Another Friday, another links round-up. This week I had some super good chili and spoke with a sternness to my elected senator at a town hall. What’s your week been like? Regardless I have brought you this links round-up for your enjoyment, and I hope that your weekend is full of sunshine and baby kisses.
Why yes I WOULD care for a Frankenstein story by Victor Lavalle that also pulls in the Black Lives Matter movement. THANK YOU FOR ASKING.
Angelica Jade Bastien on Legion (mm, yes, this is the review I was waiting for).
Even when the world is garbage, I still enjoy a celebrity Twitter feud. Have you been following the one between Piers Morgan and JK Rowling? It’s gold, and Piers Morgan’s son weighing in is the best thing about it.
You have to know about this territory called Neutral Moresnet that Belgium and Prussia owned jointly for a century. Zinc and Esperanto are involved.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has some feelings about La La Land and white dudes in jazz. Can I just say that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s encore career as a cultural critic is one of my favorite things in this life? Have I said that before? IT REMAINS TRUE.
The critical discourse around Jordan Peele’s new horror film Get Out has been ON POINT. Here’s Jordan Crucchiola at Vulture on how it makes “good” white ladies terrifying. Here’s Frederick McKindra, a Buzzfeed News Emerging Writer Fellow (yay for new critics!), on how the movie allows black men to be scared rather than scary. If you’ve seen this movie please get at me in the comments so I can ask you questions about how torturey it gets.
1. “A Whole New World” – Pick a book that made you see the world differently.
This may not count, because I barely saw the world at all prior to reading these books. However, I’m still choosing the Chronicles of Narnia. My mother read these books to me and my sister starting when I was three, so there’s not much in my life that didn’t get put through the Chronicles of Narnia goggles. I still experience quite the frisson when I see a lamp-post. Esp in the snow.
2. “Cruella De Vil” – Pick your favorite villain.
Gotta be the other mother from Coraline. In case she’s been missing from your nightmares lately, permit me to refresh your memory: SHE HAS BUTTONS FOR EYES.
3. “I Won’t Say I’m in Love – Pick a book you didn’t want to admit you loved.
Honestly, as I get older and older, I am less and less closety about reading non-prestigious things. I’m going to say P. C. Wren’s Beau Geste and its sequels. They are those Edwardian-era adventure novels that are ideologically troubling on, like, a lot of levels? My fave is problematic.
4. “Gaston” – Pick a character that you couldn’t stand.
The thing is that I love Gaston. Instead of picking a character I couldn’t stand, I shall pick a character who I would hate in real life, but because they’re fictional, I get a huge kick out of spending time with them. And I choose Henry Winter from The Secret History. That dude is creepy? Yet so plausible that he’s capable of convincing people to commit legit murder.
5. “Part of Your World” – Pick a book set in a universe you wish you could live in.
OBVIOUSLY HARRY POTTER.
6. “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Describe what the book of your dreams would be like.
Gosh. What would it be like. It would probably have a boarding school. Maybe there would be a dystopian situation? Like a boarding school in a dystopian universe? Plus with lady characters forming bonds and showing up for each other?
7. “Someday My Prince Will Come” – What book character would you marry if you could.
Sherry from Greensleeves.Greensleeves is an amazing book by Eloise Jarvis McGraw that people do not appreciate enough even though it is now available for purchase through your favorite online retailer. Sherry from Greensleeves is curious about everything, reads constantly, and pays attention to other people. Best.
8. “I See the Light” – Pick a book that changed your life.
Oo tough one! Let’s say, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. They at least changed my reading life. Prior to reading Sandman, I was not a comics gal. If you’re not a comics gal, I do not recommend making Sandman your gateway drug. It has kind of a challenging panel structure. However, if you do make it through ten volumes of Sandman, you will come out the other end a legit comics gal. So it was with me.
9. “When You Wish upon a Star” – Pick a book you wish you could reread for the first time.
Jane Eyre. Of course, Jane Eyre. No, it’s not my favorite book of all time, but it’s not not my favorite book of all time, and reading it for the first time was, and would always be, an incredible experience.
10. “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – Pick a book with some kind of monarchy in it.
How about Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall? I read this last year and was surprised to find that it’s wonderful! Mantel is brilliant at bringing historical figures to life, even ones who are larger than life in the first place like Henry VIII. WHY MUST ANNE BOLEYN DIE IN THE SECOND BOOK WHY OH GOD.
11. “Colors of the Wind” – Pick a book with a beautiful colorful cover.
Maggie Stiefvater’s Blue Lily Lily Blue. All of the books in this series actually! But Blue Lily Lily Blue has to be the most beautifulest one of all!
