Title: The Anthology Project, Vol. 1 Editors: Joy Ang, Nick Thornborrow Length: 240 pages Format: Hardcover Genre: Comic; Short Stories, Surreal, Fantasy Publisher: The Anthology Project / 2010 Cover Design: Joy Ang Source: Library Rating: ✮✮✮✮
Reason to Read: I was browsing in the stacks when I stumbled across The Anthology Project—I recognized the cover from a previous TCAF I attended and, really, how could I turn down a book with a cover illustration as beautiful as this one?
With the 2012 Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) just around the corner, I thought this would be the perfect chance to introduce readers to the very Canadian (and very gorgeous) comic collection known as The Anthology Project. As stated above, I first encountered this title at a previous TCAF market, and I'd regretted not picking it up while I had the chance—now, I've learned the Project has published a second volume featuring works by international artists as well, so you and I have come to this first volume at an excellent time.
The Anthology Project has a simple mandate: to collect comics from artists who pursue compelling narratives and have published notable works in sequential arts. In short, "[i]ts humble intent is only to delight"—and I assure you, the book delights on numerous levels. I have a soft spot for comic collections and literary journals for their variance and their promise of new talent to discover. And, for the first time in quite a few years, I've found an anthology that features strong storytelling and breathtaking art across the board. I feel this explains their 2011 Eisner Award nomination for Best Anthology, wouldn't you agree?
To start, editors Joy Ang and Nick Thornborrow are accomplished artists in their own rights, and their contributions to this project mark an excellent introduction to their work. Ang created the jaw-dropping, surrealist front cover (which compelled me to read the book in the first place), and she also injected the collection with her sweetly sinister comic, "Wish". A young girl meets a mysterious creature in the woods after it steals a cupcake from her mid-morning snack. When she and her dog corner the creature, it promises to give the girl one wish for letting it go—but, wish-fulfillment can often be a dangerous thing. I loved the bright, simple artwork in this story, and of course, I loved the final twist to its narrative. Oh, why did she not opt for the one jillion unicorns?
On the other hand, Thornborrow's "Desert Carol" offers a gritty, western re-tinkering of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, where a young man named Eb visits the cliff where the great gunslinger Jake Marley fell to his death. He decides to stay the night and is subsequently visited by three apparitions representing the past, present, and future. The ghosts warn Eb about his lady love, Susanna, but will he act on those visions or just let them unfurl? Eb's a sweetheart, and the art itself is filled with a great sense of humour (see: the giant Grim Reaper smoking a cigarette). I imagine fans of modern westerns will find much to love in this short comic.
Other immediate favourites include Kim Smith's "The Nose and the Tongue", a tale of two duelling sommeliers with a contentious wine-tasting competition in their past, and a new Barrel Master score to settle in the present; Chris Makris's "Little World Runner", which examines the life of a young gamer girl who creates and maintains a virtual world known as Azria, and must handle the difficult decisions only a god could make; and Tom Rhodes's "The Box", a hilarious comic about an alien creature named Bardy and an android known as '06' who find a mysterious box at the edge of the universe. All three tales take place across different timeframes and illustrate different issues, but their narratives offer an excellent launch point into the world of sequential comics. I would highly recommend following those links and checking out these artists for yourself—and the fact that they're all homegrown talent makes the deal even sweeter.
I thought I'd leave off on this post with some of the stunning artwork from Christine Choi's wordless piece, "Someone Like Me". I was blown away by Choi's dreamscape world, and who could resist the sweet story of a lonely boy finding friendship with a lonely girl among the clouds?
Beautiful, surreal, and endearing—The Anthology Project is a testament to the innovation behind Canadian sequential arts, and it ought to be the next addition to your graphica collection.
Ideal for: New readers to comic collections and sequential arts; Fans of short stories and literary journals who want to add some artwork to the mix; Graphic design and illustration students looking for a lesson on short, powerful storytelling.
Avid readers know the transformative power of books—sometimes, a novel can alter our perception on our current society or our reliance on technology, and sometimes a non-fiction title calls us to action or encourages us to cultivate new experiences. Change can be a good thing, and Booking Through Thursday asks bloggers to reflect on that idea:
Has a book ever inspired you to change anything in your life, fiction or non-fiction alike?
In short: of course! In fact, I think it's near impossible to remain unaffected by the books you read. Granted, I think readers will internalize different lessons from the same reading material, since we each bring our own collected experiences to a work—nonetheless, books exist to refine our knowledge or goad us into taking a new perspective on a familiar topic. Hurrah, and other feel-good comments!
