crap i have read recently #8

improbable midnight flamingoLove is Not Constantly Wondering If You are Making The Biggest Mistake of Your Life (Anonymous):  This is one of those odd little things you run across on the internet.  It’s a small, self-published book that relates the harrowing tale of the author’s four year relationship with a hardcore alcoholic.  It’s been glowingly reviewed in some highbrow places and it  gets some gushing word of mouth.  It is a little gimmick of a book that parodies those old Choose Your Own Adventure books, with a second-person narrative, simple art, and multiple story line choices offered on nearly every page.   However, the author subverts this on the very first page by telling us that none of our choices matter, there is only one ending, and just to read on straight through.  So I did and I’m sorry to admit I don’t really see the appeal.   Anonymous is a nondrinker who meets and falls in love with Anne, an alcoholic cellist who is exciting, passionate, dangerous, and irresponsible.  The relationship is clearly doomed from the start and as a reader I got absolutely no sense of why he stayed with her for four months, let alone four years.   He makes a point of walking us through a series of alcohol-fueled bad experiences and lets us explore his own doubts and exasperation, but in the end he’s just a passive-aggressive whiner blaming his seriously poor life choices  on a sick woman.  He also completely fails to understand the nature of  codependency.  Dude, your issues with her weren’t her fault.

By the end, all I could think of was how cruel this all is.   Although Anonymous tells us Anne is not her real name, enough information about the author has leaked out that I know his name, his job, and where he  lives.  Anyone who knows him personally knows who Anne is and, even worse, much worse in fact, Anne knows who Anne is.  This is a book in which an avowed nondrinker describes in embarrassing detail all the pain and misery of his co-dependent relationship with a woman whose own anonymity he’s seriously comprised.  Maybe she’s OK with it and I hope she is, but I spent the entire book feeling completely sorry for Anne.   There’s also this…I think maybe she died.  The last words of the book really leave that up in the air.  If so…well then…you, sir, are a dick.

It’s a very slight book, probably not more than 30 minutes worth of reading.  It is selfish and facile and ultimately non-engaging.   It’s momentarily clever but frankly by the end of it I was more interested in the parallel story of the alien ant warriors.

Score:  Fail.

The Sandman: Volume 1, Preludes and Nocturnes (Neil Gaiman):  Once upon a time the only thing I knew about Neil Gaiman is that he was that guy who wrote those comic books that all my arty friends loved.  And, you know, I’m not really all that enthused about comic books and in a world with a limited amount of time and unlimited reading possibilities I just never got past paging through them once or twice in bookstores.   Then while I was in Japan I read American Gods, a fascinating and unexpectedly appropriate choice of reading material in a country where the essence of hundreds of gods, old and new, is present in everything, old temples, shopping malls, busy city street corners, ancient palaces, the Shinkansen.  Reading that book on the bullet train was my introduction to the non-graphic work of this prolific, inventive, and thoroughly enjoyable author.  I’ve since read Good Omens (a collaboration with Terry Pratchett) Marvel 1602,  and Neverwhere, and I’ve seen the film adaptations of Stardust, Coraline, and Neverwhere.   It was time, I told myself, to start at the beginning.  While I have no idea if The Sandman is Gaiman’s first work I have no doubt that it is the one that put him on the map.  Initially published from 1989 to 1996 and collected in 12 volumes, it tells the story of Dream (or Morpheus or any of a number of different names he goes by), an ancient being who is the personification of the world of sleep and dreams.

As is the way with comic books (I suppose) the stories are told in episodic fashion.  Dream is captured and imprisoned for decades by a group of occultists.  When he eventually escapes he finds that without his presence many people have fallen to a strange sleeping sickness and his own home has decayed into ruin.  In order to right things he must find the three talismans taken from  him by the occultists and his journey takes him to an apartment where an addict has found the ultimate drug, to hell itself where he must best Lucifer, and into confrontation with a madman who wants to take his place as the lord of dreams.    Of the eight stories in this volume two in particular stand out.  “24 Hours” is absolutely brutal and straight up brilliant.  An insane man in possession of Dream’s ruby (which contains some of his essence) uses it to manipulate several people in a restaurant until they turn on each other and themselves.  “The Sound of Her Wings” finds Dream depressed and at loose ends once his talismans are recovered and his vengeance wrought.  His big sister Death takes him with her on her rounds, and well, spending a day with Death cheers him and brings his focus back to bear on his own responsibilities.  The best thing about this story is the personification of Death as a cheery Goth chick with a love of Disney’s Mary Poppins and boundless compassion for the souls in her charge.  The final image, that of a laughing Dream feeding pigeons in the park with dream dust, is priceless.   This short story, which I found online, is just beautifully drawn and written and is what encouraged me finally to give the comic a try.

Unfortunately, I still have issues with the basic comic book format and I’ll have to think about why that is in more detail one of these days.  The art in this volume is a little sketchy.  (Oh, I did not just do that, did I?).  I gather that the initial artist/inker/whatever left after the first couple of volumes and this might explain the jumps in style and quality of the art work.   Dream in particular is occasionally drawn extremely well and occasionally…not so much.  The cover art for the individual volumes is awesome though.  The work was initially published by DC comics and Dream is essentially a wholesale re-imagining of a minor member of the 1970’s DC canon.  There is a smattering of appearances by other DC characters and some iconic DC places like Arkham Asylum and Hell serve as set-pieces.  Not being geeky about comics, these inclusions seemed a bit forced to me, as if Gaiman were making courtesy attempts to tie his dark new world into DC’s universe.  But again, I am almost wholly ignorant of most of these characters, so YMMV.    Taken as a whole I think these are minor sorts of caveats and maybe they’ll sort themselves in later editions, three of which are sitting on my coffee table right now.

So I guess I don’t like comic books, except when I do.  And so far The Sandman is one of those I do.

I will show you terror in a handful of dust.”

Score:  Meh.

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~ by gun street girl on October 11, 2012.

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