Lindy West recently departed Jezebel for GQ, a move about which I said, “Huh.” But it all seems to be gold so far; here she is on the “BASICALLY SEX CHRISTMAS” represented by the new standards for consent in California colleges.
JK Rowling, presumably missing the days when she got to fuck with us regularly, took some time out of her busy schedule to fuck with us last week with the following confusing tweet:
Cry, foe! Run amok! Fa awry! My wand won’t tolerate this nonsense.
I let the internet get on with its regularly scheduled dithering, and waited for the result. The internet unscrambled it in the end: “Newt only meant to stay in New York for a few hours.” Thanks, internet. I knew I could depend on you.
Everyone always wails and screams about children’s and YA fiction being too dark already, so I don’t know what would be so different about publishing more nonfiction for children and young adults. This NY Times article is kind of dismissive of nonfiction for younger readers, but I think it’s a huge gap and we need to fill it.
Speaking of YA, The New Statesman‘s Elizabeth Minkel argues that the anti-YA crowd often tends to lean in the direction of viewing reading as a solitary activity, whereas the YA fans tend to think of it as a group thing. Interesting theory!
Neil Gaiman talks about how to become a writer, and emphasizes the importance of having lady writers on Doctor Who. And he also thinks that “fake geek” trope is bullshit.
In other representation news, apparently Jill Soloway and Jenji Kohan had a fascinating discussion about diversity in writers’ rooms at the New Yorker Festival, and I am dying to see a video or read a transcript. If anyone has seen such a thing, please link me! So far it’s been cast in clickbaity clash terms, and it may have been very clashy. But I would like to see the full thing.
I wanted this to be an article making fun of Anne Rice, because I am an uncharitable person and I find Anne Rice deeply annoying. Instead, it’s like really positive on her. Whatever.
Women in Clothes is an amazing website (and I’m sure the book is also super amazing!) where you can see what dozens and dozens of women have to say about clothes, what their clothes say about them, and what they see when they look at other women’s clothes. You can also take the survey yourself!
I have been reading to Social Sister for more than eighteen years now — off more than on, since we went to college, just as a function of our never being in the same place for very long, but still: Eighteen years. A whole person who can vote. She got brainwashed early into thinking this was a good form of entertainment, and I enjoy it because there is nothing quite like seeing someone else experience a book you love in real time.
Anyway, we just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I was reading for the first time while I was reading it to her. I’ve finally read it now!, and hence, I shall tell you about the time I met Neil Gaiman at an event pertaining to the 2013 release of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. (No pictures, I’m afraid! They might have been allowed (I can’t remember, actually), but I hate pictures of myself too much to have even considered taking any.) There was a talk first, in which Neil Gaiman issued a rousing endorsement of semicolons, and then I did a thing I have never done, which was to stand in line to have a book signed.
I had brought Reflections on the Magic of Writing, a book of Diana Wynne Jones essays to which Neil Gaiman wrote a foreword. When I gave it to Neil Gaiman to sign and told him (though probably very incoherently) why I wanted him to sign it, he said, “I miss her. I wanted to give this book [The Ocean at the End of the Lane] to her when it was finished. I think it’s more like hers than others I’ve written.”
I wanted to say “Yes, it sounds like it is very her; her books are all about the way children understand things.” I said probably some very stammery incoherent version of that instead; and Neil Gaiman said, “I think it’s quite like Time of the Ghost in some ways.”
Fact about me: When someone mentions a lesser-known book of Diana Wynne Jones to me (such as Time of the Ghost), I lose all reason. Ask my friends if you don’t believe me. I did it this time too. I shrieked “I LOVE TIME OF THE GHOST I JUST READ TIME OF THE GHOST,” which is true and is what I would have said to anyone; but it was embarrassing because I wanted to be cool 100% of the time I was talking to Neil Gaiman and shrieky 0% of the time. So then I was embarrassed and I said thank you and left.
Oh well. You cannot be cool all the time, especially if you actually are not cool. I am pleased to know that Neil Gaiman thinks that The Ocean at the End of the Lane is quite like Time of the Ghost in some ways. It pleases me in the way that I am always pleased when somebody says something that displays the same affectionate and easy level of familiarity with Diana Wynne Jones’s oeuvre that 1) I have; and 2) is her due because she is an amazingly gifted writer and her books should be standard childhood books that all children read. Except it made me happier in this case than usual because it was an author I also love who was saying it.
And now I have told you about it (over a year later). And hopefully when you have read The Ocean at the End of the Lane (or before then!), you will think, “Oh, I am intrigued by the stated similarity to Time of the Ghost. I had better rush out and read Time of the Ghost, a book I now know is Neil Gaiman-endorsed.”