One of the main books to ch-ch-ch-ch-change things up for me in recent times has been
Networking for People Who Hate Networking, Devora Zack
Devora Zack, a successful business consultant, speaks to thousands of people each year on topics ranging from leadership development to networking strategies—oh, and she happens to be an introvert too. Most readers might see the inherent discordance between those two identities and call Zack a liar; however, instead of trying to force herself to adapt extrovert behaviours, she worked with her natural introvert preferences and found a networking approach that worked to her advantage. I know, mind-blowing, right? I always thought of myself as a "functioning introvert"—I can attend functions alone and not be fussed, and I can strike up a conversation with a person I don't know, but I hate sitting in business meetings and struggle to contribute to group conversations. In the first half of the book, Zack reframes the common bias against introverts and lists the various skills an introverted person possesses. In the second half, Zack offers a selection of activities for us quiet types to try out and provides clear, introvert-friendly goals to set when approaching networking events. Practical, professional, and pro-introvert—what more could I need?
How about you, dear reader? What books have changed your perception of yourself or the world in which you live? Do you find your views are altered by fiction or by non-fiction titles? Do you purposefully seek out challenging books to experience vastly different perspectives?
Title: The Unwritten (Vol. 1): Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity Author: Mike Carey Artist: Peter Gross Length: 144 pages Format: Paperback Genre: Comic; Fantasy, Supernatural, Horror Publisher: DC Comics / 2010 Cover Design: Yuko Shimizu Source: Library Rating: ✮✮✮
Reason to Read: I work in a comic book store, and the cover of a recent single issue of The Unwritten caught my eye. I'd love to refine my graphica knowledge, and I know this is an excellent series to start on.
Tom Taylor's no stranger to the limelight—of course, the fame was never his to start with. Tom's father, Wilson Taylor, won critical acclaim and a massive, dedicated fanbase for his thirteen-book series about a boy wizard named Tommy Taylor—since Wilson's disappearance, Tom has toured the convention circuit in his father's place, and he's learned to pander to the legions of adoring readers who see him as the flesh-and-blood incarnation of Tommy. Tom goes through the motions, all the while pressuring his manager to land some decent acting gigs for the would-be performer.
While attending London's 30th Annual Fantasy Convention, a woman calling herself Lizzie Hexam challenges Tom and accuses him of being a fraud. Lizzie's in the process of completing her doctoral thesis, and she's uncovered some inconsistencies in Tom's personal information and his childhood records. As Tom struggles to deal with the fallout from these recent accusations, the young man finds himself drawn into an ever-widening mystery regarding his origins in the Taylor family and his father's whereabouts. As he sifts through the information at hand, and as he returns to the scene of Wilson's disappearance, Tom's life begins to mirror Tommy's life in eerie and dangerous ways…
I imagine most readers perked up at the mention of Wilson Taylor's boy wizard book series—yes, The Unwritten tips its hat to the behemoth Harry Potter franchise and creates a similar cultural phenomenon in the form of Tommy Taylor. Fans of HP will likely appreciate The Unwritten on a different level than I could, and will also take great pleasure in seeing a dangerous, fictional realm colliding with our own real world. Of course, The Unwritten adds startling new layers to the boy wizard character (when readers are privy to excerpts from the mythical series), and we're also given the chance to see the so-called inspiration for Tommy as a grown man who's drawn deeper into the deadly legacy left by his author-father.
For starters, I loved how much bookish knowledge is required on behalf of The Unwritten's readers—of course, we're treated to Tom's in-depth awareness of London's literary geography and Wilson's obsession with his son's education on that front, but it's the subtle, insider's nudge that pleased me the most. I can see how former English majors and all literary-minded types will have their passion vindicated through this series, and Mike Carey's carefully selected details could even offer a launching point for readers looking to explore the classics. For instance, Tom mentions how his father rented Villa Diodati as a retreat in which to write his wizard series, and how Tom finds Wilson's choice amusing—the villa was also the location where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein and where John Milton wrote Paradise Lost. So, in Tom's estimation, Tommy Taylor shares his heritage with Frankenstein's monster and with Satan himself. Carey even gets meta with readers when a horror writers' workshop gets a dose of real terror after Tom drops in on them unannounced. And no, I'm not handing out spoilers on this one…
Volume One ends with a one-shot issue titled How the Whale Became, a comic taking readers back one-hundred years to explore Rudyard Kipling's life, first as a writer of England's empire, and later as the author of The Jungle Book and other mythologized origin stories. In this case, Kipling's life is fictionalized and framed within The Unwritten's universe, and we see Kipling become the pawn of a sinister man named Mr. Locke who in turn holds Kipling's family hostage in exchange for the writer's output on the glory of the empire. Though the comic doesn't tie in directly with Tom Taylor's storyline, Mike Carey treats his readers to a revisionist rendering of a classic author's life and injects quite the otherworldly suspense into the man's biography.
