Monday, May 09, 2022

Reader's Diary #3006 - Eli Hastings: The Cell I'm In

 There's a lot of punch in the very brief story "The Cell I'm In" by Eli Hastings. It's from the perspective of a high school kid who's in a jail cell, detailing how he got there. It involves his close friend, who was a victim of bullying for being gay.

The voice is raw and emotional and it would be a great story to discuss with a group. Especially the ending. Among the many themes, I would say the idea that people fight back against their bullies, and the front the bullied are expected to put up, will be the ones that resonate with me.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Reader's Diary #3005 - Tananarive Due: Like Daughter

 I'm sure we've all that those childhood friends whose lots in life were shittier than our own (perhaps some were blessed were better ones as well, but those are the focus here). There's a lot to be explored here from a thematic point of view and in Tananarive Due's short story "Like Daughter" she does just that. 

Having been made godmother of her friend's child, she's now been asked to take over guardianship as her friend isn't doing particularly well. There's a lot of responsibility and guilt that come into play. There's also a lot of heavy themes of the cyclical nature of parenting. All of this is great.

My one quibble is with the sci-fi element. Her friend's daughter is a clone, so she sort of feels like she's about to start raising her friend. It just didn't feel necessary except that the story was rewritten to get published on a sci-fi site.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Reader's Diary #3004 - Gustavo Bondoni: Class Warfare

 "Class Warfare" by Gustavo Bondoni is a fun story about a wealthy man named Jean-Pierre Dimarche who's in an island home invaded by kidnappers.

For someone in what most of us would consider an insanely stressful situation, he seems remarkably chill. Yet, Bondoni's approach is balanced so that we're not entirely rooting for this guy either. He has about as much a reaction to his security guards being shot as he does as an expensive door being axed down.

Still it's delightfully dark and twisty.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Reader's Diary #3003 - Edward Ross: Gamish/ A Graphic History of Gaming

Not much of a gamer myself (like most kids from my generation I was into Super Mario Brothers, my wife and I still play Dr. Mario after suppers as a sort of routine, and I dabble with simple game apps now and then, but that's it), I wasn't sure how into Edward Ross's Gamish: A Graphic History of Gaming I'd be. However, I've read nonfiction books on other topics I'd only had a passing interest in before, and like the better ones (Salt by Mark Kurlansky, for example), Ross's book also won me over.

Gamish is very well researched and it's amazing how much he fits into a mere 200 pages, most of which are drawn. All without making the book come across as a simple listing of facts. He traces the history of gaming, from the very idea of play, board games, to the present day of video games. He gets into the psychology, art, and science of it all. All while he's clearly a gamer himself and enthusiastic about the medium, he doesn't shy away from controversial topics like addiction, violence, racism, and misogyny, offering a very fair balance and perspective. I was never bored for a minute.

The art is easily accessible and uses fantasy to compliment the theme and drive certain points home. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Reader's Diary #3002 - Ruth Rendell: Never Sleep in a Bed Facing a Mirror

I've read similar flash fiction to Ruth Rendell's flash fiction "Never Sleep in a Bed Facing a Mirror" but that doesn't mean I like it any less.

The dark, about to fall asleep and put yourself in such a vulnerable state, it's the perfect setting for a horror story. All the better if you can get to the good scares efficiently. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Reader's Diary #3001 - Elliott Holt: Picnic, Lightning

 Haven't read a good Oulipo story in a while, but I'm a firm believer that creativity thrives where there's oppression, even if the rules are arbitrary. I won't say the rule is is Elliott Holt's "Picnic, Lightning" as it's more fun to figure it out on your own.

The story isn't so much set at a picnic, but rather an outdoor venue following a concert. An unexpected rainstorm has rolled in and people rush to clear out much faster than perhaps they would have otherwise. "Picnic, Lightning" is superbly paced mirroring the sense of urgency.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Reader's Diary #3000 - Mark Verheiden (writer), John Bolton (artist): The Evil Dead

It wasn't actually that long ago that I saw The Evil Dead for the first time. I liked it enough, as well as the remake, so a comic based on the movie seemed like a easy win. 

