Monday, December 8, 2008

Wasting Time for Finals

(To the tune of "Making Plans for Nigel")

I'm still plugging away at The Garies and Their Friends and Fire This Time. Dang. I should probably get back to those (both still good). But before I do that…

Other recent reads:

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel :
Fantastic, but you can go read someone else’s praise on the internets: there’s no scarcity of it. Oh, what the heck… The drawings have the looseness of a New Yorker cartoon while the diction is exceedingly literary and theoretical (and the book is thick with allusion). I might normally object to this, since comics should ideally find a middle ground where words and pictures constitute a single medium (thanks, Scott McCloud!). No problem here, because Bechdel owns her big words, and needs them to help make sense of her life. She comes as close to understanding her father as possible (no small task for a man always absorbed in a book) while still making it apparent she can never know him, and is wonderfully forthcoming about the evolution of her sexuality. I don’t often say this… Very inspiring: the ways young people search for themselves, and why.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote :
I had to do a presentation on this for Marlon James’ class (yikes—as if I have anything to teach him). Having read it before I meant to just skim through, but it’s so engrossing that I ended up reading the whole thing again, more or less. Class discussion unsurprisingly centered on the ethics involved in Capote’s writing, but I hate to trivialize or criticize his method because the end result is one of the most beautiful things (very sad, too) I’ve ever read.

Tales of Conjure and the Color Line
by Charles Chesnutt :
For my money the best thing we read in my African American literature class (not to discredit anyone else, Douglass in particular). Wry humor, with all sorts of weird, comical and disturbing configurations of race and color politics. These stories are nearly 40 years more contemporary than anything else we read, which was quite evident.

Astonishing pages abound in Berlin: City of Smoke. Jason Lutes is in the middle of some sort of masterpiece. In the last issue of book two there is an odd scene in which the jazz band Cocoa Kids confront their manager about some questionable business practices. The whole scene is very cumbersome, with awkward blocking and pacing, and I have to wonder if Lutes is trying to mimic some bad 1930s melodrama. This is not to say I don’t like the scene—it’s great, and suggests that Lutes knows a lot of tricks, necessary if he’s going to pull off the wide variety of situations that crop up in the book.

I ended up drawing out the aforementioned comparison between The Bondwoman’s Narrative and House of the Seven Gables in a paper I wrote (a pretty clever argument, if I may say so myself). All I have left to mention is that I’ve never before been so satisfied with a resolution defined by marriage and stability in a nineteenth century novel—and that’s saying something, because they all end with marriage. On second thought, Great Expectations may rival it, but the last line of that book defies simple readings, or any certainty that union occurs, so I give it a pass on the merits of “too complicated.”

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