Monday, August 29, 2022

Reader's Diary #2038 - Robert Bowerman: Bear

 There's something kind of old-fashioned about Robert Bowerman's short story "Bear." It's not a criticism, and in fact, I found the traditionally straightforward narrative, the simple theme (more to a man than his size, or even his past deeds), to be quite cozy. 

This isn't to suggest there aren't any uncomfortable truths or dangerous images, as there surely are, but there's nothing particularly experimental in the writing and to be honest, I felt the story was stronger for it. I like creative storytelling sometimes, but I was feeling this one.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Reader's Diary #2037 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld (writers), Joshua Cassara (artist): Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook

Reading a book written by a celebrity is always a bit of a crap shoot. On the one hand, you know it has to be easier for them to get published; they have name recognition, but that doesn't mean they can necessarily write well. At least those in the arts have the benefit of a doubt that the book will at least be creative, but today I'm talking about Kareen Abdul-Jabbar the freaking basketball player.

However, I know his Mycroft Holmes novels are very respected and have quite a fan following, so clearly he's a man of many talents. I'm also happy to report that these stories make for great graphic novels as well. 

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook is a fun, action-filled, adventure with hints of sex, humour, and steampunk. Like his more famous brother, Mycroft is also a super detective though that part doesn't work seamlessly. I certainly enjoyed seeing how observant Mycroft is, what a great reader of character, but often the clues were ones that were never revealed to us readers in the first place and my favourite detective stories are ones where we're invited to play along. Still, I enjoyed this book a lot overall.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Reader's Diary #2036 - Kate Harrad (editor): Claiming the B in LGBT / Illuminating the Bisexual Narrative

The third nonfiction book about bisexuality I've read in the past 2 months (the others being Lois Shearing's Bi The Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life and Julia Shaw's Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality), it's impossible for me not to compare the three.

While I enjoyed all three, there's a lot of understandable overlap and I think I'll take a break before reading another on the topic. Of the three, I'd argue that Claiming the B in LGBT: Illuminating the Bisexual Narrative is the most thorough. It's also got the highest page count, so that's not entirely surprising. With entire chapters on some intersectionality topics (Bisexual and Disabled, Bisexuals of Color), the others devoted less time. I would like to see a bisexuality book that addresses Indigenous bisexuals, but as these 3 books all came from the UK and had primarily a UK focus, it wasn't entirely shocking to not see them included. Claiming the B in LGBT also includes chapters on bisexuality across the lifespan, faith, allies, and activism. 

While the tone was largely casual and easy to read, it was perhaps more inconsistent than the other two books, likely as it was an edited anthology from contributors rather than written by a singular voice. Still, this wasn't an issue. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Reader's Diary #2035 - Shih-Li Kow: Fried Rice

 The sci-fi element in Shih-Li Kow's flash fiction "Fried Rice" is pretty low key, but not irrelevant. It's about a robot that preps and cooks meals but cannot get it right according to the robot's owner who is trying to fried rice like that his wife used to make. 

Thematically though it's about finding beauty and love in imperfections. It's quite a charming story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The 16th Canadian Book Challenge

 I'm behind signing up by more than a month, but I'm in again! Check out the sign-up post here; it's not too late! 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Reader's Diary #2034 - Ann Cavlovic: Stan's House

 In Ann Cavlovic's short story "Stan's House" we see a woman named Sohki who is trying to convince the titular character to move out of his longtime home. His house is built on a floodplain, and as climate change has meant more and more flooding, the government really wants him to move.

I enjoyed the premise, but there were a few things I wasn't clear about in the story (a bit about carbon nanofibers seemed undeveloped, the ending was a bit vague). I think we're supposed to feel that Sohki and Stan wound up understanding one another a little better, but I wasn't really feeling it.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Reader's Diary #2033 - Various writers and artists: Marvel Voices Pride

There's an interview with former Marvel associate editor Chris Cooper in Marvel Voices: Pride in which he discusses when the superhero Northstar came out in 1992. While Cooper acknowledges that that DC Comics, as well as independent comics, had had openly gay characters before, it was still a huge deal. Northstar (who is Canadian) was also the first Marvel character to have a same-sex wedding. That  comic is one of many anthologized for this collection. Other stories involve other superheroes from the LGBTQIA+ spectrum that have appeared in Northstar's wake.