The Unwritten has five volumes to its name as I write this, and I will be checking those out as soon as I can. Who could resist a graphic tribute to the wonders of the written word and our literary classics? Certainly I can't, and I suggest you try not to resist either.
Ideal for: Book nerds checking out comic books for the first time; "Pott-heads" intrigued by a re-imagining of their beloved hero's archetype; Comic book readers looking to distance themselves from the usual superhero fare, or looking for a fantastic re-jigging of the everyday world.
Title: Blueprints of the Afterlife Author: Ryan Boudinot Length: 430 pages Format: Paperback Genre: Fiction; Science Fiction, Post-apocalyptic, Dystopian; Non-linear, Surreal Publisher: Black Cat / 2012 Cover Design: Nate Manny Source: Library Rating: ✮✮✮
Reason to Read: I first heard of the novel through an io9 article discussing their most-anticipated books for 2012. Naturally, I thought I should check out this surreal version of the afterlife for myself.
Blueprints of the Afterlife tackles an ambitious agenda for post-apocalyptic junkies—in one novel, readers are led through a shattered, chaotic vision of the future, where unimaginable disasters and Newman armies have wiped out most of humankind, and then taken back to the pre-FUS (Fucked Up Shit) era to unravel the origins of our collective downfall. In essence, Ryan Boudinot has crafted one-hundred years worth of narrative detailing our inevitable destruction, our growing dependence on invasive technologies, and the single flicker of hope holding the world's salvation.
Welcome to the future, where the apocalypse is a fixed point in the past. Most North American cities have been wiped out by Malaspina, the Roving Glacier of Death, who unleashed its fury in the aftermath of global warming. Medical care is supplied by networked nanotechnology called the Bionet, where cures for the common cold and a severed spine can be downloaded instantly; however, human nervous systems can now be hacked and re-programmed at the whim of underground DJs. And we haven't even touched on the Newman armies and human clones who aided the downfall of humankind…
In this post-FUS era, mysterious forces are drawing together an unlikely group of survivors for unknown ends. Abby Fogg is an anachronistic digital film archivist sent to recover an interview transcript from an aging pop star's personal collection. Al Skinner is a former mercenary of the Boeing Army and a recent "forgetfulness junkie, a man who's downloaded his memories to external hard drives in order to forget—but the past never stays silent for long. Woo-jin Kan is a gifted dishwasher with the Hotel and Restaurant Management Olympics medal to prove it. He lives with his foster-sister, Patsy, an obese "pharmer" subsidized by the government to grow various drugs and human tissue transplants within her fat. After Patsy's suddenly air-lifted from his life, Woo-jin is given the task to write a book about how to love people—but where to start?
Over them all hovers a mysterious man named Dirk Bickle who puts people in the right place at the right time—and all of it culminates in a full-scale replica of Manhattan under construction in Puget Sound. Just an average tale from the End of Days, no?
So, quite the epic plot to tussle with. And, sometimes, even calling the book "surreal" seemed an understatement. Boudinot creates a nightmarish, convoluted, and extravagant vision of our future while still remaining rooted in current concerns (e.g. global warming, dependence on fossil fuels, moral questions around cloning, public access to personal records, etc.), and he delivers a bizarre and entertaining new hope in the form of Mr. Kirkpatrick, the elusive super-admin (or god-like) figure behind the Bionet. I felt I'd dropped acid while reading certain sections, and my thoughts were confirmed as I tried to explain this book to friends over the weekend…
All that being said, I almost bailed on the book after the first chapter—the novel opens with a crass, longish introduction to Woo-jin that spirals down into excessive and needless cussing, foul food descriptions, and strange dick jokes. I could see more than a few readers jumping ship after learning Patsy's growing penises in her breasts, and I wouldn't blame them—but once chapter two rolled in and Luke Piper's interview transcript began, I was hooked. I am not one to bail on books (hence why I gave chapter two a shot despite the first fifty pages), but I do question why Woo-jin's chapter was chosen to lead this book. I'm just glad I could warn other readers in case they're turned off after that opening…
I found the writing quality was inconsistent, but I wonder if that's due to the surreal quality of the plot. On one hand, readers come across strange (and perhaps unnecessary) scenes such as the clone orgies at Kylee Asparagus's remote seaside mansion, and Neethan Jordan's desert survival trek that somehow morphs into an RPG zombie/Mario video game…? Yet, on the other hand, Boudinot includes remarkably touching moments as well—for instance, when Al Skinner finds himself dying in the woods, he powers up an old console containing his father's memories of Al as child. He watches himself grow up through his father's eyes as he's dying in the present tense. Both heartbreaking and gorgeous, I tell you.
