Sunday, March 21, 2010

More comics

So, it's the end of spring break and we've been on a comics binge at my house. The Iowa City Public Library has a phenomenal collection of comic books (really amazing) and we have them stacked on every surface of our house. It's been great, because the boys are getting to see classic superheroes and lots of new stories. I read Renee French's The Soap lady to the boys. Horrifying and beautiful - I really need to go see the Mutter Museum. Next I read a couple of Neil Gaiman collaborations to myself: Murder Mysteries and The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch. Yawn. But best of all has been Tank Girl by Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett. She's my new friend. Pow!

Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated

Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated. Funny, silly, charming, heartbreaking. Sometimes the letters were a little precious - but Alex the letter-writer actually became more human as the story continued (and self-conscious as they could be, the emotions felt genuine). The scenes with Sammy Davis Junior Junior the insane dog were hilarious enough for me to forgive any possible sin of earnestness.

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis. A beautiful story.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Edward Marston, The Malevolent Comedy

Edward Marston, The Malevolent Comedy. This is the first of the series I've read - they feature an Elizabethan theater troupe whose dramas spill off the stage and into murder and kidnapping territory. The bizarrely talented and resourceful bookholder, Nicholas Bracewell, leads the investigations (and why a guy who is trained in the finer points of all deadly weapons, accounting, detecting, and general problem solving is working for a theater company I don't know). Fun and light, but not much of mystery. The setting and characters were pleasant, but I'm not dying to read any more of these.

Don DeLillo, White Noise

Don DeLillo, White Noise. Fear of death - wouldn't it be nice if there was a pill for that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

David McCullough, John Adams

David McCullough, John Adams. Could have been a bit shorter, and I admit that I used it to fall asleep a few times. But I loved Adams - his moderation of thought and his independence - and I even enjoyed his inconsistencies, his vanity, and his moodiness. I liked that he was self-aware enough to admit his faults to his wife. I really did fall in love with Abigail Adams. If I was going to do it over, I'd probably read the Wikipedia article on John and get a collection of Abigail's letters. So many letters, to so many people, crossing oceans; really remarkable. Without the letters, the book would have been a dry recounting of official record; with the letters it sometimes had the gossipy feel of a novel or movie. The most suspenseful subplot was the relationship between Adams and Jefferson (and it had a happy ending, too, which was nice).

One fascinating thing was how much illness was a part of the story: so many children dying, adults suddenly taking ill, the widespread fear of epidemics, and seasonal illnesses that we have no conception of today. Infectious diseases lurked in the corners of this book - typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, malaria - sinister characters picking off the players like snipers. I'd forgotten that the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia happened when George Washington was president and displaced the entire Congress, and I had had no idea that Dr. Benjamin Rush was one of Adams' closest friends.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca. The worst book ever. I never read it as a kid because I thought it would be icky and it totally was (so nice when childhood grudges are justified). Horrible people, sloppy dramatic writing, predictable plot. I've never been so annoyed with a protagonist in my life. What a whiny, spineless, melodramatic, pouty little brat. And Max was the most insipid gelatinous sulky condescending love interest ever - I refuse to believe that he would ever have had the balls to shoot his wife. At least Rebecca had orgies and was evil and maybe even interesting. I would have had to thoroughly drug myself before even having dinner with those people. Oh my, it was just so horrible.