Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Reader's Diary #2182 - Huda Fahmy: That Can Be Arranged

Not being Muslim, and not having had an arranged marriage, it feels like Huda Fahmy's That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story was aimed at readers like me. 

There's a glossary of terms throughout, explanations about wearing an hijab and so on. This is not a criticism of any shape or form, and in fact, probably helped me. I got what I wanted from the book in that regard. The fact that Fahmy shares her positivity and sense of humor just made it all the more enjoyable and I was especially intrigued by the parallels to Pride and Prejudice

I wouldn't say the art is great, but it's simple and has the look of a pamphlet which sort of fits its educational goal.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Reader's Diary #2181 - Anthony Trollope: George Walker at Suez

 The titular character in Anthony Trollope's short story "George Walker at Suez" is not a likable man. He's hung up on his status in society but most appalling, he's also a racist. This is especially egregious when you learn he's visiting Egypt from England. 

Written in the 1800s, I'm not George Walker is supposed to unlikable or if we're supposed to be empathetic. In any case, it matters as the story involves him being mistaken for someone else, initially to his benefit. When the plan goes askew though, it's hard not to be happy. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Reader's Diary #2180 - Jay Bulckaert and Erika Nyyssonen (writers), Lucas Green (artist): King Warrior

Connections between Yellowknife and Somalia may not be immediately obvious and there certainly hasn't been much written about it, so when Jay Bulckaert and Erika Nyyssonen come along with a graphic novel that explores just that it's exciting indeed. 

King Warrior isn't nonfiction, but the frame story is certainly plausible. It's about a Somalian immigrant to Yellowknife named Awale who has taken up the dangerous role as a cab driver in the city. His wife and son remain back in Somalia and Awale kills time by sending his son chapters in a fantastical story that incorporates many local legends and northern settings. His son, Afrah, back in Somalia is entranced.

Thankfully Bulckaert and Nyyssonen consulted with Halima Muhamud to make sure Somali culture was realistic and respectful. Also, Lucas Green's art wonderfully captures Afrah's imagination with a friendly, curious style, while realistically portraying Yellowknife in the frame story.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Reader's Diary #2179 - Sarah Orne Jewett: The Hiltons' Holiday

If you take an uneventful couple of pages from Lucy Maud Montgomery or Laura Ingalls Wilder you pretty much have Sarah Orne Jewett's short story "The Hiltons' Holiday." It involves a father taking a break from the work of farm life in the country to take his daughters to town. That's pretty much it in terms of a plot, unless you consider him forgetting to buy the hoe he'd intended on to be some major twist.

It's not entirely boring, I suppose. From a historical perspective, there's certain charm, even if it's a bit rose-coloured. It probably works best as a character study. The girls are young women and though different in personality, both get taken in by the "excitement" of town. I related to that somewhat as I recall being entranced by visiting St. John's, Newfoundland as a kid, thinking it was the biggest and most exciting city in the world. The dad is also interesting. He's lovable, though a bit sad in his obvious issues with his own parents, and a bit frustrating the way he puts town folk on a pedestal. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Reader's Diary #2178 - Chris Miskiewicz (writer), Noah Vansciver (artist): Grateful Dead Origins

Not a huge follower of the Grateful Dead, if Chris Miskiewicz and Noah Vansciver's graphic novel biography, Grateful Dead Origins, is any indication, I nonetheless wasn't too far off the money. I pictured them as a hippie sort, connected to drug culture, but not overly political. This, it seems, was a fair assessment.

Perhaps because of their laissez-faire attitude, I wasn't immediately drawn into the book. I couldn't really distinguish between the band members and the lack of any real drama in this period of the career meant the story was a little slow. Still, I came to appreciate aspects. The San Francisco scenes of the 60s are, of course, fascinating. Plus, I started to find their communal optimism very amusing. Don't know how to play a bass? No problem, learn it as you go along. Don't know how to work a sound board? You'll learn on the job. We like your drumming, but we already have a drummer. Who cares, we'll just have two. It's shocking that they made all of this work.

I also quite liked Vansciver's art. The simple cartooning fit the band and story, with a bit of counter-culture appeal.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Reader's Diary #2177 - Charity Marsh and Mark V. Campbell (editors): We Still Here: Hip Hop North of the 49th Parallel

In writing style only We Still Here: Hip Hop North of the 49th Parallel reminded me of Julia Christensen's No Home in Homeland which I read a couple of years back. Both books were clearly written for university scholars and then pushed to the general market, and I would guess both publishers assumed it was sufficient not to make any changes. 

