Going Old School Review-style

Hey folks,
This is an old school review post but don't hold that against it. Enjoy!

Scalped vol. 5
This series continues to be the gold standard for comics. Writer Jason Aaron has no qualms about showing the dirty ugly side of these characters. The world of Scalped is a horrible uncompromising place. Chalk it up to Aaron's skillful writing and characterizations that the reader is still enthralled by something so bleak. It's great stuff. If I had any complaints about this volume it is that it felt like a lot of setup for the next arc. I want the series to return to putting Dashiell Badhorse back at the center of the story. But I still enjoyed it and can't wait for the next volume.

Other Reviews
The Outhousers | Broken Frontier
Past Reviews: Scalped Vol. 1, Scalped Vol. 2, Scalped Vol. 3, Scalped Vol. 4

Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay
This is a great tool for anyone who is interested in the transformation of prose to screenplay. It includes the original short story by Annie Proulx, screenplay by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, as well as essays about the process. Now since the film adaptation was so successful I do feel an air of self-congratulatoriness is on display here. For once I'd like to read one of these books where the adaptation was really bad. But that will never happen. Anyway the original short story by Proulx is worth reading in an of itself. It is amazing that in 30 pages of spare, rough prose Proulx manages to break your heart. I live in the western states and I've known men like Ennis. She captures his stoicism and grit. As she states in her essay, included here, that Brokeback Mountain is a story of "emotional deprivation." And it hurts more to live without feeling completely; that's why Ennis's life is tragic. McMurtry/Ossana capture and expand upon Proulx's foundation. The screenplay adaptation by these writers is expert and worth reading for any aspiring screenwriter.

Bio Info: Brokeback Mountain

Starman Omnibus Vol. 3
This incredible series continues to be awesome. Here we start off with an amazing 4 issue mini-series about my favorite character The Shade. This mini is worth the omnibus alone, I loved it. Robinson deepens Shade's history which features a 200 year old feud. I cannot heap enough praise on this mini. But then Robinson continues to do a great job with these characters. They are all well-rounded and real even though they are also superheroes. Talking of superheroes I especially enjoyed how Robinson gave several nods to the silver age heroes. Jack Knight gets to work with Batman, have dinner with the Justice Society, and learn about his dad's tragic love affair with Black Canary. It's great that Robinson has such a love for the golden age and the DC Universe, however Starman stays grounded in Opal City. We don't see him in Gotham or Metropolis. The continuity is easy to keep track of and the story stays character-centric. I would have liked a bit more Jack Knight, rather than so much about the side characters. But when the characters are so rich it's hard to complain.

Past Reviews: Starman Omnibus Vol. 1, Starman Omnibus Vol. 2

Have a great week! Book Slave.


Asterios Polyp

Is Asterios Polyp the Best Graphic Novel of 2009?

I hate to prognosticate with still one month to go but it would be difficult to top this visual masterpiece. Where has David Mazzuchelli been? He is best known for his work on Batman Year One. However then he dropped out of comics. Well I have to say with the release of Asterios Polyp, Mazzuchelli has come roaring back.

This original graphic novel follows a man named Asterios Polyp. He is an esteemed teacher of Design who struggles in his human relationships. His extreme intellectualism has led to the breakdown of his marriage and loss of position. Polyp is also haunted by his twin brother who died inutero before his birth.

I can hardly begin to discuss how Mazzuchelli stretches the visual possibilities of the form. Just artistically this book is a visual feast. He dynamically uses panel layout, typography, and color on page after page. It will blow your mind. I was particularly struck with how Mazzuchelli illustrates the arguments between Asterios and his artist wife Hanna. As Hanna becomes more red and blurry, Asterios literally devolves into geometric shapes. What a wonderful visual cue as to the differences between these two! Another sequence that is mind blowing involves Asterios flashing back to all the good and bad moments of his failed marriage. In this way Mazzuchelli expertly mirrors on the page the way memories can flood into the mind.

The visual motifs on display are stunning. Mazzuchelli purposelly uses different typography for the word balloons of every character. While Asterios's is very rigid, Hanna's is in a rounded scrawl. He even uses the placement of the wordballoons to indicate the nature of what's being said. Often when Asterios is being pompous his word balloon will literally take over the space and cover other character's. Even while telling a story through representation every page has incredible symbolic weight.

To be honest Asterios Polyp is not a very likeable character, but I was struck at how much I became invested in his journey. Let's face it Asterios is too smart for his own good. He's an intellectual jerk, who is constantly competing to be the smartest guy in the room. Mazzuchelli surrounds Polyp with a variety of different characters who are wonderfully human. I grew to love the married couple that Asterios lives with for awhile. The auto mechanic Stiff Major and his holistic hippie wife, Ursula, represent a wonderful contrast between the intellectual and sensual world. While they are opposites in many ways Stiff and Ursula are perfect partners. Their embracing of all life will ensure that they will never stop dreaming.

