A slow starting day with gathering clouds- perfect! I did finish up some MoPrint biz earlier this week, and went to studio twice, but I didn’t produce a lot of finished work, mostly thinking and prepping for a final push at the SAM. Here’s another weekend book post:
Next to the bed, I have an unread Teddy Roosevelt bio by Doris Kearns Goodwin that will help fill in many of the gaps in my understanding about the last time the ultra rich were out of control in America. I enjoy stringing related biographies together in service to the larger picture. I also love Post Modern door-stop type novels. Next to TR is A half-finished David Foster Wallace novel. This contains the usual rabbit’s warren of parenthetical musings, foot-noted speculations and general digression one expects from DFW- all about tax returns! I can here the traditionalists groaning from here. Other weighty volumes within arm’s reach are unfinished Dickinson and Picasso bios. These are what I regard as winter books- best suited for the long dark hours when it would take a legendary party to get me off the couch and out in the cold city. The couch opens its arms for a long stay, bluish dusk cloaks the rare streetside movement.
Now is a time for my warm weather books, easily digestible, pop cultural back porch snacks immune to the distractions of flipping steak on the grill, baseball and soccer shouts from the park. They fit my more hectic schedule, but do tap into my desire to prove to myself, if no one else, that pop culture is where the repressed soul of human creativity often leaks out. Lately this means, natch, comics I’ve been catching up on since I started spending a lot of time in the library, those which didn’t fit my limited bookstore budget before. These are almost all guilty pleasures, a concept that we lapsed Catholics recognize as a redundancy.- something considered slightly unsavory that is nonetheless, irresistible. Tawdry fantasy bought with stolen time! Here’s what one thief has been reading when he should be reading something else:
Paul Moves Out: A young couple in contemporary Montreal. I took some older stuff I didn’t want to store down to Kilgore Books and Comics for trade and I got Palookaville #21, and this Michel Rabagliatti confection in return. It’s an agreeable confection, in the style of Depuy and Berberian’s Monsieur Jean series (e.g. Get a Life), a romantic comedy with a lively, Euro graphic sense. Unlike, D &B, it fails to generate even mild dramatic tension. Its emotional conflicts are solved rather early, and it devolves into some amusing situations and minor domestic complications. A triumph of style over substance, but enjoyable for the exquisite brush work.
Miss Don’t Touch Me: A young innocent girl in 30’s Paris attempts to solve her sister’s murder. Another bit of stylish eye candy, with art which hovers quite attractively between Herge’s classic Ligne Claire style, and a retro, Milt Gross gestural style. Unlike Paul Moves Out, there is plot conflict and tension aplenty, but it mostly derives from lurid, somewhat hackneyed plot devices such as the virgin in the whore house, the psychopathic S&M enthusiast, the gay dandy dominated by his rich mother. This is apparently a series of shorter episodes stitched together into album format, so its superficialities are no surprise, and nicely balanced by its period-piece charm. It’s good, fluffy fun.
Book of Genesis: Illustrated word-for-word by underground comics pioneer R. Crumb. I had declined to use limited funds and shelf space to obtain it, so hurray for a progressive library. This is the most thought provoking of the three. The last time I spent this much time with the Old Testament was in sunday school, where the nuns were understandably reluctant to delve into its many bizarre aspects. Not so R. Crumb! He generally plays it straight in the telling, though, and lets the book speak for itself. He does provide some notes at the end, and like Crumb, many of us are dying to know why- in three separate chapters- men tell wives to pose as their sisters. A question we’d’ve gotten our knuckles rapped for as kids. His take, influenced by other readings, is that these tales must be taken in the context of co-existing matriarchal hierarchies in Sumerian culture. I can’t speak to that, but it does provide a possible explanation for why Abraham might pimp his wife to the Pharoah. I predict further reading on biblical historiography will stem from this.
Punk Rock: An Oral History: This one clearly deserves, and will get- a full review, which I’ve already started writing. I’ve alluded to Punk’s influence on comics and politics, two other cultural areas that get regular attention here. Like most Americans, I came to it late (1978) but it had a revolutionary influence in my own life, and anyone honest about pop culture will recognize its influence as the equal to the flappers and the hippies. I’m glad I read this collection of often conflicting accounts from the actual players before I embarked on a more “proper” history, and a visit to iTunes for some early-to mid career Stranglers, Public Image Limited, Magazine, and The Damned has already happened.
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby: I picked it up, devoured half of it, put it down again. I’ll finish it in a burst with a Martini or Manhattan beside me, I’m sure. Another guilty pleasure- it’s got literary shenanigans, though Scott and Zelda actually DO quit drinking and staying up till dawn for about a whole week early in this account. It takes place around the time F. Scott was starting The Great Gatsby, the same time a sensationalized murder hit the nation’s press, which Sarah Churchwell is itching to prove informed Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. It’s got crazed youth in a post war America that had decided to give women the vote and Prohibition a try. Both 18th and 19th Amendments, incidentally, spearheaded by many of the same activist women. It’s like a Vanity Fair article stretched out to novel length- delicious!
I’ll still do the women in comics post, too- I’m up to #15 (from 40) on the wait list for Jill LePore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, a character which I consider essential to that subject.