, September 28, 2012

From Yellowknife to Japan: Coming Home

No, I'm not planning another trip to Japan any time soon (though I wish I was!). But I will be sending a copy of the new anthology of Northwest Territory writing, Coming Home (with selections chosen by yours truly and Judy McLinton) to Perogyo, who just happens to reside in Japan. Congrats to Perogyo for winning last week's contest.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Reader's Diary #873- Alexander MacLeod: The Number Three


It took me a a couple or so paragraphs to get into Alexander MacLeod's "The Number Three."

It begins with the line, "The single fried egg might be life's loneliest meal" which in itself could be a fine line. Except as the paragraph goes on it's revealed that there's also a piece of toast involved. "A single fried egg," he concludes, is "enough food for one person, as long as they aren't hungry." Or have a piece of toast to accompany it. Why is this being ignored?

And I couldn't shake the feeling that it was trying too hard. The fried egg is "like a living thing," the phone is "a smug little bird that refuses to sing," he feels "like the marble in one of those tilting wooden labyrinths." That's a lot of figurative language when I haven't even accepted the literal language yet.

But fortunately as the story progressed I was able to immerse myself. Clues to a certain tragedy began to unfold and there's a look behind the scenes at a Dodge plant that produces Grand Caravans (the same van I drive) that I found fascinating. There's a heavy theme of taking life for granted, trusting that things and people will always do what they are supposed to, that will certainly resonate with many readers. It's not upbeat, but it might just give pause for thought.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Reader's Diary #872- Alex Segura (script), Dan Parent (Pencils):Archie Meets Kiss

I've never been into Archie comics or Kiss, but I respect them for what they are. Actually I respect them for not demanding respect. Pop with no pretensions. They wouldn't even use a word like pretensions. I like when pop knows its place. So I'm surprised that a Kiss- Archie mash-up has taken this long. It seems like It's a no-brainer.

My daughter, on the other hand, is into Archie comics. So when I saw an Archie app at the iTunes store, I decided I'd get it for her. And those people at Archie Comics are nothing else if not great marketers. Once you get the app they give you a wide selection of free comics, and of all those Archie issues that have been making headlines over the past year or so: Archie gets married, the introduction of Kevin Keller (the first openly gay Archie character), and of course, Archie Meets Kiss. So why give them away? Ah, there's the clever part. All of these stories were published over a multi-issue arc, and it's only the 1st issue they give you for free. To find out what happens next you have to pay. Archie Meets Kiss, however, was wildly successful and is now available for purchase as a single volume, even in a graphic novel hardcover edition.

A cousin's ex-wife was wildly into Kiss. (He was a Ramones fan— is that why it didn't work out?) It was at their house that I first saw the notoriously awful movie Kiss Meets Phantom of the Park. And when I say notoriously awful, I mean to say hilariously awful. The acting was terrible, the effects were cheap, and for some reason Kiss had superpowers. Apparently the band was so embarrassed by the film that for years afterwards no one was allowed to even mention it in their presence. But it would appear that just as they've had to make their peace with wearing those costumes (make peace with, make $, what's the difference?), they've also found peace with the movie. They now openly joke about it and it's easy to draw parallels between it and this Archie storyline.

There's a lot not explained in the storyline, but whatever, it's Archie. The gang have all gotten together with Sabrina the Teenage Witch who's about to perform a protection spell. However, to show her up, Veronica and Reggie try to prove to everyone how easy this magic stuff is. Of course they quickly find it's not easy and instead of a protection spell they cast a projection spell. Suddenly Riverdale is playing host to four monsters, who are hellbent on using a magic amulet to turn the town into boring zombies, and to Kiss who are there to stop them with, you guessed it, rock n roll superpowers. Why Kiss? Why monsters? Where did they all come from and who made that amulet? Well now, you're starting to over think this thing.