The better stories in the anthology are the ones that were taken from previously published comics of the 80's, 90's and onward. Even though they often hint at larger story arcs that were fleshed out over a few issues that obviously couldn't be included, these stories felt more organic. However, there are also a few shorts at the beginning of the collection written just for this project and while some are fine, letting the characters be gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and still telling a story, a few too many felt overly didactic. I agreed with the messages, but those were heavy handed. Fortunately, there were enough good ones as well as great essays from past LGBTQIA+ Marvel creators that made it worthwhile. I especially like the ones that discussed the subtexts in older Marvel comics, some intentional, some not, that hinted at characters being queer or promoted messages about love and acceptance.

Monday, August 08, 2022

Reader's Diary #2032- Mansi Shanburg: The Colourful Break-Up

 I loved the voice and dialogue (or rather withheld dialogue) in Mansi Shanburg's flash fiction "The Colourful Break-Up." 

It deals with a woman waiting for her girlfriend to show up, who she suspects (correctly) is planning to break up with her.

However, the narrator finds a way to keep her dignity in this moment, even managing to convince herself somewhat, that this is all ideal.

It's amusing and empowering, even if there's pain below the surface.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Reader's Diary #2031 - Lois Shearing: Bi The Way

I suppose reading two books about bisexuality right after one another, it's only natural to compare them. And to be sure, Lois Shearing's Bi the Way: The Bisexual Guide to Life does have a lot in common with Julia Shaw's Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality. But just like no two bisexuals are exactly alike, nor are these.

Oddly, it's not that one is a guidebook and the other isn't. In fact, despite the subtitle, I'd hardly classify Lois Shearing's a guidebook at all. I suppose I was disappointed a little in that, but to be fair, it's not like there even could be any firm rules or prescriptions for being bi. Really, there's just a lot of background and context for bi's to consider, much of which is also covered in the aforementioned Shaw book. For instance, I've yet to encounter any unacceptance because I'm very new on the scene, but it was somewhat alarming to hear how many supposed LGBTQ groups aren't actually that accepting of bi people. I will approach cautiously!

My only other issue with Shearing's book is the constant references to what will come in later chapters (ex. "we'll discuss this in more depth in the next chapter"), or once you pass the halfway mark, references to what was already discussed (ex. "as we saw in chapter six). They just became tedious and distracting and I wished an editor had advised just to leave them out altogether. Otherwise, the writing is very accessible, friendly, and well-researched.

Like Shaw's book, it's pretty comprehensive, though I do look forward to reading a bisexuality book written specifically for men. 

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Reader's Diary #2030 - Souvankham Thammavongsa: How to Pronounce Knife

Winner of, and nominated for, a bunch of literary awards, Souvankham Thammavongsa's short story collection How to Pronounce Knife was nowhere near as pretentious as I thought it might be.

It's downright funny at times and always entertaining, even though thematically there's a lot of darkness and pain. There are also these brief, beautifully poignant insights that snuck up on me.

It's mostly about immigrants, or 2nd generation Canadians, from Laos. Those cultural tidbits were fascinating and educational, but I was able to relate to the lower/middle class, blue-collar world. Some of the specifics were different, yet I grew up in that world of hard labour.

My favourite in the collection was "Randy Travis." Trying not to give anything away, never would I have predicted that someone becoming a great singer could be perceived as a tragedy.

Monday, August 01, 2022

Reader's Diary #2029 - Carrie Mackillop: Rainy Wedding

 "Rainy Wedding," by Carrie Mackillop, is a tragic tale, but not as you might expect due to a rained out wedding.

It's about a young dying boy whose mother visits him daily and tells him about a new year in the life he would have led. It's very creative, as is the level of detail the mother puts into her stories. Despite the obviously sad overtones, there's also a certain beauty.