Of course, I was pulled back into the narrative whenever Boudinot made detours into the hard science of his universe—I marvelled at the invasive and powerful Bionet and the nanotechnology that mirrors a novel called Harmony by Project Itoh. I loved the sinister idea of DJs who create "embodiments" and program the lives of willing subjects. Also, I found Skinner's narrative intriguing because of his addiction to downloading his memories—if he treasures a moment, he wants it recorded for posterity; if he fears and dreads a memory, he wants it erased from his mind, however he cannot bear to part with it completely. I feel there's a novel waiting in that idea alone.
Last, I was thrilled to find Canada rendered and represented in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian landscape. Abby Fogg represents for all the Vancouver natives and UBC archive students out there. Of course, Canada's main role here is its destruction under the icy weight of the sentient glacier and the rabid polar bears following it—still nice to have a few shout-outs in a genre where few exist.
Overall, quite the tour-de-force when it comes to science-inflected, "End is Nigh" literature, though I do warn readers to proceed with caution (and not just because of the polar bears…)
Ideal for: Post-apocalyptic fans in need of an acid drop; Readers keen on discovering the space where hard science and surrealism collide; CanCon-aholics; Dystopian fans who like their narratives epic.
Readers are entering the final stretch of Dewey's Read-a-Thon this morning, thus concluding an impressive twenty-four hours' worth of marathon reading. I flaked out around the 14-15 hour mark myself—largely due to a tea date I've got scheduled for this afternoon—and the dedication of my fellow participants continues to floor me.
Over on the official Dewey's Read-a-Thon website, our gracious hosts posted an End of Event Meme to help us take stock of our reading and review the marathon overall. So, here it goes:
Which hour was most daunting for you?: I was finished between the 14-15 hour mark. All those tea and sugar reserves were depleted at that point, and I knew I was headed for a crash.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?: I think The Hunger Games could keep a reader engaged for the entire marathon—all three books are a quick read, so a reader would also likely feel a greater sense of accomplishment in a read-a-thon of this nature. Also, I think mixing in graphic novels or poetry collections are a smart idea as A) they're shorter works, and B) they give you a greater sense of accomplishment over that twenty-four-hour period.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?: I quite liked the format of this event. I was particularly drawn to mini-challenges requiring a lengthier blog post (e.g. Reading in Translation and Favourite Troublemakers), so I'd always support more of those. I think having a Twitter-specific mini-challenge could be fun too, like a 140-character review of your current book or sharing the best insult from the books you've read for the challenge so far, etc.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?: I have to give a shout-out to the cheerleaders—I received two comments on my blog and, I have to say, the encouragement worked wonders for my reading. Thanks again to everyone who signed up to cheer!
How many books did you read?: I read three and completed one in-progress novel.
What were the names of the books you read?: Runaways Vol. 2 (Vaughan); The Anthology Project (Ang, Thornborrow); The Unwritten Vol. 1 (Carey, Gross); Blueprints of the Afterlife (Boudinot).
Which book did you enjoy most?: The Anthology Project caught me by surprise—it's a comic collection from various artists, and every piece was engaging and gorgeously drawn.
Which did you enjoy least?: I suppose Blueprints of the Afterlife—the writing quality's been rather hit-or-miss throughout the novel, yet I've enjoyed every section detailing the science behind the looming Bionet.
If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?: N/A
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?What role would you be likely to take next time?: I would definitely participate next time, and perhaps I'd even lead a mini-challenge!
EDIT (04/22/12, 11:36 AM): I was notified in the comments that I'd forgotten to mention the books I read to my nephew during the read-a-thon. And so, I add: Curious George: Curious About Christmas, First Book of Baby Farm Animals, That's Not My Snowman!, and the first three pages of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Some might consider it a workplace hazard, others might be frothing at the mouth with envy—however one chooses to take the news, the fact remains the same: I am now purchasing single issue comic books. Shock and horrors.