But it was basically the exact same story. Supposedly there are a few scenes added in here or there, but I hardly noticed. They certainly don't add anything. 

As for the art? According to Mark Verheiden he was super pleased with John Bolton's art because he wanted something that looked like the movie. I guess that's true, but it's painted like it was run through one of those apps that "make your portrait look like a work of art." And if I just wanted a rehash of the movie, I'd re-watch the movie. 

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Reader's Diary #2299- Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (writers), Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira (artists): Luke Fox Batwing

Always interested in reading about a new superhero, Luke Fox's Batwing character has underwhelmed me as of yet. I haven't completely written him off, but it'll probably take a different writing team to convince me to try his comics again.

For the unfamiliar, Batman has essentially franchised out his image and technology, and entrusted a young black man named Luke Fox (who's also the son of Wayne Enterprise manager, Lucius Fox- though he's unaware of his son's new role). Batwing's suit, I'll give him, is actually cooler than Batman's and it puts him more in the league of say Iron Man or Black Panther. 

So there's some family drama which should make it interesting, but it doesn't pay off much in this collection. As for the superheroics, it's all pretty much a by the numbers bunch of stories, complete with average art and a smattering of jokes that don't land.

I also can't help but wonder if the character wouldn't be more interesting if he broke off from Batman and Gotham altogether, reworked the suit into a whole new bat-less identity. Then, I've never been much of a Batman fan.

Monday, April 04, 2022

Reader's Diary #2298 - Kelly Pells: A Short Story for Spring

 We finally hit positive temperatures again today. And while there's still a ton of snow around, a far cry from the spring described in Kelly Pells' "A Short Story for Spring," the happy, optimistic mood she captures is just the same.

In this story a woman has returned home and awakes, momentarily forgetting where she is, but upon realizing it, takes the pleasant spring weather to revisit a place outside that was her childhood refuge. I have such a place and can relate entirely. For now, the chaotic world is on pause.

Friday, April 01, 2022

Reader's Diary #2297 - Joe Hill: The Black Phone Stories

Originally published as 20th Century Ghosts, this collection of mostly horror stories from Joe Hill was renamed The Black Phone Stories to promote the upcoming movie starring Ethan Hawke. The marketing must have worked as that's totally why I picked it up. 

I'm left a little anxious about the film though. The story is super short, and while I quite enjoyed it, there's definitely not enough there for a whole movie. And if cinematic adaptations of Stephen King's (Joe Hill's father) short stories has taught us anything, it's that the likelihood of pulling it off is at best a crap shoot.

Anyway, speaking of King, I'm sure Joe Hill must hate comparisons to his father but honestly I think I'd be making them for this book even if the two authors were completely unrelated. Hill captures the same great qualities that I love about King's better books and short stories: grounded, realistic characters, great atmosphere and build-up, slight doses of nostalgia, and of course a whole lot of dark imagination. As in most collections, some stories are better than others. Some feel undercooked, etc. However, the majority here are gems.

So, even if the movie doesn't wind up working, the book is worth it. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Reader's Diary #2296 - Sweeps McNulty: Driveway... To Maturity

 Most fiction I've read that I'd classify as domestic fiction has been by women with a female protagonist. While I have no idea about Sweeps McNulty's gender, "Driveway... To Maturity" one of the rare domestic fiction short stories I've read that revolves around a male.

The male in this case is coming to terms with the sudden responsibility he is feeling now that he has a baby on the way. The feeling is very well captured and the voice is quite believable. 

Only minor issue I have is with the title which is a bit precious and too on the nose.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Reader's Diary #2295 - Samuel Beckett: Dante and the Lobster

It's a bit, maybe intentionally so, difficult to first get into Samuel Beckett's "Dante and the Lobster." It opens with a man named Belacqua struggling to understand a passage of Dante's Inferno. As it moves from there, I too had had some difficulty with the language as it was very local, dated, and like Belacqua himself, a bit on the pretentious side.