Clearly the whole motivation behind this series was to give Archie and Kiss fans alike what they wanted. The Archie gang dresses up in Kiss makeup at one point. Sabrina is but one of several guest stars: Josie from Josie and the Pussycats makes a brief appearance and Kevin Keller continues to assert his presence. And of course, there's a lot of rockin' out to klassic Kiss tunes.

But, oh crap, I overthunk it. Why would monsters make the town more boring? Doesn't the mere presence of monsters make Riverdale more exciting? Shouldn't the writers have chosen businessmen in beige suits or something, anything other than monsters? And why would Mr. Weatherbee be shown as a zombie when the monsters are claiming to be targeting teenagers? And why...

Why did I read it in the first place? Cheap entertainment. Good enough.

A quick note about the app. It's easy to use, the comics are specially formatted to fit the screen better (not simply a scan of the original paper edition), and the artwork shows up quite nicely when it's backlit. Archie fans should be quite pleased. I'll probably not be visiting Riverdale again any time soon, but if I was, I'd be doing it electronically.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Reader's Diary #871- Greg Malone: You Better Watch Out


I've mentioned my love for Kids in the Hall many times, but before them, I was a Codco fan. Friday Night Girls, Cooking With Spook, House of Budgell, the Queen's Counsellors... If you didn't watch the show, these titles mean nothing to you. But if you did watch this groundbreaking, boundary pushing sketch comedy show, my walk down memory lane no doubt brings a smile to your face. You can probably add some favorite recurring sketches of your own.

After Codco of course, Tommy Sexton died due to AIDS complications, Andy Jones went on to write for the Kids in the Hall (for a season) and popped up in the occasional movie, Cathy Jones and Mary Walsh had tremendous success on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, while Greg Malone (arguably the star of CODCO— his Barbara Frum impersonation is a classic) has pretty much stayed out of the (National) limelight. What happened to him?

He's been writing apparently. But though one of his books, You Better Watch Out, is a memoir, don't expect much else in the way of catching up with his life either during CODCO or since. You Better Watch Out details his early childhood up to his junior high years. I didn't know this when I requested a review copy from Random House, but that's okay. The story I ended up reading was pleasant nonetheless.

That probably sounds like I'm dismissing the book, but I'm not. Anyone with a passing interest in mid-20th century memoirs, Newfoundland, and/or light hearted family stories, would appreciate You Better Watch Out. I found it reminiscent of the Wonder Years. If Kevin Arnold grew up in St. John's. Went to a Catholic School. Was gay.

I was somewhat surprised at the positive tone. I guess I stereotyped comedians as dark, troubled souls. Plus, knowing that Malone was gay and growing up in the 50 and 60s, I assumed this would have led to all sorts of emotional turmoil. While there are moments of distress (disconnect with his father, run-ins with occasional bullies, belt-wielding priests), the book is almost void of bitterness. Lately I've been letting go of some of my own bitterness, with the realization that my childhood woes were really par for the course and that many have had it much, much worse. You Better Watch Out, with its tagline, "It is, I contend, no small achievement to survive the perfect family" came along at a good time in my life.

Still, readers don't get a lot in the way of surprises or Codco trivia. I didn't know that Malone went to school with former premier Danny Williams or that he was best friends with Andy Jones, but that's about it. I'm hoping Malone decides to write a sequel. Not to "get to the good stuff" just the stuff I'd been looking for in the first place. And if so, I hope he includes more pictures.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! (And contest)

Last year the Northwords board asked me to be one of two judges on a selection committee for a brand new anthology of Northwest Territories writing, along with fellow Yellowknifer Judy McLinton. I was flattered and jumped at the opportunity.