I'm not asking for things to be dumbed down. I'm university educated. But good lord, it seems a bit of a crime to make hip hop boring. There are compelling ideas for sure; the role of hip hop culture intersecting with indigenous and immigrant cultures, for instance, but the delivery is so academic. I'll grant that as a collection of essays written by different authors, some are likewise more accessible than others, but overall this book was a challenge to get through and as important as these ideas are, it's doubtful anyone outside a university setting will wind up caring. I did at least explore a lot of music from the hip hop artists mentioned in the book and that was far more interesting. 

Reader's Diary #2176- Sam Mason: A Dose of Magic

Sam Mason's "A Dose of Magic" involves a woman telling her young daughter, who is undergoing chemotherapy, a story involving magic, as per her daughter's request and latest interest.

Unfortunately, I liked the frame story more than the story she tells her daughter. Nothing against magic, but it didn't come across as a story being told to a young child. It could be argued, I suppose, that not everyone condescends to a child when telling them a story but the magic story was more ostentatious than the frame story and made the frame story in return feel like an afterthought. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Reader's Diary #2175 - Elisa Macellari: Papaya Salad

In Elisa Macellari's Papaya Salad she recounts her great-uncle Sompong's life as a child in Thailand, then moving to Europe at the height of World War II. 

It's an interesting book for sure. To imagine someone from Asia moving to Italy and Germany of all places during World War II is more than a little bonkers. And when the war ended, as he was mistaken for Japanese who were of course were part of the axis, meant a lot of hatred from American troops. 

Throughout it all though Sompong remains stoic and unflappable. That someone could keep this demeanour is amazing but also sterilizes the book a little. 

The art is highly stylized and not in a particular style I enjoy. There seems to be a lot of illustrators who all draw this weird way that I can't describe except for individual features. Noses, for example, are all coloured differently than the rest of the face. Lines are thin. Anyway, not an objective criticism, just a personal one that it isn't my thing. The colours are all muted pastels. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

Reader's Diary #2174 - Ed Friedman: Fred

 After saving Homer from a reindeer attack in the Simpsons episode "Homer's Phobia," John remarks, "Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you'd be set."

It's the tongue-in-cheek way the writers counter the moral of their own story; it shouldn't take some over-the-top life-saving gesture for us to respect one another and to recognize the value in others. It's a trope and unfortunately one also used in Ed Friedman's short story "Fred," about a man who is eventually rescued by a homeless man he's spent the better part of a story actively avoiding. 

It's especially disappointing when the voice and imagery is strong up to the point where it becomes obvious where the story is headed.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Reader's Diary #2173- Frank Herbert (writer), Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson (adaptors), Raúl Allén and Patricia Martín (illustrators): Dune The Graphic Novel, Book 1

I haven't read the sci-fi classic novel Dune by Frank Herbert, nor have I seen the original film. But in relation to that first movie, I've certainly heard the reputation that the book has for being very difficult to adapt successfully. So, not having have enjoyed this graphic novel, I wonder how much is due to its being an adaptation or if I'd not like the original either.

I suspect it's a bit of both. The fact that the lettering is too small for instance cannot be blamed on the source material. Likewise, I thought the colours were too muted. 

But a fictional planet that didn't really excite me, nor convince me (how can there be a giant sandworm in a desert, how would it possibly find enough food?) and the plot with all of its backcrossing and political intrigue was just confusing and dull. That makes me more skeptical about the source material.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Redaer's Diary #2172 - Stephen Koster: The Day We Were Fish

Stephen Koster's "The Day We Were Fish" is a quirky enough short story, somewhat in the vein of Kafka's Metapmorphosis

Instead of the narrator turning into a giant insect, however, his co-workers turn into shrimp. It's never explained exactly why and I don't know if it's meant to just be a guy dealing with the tedium of office work by imagining this or if it's supposed to be a metaphor. It's bizarrely amusing that he doesn't seem at all scared or curious as to why it happened but instead just describes the scene. That's where the story fell apart a bit for me; I wasn't clear about a lot what was going, didn't find it particularly described well. 

Funny, weird, and short enough though that additional reads might help clear it up.