After finally getting into the style, the story sadly didn't amount to much. Basically he prepares a meal for his aunt who is also his Italian teacher. He's mortified however to learn that lobsters are boiled alive. It seems like a odd, non-important conclusion to me. But Belacqua at least was interesting, reminding me at times of Ignatius Reilly from A Confederacy of Dunces

Monday, March 14, 2022

Reader's Diary #2294 - Erin Francis Fisher: The Goddess Lisa

It's the end of the world in Erin Francis Fisher's short story, "The Goddess Lisa" and even now there's a glimmer of happiness.

A couple, one of whom is pregnant, have on heat resistant clothing and believe themselves to be at a safe distance to witness the death of the sun. There's a lot of emotion and poetic description here that I quite enjoyed.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Reader's Diary #2293 - Ken Liu: Thoughts and Prayers

 Missing Black Mirror, Ken Liu's short story "Thoughts and Prayers" scratched my itch for technology-based not-too-distant future dystopia. 

About a university student who gets killed by a shooter at a concert, the story begins with a lot of provocative philosophy about what it means to be preserved online. Then it veers into a exploration of online hate and trolling. Uniting these two themes is the idea of a life as a symbol. It's dark and using different voices to tell the story, extremely well told.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Reader's Diary #2292 - Mohammad Sabaaneh: Power of Dreams / My Story is Palestine


As a comic, I'm not entirely sure that Mohammad Sabaaneh's Power Born of Dreams: My Story is Palestine works. As a piece of art, I think it does.

It's about a friendship between a bird and a Palestinian prisoner and the stories, memories they share. It's confusing though and following a plot, or even always getting the point being made, is sometimes difficult. The emotions, however are obvious. The black and white linocuts are mesmerizing. Luckily, for those wanting to know more about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there's a text section at the end. I think I'd have preferred it at the front to provide more context for the art.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Reader's Diary #2291 - Darryl Cunningham: Putin's Russia The Rise of a Dictator

While Darryl Cunningham's graphic novel Putin's Russia: The Rise of a Dictator was released prior to the current crisis in Ukraine, it's almost shocking how it points to where we are right now. Maybe less shocking for folks who have been watching Putin's actions, but for me it was very eye-opening.

There's not a lot of editorializing in Cunningham's book, it's mostly rapid fire facts, but it's certainly not a dry read. Presented as a megalomaniac (think Trump) with enough craftiness and foresight (do not think Trump), Putin is downright scary. The number of critics he's offed with poison is insane. Pure evil.

Art-wise this biography is nothing special. Too many panels are simply headshots. Still, occasionally Cunningham mixes up the style and the colour pallette is limited but engaging in a Hergé sort of style.

Reader's Diary #2290 - Vasyl Stefanyk: The Pious Woman

 For obvious reasons, I wanted to read a Ukrainian short story today and stumbled upon a scan of a book called Modern Ukrainian Short Stories. Not knowing which one to choose for today, I started quickly scanning through and like an adolescent, decided to go with the one in which a man's name is Semen. That may not have been the wisest way to choose a story.

Semen and his wife hate each other. The story is basically them just being mean to each other. I thought maybe it was meant to be darkly funny and I just wasn't appreciating it. Then comes a horribly ugly ending and I'd rather not believe anything funny was intended. 

It's a nasty story without much point.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Reader's Diary #2289 - Dominique Prinet: Flying to Extremes

It's a bit of a coincidence that the last 3 nonfiction books I read about the north have all covered roughly the same time frame: late 60s/early 70s. The first dealt with a dogsledder, the second with a politician, and this one is about a bush pilot (subtitled Memories of a Northern Bush Pilot). 

I'm assuming Dominique Prinet kept a journal or something as his memories of his time flying across the north are quite detailed and vivid. As always, I enjoyed reading about characters and places in the north that I haven't met or traveled  to, but an added bonus with this book is the sense of adventure. Though he does credit his training in the epilogue, I think Prinet would also acknowledge that flying across the north, especially back then, was often quite a dangerous undertaking and luck was often on his side. 