My initial impression was one of gobsmackedness. I'm always reading Northern literature, so I shouldn't have been surprised, but the talent exhibited by these writers blew me away. And best of all, it was a blind submission process so I couldn't let any personal biases get in the way. When our selected authors were revealed, it turned out that I had met 5 of the authors, read a couple of the others, leaving 10 who were complete strangers to me. For the most part Judy and I agreed wholeheartedly, and I won't get into who pushed for what, but I will say that the final collection, featuring a balance of short fiction and creative nonfiction, is one I'm very proud of. (Though I will reveal that a personal favourite in the collection is Jamesie Fournier's "Children of the Strike.")

Coming Home has finally been published!!! Here's a complete listing of all the stories and authors contained within:

-"My Epiphany" by Rebecca Aylward
-"Coming Home" by Jordan Carpenter
-"Children of the Strike" by Jamesie Fournier
-"For us" by January Go
-"Jailbird" by Patti-Kay Hamilton
-"The Points" by Colin Henderson
-"Angatkuq" by Marcus Jackson
-"Haunted Hill Mine" by Cathy Jewison
-"Lost" by AmberLee Kolson
-"Homecoming" by Cara Loverock
-"Where They Belong" by Jessie MacKenzie
-"The Long Gun" by Shawn McCann
-"Beauty of the Butte" by Karen McColl
-"Ts’sankui Theda, The Kindness of the Lake" by Brian Penney
-"Celia’s Inner Anorexic" by Annelies Pool
-"Dirty Rascal" by Christine Raves
-"Born a Girl" by Richard Van Camp

One small beef: most anthologies I've seen have "edited by" or "compiled by" on the front. It sure would have been nice to see my name up there. Ah, who am I kidding? Richard Van Camp will sell more books. And besides, it gives me more motivation to get my 2nd Person Perspective anthology (You will) on the go. Almost time to do a call for submissions, me thinks.

Anyway, I clearly can't review this one. But I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. That's why I'm offering up a free review copy! To win it, please tell me why you want to read it in the comments below. That'll count as one entry. Blog about it and leave a link in the comments below for an additional entry. Contest will close as as of next Thursday at midnight. I'll do a random draw from all the entries received and announce the winner on Friday. The only thing I ask is that you review it before year's end. It doesn't need to be positive! (Though I hope it is— I will say that some stories needed editing, but I trust that the publishers at Great Plains Publications took care of that. If not, don't blame me!)

Here it is again:

I was also on the cover selection committee and this shot, by famed Yellowknife photographer Dave Brosha, really stood out.

You know you want to read this. Get your entries in!!!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reader's Diary #870- Victor Hugo: Les Misérables

Having started back in March when I went to France, I've finally finished Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. It's a friggin' huge book. Still, I'm sure many others could have gotten through it much faster. However, to keep my sanity, I had to pick at it in small pieces, reading other books all the while.

Victor Hugo, as I'm sure most people who've read Les Misérables would agree, can be rather... wordy. In a very condensed summary that may miss the finer points, Les Misérables is the story of one man's, Jean Valjean's, redemption. However, for hundreds of pages at a time, Hugo sidetracks to other issues: monastic culture, Napolean at Waterloo, architecture, the sewer, you name it. I was greatly amused when at one point, when referring to the then current practice of having a police officer on every corner of Paris, Hugo refers to it as "a benefit of which there is no time to discuss here." To think that Les Misérables is Hugo holding back some of his opinions is almost shocking.

I had several theories as to what these diversions were all about. First, Hugo was a windbag. Yes, yes, the story was going to sell the book, but readers would greatly benefit from his opinions on Everything. Like a rambling uncle, sometimes I felt like telling him just to shut up and get on with it. Second, Hugo lacked an editor. Perhaps on writer's block days, when the plot of the Valjean story seemed elusive, he forced himself to write anyway, about any topic that came to mind, as a sort of practice. The writings on these days were not necessary to add into Les Misérables, but having delusions of grandeur and no editor to cut this baby down to size, it all got shoved in. Third, Hugo was insecure about the Jean Valjean story. What if it came across as too frivolous; an over-the-top and trivial adventure story? The other stuff had to be included in order to give the book substance, to give a facade of philosophy to an otherwise inconsequential novel.