This week on the Reading the End Bookcast, we welcome special guest star Julia of The Card Catalog, and recurring guest star Randon, as we talk about comics once again! On the docket this time are Scott McCloud’s wonderful nonfiction book Understanding Comics (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) and Neil Gaiman’s foundational comic book Sandman. You can listen to the podcast in the embedded player below or download the file directly here to take with you on the go.
Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).
Here are the contents of the podcast if you’d like to skip around:
Starting at 1:08: We discuss Understanding Comics and the ways it helped us or didn’t help us. Here’s the more in-depth “picture plane”, if you want to see what we’re talking about. If you’re interested in reading the interview with Brian Vaughn that I mention, head over to the AV Club and check it out.
Starting somewhere between 14:00 and 15:00 but it’s tough to say exactly where because my segue is JUST SO SMOOTH: The discussion of Sandman: Overture and a few issues of classic Sandman commences. If you’re interested in knowing which issues I’d have chosen given my druthers, I’d have selected “The Sound of Her Wings” (still); “Calliope”; “The Parliament of Rooks”; “A Tale of Two Cities”; and that one issue from “The Wake” where Hob Gadling is at the Renaissance Festival complaining about how the real Renaissance had a lot more poop and plague everywhere. Here is the Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem classic “Don’t Blame the Dynamite.” They come up in the Sandman conversation, but mainly I just want you to have that.
16:05: The Hugo and Nebula Awards are not the same thing. In any case, neither of those awards is the one that was won by Neil Gaiman’s Sandman issue “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” That issue won a World Fantasy Award. I was just completely wrong about this. I’m sorry.
34:39: Randon is such a guy right here.
38:05: Public service announcement: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on board to produce the Sandman movie. I did not really know that this was in his area of interest, because I didn’t see any of those Batman movies.
40:12: Here are the Lil Endless, as delightful as ever they were:
41:14: For next time, Whiskey Jenny has recommended that we read Eleanor Catton’s award-winning novel The Luminaries. Woohoo! Enormously long book alert! I am not the only one who picks tremendously long books!
Starting at 42:56: Closing remarks and outro. I am a jerk and did not mention Randon in the outro. I’m the worst. We love having Randon on the podcast too! Obviously! But he feels less like a guest because he’s always there when we record a podcast. And what with one thing and another, I forgot to thank him for joining us. I’m sorry, Randon! Thanks for joining us for this podcast!
Credits Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Song is by Jeff MacDougall and comes from here.
See me starting challenges all over the place? It’s a new year and I am on the ball.
The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch, Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli
I didn’t start out my Graphic Novels Challenge reading with quite the satisfactory bang that I was hoping for (probably because I didn’t start by doing the January mini-challenge but OH that is all about to change). The Facts, etc., etc., disappointed me. Illustrated by Michael Zulli, this graphic novel tells the tale of a strange night out, with a strange woman whose real name wasn’t Miss Finch. The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch is a good title, if you’re writing that sort of story, edged with primness rather than ferality. I thought maybe Gaiman was intending to play up the contrast? But it didn’t really work.
Essentially (spoilers for the whole!), Miss Finch likes sabre-toothed tigers; she goes out with the narrator and his friends; they all see a very strange circus; and she gets transported back in time to live with (and boss around) sabre-toothed tigers. And then everyone goes home and thinks about how strange it all was. As a short story, this is already rather thinly plotted. Put it into comic book form and publish it as a hardback, it just (of course) makes this problem more noticeable. Then of course, the whole thing is framed by the narrator’s remembering it, and it hardly seems worth remembering.
Not that – well, I mean, obviously if that happened in real life, you’d remember it and talk about it a lot. It’s not every day that you go out with a woman and she gets zapped back in time and prevents sabre-toothed tigers from eating you all up, and then trots back into prehistoric times to hang out there forever. But that’s all that happens. The story is more about the setting, than the plot, and although Michael Zulli is a good illustrator and makes a very beautiful setting, that doesn’t make up for how essentially dull it is. Nothing happens to the narrator at all. You are never in fear of their lives or anything. I just – I know that Neil Gaiman can do creepy stories, and the reason I know that is that I’ve read Coraline. I wanted The Facts – that title is ridiculously long – I wanted the book to be creepy, and it was dull instead. Bah. Plus, I’ve read this Gaiman story before, with the theatre show. Several times. Better versions.