Saga: Chapter One, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Publisher)
The Manhattan Projects #1 and #2, Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra (Publisher)
Peter Panzerfaust #1, Kurtis J. Wiebe & Tyler Perkins (Publisher)
Task: For this mini-challenge, I want you to tell me about your favorite unlikely hero, troublemaker, or anti-hero. Recommend some books with some shady characters and tell me why you love them!
Ooh, the magic words have been spoken: Anti-hero. I do love books focused on unloveable, troublesome, ill-tempered protagonists. I think it explains my fascination with Batman and my disinterest in Superman and Spiderman—I want a lead character with some grit and a huge chip on his/her shoulder. I want to deconstruct a character while experiencing their self-implosion. Maybe I have a strong urge to rubberneck, who knows? I don't even know that I could fully explain it, but I'll always indulge in my literary anti-heroism.
So, a couple recommendations for fellow read-a-thonners:
Remainder, Tom McCarthy
After our nameless narrator is injured by an unspecified object falling from the sky, he's given eight and a half million pounds as a private settlement in exchange for his silence—of course, he has no memories regarding his accident, so he's compliant. As the novel progresses, the narrator becomes obsessed with the idea of returning to a fluid, thoughtless way of life in the wake of his months-long rehabilitation. As the novel progresses, the narrator invests greater amounts of cash into re-enacting more and more elaborate scenarios, forcing a massive collection of actors, coordinators, and other personnel to recreate the same disjointed moments until the narrator's able to move through a given scene with perfection. His precision and obsession are fascinating to read, especially as he spins further out of control.
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
Readers might argue with me on this one, given The Bell Jar's autobiographical nature; however, encountering Esther Greenwood as a teenager will guarantee an instant and utter love for Ms. Plath's dark, brutal prose and poetry. In this novel, Esther gains a summer internship at a prominent magazine in New York City where she soon finds herself at odds with glamourous lifestyle the girls her age are meant to emulate. What follows is one woman's downward spiral into a deepening depression that remains ill-treated and otherwise suppressed until Esther attempts to take her life. Not the lightest fare, of course, but I think it captures self-doubt, alienation, and societal pressures beautifully. Not to mention, The Bell Jar speaks of adolescent depression in ways that not many current books would dare to broach the subject, which speaks volumes of the novel's continued importance.
If you've got some anti-hero books to share, I'd love to hear them (and I'd love to add them to my shelves at that!)
B) a few phone calls informing me I had five new books to pick up from the library, and
C) a cute red-headed nephew who happened to visit this afternoon.
Ah, I am one woman and cannot resist those three compelling, non-reading options—or, well, I did sit down and read a few picture books to the wee one, so I suppose those could count toward the read-a-thon, hmm?
I'm surprised how fast the time's flown. One would assume a certain level of exhaustion associated with twenty-four hours of reading, yet the clock's managed to speed up as the marathon's progressed. I've had a great time checking in on other readers via the Dewey's Read-a-Thon website and via the #readathon hashtag on Twitter. Folks are checking out some compelling reads, and I'm thinking I'll have to expand the ol' TBR list a little further.
Now that I've brewed some green tea and stolen a few chocolates, I'm launching back into my list—this time, I've started Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity and I'm going to come back to Blueprints of the Afterlife to see if I can polish it off today. Cheers to all the readers out there, and I'll be back with updates later!
Q: If you could read any book that’s been translated into English in its ORIGINAL language, what would it be? Include the original book’s cover if possible; if you want, also post the English cover for comparison.
I am a definite fan of translated works—I'm sure regular readers are aware of this fact, given my affection for all things manga. I dabble in novels translated from French, Russian, and Italian as well, but I have a clear bias toward Japanese works. In particular, when it comes to novels, I tend to favour Japanese science fiction to its North American counterparts. And, when it comes to well-loved books, I list The Stories of Ibis by Hiroshi Yamamoto among my Top Five All-Time Favourites.
The Stories of Ibis takes place in a world where humans are hurtling toward extinction and androids have created their own civilization in our place. A wandering storyteller meets a beautiful android named Ibis, who insists on telling him seven stories of human-android interaction in order to reveal the secret behind humanity's downfall. This is hard science at its finest, and Yamamoto creates a beautiful tribute to the balance between man and machine.
I would love to read this in the original language to see if my response to Ibis's stories would remain true across both versions. The English translation was quite fantastic, and it made me re-think the typical science fiction rendering of artificial intelligence and sentient robots, but a part of me has always been curious to compare the two. Of course, I can't read Japanese by any means (aside from the symbols for tea, person, entrance, and "of"), but perhaps this could be a linguistic goal for the future…?