Essentially that's the arc of each story in this collection: Prinet finds himself in a predicament and then he escapes. I can't say that's boring (the predicaments themselves at least vary), but it does after a time become repetitive and predictable. A couple of saving graces: Prinet's sense of humour (though sometimes, and your mileage may vary, comes perilously
close to generationally offensive cringe) and the photos/art. 

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Reader's Diary #2288- Laura Addington and Aryn Franklin (writers), Tara Put (illustrator): Narwhal Gets Stuck

If you take the group cooperation moral of The Enormous Turnip, combine it with the inviting reading engagement of Don't Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus, and then make it northern, you'd get Narwhal Gets Stuck by Laura Addington, Aryn Franklin, and Tara Put. 

In this story Narwhal gets his tusk stuck in an iceberg and it takes a growing crew of northern marine creatures to help pull him out. 

It's a sweet, funny tale complete with eye-catching art.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Reader's Diary #2287 - Isis Essery and Rhiannon White: I Love You More Than the North is Vast

From Isis Essery and Rhiannon White comes the board book I Love You More than the Earth is Vast which follows a familiar, but sweet pattern in which a caregiver declares their love for their child, but with northern similes. 

Some pages are comical (the nosy foxes!) but not hilarious. The vocab is mostly simple - true not every child would yet get "vast" or "aurora" but most board books are aimed at babies whose vocabs are just being built anyway, plus the sentiment will resonate anyway. And it's got a jaunty rhythm, complete with rhymes.

The art is amazing; stylistic, and engaging without being busy. The characters show diversity, which is also a nice touch.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Reader's Diary #2286 - Laurie Boris: untitled flash fiction

 Heads up that the link to Laurie Boris's untitled flash fiction brings you to a page with 3 untitled flash fictions. While I'm focusing on the first, read them all; they're short and great.

The first one hits home as it's about growing older; the body in decline, those in charge being younger, and just hanging on to what you can of your life before that all started happening. I mean, I'm only 45, but I can relate.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Reader's Diary #2285 - Jake Ootes: Umingmak

In 1967, Prime Minister Pearson appointed Stuart Hodgson, a white southerner with no experience running a government, Commissioner to the Northwest Territories. His role was said to be modernizing the North, but essentially it was, for better or worse, to build and enforce a colonial style of government. Jake Ootes, also a white guy from the south, was his right hand man during this time. 

The full title is actually Umingmak: Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic. It seems to give a lot of credit to Stuart Hodgson and also implies this will be a largely flattering book. I think it's only healthy to go into such a book, especially given Canada's shameful colonial legacy, with a lot of skepticism. Perhaps the wisest thing the publishers did was include a forward by none other than James Wah-Shee, a respected Tłı̨chǫ Elder, former president of the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories and as such, often an adversary of Stuart Hodgson. This is the most balanced part of the entire book. He acknowledged that they often did not see eye to eye and yet there was still a mutual respect. No offence to Jake Ootes, but that went a lot further in suggesting the true measure of Stuart Hodgson.

Initially Ootes's recollections of Hodgson were a little grating. Hodgson was presented as some larger than life, charismatic hero. Perhaps though, as Ootes himself was younger and less experienced in the early days, that is the way he saw him and thankfully some of Hodgson's shine wore off and Ootes finally presented him as a more complex, flawed but still not terrible, human being as their time in the north went on. Interestingly, it became more of Ootes's story than Hodgson's, and honestly, I was fine with that.

I enjoyed hearing about the communities across Nunavut and Northwest Territories that they visited in the late 60s and 70s. I've not been able to get to many myself, and certainly they would have changed a lot since then, so it was a fascinating glimpse into a different time and places. 

The dialogue was often stiff though, very speechy; trying to work in a lot of history as if it had been told by people back in the day felt awkward and inauthentic. 

