Luddite Update

March 15, 2009 at 10:17 pm (Books, Graphic Novels/Comics, Science Fiction and Fantasy) (, , , , , )

Finished reading in the past week:

Mostly speculative fiction this past week, a welcome change from the relentless realism of Crime and Punishment, which occasionally made leaps into a fascinating character-study, but mostly just frustrated me. Also, I had the same problem with dialogue in Crime and Punishment as I did with Haruki Murakami’s Wind-up Bird Chronicles and Kafka on the Shore: all the characters sounded like the same, slightly stilted speaker. I’m thinking it may be the translation, rather than the original authors in either case, but I don’t know.

The View from the Seventh Layer, Kevin Brockmeier
Very well written speculative fiction/fables. Brockmeier’s prose has a smoothness which feels like being read aloud to; it may be in the cadence, I’m not sure. Occasionally the plots are too mild to provide much kick (or to stay in the memory), but the title story is fantastic. It’s paragraphs are made up of occasionally disconnected sentences, switching between the current action and previous descriptions, giving the story a cyclical feel. The four fables in the book were meaningful and touching, startling in their imagination, and with lovely titles, my favorite being, “A Fable Ending in the Sound of a Thousand Parakeets.”  “The Year of Silence,” found in this collection, can be heard through WNYC’s Selected Shorts.

“She was carrying the husks of the insects outside on a dustpan when a blast of wind sent them whirling off toward the palmetto barrens. People who read Tom Wolfe feel that they have never abandoned their ground, that it is the world around them that has snapped free of its foundations. The sheet of embossed tin that the hurricane had ripped from her house had sailed almost half a block after the wind lifted it out of the palm tree, landing finally in the pool behind the kindergarten. Olivia paged through her copy of Insects of the Greater United States when she got home and discovered that the bugs were neither grasshoppers nor mosquitoes, but mayflies.”
“The View from the Seventh Layer,” Kevin Brockmeier

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Well written, though not in the same mesmerizing fashion as Brockmeier’s writing. I imagine this is partly because NLMG is written in first person, so it would be distracting for it to be written in a style like Brockmeier’s. The story is well-told, though I found the important, long conversation at the end to be a little too much of an info-dump/reveal than fit the rest of the book.

Strangers in Paradise, Book 1
, Terry Moore
This was entertaining for one book, but didn’t draw me into continuing with the others. There’s a blurb on the front from Neil Gaiman that says, “What most people don’t know about love, sex, and relations with other human beings would fill a book. Strangers in Paradise is that book.” That may be, but I found the characters to be a little too caricatured (yes, even for a comic) to hold my interest. I may try again with Book 2 some other time.

Currently reading:

Magic for Beginners, Kelly Link
One thing to mention now: Link has no problem with leaving things unexplained, a characteristic she has in common with Brockmeier, and distinguishing her from Ishiguro. These are fantasy/speculative fiction type stories, where the reader is thrown into situations that aren’t quite “normal,” where even the humans act on information that’s just outside the reader’s grasp. The obvious downside to the lack of explanation is the frustration it can cause for readers who go in expecting it all to be laid out for them, but the huge upside is the way the stories and images continue to sit in the mind (in my mind, anyway) long after the book has been set aside. It’s fantasy as the truly strange.

Hoping to read in the future:
Sarah Canary, Karen Joy Fowler (Watch Nancy Pearl’s interview with her)
A Fine and Private Place, Peter S. Beagle (Interview on io9)

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Impossible Adaptation

March 14, 2009 at 10:45 pm (Adaptation, Books, Graphic Novels/Comics, Originality, Pop culture) (, , )

“The question of essences remains at the heart of the adaptive act: how to make a second version of a first thing, of a book or film or poem or vegetable, or of yourself, that is successfully its own, new thing and yet carries with it the essence, the spirit, the soul of the first thing, the thing that you yourself, or your book or poem or film or your pre-pickle mango or lime, originally were.”

Salman Rushdie

“To read the comic is to see the illusion of something actually happening before your eyes; to go back and appreciate the fruit of three twelve-hour days is to—what? Look? Perceive? Read differently? —Whatever it is, it’s definitely a key component of comics, a thing we can do there and take advantage of nowhere else. ‘The most obvious sense,’ says Wolk, ‘in which Watchmen is tethered to comics is the fact that it’s specifically about comics’ form and content and readers’ preconceptions of what happens in a comic book story. Beneath that surface, though, it relies on being a comic book for its crucial sense of time and chronology.'”

Kip Manley

“[N]ow I want to focus on Snyder.   I’m less concerned with his film than its conceit: that through slavish imitation Moore and Gibbon’s novel can transition from page to screen. The central concern in Watchmen is with the experience of reading comic books.  The scene of reading is of obvious import: the youth reading Tales of the Black Freighter reminds the reader that the thing in their hands was shaped by an escapist tradition.”

Scott Eric Kaufmann

“And so my problems with the film can be reduced to two major differences it has with the book: the characterization of Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, and the ending, because between the two of those, it meant that not only did the film have no plot, it didn’t understand the question it was meant to investigate.”


“Why is this significant?  Because it demonstrates that Snyder never grappled with his source material in formal or structural terms.  The narrative techniques that contributed to his own sense of the book’s significance went unrecognized; in their place is the kind of fanboy literalism that compels people to write open letters to Peter Jackson accusing him of assaulting Tolkien.”

Kaufman, again. (Tolkien link included in original.)
(see “How to teach comics responsibly in a composition class” for an example of the techniques used in Watchmen.)

“But I wouldn’t be surprised if the same problem crops up over and over—Moore writes plots that don’t make sense unless you don’t shy away from the radical political implications, and who has the guts to do that inside the major studio system?”

Amanda Marcotte

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