Ordinary Victories, Manu Larcenet
Onward to Ordinary Victories: What Is Precious, which I got for Christmas from my lovely mum and dad (along with the original Ordinary Victories, which I reread and found to be as wonderful as I had initially thought it was). I shall have spoilers in this review, for the first volume as well as the second. The protagonist’s father has just committed suicide (this happened towards the end of Ordinary Victories), and he, his brother, and his mother are all struggling to come to terms with that. Marc’s girlfriend Emily is longing for a child, and Marc himself is still not sure of his place in the world – as a son or a potential father or an artist. Which is to say, many of the same elements that I so loved in Ordinary Victories were present in What Is Precious, especially the juxtaposition of very strong emotions with the tiny details of everyday life.
I didn’t like it quite as much as the first volume, though, and I’m not sure why. Maybe because I had expectations going into the second volume that weren’t present for the first. Marc and Emily’s having a kid shifted the tone of the book. I loved how Ordinary Victories was able to contain a lot of important, difficult issues, without giving the impression that it was Addressing and Attempting to Resolve them. Once the kid shows up in What Is Precious, though, I lose all patience for the characters’ indecision and uncertainty. That sounds very intolerant of me. Another possibility is that I was cranky after reading Slaughterhouse Five. I should have read The Ask and the Answer next, as a palate cleanser, and proceeded to What Is Precious subsequently.
Have you read either of these? Let me know and I’ll put a link!
Imagine my surprise when I discovered this at the bookshop! The American bookshop because the book is here in America now! Who knew? It’s thrilling! Odd and the Frost Giants is about a boy called Odd who has bad luck. His father has drowned, and his stepfather doesn’t much care for him, and an accident with a tree has left him with serious and lasting injuries to one of his legs. He runs away from home, into the forest, where he meets a bear, a fox, and an eagle, who actually are Thor, Loki, and Odin, cast out of Asgard by a Frost Giant who has Thor’s hammer and wants to marry Freya. Odd helps.
Illustrated by Brett Helquist, who did the illustrations for Lemony Snicket’s books as well, Odd and the Frost Giants is probably the most cheerful and charming of all Neil Gaiman’s books, excepting I suppose Blueberry Girl. It’s short and leaves you (leaves me, anyway) wanting to see more of clever, perceptive Odd. I like it when characters are able to sort things out using only their words – mainly because, I guess, I myself feel very strongly that most things could be sorted out with words, if people would only cooperate. The end was neat, but not too neat – exactly neat enough for the length and tone of the book, I felt. Neil Gaiman has said that he has more stories about Odd to tell. Hope so!
I have noticed that British authors seem to really love Norse mythology – Neil Gaiman returns to it again and again, Tolkien obviously loved it, and Diana Wynne Jones works it into her stories too. To me, Norse mythology is just okay, definitely inferior to the cool and exciting Greek and Roman mythology. Is this because I didn’t grow up with Norse myths? Do you love Norse myths, hate them, or not care? Is there a particularly wonderful Norse myth you want to tell me about that could serve as my Norse mythology gateway drug?
This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
So here are my fifteen books that will always stick with me, more or less in the order in which they entered my life:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte Emily Climbs, L.M .Montgomery Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Macbeth, William Shakespeare
The Chosen, Chaim Potok
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
Greensleeves, Eloise Jarvis McGraw American Gods, Neil Gaiman The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
Showings, Julian of Norwich The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie
These are all books that left me breathless. Is that what we were after?
For a quick interlude between new books, I paused and reread Death: The High Cost of Living. Neil Gaiman has written two graphic novels about Death, and this one’s the one that’s actually about Death. Although Death: The Time of Your Life is also very, very good. In this one, we get the story of how Death becomes a human once every century, for one day. This time, she meets a bored, slightly suicidal kid called Sexton Furnival, and they go around town looking for fun. They look for the heart of an old, old woman called Mad Hettie, and they see the very first gig of a singer called Foxglove (singing, incidentally, the Flash Girls’ “Sonnet in the Dark” under a different title, about which I was briefly outraged before I remembered that Neil Gaiman wrote the lyrics for “Sonnet in the Dark” so can hardly be accused of plagiarism), and they have some trouble with a crazy man called the Eremite who wants to keep Death captive.
This is one of the first graphic novels I ever read – actually, I believe I read it before I read the Sandman – and it’s a good way to ease yourself into graphic novels. It’s well-illustrated, and it’s a sweet story.
Let’s have a bit of rejoicing for him! The Graveyard Book won the Newbery!
Couldn’t have happened to a nicer book. I’m so pleased. SometimestheNewberybooksareshockingcrap. The Graveyard Book is delightful. Everyone should recognize that Neil Gaiman is a genius. Everyone everywhere. There should be a rule. Hurrah!