But then I suspect I contracted Stockholm Syndrome. I was held captive by this book for so long I started to defend it. What if, I reasoned, there was a point to all these ramblings? Could it be that the history of France is not only necessary to the point, but maybe even the point itself? Could Jean Valjean simply be a personification of the country? Could the message be that Valjean, like France, must not hide from the past but learn from it and find redemption? This interpretation actually increased my enjoyment even if Hugo himself refuted such an interpretation in the epilogue at the end, suggesting that Valjean's story could belong to any nation. The thing is, I'm not sure Hugo is right. It may have been his point, but in its hindsight I think Les Misérables is more European than North American. Not that we can't or shouldn't learn from and rise above the mistakes of our past, I just think we're more present day focused than that.

In any case, I didn't so much read Les Misérables as I did experience it. It probably could have been whittled down but until I become reintegrated into society, I'm glad it wasn't.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Reader's Diary #869- Tayeb Salih: A Handful of Dates


I was very fortunate growing up to live between two sets of grandparents. My dad's mother who lived just up a small hill from my house, and my mom's mom and dad who moved to a small bungalow just next door. I loved them all, but had a different relationship with the 2 sets. My grandmother Mutford was the stereotypical doting grandmother, always making me homemade popsicles and letting me sleepover. My Kendall grandmother was the other stereotypical grandmother. Purple hair, bingo-fanatic, bright awfully patterned shirts. My grandfather Kendall was a hard of hearing, rum-drinking, story-telling, wood carver— a stereotype in his own right of a older Newfoundland man. It took me a while to appreciate the Kendalls. They moved next door when I was 7 or 8 and I'd already had the relationship with the Mutford grandmother. The Kendalls were a bit on the loud side. The past to them was the good old days, which I didn't buy. And their Ramean accents were strange compared to our Twillingate accents. (I know Newfoundlanders are supposed to have "an" accent, but in my day each outport community differed greatly from one another in how we talked, and we were all different than the rest of Canada.) It took me until my later teenage years to really appreciate the Kendalls. I suppose it was the promise of Old Sam (rum) and Coke everyday at 4:00 that first got me going there. I was underage and loved that they didn't treat me as such. So over games of Yahtzee and drink so strong it made my voice drop several octaves lower than puberty had already accomplished, I started to grow fond of those old stories and my grandparents' sense of humor. And their love for one another. Married over 60 years, my grandmother still laughed hardest at Pop's jokes. My relationship with the grandmother Mutford pretty much stayed consistent, but it was the relationship with the Kendalls that had really changed, and thankfully for the better. In "A Handful of Dates," by Tayeb Salih, it's unfortunately the opposite.

About a Sudanese boy and his grandfather, "A Handful of Dates" is about the boy's growing awareness of his grandfather as a person. At the beginning the boy has a rather simplistic view about his world. He's happy, but naively so. I think all of us at some point have been disillusioned with a childhood ideal, so even if I can't (fortunately) relate to the grandparent disillusionment, the sentiment is very believable. "A Handful of Dates" is a fine coming of age story, rich in symbolism and with a fascinating setting to the unfamiliar.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reader's Diary #868- Alan Moore (writer) and David Lloyd (illustrator): V for Vendetta

Growing up in Newfoundland, November the 5th meant Bonfire Night. Everyone would head down to the beach for a giant fire of boughs, old boats, and in later years— but still before environmental awareness— tires. Smaller fires were lit for the younger kids to roast wieners and marshmallows. It was always a great time.

I was a teenager before I'd even heard of Guy Fawkes. Even then I wasn't exactly sure who he was. I supposed we were celebrating how he blew up the British Parliament. I guessed that at one time we must have hated the British Parliament. I supposed and guessed wrong. Apparently Guy Fawkes failed and that's what the Guy Fawkes Night/ Bonfire Night celebration was supposed to be about. Oh well. Any excuse to eat charred, processed meat on a stick.