Still, I'm a sucker for northern history and this definitely scratched that itch.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Reader's Diary #2284- Dave Housley: Super Bowl (2013)

In "Super Bowl (2013)" Dave Housley riffs on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead but rather than using Hamlet as the backdrop, he instead uses commercials from the 2013 Super Bowl. It's also written as a short story rather than a play. 

Like the Tom Stoppard play, it's very amusing but also way more relatable. If you've ever watched a bunch of over the top commercials in a row and found yourself what the hell is going on—in the commercials themselves or in the world at large— you'd get Rosencrantz and Guilderstern's confusion. 

Very fun premise.

Monday, February 07, 2022

Reader's Diary #2283 - Angélica Gorodischer: A Perfect Wife

 Maybe it's my adult lack of imagination, but I don't know if I can recapture that magic I had while reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a kid. I didn't look for other meanings. I didn't believe the wardrobe was representative of something else. The kids went into the wardrobe, they entered Narnia. That's just what happened.

Yet reading Angelica Gorodischer's short story "A Perfect Wife," about a woman who, ever since she was a child, occasionally found that doors led to unexpected places, I kept trying to force it to make sense. Maybe the door represented a book! Maybe it's her imagination! But nothing held up. And when I gave up on the notion that something would, I enjoyed it a lot more.

I also love the ending which just hints at a rationale behind the woman's shocking bursts of violence. 

Friday, February 04, 2022

Reader's Diary #2282 - Lilliam Rivera (writer), Steph C. (artist): Unearthed A Jessica Cruz Story

Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera and Steph C., is an odd one. 

Jessica Cruz, as DC Comics readers may know, is a superhero who spent some time as both a Yellow Lantern and a Green Lantern. 

But none of this is mentioned in the story. In fact, though it's published by DC Comics, there's nothing about superheroes at all. It's, for all intents and purposes, a literary comic about undocumented immigrants. As that, it's wonderful! But if you were just a superhero fan, I imagine this was disappointing.

Not knowing anything anything about the character myself, I'd picked it up to learn about her and up until about three quarters of the way through, I thought it was an origin story and by the end we'd see her get her powers. Nope! 

Still, as I said, as a literary comic it's quite good with an emotional heft, complex characters and situations, and unique art (which also didn't look anything like typical superhero fare). 

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Reader's Diary #2281 - Fran Hurcombe: Breaking Trail

The subtitle of Fran Hurcombe's book of memoirs, Breaking Trail is Northern Stories from a Simpler Time. I don't believe she's being ironic but the life she presents in these stories certainly does not seem simple to me!

I've known Fran, not well, for most of my time in Yellowknife (I came in 2008, she in the early 70s), and she represents the North far better than I. She's a no-nonsense, do-it-yourself outdoor person whereas I live a pretty pampered existence. She's also, as these tales attest, a damn fine writer.

Largely about her early days in the city, dogsledding, outdoor living, and colorful characters, there's a lot of heart, humour, and wisdom. I suppose it's also educational for those interested in learning about the North, but it's so entertaining you'd hardly even realize you were learning.

My only issue is that it's sometimes marred by typos; unfortunately, an all too common complaint with self-published books.

Monday, January 31, 2022

Reader's Diary #2280 - Joy Baglio: Belly of the Beast

 Joy Baglio's short story "Belly of the Beast" takes a common scenario, a spouse who suddenly isn't the same spouse that got married, and wraps it in a fun metaphor (i.e., the protagonist's husband has been consumed by a wolf that now takes his place). Fun, except of course, it's a wolf so there's a hint of danger there which likely comes from gender dynamics. It's quite an enjoyable, well-written piece. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Reader's Diary #2279 - Naoya Matsumoto: Kaiju No. 8 (volume 1)

Manga often has such great premises. Kaiju No. 8 by Naoya Matsumoto is no exception. 

It revolves around a man named Kafka Hibino who's trying out, probably for the last time given his age, for the Kaiju Defense Force. (Kaiju being giant monsters, of course.) The snag in his plans? He becomes a Kaiju himself, or rather possessed by one.