The realization that humanity requires an equal measure of both intellect and romanticism lies at the heart of Polyp's emotional journey. The complexity of this story belies the usual literary smugness that graphic novels often face. Graphic novels are more than just superheroes. Mazzuchelli has thrown down the gauntlet and created a work of art.

Read it. Read it now.

Other Reviews
New York Times | Entertainment Weekly | ifanboy

Have a great weekend! Book Slave.


This week's reading list.

Here's the reading material I plan on decimating this week. Look for reviews in the future.

I'm also planning on doing some zine reading for work.

The Reading List
Brokeback Mountain: From Book to Screenplay
This Boys Life

Still a massive stack!


I better get started eh? Book Slave.


Book Club Night = My salvation.

I hope you all are enjoying the format change. Last entry ended up being massive! Yeah shorter entries my ass. Well I can't help it that I'm wordy. Well moving on...

Tonight was Book Club Night. For those coming in late: On the last Tuesday of the month I attend The Hard Boiled Book Club @ Sam Weller's Book. More Info is available here. It's run and moderated by former coworker/friend/burgeoning writer Zach Sampinos and focuses on alternative fiction. I started going because it sounded fun and it would force me to read fiction that I normally wouldn't even pick up. It's a fun/insightful group and I urge anyone in the SLC that's interested to come on down. Feel free to sit in even if you haven't read the book.

The pick this month was The Night in Question by Tobias Woolf. I am already a big fan of Woolf's work. His fictional novel Old School was one of my favorite books a few years ago. Yet I still haven't read any of his short story collections. It was a great surprise to see that Woolf is as good at short fiction as he is at a novel/memoir.

As fellow club member Chris pointed out Woolf uses a great elevated diction that is not stylistic at all. His word choice can be beautiful and horribly specific. This is true in my favorite stories of this collection. Specifically "Bullet to the Brain" is a tour-de-force of short story writing. It starts off with a man annoyed while standing in line at the bank, and takes a crazy left turn. Woolf's ability to start a story with something mundane and then raise the stakes took my breath away. I felt the same way about the titular story "The Night in Question" which also takes it's characters down an unexpected direction. A brother and sister, both brutally abused as children, try to make sense of what can be a cruel world. The brother tries to relate a story that points to a faith in god, whereas his sister turns it another way. Woolf does an excellent job establishing the complicated relationship that exists for those who are physically abused. Their love for each other is a bond fused by that shared horrible childhood. As an adult how do you make sense of such cruelty? Woolf is wonderfully ambiguous. He refuses to offer an easy answer.

This brings me to what I think is the thru-line of this collection: Since death is inevitable, life should be about finding happiness. Whether it be the pleasure that can be brought by a 100 dollar bill in "Smorgasbord" or a lonely teacher who can't stop falling in love in "Life and Death of the Body". Woolf's characters are either living fully or their soul's are dying depending on their choices. In "The Chain" the main characters begin a cycle of violence that can only bring death. As in "Casualty" war brings two men together only to be ripped apart by a meaningless death. Again and again Woolf shows the importance of his character's choices. In the end I look toward the optimism of the story "Powder". A father and son both enjoy the fact that they are good at something. Happiness can be the acceleration of moving a barricade and expertly driving through a snowstorm.

Other Reviews: Entertainment Weekly, scottwilliamfoley, Red Room

Have a great night! Book Slave.


5 Days off people. Yes, It's true.

Hey Cyber-world,
Call it fate or destiny, perhaps the universe is trying to test me, but somehow this week I ended up with 5 days off in a row. Considering at this time last year, and actually the last 10 years, this has been the beginning of the busiest time of year for me, I am completely thrown by this utter change. What to do with myself? Well I thought about my recent blogging dry spell and have decided this week to try a format change. This week I'm going to post some small bite-size versions of the Book Pusher. Oh don't worry if I choose to be long-winded well then that's how it'll be. Don't be afraid. This will stave off the possibility of my own insanity this week. Also means you could get more of me. So away we go.

Annual Book-Movie Adaptations I Look Forward To In the Latter Half of 2009, or Book Pusher goes to the Movies
The latter half of the year is a sublime time of year. I am able to combine my two obsessions, books and movies, as studios try to make up for the crap they show in summer. Now just to be clear: I am not an adaptation purist. Movies and books are two different mediums. They don't have to be exactly the same. In fact they shouldn't be, because some techniques don't work in both mediums. Also movies need to be a reasonable length. If you want my attention for more than two hours the story better be damn compelling or put it on TV. Dashiell Hammett said it best when he argued that Hollywood cannot ruin a book as long as the book is in print and sits on your shelf. If I think an adaptation looks bad then I just don't go see it.

Important to note: If I have not mentioned a film here, like say New Moon or Precious, well it's because I'm not interested in seeing those films. Hey this is a blog, it's self-centered by definition.

So moving on, here's a list of adaptations that I'm looking forward to for the rest of the year. Shockingly there isn't that many out this fall. I think this is more a reflection of the writer's strike, because these movies take a long time to develop and make. Also I see a distinct move towards more comedies which are sure bets in these economic times (for proof I point you to a movie called Sullivan's Travels. See it.) Anyway what is this a movie blog?

