Monday 13 January 2014

Some short reviews (catching up) - as you can see I've been mostly reading Graphic Novels at the beginning of the year...
The haunted book by Jeremy Dyson




Excellent framing device of the author fictionalising “true” ghost stories and introducing them as he starts to become involved in them. The book is haunted. There are some deliciously creepy moments in this set of short stories all held together by a very clever and very effective device. All the tales work well standalone but also combine together superbly with the author’s introductions to make it something more than just a collection of ghost stories, even though they are very good ghost stories, traditional but with a modern spin.


Overall – Are you sure there is no-one behind you right now?


All over coffe by Paul Madonna




In 2004 the San Francisco chronicle started publishing Madonna’s enigmatic and beautiful pictures with mistmatched prose in a series called All over coffee. The series is collected here and in [Everything is its own reward]. My review of Everything is its own reward has this description <i>This is a series of almost photorealistic pencil & ink drawings of mostly urban landscapes. Some pictures have text, some a lot of text, some a pithy comment only, some you have to search for the text, some the text is alongside. Flash fiction, short poems and thoughts from the author.</i> The first book is just as good as the second. Highly recommended


Overall – Poetic and artful


The Great War: July 1, 1916: The first day of the Battle of the Somme by Joe Sacco




Sacco has drawn a modern day Bayeaux tapestry of the first day of the battle of the Somme. It comes with a commentary by Sacco in a separate booklet with an essay on the first day by Adam Hothschild.


Publisher’s blurb, which I cannot improve upon <i>Launched on July 1, 1916, the Battle of the Somme has come to epitomize the madness of the First World War. Almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed and another 40,000 were wounded that first day, and there were more than one million casualties by the time the offensive halted. In The Great War, acclaimed cartoon journalist Joe Sacco depicts the events of that day in an extraordinary, 24-foot- long panorama: from General Douglas Haig and the massive artillery positions behind the trench lines to the legions of soldiers going “over the top” and getting cut down in no-man’s-land, to the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers retreating and the dead being buried en masse. Printed on fine accordion-fold paper and packaged in a deluxe slipcase with a 16-page booklet.</i>


This is an amazing piece and one that you can study panel by panel or laid out end to end (if you had a room big enough) for many hours.


Overall – Just beautiful, I wish I had a wall big enough to display it


The complete Maus: a Survivor’s tale by Art Speigelman




Art Spiegelman’s father survived Auschwitz and this is his story told in graphic format. Much has been made of Spiegelman’s use of anthropomorphic animals to depict the different peoples – mice for Jews, cats for Nazis, dogs for Americans all fit perfectly but pigs for Poles? Frogs for French – really? Anyway the frame is Spiegelman junior talking to his father, who comes across as a very caricatured version of a penny pinching Jew (although the reasons are fully explained later in the book) who is a racist (all black men are thieves) and isn’t at all likable in the way he’s depicted. Spiegelman puts himself in his work thoroughly and all biography is fiction so you do wonder about the way he has chosen to depict his own father. The parts about the past redeem the issues I had with the book and yet I don’t really feel they say anything new about the holocaust, but maybe that is because I have read several other works on it. It is a laudable effort and has brought the holocaust on a human level, via the memories of Vladek Spiegelman, very much to life. I think in the 1980’s this must have been a groundbreaking work. I guess that due to many people telling me this was amazing I possibly had unrealistic expectations.


Overall – I just didn’t like the modern bit, well worth reading though


Goliath by Tom Gauld




The Biblical story of david & Goliath told in Gauld’s own inimitable style. The art is typically Gauld and fits the story fine. Goliath, as a character, is a surprise and the lead up to the inevitable end is so good it still makes the end shocking as you hope it will be different.


Overall – Art & story in perfect harmony


Write by Guardian books




Split into 3 sections – authors talking about the how of plot, character etc. Authors writing tips & “other advice” with a whole plethora of authors (too many to list but including [[Andrew Miller]], [[Neil Gaiman]], [[Michael Moorcock]], [[Iain Banks]], [[Helen Dunmore]], [[Charlie Brooker]] and many more). Lots of short but invaluable advice.


Overall – Lots of writers talking about writing, what’s not to like


Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott





Emmott spends this thin book, outlining the problem – catastrophic climate change with especial emphasis on how much we’re screwed knowing everything we now know. He then posits two possible ways we can save ourselves. Technologizing our way out of it or massively changing our behaviour. Both of which he points out are unlikely to happen. Yeah cheery little book. Oh and why 10 billion? Well the problems are all caused by there being too much of us and the fact that we’ll reach Ten Billion (if trends continue) before the end of the century just mean that being totally and utterly screwed is speeding up.


Overall – We’re all doomed, DOOMED!

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