Reading list for Jul.06 (some miracle I actually found the time to read books last month!)

Title: How We Are Hungry
Author: Dave Eggers
Year: 2005
Publisher: No idea.
What: A collection of contemporary short stories by the same renowned author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, bordering somewhere between the existential and the tongue-in-cheek.
Comments: Some of the stories are truly great, for Dave Eggers is probably one of today’s hottest young writers, guy just surfs that hype y’know, but there’s also the problem that, once you get to know his previous stuff- AHWOSG and You Shall Know Your Velocity- you get to expect him never to drop the ball, never to lower the bar. This is not to say it’s a bad book or the tales are necessarily not that good, only that all in all, they’re not as great as Egger’s other stuff.
Still, recommended, especially for those people whom like You Shall Know… The character Hand, from that book, is featured in one of the tales.

Title: The Complete Maus
Author: Art Spiegelman
Year: 1996, collects Maus I (1986) and Maus II (1992)
Publisher: Don't know.
What: A Pulitzer Prize-winner graphic novel that is biographical and autobiographical at the same time; it tells the story of Art Spiegelman himself, the son of a Polish Concentration Camp survivor growing up in America after the war, and his father (the survivor himself) before, during and after the war. This is basically Anne Frank’s diary times a hundred, told in comic-book form, as an allegory where the Jews are mice (maus), the Nazis are cats, and so on.
Comments: I actually avoided this book for years because, well, because I’m a sh*thead and I actually thought, “I bet it’s one of those cases when the author’s trying too hard”… Only, he isn’t, because the damn book’s a work of genius and he actually nails down the atmosphere of the times just right, you can feel it in your bones, especially the parts set in the Nazi camp.
It’s the feel-bad book of your life, but it’s also a work that will leave you truly amazed. Once every 1,500 years somebody steps up to the challenge and proves that the comic book is an Art Form, and Maus is no exception to the rule.

Title: Cat’s Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Year: 1963
Publisher: Clueless
What: It’s a mockup of an anti-war science fiction novel by master satirist Vonnegut, in which a writer/reporter finds himself in a series of odd events that lead him to a small island-nation in Central America, after the offspring of the true father of the Atom Bomb, three dysfunctional kids whom possess a terrible weapon called Ice-Nine, a chemical substance capable of freezing all the water in the world.
Comments: Vonnegut is not my favorite writer, but the more I read something out of his… the more I say, Vonnegut is Vonnegut. It’s a wonder that in an age like ours, with a guy like that, we still have wars! The book’s plot is basically the vehicle for the author’s message against the doomsday clock of the Cold War.
What attracted me the most in the book was the island’s fictional religion, called Bokononism, which is like halfway between Christianity and Zen Buddhism, and despite the sheer insanity of its aphorisms, one gets the weird feeling it could actually work in a world like ours…
Makes you think, and that’s what books are all about.

Title: Of Mice And Men
Author: John Steinbeck
Year: 1937
Publisher: Dunno.
What: A novella about two friends working their way Westwards through the Depression, out of farms, looking out for each other, until one of them (the big, tall one, strong and dumb as an ox) finds trouble in a ranch they’re working on.
Comments: I don’t know. Everybody and the kitchen sink say it’s one hell of a tale, but I guess its magic just didn’t work with me. Despite the sheer, obvious difference of length, it still reads way too much like a lightweight version of Steinbeck’s own The Grapes of Wrath… and you just can’t beat those Grapes now, can you?
(Of course Of Mice… actually predates The Grapes… for a couple of years, but the point is moot.)

Title: The Comics Journal Library 6: The Writers, book one
Author: Gary Groth (managing editor)
Year: 2006
Publisher: Forgot.
What: It’s collection of interviews from circa 1975-1985, with the period’s then-hottest comic book writers and editors, such as Lein Wein, Alan Moore, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, among many others.
Comments Now this is freakin’ gold, baby! Thank you soooo much!
Spread out before you is a time-capsule of an age when only Marvel and DC Comics ruled the comicdom landscape and their best writers- then truly gifted people- were only beginning to push the boundaries of a medium that was coming of age. Each interview is like an x-ray into the growing pains of the North-American comics scene, in which the so-called “second generation writers” (the first wave of fanboys-turned-writers) were getting past theirs 30s and seriously dreaming of manners to usher the funnybook beyond the then-shrinking men-in-tights market in order to reach wider genres and audiences.
It’s really fascinating because, if you think about it, it’s like they were all screaming in silence- like a sun waiting to go nova- Then all of a sudden, WHAMM!, you got stuff like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke pouring out of the comics shops, and comics, mostly superhero comics, were never as good or as adult as they were during those mid-1980s years.