 V, the guy on the front isn't Guy Fawkes, but wears a Guy Fawkes mask and keeps the spirit of sabotaging authority alive. I don't support terrorism by any stretch of the imagination, but I like the idea of resistance, protest, and standing up for a cause, even against one's government. Moore and Lloyd try to make it even more palatable by making the government a totalitarian state; post-apocalyptic Big Brother sort of stuff.

Yet I think few would declare V a hero, or even a folk hero. His tactics are often violent and despite a relationship of sorts with a woman named Evey, he is often condescending and cruel, always putting the ideal above the individual. Very obviously, Moore and Lloyd wanted to keep the character enigmatic. Not only do we never find out the identity but we also never see him without his mask. This means his emotions are delightfully, frustratingly, always hidden from view. I thought this approach quite novel.

I didn't, however, love all aspects of the book. Too often V's speech is long-winded anarchist manifesto crap and at times he seems to be more of a mouthpiece for Moore than a believable character. (Could it be Moore behind the mask?) And the art work? Well, I love the mask, but wasn't wild about the rest. It's kind of dark and blotchy, but seems to be more the result of cheap production than stylistic purposes. Some of the minor characters looked so much alike it was difficult to tell them apart. The colourization, apparently added by DC Comics after the original black and white run, is dreadful. Faded newspaper dreadful. If ever a book was in need of a retouched reprint, this is it.

Still there's enough food for thought in the book to make it worthwhile and there's a bit near the end that reminds me of those lines in the Joe Hill song:

"The copper bosses killed you, Joe, 
They shot you, Joe," says I.
 "Takes more than guns to kill a man," 
Says Joe, "I didn't die,"
Says Joe, "I didn't die."

 For reminding me of Joe Hill, any problems I had with the book are completely forgiven.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Reader's Diary #867- William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure

Often when I read one of Shakespeare's plays, I get a few scenes or even a few acts in when I start to question what exactly is going on. At that point I usually turn to the internet for a synopsis, confirming if my understanding is on the mark or clearing up any confusion. At these points, I tend to beat myself up a little. If only I'd slowed down. If only I took the time to analyze what characters are saying. However, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not being fair. I'm not watching the play, it's not the 1600s, and I don't have a prof teaching me about the context or illuminating the finer points. Why shouldn't I have a crutch? The Shakespeare plays I enjoy the most are typically the ones I understand. With that in mind, I looked for the context and synopsis of Measure for Measure before I began reading and it made a world of difference. I quite enjoyed it.

Basically Measure for Measure is the world's first edition of Undercover Boss. The Duke of Vienna says he has to head out of the city for a while and temporarily hands control over to the strict judge Angelo. However, the Duke returns disguised as a friar in order to spy on the government, especially Angelo, and is unhappy with what he finds. Angelo, who seems bent on upholding the law and proving his authority, plans to make an example of a hapless young man named Claudio for fornication with a young woman named Juliet. Claudio is sentenced to death. However, most around him, including the Duke and Claudio's sister Isabella (a nun), agree that Angelo is being overly harsh in his "by the letter of the law" approach. Claudio and Juliet, due to financial problems, didn't observe all the technicalities of a wedding but they, as did almost everyone else (including the Church), believed they were married and thus their act shouldn't be considered fornication but consummation. Angelo, unfortunately, will not be swayed. So the Duke and Isabella set up to prove Angelo an hypocrite, exact revenge, and save Claudio in the process.

It's not tragic and it's not overly funny— though there are some scenes with a particular character who insults the duke to the friar and the friar to the duke, never knowing they are one and the same, which are amusing. But I did enjoy the theme of judging others and the law versus justice. I found myself finding all sorts of ways to adapt this to a modern story, not the least of which was turning it into a story about the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot. Don't worry, it made sense in my head.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reader's Diary #866- Vicki Delany: Gold Mountain

Very recently an author chastised me for a negative review after I'd written that his wasn't a genre I liked in the first place. I get the point. If I don't like Mexican food, do I still get to complain after my 19th burrito? But in my defense, what if I give up and don't discover that I love tacos?

