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never let me go. [books.]

“A good book is never exhausted. It goes on whispering to you from the wall.” – Anatole Broyard

That quote is on a bookmark I just got with the purchase of a book at the lovely Elliott Bay Book Co. I include it here because of how well it describes Kazuo Ishiguro’s remarkable novel, Never Let Me Go

There are simply some books that haunt me long after I put them down, the feelings and the characters take root deep inside and refuse to be finished with me when I’ve read the last page. This is the epitome of one of those books. I find myself, at random points in my day, feeling again the tragedy and profundity of this bizarre and ordinary story.

It was a book I purchased as a result of my attempt to find the best books of the last decade, which I describe in more detail here. It’s been on my ‘to read’ shelf for a while, but then my friend Kj saw the new movie adaptation and recommended via twitter that everyone go see it. Thus, wanting to read the book first, I pulled it off the shelf. It was the best decision I’ve made in some time, thanks to Kj for the assist.

The story is narrated by Kathy H., who refers to her occupation as a ‘carer,’ and relates to the reader the story of growing up at a secluded boarding school, Hailsham, in Great Britain. The novel follows the coming of age of Kathy H., and the two people closest to her, Tommy and Ruth.

Ishiguro takes a science fiction premise and makes it painfully commonplace, if you absolutely detest sci-fi, you’ll still love this book. I don’t want to spoil what the premise is, although you’ll probably figure out what’s going on pretty early on in the novel. It’s not some sort of twist that enjoyment of the novel hinges on or something, I just don’t want to ruin anyone’s ability to go in fresh.

You really should read this book. It ripped my heart out, but quietly, without melodrama or fanfare.

This was my first encounter with Ishiguro, I assure you it will not be the last.

 

 

 

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i kill giants. [graphic content.]

It’s really hard to explain why you need to read this book, but you do.

It is absolutely stunning. I literally knew nothing about it going into it, I saw it on a list of great graphic novels, the art looked intriguing, so I gave it a try. I am so very glad I did.

This story is heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s officially the first comic or graphic novel I cried reading.

Kelly and Niimura’s story is about a 5th grade girl determined to kill giants. I don’t want to give away any more details than that, but trust me when I say this is powerful storytelling about the real world.

It’s not hyperbole to say that stories like this make the world a better place. You should read this as soon as you can.

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the walking dead. [graphic content.]

Have you read The Walking Dead yet? If not, you are in for a big treat my friend. It’s a fantastic comic series written by Robert Kirkman about life after the zombie apocalypse. The main character is a police officer named Rick Grimes who gets shot in the line of duty, goes into a coma, and wakes up after the proverbial shit has hit the fan (a la 28 Days Later). It is the perfect way to introduce the series, because it’s about life after the zombie apocalypse, so using the coma technique is a clean way of allowing us to adjust to the post zombie world along with our hero.

The comic book/graphic novel medium is perfect for exploring this subject matter, because the story goes on and on, and thus it can take us so much deeper into the questions and metaphors inherent in the zombie genre.

There are tons of reasons why zombie stuff is great, but one of the more important reasons is that it is rife with metaphor at the heart of American culture. It wasn’t an accident that Romero set the sequel to Night of the Living Dead at a shopping mall.

At the moment, our culture is in the midst of this bizarre war where a huge portion of the population refuses to let go of American mythology from the 50’s. We have these ideas of what it means to be American, of what “real America” looks like, and while that ideal never existed, it is even more dangerous now because it should have died a long time ago, it’s alive and kicking even though it shouldn’t be, it is undead now. Actually, Bill Willingham used this as a tiny portion of his Fables storyline, and it was utterly brilliant, but Fables must be left for another post.

Zombies represent something terrifying because they are us. They are our fear of death, our fear of our appetites, our fear of the nagging thought in the back of our minds that we are our own worst enemy, that we will bring about our own destruction.

Yet, what are we left with on the other side of that? We play with the zombie genre, and lets say we make it to the other side of the cataclysm, doing our best to survive long term in a world overrun with a horde of the undead. Then what? Well, that’s what The Walking Dead offers a potential answer to. It’s a band of survivors trying to make life work, trying to keep their children safe, trying to fall in love and find a reason to wake up each day. If everything that we think makes up our world is taken from us, where do we go from there?

Kirkman’s writing is fantastic; tense, well paced, and constantly engaging. I almost always buy what characters are doing, how they are treating each other, etc. That’s rare.

Also, it just may be the best panel work I’ve seen. The art is all black and white, and the way Kirkman and Tony Moore, followed by Charlie Adlard, lay out the panels is perfect. It’s sparse, often with very little going on within each page, creating a great relationship between the story and the art. Also, they avoid the common pitfall of accidently giving away a big moment by placing a full panel event on the right page. What I mean is that so often I accidently learn something I don’t want to know when I turn the page, because as your turn a page you see page 35 on your right before you look back to 34 on your left. If there is this huge, full color death scene (or whatever) before my eyes as I turn the page, I can’t help but see it, so even though I haven’t read the stuff on the left, I know what happens on the next page. In The Walking Dead I am consistently impressed that they build up the big moment, and then make you turn the page to see what happened. It seems like it would be a simple, obvious thing to make work, but it is rare in my experience. They take the medium seriously, and realize what the reading experience will be like.

I really love this series. In the coming world, post Z-Day, the undead won’t be our only enemies. Other humans in the world, people in our own group of survivors, even our own sanity and grip on reality becomes tenuous and dangerous. Kirkman engages the potential for story in this realm with great attention to detail, honesty, impressive character psychologies, and gifted artistic help. You should read these! (And watch the show on AMC when it finally arrives in October).

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wolverine: old man logan. [graphic content.]

I love it when people take a well-known, fictional universe, and then imagine a dream or nightmare scenario that turns the whole thing on its head. When this sort of thing is done poorly, it rightfully draws the scorn of those who love said fictional universe. However, when it is done well it can be loads of fun.

This sort of thing happens most often in the wonderful world of comic books. The long-term, serial nature of comics makes them the best medium for asking, “Hey, what do you think would happen if [insert insane hypothetical situation]?” I have my own idea for a just such a situation, a whole story arc that imagines what Bruce Wayne would be like if his parents had lived. What would the ‘world’s greatest detective’ look like without all that misplaced rage, guilt and insane drive to repair what can’t be fixed. Yet, that is for another post.

One of the masters of the sort of imaginings mentioned above is Mr. Mark Millar. He brought us Superman: Red Son, wondering what the Man of Steel, and the world, would be like if Kal-El had landed in the U.S.S.R., instead of the United States. He brought us Civil War, in which the US government passes a law forcing all superheroes to present themselves for registration. Heroes take sides on the pro-reg and anti-reg sides, and all hell breaks loose.

Recently, thanks to the Seattle Public Library, I got my hands on a copy of the fairly recent, Wolverine: Old Man Logan. In this, we move two generations into the future. That is, two generations after the bad guys finally realized there are, like, 20 villains to every one superhero, joined together, and took over the world. We find Logan as a simple farmer and family man in California, or, what used to be California. He does nothing at all to set things right. Why? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

I can’t go into much more detail than that without ruining some enjoyable twists and plot developments. Suffice it to say, it’s a really fun read, albeit, a noticeably darker and more violent one than is often the case, provided by one of the best writers working today, tackling one of the best heroes comics has ever had to offer.

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