How about you, read-a-thonners—what translated work would you love to check out in its original language?
I am awake before 8 AM on a Saturday for a well-read reason—for the next twenty-four hours, readers across the blogosphere will unite to tackle Dewey's Read-a-Thon and take a hefty piece out of their respective TBR piles. I've pledged The Litoverse to the cause, and am making the effort to finish all the books I've got out from the library at the moment—you know, before the next round of holds arrive…
Granted, I've got a decent number of graphic novels on loan, so finishing those ought to be quick work. Still, I'd like to clear those borrowed items from my shelves, or at least make a decent dent in a few new books. Regular readers will recognize the books below from previous video transmissions, but I thought I'd take stock for all the new visitors this morning:
Dewey's Read-a-Thon: April 21/2012
Miz Moffatt's (Main) Challenge Books
Never fear—I have other books lurking around my room, waiting for the chance to infiltrate this initial list. I've decided to roll with the challenge and remain flexible and open to whatever book catches my eye.
If you're following on Twitter, make sure to use the #readthon hashtag to contribute to the conversation.
I hope you'll join me with a book or two in the coming hours, and I look forward to the discussions ahead. Cheers to Hour One!
Join me this Saturday, April 21st as I tackle a rather intense stack o' books for the sake of Dewey's Read-a-Thon, a biannual twenty-four hour marathon of literary proportions.
I admit, I made a snap decision to add The Litoverse to the rank and file of the challenge—I'd heard about the marathon a year or two ago after a favourite book blogger pledged her Saturday to the cause. I hadn't realized how massive the following had become, and I was tipped off to this looming marathon date via Twitter.
The first Dewey Read-a-Thon was held in October 2007, hosted by a blogger who wrote under the handle "Dewey". The marathon was named in her honour after she passed away in late 2008. Current hosts, Trish and Shesten, have kept Dewey's original mission alive and hundreds more have pledged their weekend to the written word ever since.
Participants are encouraged to balance their time between three main activities:
Tackling their book stacks to read, read, read;
Posting about their reading and taking part in mini-challenges throughout the day;
Visiting other reader's blogs and starting discussions about what's being read.
Imagine it—a whole Saturday dedicated to the loveliness of literature and the online banter of book bloggers. Even alliteration cannot communicate how excited I am for this event. I don't know that I'll make it through the entire twenty-four hours during this first jaunt—I mean, I do have a tea party to attend on Sunday—but I'm looking forward to the marathon. For those who want to show their support, but might not have the free time to read for an entire day, the Dewey Read-a-Thon also invites bloggers to sign-up as Cheerleaders to keep participants motivated through the long hours ahead.
So prepare thyself for rambling posts and a mad-exhausted Moffatt this coming Saturday. Activities start at 8 AM sharp (for those in the GTA), so I'll be seeing you then!
This week's Booking Through Thursday prompt ties in quite well with last week's reflections on all those frustrating, slow-paced novels we've dragged ourselves through. As much as I love to know what draws a reader to a particular book, I am equally fascinated by his/her "literary deal-breakers". And this week, BTT wants us to share those personal ticks with the blogosphere at large:
…unless said book studies the life of a professional rock climber or an adventurous mountaineer. I think this is the reason I run from political thrillers and mysteries so often. It's not so much the impatience to find out "whodunnit" or to solve the last twist in a complex puzzle. I liken cliffhangers to an author jabbing his/her reader in the ribs, saying, "Hey, hey, keep reading. You gonna keep reading? I think you should keep reading. Turn the page. Turn the page. Turn the page…"
I experienced this pet peeve earlier this year with Myrna Dey's novel, Extensions—except, I was also dealing with a host of characters bearing similar-sounding names (e.g Jane, Janet, and Janetta). If I have to flip back through a novel to figure out a character's relationship to the protagonist, and especially if I have to do this multiple times, I will consider throwing said book out the window. This might also explain my distaste for multigenerational novels…
I'm not a prude when it comes to foul language—rather, I like a writer who uses a strong word in the right place. When a novel is bursting under the weight of its cussing, it dilutes its own claim to edginess. Swearing is a linguistic crutch, where we condense our anger into a single word (or, maybe a string of creative compounds). Think of the worst insult a loved one could say to you, or the worst judgment a friend could levy at you—and I bet there's not a single curse word in there. Same goes for creative writing.