Case in point: mysteries. Last year I read through mystery after mystery, not enjoying any. Yet this year— because I kept an open mind— I discovered Michelle Wan's Deadly Slipper, a mystery set in France that, while I didn't think it was perfect, quite enjoyed. Likewise, I have similar feelings about Vicki Delany's Gold Mountain.

Gold Mountain is a mystery set in the Yukon during the gold rush. It's a part of Vicki Delany's Klondike Mystery series, of which I'd not read any earlier books but had no trouble following along. It's a story about a strong-willed business woman named Fiona MacGillivray and Paul Sheridan, a lackey of real life Alaskan gangster Soapy Smith. Sheridan has shown up in Dawson City with two goals in mind: to marry Fiona (who'd he'd met earlier in Skagway, Alaska) and to find a mysterious mountain of gold which is supposedly surrounded by a lush paradise despite lying somewhere north of Dawson. When Fiona doesn't agree to accompany him on his ludicrous trek, let alone marry him, Sheridan kidnaps her and sets off anyway. It's up to Fiona's son Angus and Corporal Sterling, a local mountie, to save her.

I don't usually think of kidnappings as mysteries, but I guess having to track someone down could qualify one as such. And even though she's presented as a tough, independent woman, I had some reservations about Fiona having to be rescued by a man, though I suppose it does happen in real life on occasion, not just in old Disney movies.

And really, it was a fine read anyway. It was certainly entertaining,  I liked the flashbacks into Fiona's past, and I especially liked how Delany toyed with the old myth about the long lost arctic paradise. Back in the days of the first European explorers many believed there was an inexplicably warm oasis just waiting to be discovered. I love when authors play with this old legend (see Kevin Cannon's Far Arden), and I especially liked how Delany used it to her advantage, keeping the supernatural myth in tact without compromising the realism of her tale.

Of course, I also loved the setting. Maybe that's the secret to my enjoyment of mysteries: an interesting locale.

(A question: Twice in the book, Fiona mentions "laugher." The first time I'd assumed it was a typo. But then after the second time, I questioned it. Looking it up, it appears "laugher" is an actual word. It could mean either one who laughs or slang for a sport game in which one team easily beats another with a sizable margin. The problem, however, is that neither of these meanings fit the context of the book. In the book, it would appear that "laughter" is simply spelled wrong. The only other theory is that Fiona is from Scotland and it's 1897. Could that be how the Scottish would have said the word back then?)


Monday, September 10, 2012

Reader's Diary #865: Kayden Kross: Plank

 
Last week Loni, over at The Eye of Loni's Storm, reviewed Forty Stories, a new— and free— collection of short fiction compiled by Cal Morgan for Harper Perennial. Running briefly through Loni's thoughts on each story, it was "Plank" by Kayden Kross that interested me the most, despite of and because of Loni's reservations that it was written in the 2nd person perspective. (I happen to love 2nd person perspective. I'm thinking of compiling my own anthology of just such stories.)

Though the entire collection was available online as a free pdf and as a free ebook, I was really only interested in Kross's story so decided first to see if I could find a copy of just that somewhere. But Googling Kayden Kross is... revealing, shall we say. Hint: she's also a porn star. I did not know that. I did however find the "Plank" story in question, and if you're interested in reading it, it's porn-free. If you're still interested in reading it, there's a couple other things you should know.