So moving on, here's a list of adaptations that I'm looking forward to for the rest of the year.

The Road (11/25)-Seriously I am rabid for this film. It looks like the perfect combination of cast, director, and story.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (11/25)-Again I cannot wait. Wes Anderson & Roald Dahl sounds like a perfect combination. And it's animated! Yay.

Up In the Air (12/11 limited)-Everything I've seen and heard about this looks great. Could be Clooney's best performance of the year. Jason Reitman is an incredible writer/director.

The Lovely Bones (12/11)-Not 100% sure on this one, but the trailer does have a eerie feeling. I hope this marks a return for Jackson to his earlier style. If you've seen Frighteners or Heavenly Creatures then you know that Jackson is a good choice for this material.

Sherlock Holmes (12/25)-Discussing this with mystery fans I've found that opinions on this film are mixed. Even though this film is an original tale and looks very modern I'm still interested. Guy Ritchie has a definite style and his casting reflects that. This could be fun if you can let go. Purists may hate it.

Again not too many films this year, but the one's that are coming out are massive. I've already been impressed by the film adaptations of Where the Wild Things Are, and the highly literate Bright Star.

So keep an eye out for more shorter posts this week. Or any signs of Shining-esque insanity. Enjoy! Book Slave.


Really I should be in bed.

Oh I've been busy folks! But really that's not a good enough excuse for the 10s of loyal readers who follow this blog. I thank you all for taking a minute to enjoy these little thoughts of mine.

Since I last wrote you I've been introduced to a new lit form: Zines. As part of my job I'm now cataloguing and reading zines. To learn more about it I went to a seminar about zines that was led by our gurus Clinton Watson and Mary Anne Heider. It was very good and definitely gave me a sense of where zines fit in the alternative press community. There was also a long discussion about the pros and cons of digitalizing zines with the focus being on preservation. Personally I am more interested in "physical" books. I don't use e-readers and I'm not interested in The Kindle. However if we're talking about periodicals which are rare I can see digitalization as an important option for libraries. Anyway it was a great seminar and I'm interested in learning more. A few days later myself and another co-worker Isabelle set up a table promoting the zine collection before an event at our library. It was a fun time. We did talk to a few nice people and we had some free zines to hand out.

Alright well Onward!

The Boat by Nam Le
I actually read this for my book club in October. I'm so grateful that Zach picked this because I never would have found it by myself. Le is an amazing talent as a new writer. According to his bio he is Vietnamese who grew up in Australia. This multicultural upbringing is immediately evident in these stories. Each story takes place in a different country and with different viewpoints. From Ohio to Tehran Le is not afraid of painting with the global picture in mind. He also isn't afraid to use different narrator voices as shown in his stories "The Boat" and "Hiroshima". If I have a nitpick it's that some of these longer stories either need to be expanded or given more focus. As much as I liked "Halflead Bay" I also felt that there was enough left unexplored in the story that it could be a novel itself. Regardless Nam Le is definitely a writer to watch. I look forward to his next project.

Daredevil: Man Without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.
This book was amazing! Miller and Romita Jr. breathtakingly capture the origin story of Marvel's Daredevil. It took me awhile but once Miller's Elektra appeared on the page I had to catch my breath. The combination of these two legendary artists leads to a combination of great character depiction and innovative panel design. While I could discuss the art for ages, the writing is equally as good. Miller does a great job capturing Daredevil's angst. He's not a happy guy. For Matt Murdock being a crime fighter allows him to feel powerful. The beat downs that criminals suffer at his hands are a way for him to compensate for his blindness. This is not healthy, which is an understanding that Miller brought to the book. In this series he parallels it with Elektra's insanity and Kingpin's bully nature. In the absence of a good psychologist Matt Murdock has no other point than to be a crimefighter. It's how he maintains his sanity. Read this. Now.

Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
Okay don't worry I have not sold out. However I am not a snob either and I thought it was about time I read a YA girly book. So here I am. And you know what it wasn't that bad. Written in epistolary form, the story follows teenage Mia Thermopolis as she discovers that she is actually a princess of the far off country Genovia. At first she is embarassed by the idea, but then discovers that she can still be herself and a royal. Cabot does a great job capturing Mia's teenage voice. It's fun to read such an individualistic take on a cinderella story. Cabot will never be Tolstoy but she does an excellent job in her niche. This book captures the heart of the teen girl.

The Reading List
This Boy's Life
Starman Omnibus #3

Four Four Two

A massive stack!

Check Out Count: Alarmingly under control.

Comic Pull List: Action Comics #883, Amazing Spider-Man #611, Batgirl #4, Batman #693, Batman And Robin #6, Daredevil #502, Deadpool #17, Fables #90, Green Arrow Black Canary #26, Red Robin #6, Terry Moores Echo #16

Have a great week! Book Slave.