3. Historical fiction more concerned with accuracies than plot points.
I might be biased on this front since A) I appreciate revisionist histories (as long as they're advertised as fiction), and B) I tend to avoid most historical fiction for the pet peeve listed above. I find Canadian literature tends to get bogged down by this convention in particular, and writers start obsessing over the "flavour" of the time period as opposed to the stories taking place therein. I often don't notice if a writer uses a period-inapproriate word or two—what I do notice are the painstaking descriptions of architecture, social customs, local foodstuffs, clothing, relevant historical events, etc. If a novel reads like research notes, I will likely toss the book aside.
Example: I loved the premise of Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi—in America's Gulf Coast region, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew and scavenges grounded oil tankers for parts. He lives in a dangerous and impoverished world and dreams of sailing the oceans on the lightweight clipper ships he rarely spots. The novel opens with concerns over globalization, the oil crisis, the staggering gap between the rich and the poor—and then it turns into a romance. *Headdesk* I know teens are dealing with their hormones and all, but I think they can handle a novel that doesn't lead to a boy-girl pairing as well.
Excitable? Pissed-off? Overjoyed? I get it, but I still don't like it. I find exclamation points are a half-assed short-cut in most cases, and add excessive emotion in the absence of stronger writing. Readers know when a character's distressed or elated based on their language use and the pacing of their sentences—exclamation points just add a huge flashing arrow to the end of a sentence, really.
I had a creative writing teacher in high school who drilled this message into all his students' heads: "Readers will know you're a teenager based on your use of '-ly' adverbs. Nothing says 'immature' louder than a writer who needs to control your reading experience." Case and point: Gather, Darkness!by Fritz Leiber. Not only does he include a dreaded exclamation point in his title, he also averages about 6+ "-ly" adverbs per page once he gets going. Favourites include: inkily, shakingly, shudderingly, inquiringly, bubblingly, fleshly, stranglingly, toothlessly, frightenedly, confirmingly, momently, burningly, etc. Where the heck was his editor?
3. Excessive inclusion of invented language/slang.
I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and I understand the desire to spike a novel with alien languages. In most cases, if a writer includes a few invented words and makes their usage clear, I have no issues; however, if I need to refer back to an appendix twice per sentence (e.g. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess), or worse, if there's not even a "translation" for entire swathes of dialogue, then I will be an irritable lass.
I know I'll spend the rest of my day discovering more pet peeves, but I will leave off at this for now. How about you? What literary pet peeves make your toes curl? Feel free to share them in the comments below, or craft a post at your blog and share those hassles with the world.
Admit it—every bookish kid has her secrets. Some of us snub bestsellers and former Oprah picks due to their "mainstream" praise and polish; some of us exaggerate our love for classic literature to appear clever and worldly; others harbour a secret passion for bodice rippers or mass market gems and fear the judgements of their peers. Whatever secrets you're squirrelling away, now is the time to air 'em out.
I was inspired to write this post after Rebecca Joines Schinsky posted her own dirty little reading secrets over at The Book Lady's Blog. I find book blogging enhances the power of these secrets, given that A) I am pointing huge glowing arrows at my literary tastes, and B) admit it—we all judge a person by their bookshelves.
Across the Litoverse = An online bookshelf for visitors to peruse.
I am giving you full access to a vital part of my identity and existence—or am I? Perhaps these dirty little reading secrets will reveal another side to the blogger know as Miz Moffatt…
I love book spin-offs, especially from video games and television series.
When I was a kid, I loved Myst and all its related properties. I'm not an avid gamer by any means, but Myst caught me at an excellent age. I mean, it's a computer game revolving around books and maddening puzzles and world exploration—of course I was going to read the three-part book series elaborating on the origin stories of Atrus. In more recent years, I've delved into the Torchwood book series and I have my eyes set on Doctor Who. Yes. I know.
I love Canadian literature, yet I haven't read the CanLit canon…
Alice Munro? Mordecai Richler and Margaret Laurence? Robertson Davies? Gabrielle Roy and Anne Hébert? Not one. I have not read a single piece of writing from these authors and, sadly, from other Canadian authors in their league. I wonder sometimes if I can claim to be a fan of CanLit when I haven't read the canon. Hmm…perhaps this could be a 2013 Reading Challenge?
…and the same shame applies to science fiction and fantasy classics.
I find I enter the same inner dialogue on this—"what the heck have you been reading all this time, then, Moffatt?!" I have a gaping hole in my knowledge of science fiction and fantasy classics, which often becomes quite apparent while talking to hardcore fans. I haven't read Dune, Lord of the Rings, Ender's Game, or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I haven't read anything by Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, or Philip K. Dick. Maybe I ought to read fewer book spin-offs and more…book books.
