Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Books Worth a Look II
These are the books I read in February 2002. Not as many as last month -- about half, I think -- and I've started to mix in some larger comics collections from the mid-'80s and other eras. As I continue to read comics TPB's, I'll include them in the book reviews, not the occasional zine and comics reviews. I'll also try to limit the comics-related books to independent, historically interesting, or otherwise important and innovative works. I wouldn't want to start reviewing Garfield collections, now would I?

The Amorous Exploits of a Young Rakehill by Guillaume Apollinaire (1907)
Written by the poet and critic when he was in desperate need of money, this is straight-forward porn -- or erotica. Roger gives a proper rogering to his sister, his aunt, the bailiff's wife, her sister in law, and several maids. There's a bit of a pregnancy fetish, and Apollinaire's repeated references to the odor of urine is bizarre. Recommended by Neal Pollack in the Week.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Colonia: Islands and Anomalies by Jeff Nicholson (2002)
A departure from Nicholson's previously simple and cartoony style, this collects the first five issues of Colonia. The comic is a rich tale of three people who slip into an alternate reality populated by pirates, mermaids, and fish that can join together in human form. Jack makes a healthy hero, and there's enough mystery and character development -- not to mention a talking duck -- to hold you spellbound.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Fast Eddie, King of the Bees by Robert Arellano (2001)
A wonderful Dickens-meets-Shakespeare science fiction take on Boston. Eddie is a delightful character, and his near Oedipal complex contributes some interesting twists and turns as he grows up as a contortionist and pickpocket, tries to find his parents, is adopted by a plumber turned politician in New Jersey, and accidentally becomes the patriarch of an underground community. Awesome!
Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

Impresario: Malcolm McLaren & the British New Wave ed. by Paul Taylor (1988)
This is a catalog to an exhibition at the New York Museum of Contemporary Art in 1988 showcasing McLaren-related art, film, music, clothing, and other work. The essays here look at McLaren's stylistic appropriations, management of the Sex Pistols and Bow Wow Wow, shops shared with Vivienne Westwood, political theater, and exploitation of youth and their culture. The tip of the iceberg here.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Fair.

Kafka Americana by Jonathan Lethem and Carter Scholz (2001)
Lethem and Scholz collect five short stories that previously appeared in Crank!, Gas, Starlight, and McSweeney's. Positing Kafka as pervert, superhero, screenwriter, insurance salesman, and painter, Lethem and Scholz offer Paul di Filippo-like pop culture pastiches that maintain Kafka's existentialism while adding a postmodern neo-sentimentality. Also reminds me of Rick Veitch's comics writing. Dark, pale shadows of a preferred past.
Days to read: 3. Rating: Good.

Metacity/Datatown by MVRDV (1999)
Based on a video installation produced in 1999 in the Netherlands, Winy Maas' conceptual look at the computer modeling of urban development and the resources needed for a growing population is an innovative wake-up call that our needs exceed our capacity. Drawing on stats in Mexico City, Sao Paulo, and the Netherlands, Maas blends hard data with poetic computer graphics to make his case.
Days to read: 4. Rating: Good.

Mr. Monster Vol. 1 by Michael T. Gilbert (1996)
A full-color collection of Gilbert's Mr. Monster comics published by Eclipse in the mid-'80s. Gilbert and Alan Moore look at Gilbert's Golden Age influence and new superhero storytelling. And William Messner-Loebs provides art for several Will Eisner-infused issues. The stories are simple -- man fights monsters -- but there's some humor, and this highlights one of the first indie comics wave's figureheads. Sloppy color repro disappoints.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

The Mystery of Man by Hilton Hotema (NA)
Similar to Alice Bailey's "Consciousness of the Atom" and the work of Madame Blavatsky, this slim, photocopied volume attempts to uncover what life is. There are some interesting ideas here: Matter doesn't exist, we share the world with other beings we can't see, we don't need to eat, and our consciousness is only a part of a larger whole. Still, rather esoteric, even for me, and not very well documented or reasoned.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Fair.

Oddville! by Jay Stephens (2002)
This collection of comic strips collects material originally published by several alternative weekly newspapers in 1995 and 1996. A flying baby, Jetcat, a grunge band made up of zombies, a giant radio-controlled robot, gargantua monkey, and a girl named Melissa engage in wacky hijinks as the city figures out how to deal with the flying baby. Funny and tender -- a good look at Stephens' earlier work.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Good.

Outlaw School by Rebecca Ore (2000)
Abused by her mother and forced to take behavior-modifying drugs at school, Jayne opts not to join the judicious girls and instead goes to a residential treatment center. There, she meets Ocean and embarks on a career of underground education and computer programming. A passable cyberpunk novel rife with commentary on education and the socialization process.
Days to read: 3. Rating: Fair.

Sense of Wonder: A Life in Comic Fandom by Bill Schelly (2001)
A personal and charming account of Bill Schelly's immersion in comic book fandom starting in the mid-'60s. While Schelly wasn't part of the first wave of fandom, his experiences provide a worthy parallel. In addition, the book serves as a solid history of Schelly's zine -- and the fan network that was supported by self-publishing and letter writing. A good addition to the history of comics fandom!
Days to read: NA. Rating: Good.

Zot! Book 1 by Scott McCloud (1997)
An absolutely beautiful full-color collection of the first 10 issues of McCloud's wonderful comic, originally published by Eclipse Comics starting in 1984. McCloud presages some of the theories espoused in his later analytical works. At the same time, he lays out a fun tale of time travel, heroism, love, politics, and self-realization. They don't make 'em like this any more.
Days to read: 1. Rating: Excellent.

What are you reading?

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