There are so many possibilities where this story can go. I'll likely never find out as I'm notoriously bad at continuing on with any manga series no matter how great that first book, but I can see how readers would be sucked in here. 

On top of the premise, there's some good character building, imaginative art, and great action. 

Friday, January 28, 2022

Reader's Diary #2278: Pornsak Pichetshote (writer), Alexandre Tefenkgi (artist): The Good Asian Volume One

The Good Asian by Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi had a lot of great things going for it. A noir story about a Chinese American detective in San Francisco 1936? That's something you don't read everyday! The art was great; fittingly dark and gritty. The history of Chinese immigration and the racism they faced was well incorporated. 

Unfortunately, I found the mystery itself convoluted and slow. There was an important development in the case towards the end of the collection but not enough to entice me to seek out the 2nd volume. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Reader's Diary #2277 - Michio Kaku: The God Equation


There's a point in Michio Kaku's The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything where he admits to having cried once when he saw a math equation which he described as "beautiful."

The man is enthusiastic.

He's also a good science writer. He may even be great. I will say though that his idea of dumbing something down is a little more optimistic than mine. Here he gives a history lesson on some of the most important theories in science: gravity, nuclear, relativity, quantum; how these have impacted us in our daily lives; the quest to find a single theory that unites them all; and what that would mean to us. 

No, I didn't understand it all. I feel like I stayed with him up to a point and then more and more started going over my head. It was enough however that it ignited my imagination and started me philosophizing. I've read books like this before and that's honestly all I expected and hoped for. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Reader's Diary #2276 - Daniel Kraus (writer), Chris Shehan (artist): The Autumnal

I've been happening upon, for no particular reason, a lot of horror lately where the monsters are plants. It's such an odd subgenre to me. Who's afraid of flora? Try as they might, no one, including the creative team behind The Autumnal, can make them scary.

Fortunately, it has a lot else going for it. With dashes of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," it involves a troubled woman returning to the weird town she grew up in after her estranged mother died.

The characters are rich and fully developed, the story is suspenseful, and the art is amazing. It has a dark, gritty feel which suits the New England gothic atmosphere perfectly. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Reader's Diary #2275 - Philippe Girard, translated by Helge Dascher and Karen Houle: Leonard Cohen On a Wire

I suppose if you read someone's biography it's a fair expectation that they'd lose some of their mystique. But I'm left disappointed that Leonard Cohen came across as boring in Philippe Girard's graphic novel treatment, Leonard Cohen On a Wire

To be upfront, Cohen slept with a lot of famous women. That should be anything but boring, and yet when it seems to take up much of Girard's focus to the point where other aspects of his life seem rushed, or when these encounters never seem to have any dramatic ramifications, they become rote and mundane.

I did like the frame story of having Cohen dying on his bedroom floor, reflecting on his life. And the art was good. Still, I wish the book had been much longer and dug in deeper to Cohen's family life, his religion, and so forth. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Reader's Diary #2274 - Mark Haddon: Social Distance

 Presented as a "graphic short story for adults," Mark Haddon's "Social Distance" essentially a picture book. And while yes, it's about an adult, but the text is very short and simple. It's about a man with some undefined social/cognitive disabilities whose life hasn't been greatly affected by the covid pandemic, but is nonetheless scared by it. He winds up taking some solace in a deer after a chance encounter.

It's so simple that I can't say it would stick with me much, except perhaps for the wonderful mixed media collages (also done by Haddon) that accompany the text.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Reader's Diary #2273 - Ellen Hopkins: Crank

I've been fortunate enough not to have been really exposed to meth. But I'm certainly aware of its growing problem. So, it felt like as good a time as any to read what is becoming a young adult novel in verse on the subject: Ellen Hopkins' Crank.

It was an entertaining read and while that sounds like a bit of a slam for a book about an "important" subject, I 'll clarify. It comes across a bit melodramatic, but for young adult readers I suppose that's more likely up their alley. Hell, I loved Degrassi when I was that age and there was a different crisis each week. 

