Literary Review

Influential Comic Book Returns in Hardcover

watchmenWatchmen: Hardcover Edition
By Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons (DC Comics)

Whenever a new comic book-inspired movie is a big hit, comic book stores report that sales of that hero’s books often spike. Which is why, this past summer, books by Batman, Iron Man, and The Hulk did brisk business. But so too did another comic, one that won’t be seen on the big screen until March of next year, but got a bump nonetheless when its trailer appeared both online and at the San Diego Comic Con: Watchmen, the groundbreaking 1986/86 graphic novel by writer Alan Moore (From Hell, V for Vendetta) and artist Dave Gibbons (Give Me Liberty, Captain America). Though this book has often been called “unfilmable,” and not just by Moore, the rather impressive trailer got enough fans so excited that the book started flying off store shelves. Read more »

Buggered, Bored and Crucified

dandy-in-the-underworld-bookDandy in the Underworld
by Sebastian Horsely (Sceptre)

Some books make promises they fail to keep, drawing the reader into a disappointing experience that, like many affairs, should have been abandoned long before the bitter end. Sebastian Horsley has created such a piece of literary malpractice. Dandy in the Underworld begins like a more modern Naked Civil Servant, a book which it constantly references to the point of laziness and theft, but hasn't the intellect to better. Read more »

Playing With Loaded Guns

casualty-of-warA Casualty Of War: The Arcadia Book of Gay Short Stories
Edited by Peter Burton (Arcadia Books)

In this post Will and Grace, Queer Eye, Broke Back Mountain world, where gay is the new black, and every home should at least know one, a "Gay" anthology seems a little like a quaintly queer idea. However since being homosexual, to twist Graucho Marx, consists largely of being the member of a club you didn't initially want to be a member of, especially if you come from a small town, or live in a tough part of any major metropolis, such projects retain a fundamental necessity. Read more »

DFW RIP

david-foster-wallaceIt's been nearly two weeks since the suicide of David Foster Wallace and besides the shock, what's been rattling round in my head is the question, what would he have written next? The stories untold. The blank essays. I was wondering, even before he died, how DFW was going to respond to the well-meaning blast he got from critic James Wood in Wood's marvelous recent book, How Fiction Works,. Wood was too smart to go snarky on Wallace (and as much as confessed to it not hours after the news) and Wallace was too smart not to ingest the knowledge and spin it into something unseen, and wonderful. At least that's what I hoped. Now, I know. We won't hear anything. Read more »

Let's Hear It for the Writing Guy

three-balconies

by Bruce Jay Friedman (Biblioasis)

Time was serious writers wrote to entertain audiences. Not entertain in the "anything for a laugh" style we're so accustomed to, but to move, to captivate, to probe, to scare, to inspire, to confuse. From Dickens to Tolstoy to Chandler to O'Connor to Lardner to Dahl to, even, Hemingway, these artists used stories and storytelling to get to people. These days movies, and mostly crappy movies, have taken over this role. Read more »

The Dark Sixties

sway-bookSway by Zachary Lazar (Little, Brown)

Flower Power.

Ychhh? Yes.

Lame? Well, yes and no. It never would have sprouted without its dark side.

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Enigmatic Celibate

morrissey-tonyMeetings With Morrissey
by Len Brown (Omnibus Books)

For an artist who has widely shared his heroes, his obsessions, and his occasional anger, Morrissey remains an enigma, retaining a certain aura of mystery one normally associates with a different era. He is a rock original who has no rock and roll habits. He doesn't do drugs or drink to excess. A vocal vegetarian and a man who has a way with words, he is the ultimate iconic ironic. A man who lives in the heads of his fans, but remains myth-like and remote. A familiar stranger. Read more »

Strangely Drawn to Freddie

freddie_dawson

by Mike Dawson (Bloomsbury USA) 

In many ways, it was Rock 'n' Roll that turned comic books into graphic novels. Even before R. Crumb quite knew what he was doing, and even though his tastes run more toward 78s from the torrid climes, the liberating force, the form meets content of Rock -- the sheer, in-your-face, ugly-beautiful, smart-simple, visceral appeal infiltrated his work. Here you could write, and draw, and the feeling that resulted was a true one plus one equals three equation. Read more »

Reimagining The Beatles

magic_circles_beatlesMagic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History
by Devin McKinney (Harvard University Press, 2004)

What do toilets, holes, mutation, meat and Yellow Submarines have in common? In the mind of Devin McKinney, these are the overarching themes of The Beatles' journey, both performed and recorded, from Liverpool to Hamburg to Liverpool to America to Japan to the Philippines to America and back to England. And what's truly extraordinary is, he makes an excellent case. Read more »

All Things Must Pass

the_leopardThe Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (Pantheon Books)

Rejected as being unpublishable, The Leopard, a short book written from a perspective of privilege concerning a time of change, seemed destined to be lost with the death of its author in 1957, at the age of sixty. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, an urbane Sicilian, a prince with a palace in Palermo, lived in Paris and London, but always maintained a strong love and association for the island of his birth. Read more »

Pop Art Goes Bang!

valerie_solonas_scumFame as an afterthought to madness. Valerie Solanas 1936-1988.

Once upon a time, and not so very long ago, things took slower turns and more leisurely dives. Fame was usually a gradually developing state of grace or disgrace. Celebrity consisting largely of being noticed and the need for that desire to be fulfilled. It was about doing something worthy of note. It now consists of of shameless bravado. The right dress, the wrong drug or sex tape. Feeble-minded efforts at being seen or commented upon. Blame Madonna or the Spice Girls, Michael Jackson or Britney Spears. Or simply blame fame. Read more »

That Always Fatal Waltz with Time

diana_athillSomewhere Towards the End
by Diana Athill (Granta)

Age is not a popular topic in literature. When young, it seems too distant, once old it looms too near, so it is sparingly used, the full picture being perceived as too grim and too painful for prolonged attention. There is also the distinct likelihood that being caught up in the process, one is rendered incapable of annotating the experience. Read more »

A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll

andrew_cover

Nancy Lee Andrews  
A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll
(Dalton Watson Fine Books)

In 1969, Nancy Lee Andrews worked for the world renowned Ford Modeling Agency. "I was the tall, All-American dark girl, different from Penelope Tree, my contemporary, who was edgy." Andrews' entry into the music business soon followed. The Fillmore East had just opened in the East Village, featuring acts like The Association, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Leon Russell, Freddy King, The Cream, Hendrix, and a close friend mentioned they could gain access to the club through the back door.

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Poet, Bum and Fool

joe_goulds_secretJoe Gould's Secret
by Joseph Mitchell (Vintage)

Some characters are a writer's once-in-a-lifetime gift. In Joseph Mitchell's case, his came in the bedraggled guise of Joe Gould, a Harvard-educated Bowery bum and panhandler. At times a likeable rogue, at others a Grade A pain in the ass, Gould was served well by the generous attention that Mitchell afforded him. Read more »

My Tolstoy Year

war_and_peaceTwenty-five hundred pages or so later, I sit at the end of the year dumbfounded as to how I'm supposed to concoct a best of 2007 list. I'm obsessed with the best of 1868 or of 1873 or 1855 -- or, should I say, of ever. And I'm not alone. By dint of Kismet, it seems I wasn't the only one having a Tolstoy year in 2007. Something about the soundbiting and youtubing of our collective sensibility sent others to the Count. This fall marked the publication of a massive, drum roll please, lauded, heralded, dissected and mightily worthy, translation of War and Peace by the indefatigable husband and wife team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Read more »

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