Though Loni mentioned the 2nd person thing, she failed to mention that it's also told in a stream of consciousness style. (In Loni's defense, so as not to be overwhelmed with 40 long reviews, she tried her hand at Twitter-length reviews and could only reveal so much). Combined, this is easily considered a very experimental piece and may not be for everyone. I've always admired the purpose behind "stream of consciousness" but I've never been able to get into it. I mean, rarely are our thoughts laid out in perfect complete sentences with paragraphs that flow gracefully into one another. Stream of consciousness arguably better captures our thought processes. But then, I guess we have to ask whether or not we want a dictation or a translation. I better understand the translation.

So, I wasn't overly thrilled with that aspect. But  there's some beautifully crafted ideas and imagery in the story as well. At its simplest, "Plank" is about someone literally waking up in a tent. At its deepest, it's about someone figuratively waking up in a tent.

If you can get past (or better yet, appreciate) the style, it might be worth your time.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Reader's Diary #864- Jeff Lemire: Sweet Tooth, Out of The Deep Woods

Jeff Lemire, the most reviewed author here at the Book Mine Set, has impressed me yet again. Sweet Tooth is a post-apocalyptic series about life after the Affliction, a mysterious event that left all the newborn children in its wake with animal-like deformities. These children are not safe. In fact, they are hunted.

Sweet Tooth, the titular character (shown with deer antlers on the cover), has known little of the world at large. His zealously religious father has kept him secluded in the woods, stressing that he is never to leave the woods at any cost or the fire will get him. However, when his father passes away, Sweet Tooth becomes lonely and sets off. Before long he comes across a man named Jepperd who promises to take him to the Preserve, a supposed safe-haven for hybrids.

With the various mutations, I was initially reminded of Charles Burns' Black Hole. However, whereas Burns book is about teens behaving badly, Sweet Tooth couldn't be more of an opposite. Out of the Deep Woods, the first in the Sweet Tooth, seems to be an analysis on the fine line between naivete and innocence. Should Sweet Tooth be trusting the stranger named Jepperd? The mystery is the hook of the plot. However, there are enough hooks for the larger plot left to be visited in future volumes: what caused the Affliction? Why is there such a demand on hybrid heads? What will happen to Sweet Tooth next?

As for the art work, they are typical of Lemire's work, meaning if you weren't a fan before, you're not likely to be a fan this time around either. They're highly stylized sketches, but where I think Lemire shines is the frames, zooming in on key facial features and telling as much of the story through emotive expressions as the text. Plus Jose Villarrubia does a fantastic job complementing the mood with the colouring.

I'm very much looking forward to the next volume.

(Does anyone know if Sweet Tooth was inspired by Fall Out Boy's Sugar, We're Goin Down video? Is it just a coincidence? Are there a lot of myths about people with antlers, like human jackalopes?)


Monday, September 03, 2012

Reader's Diary #863- Alain Mabanckou, translated by Helen Stevenson: Chez Janette

Back in April, the Guardian featured a short fiction project known as "Oil Stories." It was here that I read Republic of the Congo author Alain Mabanckou's "Chez Janette," translated by Helen Stevenson.

Chez Janette, a bar in the narrator's home country where he has returned after years away, provides the setting. He is there to meet his uncle who fills him in on the civil war and political unrest which had occurred in the nephew's absence. He has heard much of the news before but is content just to hear his uncle talk. And talk he does, giving his opinions on France, the U.S., and how their own fate has been determined and altered based on the foreign interest in oil. It did give me some pause for thought, especially as the uncle seems to think that had they not had any oil, life would be different, possibly better. But then, I thought, Canada has oil and France and the U.S. both have larger militaries. We don't have such interference (not as overt anyway); clearly there are other factors involved.

It was all interesting, I thought, but it seemed more like a thinly disguised essay than a short story. However, when I paid closer attention, I discovered the more story happening around the dialogue. There seemed to be a subtle parallel being made with the women in the background. As the uncle rants against power and exploitation, he seems completely unaware of his own hypocrisy where the opposite gender is concerned. I loved how this second story just sits there waiting to be found. Like undiscovered oil.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)