Was it educational? Did I learn something, or feel empathy? Well, maybe. I mean the flippant way everyone seems to be using I suppose is realistic in some circles. And I can imagine that to a teen girl wrestling with issues of a neglectful father, identity, and hormones, perhaps meth could at first promise a way of dealing with all that. Until, of course, it takes over and becomes the only problem that matters.

As for it being "in verse"? I can't say that I spent a lot of time reading the book as a series of poems to really consider if they stood up as poetry, but it did make the reading go fast and felt like a complete, "real" novel anyway. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Reader's Diary #2272- Lore Segal: Around the Corner You Can't See Around

 I do believe that money can't buy happiness (necessarily), but I also think that folks struggling just for basic needs must look at miserable people who are financially well-off with a particular annoyance. 

It's a cliched scenario of course but in the right hands there's still some fodder for a good piece of literature. Unfortunately it evolves into a pretentious existential slog in Lore Segal's "Around the Corner You Can't See Around."

It felt like the kind of dialogue New Yorker readers would have.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Reader's Diary #2271- Gord Hill: The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book (Revised and Expanded)

Growing up in Canada in the 80s, we spent a lot of time in school learning about early European explorers in Canada. There may have been brief passages in our textbooks about clashes with Indigenous people (though I'm sure our textbooks didn't refer to them as such), but the subtext was always the achievements of these white folks traversing the globe and setting up in wild lands. 

While the title of Gord Hill's The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book suggests that the focus is on the same time frame, only from Indigenous perspectives, he quickly dispels the myth that these early white explorers are somehow worthy of the amount of  praise they've been given by white historians and the many monuments in their name. Indigenous people discovered and set up advanced societies across the Americas literally thousands of years prior. 

Living in the north for the past 20 years, plus it being a different time, some of these myths set in Canada have been dispelled for me long before now. However, I'm less familiar with the true history of the United States, and of Central and South America. Honestly, this comic book by Gord Hill should be a textbook.

With the factuality of a textbook, it does start to blur together and become dry if read in one sitting, but taken episode by episode, it's not only educational, but hopefully inspiring. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Reader's Diary #2270 - Stephen King - 11/22/63

Stephen King was my first literary obsession and in my junior high, high school days I tore through everything from his 70s and 80s output. Beyond that it's been really sporadic. When I do pick one up these days it feels comfortable. I'm also, however, reminded of my issues with his writing.

11/22/63 is a decent book. Seeing King take a stab at a time travel story is fun and as it's backward time-travel, it fits easily into the nostalgia thing he does so well (though he's careful to show how the late 50s, early 60s weren't the good ol' days either). 

But man oh man, this needed an editor. At nearly 850 pages it honestly could have been half that length. The most egregious thing I've noticed in his later works is his insistency of creating a united Stephen King Universe. The first couple hundred pages in this novel sees the protagonist going back to Derry, where he encounters a couple of kids from It. This whole plot is largely irrelevant to the overall story and is just annoying. 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Reader's Diary #2269 - Ellie Scott: Race

 Ellie Scott's flash fiction "Race" brought me back to my early childhood big time this morning with the brilliantly and accurately described scene of a young boy playing with his Matchbox cars and using that innocently dangerous imagination so many of us had at that age.

Fearing damage to her floor, the mother in the story tries to appeal to the boy's sense of empathy. The lesson however might work too well and the result is dark and hilarious. Just the way I like. 

Monday, January 03, 2022

Reader's Diary #2268 - Te-Ping Chen: Shanghai Murmur

 Te-Ping Chen's short story "Shanghai Murmur" would be a perfect story for a high school class to dissect and discuss for symbolism, and in particular with a focus on an expensive pen. I hope saying this doesn't imply that the story is heavy-handed in that technique, but rather that it works really well. Besides that, this story about a young florist trying to make her way in Shanghai is also rich in voice and imagery.