Monday, July 26, 2021

Reader's Diary #2221 - Dorothy Parker: Big Blonde

 Dorothy Parker's short story "Big Blonde" is depressing as hell. Then, how can a story about depression, alcoholism, and suicide be anything but?

Still, it speaks a lot about identity (the problem of defining ourselves only in relation to others) and the counterproductive way depression has historically been dealt with (cheer up!). 

It's frustrating and heartbreaking. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Reader's Diary #2220 - Hiromi Goto (writer), Ann Xu (artist): Shadow Life

Shadow Life
, by Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu, was a highly unusual graphic novel. I'd be lying if I said I understood it completely, but I'd also be lying if I said I wasn't entirely enthralled. 

It revolves Kumiko, an elderly woman who seems to be pursued by death, or at least these weird creates of death. Are they real or is the woman going senile? In any case, for most of the story no one quite knows what to believe. Also, Kumiko is determined not to let them take her away. In the end, I suppose, there's a case to be made that whether they are real in the physical sense is hardly relevant.

Kumiko is a richly developed character, and of a sort you don't often see represented in the media (older Japanese bisexual woman) with a cast of supporting characters who are unique in their own right. 

Not that it all works. The art didn't do a lot for me and occasionally I couldn't tell what a particular panel was depicting. Plus, the supernatural elements felt too weakly defined at times. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Reader's diary #2219- Conrad Williams: The Pike

 The Britishisms of Conrad Williams' short story "The Pike" were for me both its strength and downfall. I loved the vernacular in that it felt authentic, I didn't as I think it's also why I didn't quite understand the story.

It's about a man polluted in a very polluted area for a pike. He seems to have some traumatic memories involving pike and this area. And he's dying of skin cancer. But how it all ties together, the bigger meaning, the reason why the story appears in Nightmare Magazine is lost on me. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Reader's Diary #2218 - Jim Shepard: Phase Six

I don't often feel like I read to escape, but I'm not sure that Jim Shepard's Phase Six provided enough of one.

About a pandemic that begins in Greenland, it's very, very plausible. It turns out that this one is much worse, but the masks, the conspiracy theories, the politicizing, etc are all still there. I have to think Shepard had started to write this before Covid was on the scene, but still there are occasional references to the "recent" Covid disaster and these felt like late-game publishing choices, which is fine and understandable considering.

But if you're not exhausted of the pandemic and want to read about another, you could do worse than Phase Six. In addition to plausible science and society, the Greenland setting was well done as well. I mean, not having been there but having lived across Northern Canada, it comes across as accurate in any case.

Sometimes I felt the balance of character building and plot was off and by the time Shepard got back from the global scene or science and into the characters again, I was forgetting who was who. That wasn't true, however, for an eleven year old survivor named Aleq who I found endearing and tragic. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Reader's Diary #2216 - Various artists, writers: Godzilla Unnatural Disasters

Ouch, not sure where to begin with this train wreck. 

I'm intrigued by the idea of Godzilla and the other kaiju, so I thought this collection of Godzilla comics would be a good education. Honestly, besides learning of a few new names like Hedorah and Kumonga, which I could have Googled, the book was a slog.

Most stories were incomplete or barely developed at all shy of fighting scenes. The art, while inconsistent (it's a compilation from a range of writers and artists) was predominately bad. A few good premises (Godzilla goes to Dante's version of hell, Godzilla through the ages) fall very far of their intentions. You get no sense, ever, of Godzilla as a character except he's and overpowered, mindless monster. 

Obviously some were better than others but did not make the collection worth it by any means. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Reader's Diary #2215 - Emma Shea: The Widow

 In Emma Shea's short story "The Widow," the titular character finds herself at a DMV, going through the process of reverting her married surname back to her maiden name after being widowed a year ago. Not yet fully recovered from that shock, she feels this is an important step in her coping. While it is, it nonetheless has momentarily dredged up the pain and memories. 

Obviously an emotional story, it's handled with grace. 

Monday, July 05, 2021

Reader's Diary #2214 - Michael Dickel: Independence Day

We seem, as a collective, to be more reflective these days, skeptical even, about all that patriotism stuff. Certainly this was true in Canada on this recent July 1st, and I'm sure to a large extent for many Americans this past Sunday.  

This is especially true for the central character in Michael Dickel's short story "Independence Day." Someone who has benefited from the system recalls a time when she fought against injustice and realizes that injustice hasn't gone away, she's just learned to turn her back to it. 

It sounds like the story could be preachy, but it's more thoughtful than that. More of a story of a personal journey. The title takes on extra significance.