Month: September 2015

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

Cover Sculptor mcCloudScott McCloud is the author of Understanding Comics  and Reinventing Comics, two of the best books about comics as an art from.  I read these two books, but not his other work, and this new book with a stylish cover is a major novel about an artist.  It has some of the force of imagination of Lanark by Alasdair Gray.
Neil Gaiman another fantasist with a remarkable visual sense call The Sculptor, “The best graphic novel, I have read in years.”  And his enthusiasm is warranted.  It’s about an artist, David Smith, trying to find his way in life and a way to his true art, who on the way meets a free-spirited actress who leads him closer to his deeper self. And he also meets death in the form of his great uncle and sells his future for the ability to sculpt with his hands instead of tools. There are wordless sequences where McCloud drags us through city streets and deep emotions, as these two flawed failures strive for brief moments of success.  There are moments of fantasy, dream and super heroic strength coupled with touching love scenes and real life awkward dinner parties and city streets with a scent of danger and the ending will drive you back to the beginning. I want to show you every page, but all I can tell you is that you have to go and find it for yourself, and read it now.  Then read it again, and it will haunt you and you inspire you. imrs.php the-sculptor-scott-mccloud

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Mid-LIfe by Joe Ollman

In the library the other day, they had a “special” display of books of things to do after you turn 50. Most of them were how to get the most out of your final years.  Among all the good advice about declining gracefully was a graphic novel, published by Drawn and Quarterly, and just about anything they put out is worth  your attention–if you are ever in Montreal, you have to visit their shop.  Well this book in not about aging gracefully, but instead it follows John’s attempt to figure out what you do when you are on your second marriage with a young son and two grown daughters, when your job has lost its allure, when you come across the CDs of a children’s singer, who you are attracted to.  The book has two threads, the disillusioned mid-lifer and the somewhat disillusioned thirty-something who gave up trying to be a success writing for adults and took up being a kids performer.  It doesn’t go so well for anyone.The singer might be getting her own TV show, but attracted to John, she realises he is lying to her and leading her on, and John gets close to cheating on his second wife, but in the end he resolves to”talk to my wife and think her for tolerating all of my ‘endearing foibles.’ I’m going to tell her what went on down here and what didn’t and see where that leaves me.”  That in the end there maybe a “new start with my new positive self.  I’ll tell her not to worry.  I’ll still be mostly bitchy.”  this is a journey into the dank, dark caves of mid-life male insecurity drawn and quartered, but told by an author who pulls you along as you want to turn away.

The Case for: Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

I am very proud to re-post this by my cousin, Alexei Warshawksi–also proud that he is an English Major at U. of Warwick.

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” And with these words to his wife, Guy Montag begins to realise for the first time that perhaps he should trust the evidence of his own eyes over the processed ‘facts’ fed to him by the media and his superiors… Read on

Salman and Laughter

Salman Rushdie–always doing an impression of The Master these days.What’s the last book that made you laugh?

P. G. Wodehouse’s Code of the Woosters” which also contains the speech which Christopher Hitchens (and I) believed to be the greatest anti-Nazi diatribe in English literature:

“The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting, ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?’ ”— Bertie Wooster in The Code of the Woosters (1938)

I should add that more or less everything by Christopher Hitchens makes me laugh. The laughter is what I miss most about the Hitch.

This is from: Salman Rushdie: By the Book in the New York Times Sept. 17, 2015

Hitchens’ review of Wodehouse: A Life by Robert McCrum

P.G. Wodehosue

Noli timere

Death Montage“Judt, James and Didion are shot through with the element that defines great art: they speak truths that the rest of us recognise but are unable to articulate.”

Mick Heaney, son of Seamus, writes about writing about dying.  Referencing many favourites.

In his book Without Feathers Woody Allen has a line that has become one of his most famous quips: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Like all the best humour, the joke is accompanied by a sense of recognition.

It is almost an article of faith for people to say that, far from fearing death, they are reconciled to it. But Allen’s joke hits on an uncomfortable truth. Read more… 

Epic Pooh by Michael Moorcock

moorcockphoto_aMoorcocks’s often referred to response to Tolkeinian and Lewisite fantasy fiction.

Author’s Note: ‘Epic Pooh’ was originally published as an essay by the BSFA, revised for its inclusion in the 1989 book Wizardry and Wild Romance, A Study of Epic Fantasy, and slightly revised again for this publication. It was written long before the publication and much-deserved success of Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy which, in my view, merits all the optimism I have expressed here. The essay did not attempt to deal with all fantasy, such as Alice in Wonderland or other children’s fantasy, but only epic fantasy from its origins in romance poetry to the present day.

Certain highlighted phrases indicate additional comments from the author: mouse over the phrase to read the note.

Epic Pooh

Why is the Rings being widely read today? At a time when perhaps the world was never more in need of authentic experience, this story seems to provide a pattern of it. A businessman in Oxford told me that when tired or out of sorts he went to the Rings for restoration. Lewis and various other critics believe that no book is more relevant to the human situation. W. H. Auden says that it “holds up the mirror to the only nature we know, our own.” As for myself I was rereading the Rings at the time of Winston Churchill’s funeral and I felt a distinct parallel between the two. For a few short hours the trivia which normally absorbs us was suspended and people experienced in common the meaning of leadership, greatness, valor, time redolent of timelessness, and common traits. Men became temporarily human and felt the life within them and about. Their corporate life lived for a little and made possible the sign of renewal alter a realisation such as occurs only once or twice in a lifetime.

For a century at least the world has been increasingly demythologized. But such a condition is apparently alien to the real nature of men. Now comes a writer such as John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and, as remythologizer, strangely warms our souls.

Clyde S. Kilby: “Meaning in the Lord of the Rings”,
Shadows of Imagination, 1969

I have sometimes wondered how much the advent of steam influenced Victorian ballad poetry and romantic prose. Reading Dunsany, for instance, it often occurs to me that his early stories were all written during train journeys:

Up from the platform and onto the train
Got Welleran, Rollory and young Iraine.
Forgetful of sex and income tax
Were Sooranard, Mammolek, Akanax:
And in their dreams Dunsany’s lord
Mislaid the communication cord.

The sort of prose most often identified with “high” fantasy is the prose of the nursery-room. It is a lullaby; it is meant to soothe and console. It is mouth-music. It is frequently enjoyed not for its tensions but for its lack of tensions. It coddles; it makes friends with you; it tells you comforting lies. It is soft: Read more:…