I avoid sweeping multigenerational novels at all costs.
If I scan a book jacket and find the aforementioned description written there, I will drop the book and run. To me, "multigenerational" is code for "three or more long-winded novellas jammed into one novel". I just can't do it. I think this might also explain why I've read so few CanLit classics, now that I think of it.
And, one of the more shocking secrets to readers out there:
I have never read the Harry Potter series. And I don't plan to do so.
At this point, I find it to be a perverse bragging right—I am one of a handful of humans left in this world who has not gone to Hogwarts. I was part of the first generation of "Pott-heads" and I managed to somehow avoid it all. Granted, I did cave and read The Hunger Games earlier this year, and I've been trying to explore Buzz-Worthy books via the All the Fuss Reading Challenge and such. But, yeah. I've just never felt the urge to read the series.
So there, a few of my dirty little reading secrets out there in the open. Now over to you, dear reader—what secrets are you keeping from the other bookish kids? Feel free to write up a post of your own, and leave a link in the comments below! I'd love to compare notes!
…And I am feeling just as random and glamourous as the answer above. I'm doling out the booklinks a touch earlier than anticipated, but I imagine the morning hours will do little to dampen the wonder that follows:
CBC News, Hunger Games trilogy among challenged books: Challenge accepted. Also: folks need to lighten up. I mean, I'm surprised people are cringing over The Hunger Games when a comic book series like Crossed has been (and continues to be) published—though, I imagine libraries would never acquire said series, but you never know.
Boston.com, 10.5 Ways Local Bookstores Beat Amazon: Strange website for a book article, but an uplifting message nonetheless. Here, we move beyond the standard idea that visiting indies = charitable act—instead, the article reminds us of the charm, knowledge, and extra features bookstores offer to the community.
We've all been there—whether the book came into our lives through the classroom, via an ill-advised library loan, or through an over-compensating book review, we've had to slog through the unthinkable. Now, Booking Through Thursday asks bloggers to share their testimonies from the front lines of literature:
What book took you the longest to read, and do you feel it was the content or just the length that made it so?
In short: EPIC READS. I experienced this phenomenon on a regular basis while completing my undergraduate degree in English. Our program required students to take a larger percentage of Early Modern and eighteenth- to nineteenth-century courses, both of which offered difficult reading terrain for this blogonaut right here. I remember experiencing extreme frustration in the face of these texts mostly because I am a modern reader through and through. In fact, the first class to turn me on to Canadian literature did so because the instructor chose to focus on books published within the twentieth-century. Makes a big difference to those of us who don't have a taste for vintage books.
As a result, my list skews toward older works, though I do experience the same fatigue with the occasional modern book as well. Given my time constraints this morning, my mind automatically leapt to the following titles:
Hard Times, Charles Dickens
Hard Times, indeed. I have never been a Dickens fan, and I somehow managed to take a seminar dedicated to this book alone. Yes. One whole semester of endless presentations and papers on thematic elements of Hard Times. Imagine the horrors—and now realize I lived through them. I know my displeasure stems from the sheer number of times I had to re-read this book in a four-month period, but I know I'd have never picked this one up on my own. Alas.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I know a large proportion of the BTT community are Austen fans. I also know a good number of folks who include Austen on their Favourite Authors of All-Time list. But, for some reason, her work never clicked with me, especially Pride and Prejudice. My fondest memory of Mr. Darcy stems from a nostalgic re-playing of Pokémon—my friends and I renamed the male Nidoran "Mr. Darcy" for the sheer delight of A) using him in battle, and B) being able to call out, "Mr. Darcy! Horn Attack!!"
Roughing It in the Bush, Susanna Moodie
A Canadian classic about an English woman, well—roughing it in the bush. For non-Canadians reading this post, Susanna Moodie's often dragged out whenever we discuss the earliest examples of "Canadian literature" or authorship distinct to Canada's historical records, blah blah blah. Roughing It in the Bush is a written account of one woman's experience as a settler in Canada, which was a British colony at the time (approx. 1832). She more or less complains about how awful trip was and how awful her new home is. And then it ends.
I know, I know—I'm taking on literary titans with this prompt. I feel I ought to make amends at some point and list a few modern books I had trouble slogging through. For this morning, I'll have to leave it at that.
Now, how about you, dear reader? What books took an eternity to finish?