miércoles, 29 de marzo de 2017

Binge reading graphic novels

So here's the thing: I never really got into comics other than Mortadelo y Filemón and despite reading across the board, never really became a fan of graphic novels. That being said, I've always recognized that there are true gems out there, so I've read a few graphic novels and memoirs here and there. A fe weeks ago, I was staying at David James Keaton's house and started reading Torso. I liked it. Then, last weekend, I decided to stop reading the dozen books I'm currently reading and binge read graphic stuff. I went to the Yarborough Library, where I wrote my dissertation and most of Hungry Darkness and Zero Saints, and picked up Steve Niles/Nat Jone's Giant Monster, Joe Casey/Steve Parkhouse's The Milkman Murders, Gilbert Hernandez's Julio's Day, Evie Wylde/Joe Sumner's Everything is Teeth, and Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches. I added two I owned to the pile: Corinne Maier/Anna Simon's Einstein and Jonathan Ames/Dean Haspiel's The Alcoholic. Between Saturday and Sunday, I devoured all seven. Here are my impressions:

 - Steve Niles/Nat Jones' Giant Monster: Short and violent, but kinda silly and very predictable. For fans of graphic stuff, Niles is a household name, so I'm guessing this is one of his weakest outings. Not much of a plot and too many cliches to be great. Verdict: 4/10.

- Joe Casey/Steve Parkhouse's The Milkman Murders. Smart, hyperviolent, and dark. I really dug it. They take suburbian households and expose their sometimes rotten core. I also really liked having a older mom as the (anti)hero. The intro sucked and kinda made Casey look like an ass. Verdict: 7.5/10.

- Gilbert Hernández's Julio's Day. Great concept. It packs an entire lifetime of 100 years into a graphic novel you can read in one sitting. It also deals with changing societal views of things like Mexicans and homosexuality without going too deep into it, which made it feel like an organic approach. Sad and full of death. Less characters would've been better, just like less focus on some scenes/themes. Bonus points for having an intro by the great Brian Evenson. Verdict: 7/10.

- Evie Wyld/Joe Sumner's Everything is Teeth. A heartfelt look at life and the passage of time...but with motherfucking sharks. Unique and gory. I liked how Wyld framed her childhood around one thing in order to make it very digestible. Verdict: 8/10.

-  Jacques Tardi's It Was the War of the Trenches. A labor of love. Great art. Dark. Too disjointed for my taste. It's incredible that Tardi writes and illustrates his stuff. This was the longest and most text-heavy of all the books. I think Tardi is a novelist who just likes to illustrate. I'll definitely read more of his work, but this one was all over the place. Verdict: 6/10.

- Corinne Maier/Anna Simon's Einstein. Surprisingly well researched, honest, and fun. A great graphic biography. They weren't afraid to tackle his work, personal life, and even his flaws with equal wit and candor. Verdict: 9/10.

- Jonathan Ames/Dean Haspiel's The Alcoholic. I think all graphic novels (and this one is kinda of a memoir, too) should be like this. This is a superb/gritty/honest look at loss, ego, writing, addiction, and love. As funny and touching as it is sad and depressive. Probably my favorite of the seven. Verdict: 9/10.

So, the thing is that I planned on doing this for a weekend and moving on, but I had a blast. It was a strange break from my usual weekend reading, so I decided to do it three or four times this year. That will also (hopefully) help me read way more than 200 books this year. Don't worry, I'll be honest and tell you which were graphic novels/memoirs when I publish my list at the end of the year. In any case, the upcoming weekend looked mellow, so I went to the library again today (a different branch) and picked up Emily Carroll's Through the Woods, Alfred and Oliver Ka's Why I Killed Peter, Gilbert Hernández's Speak of the Devil, H.P. Lovecraft/N.J. Culbard's At the Mountains of Madness, Si Spurrier/P.J. Holden's Numbercruncher, Jacques Tardi/Benjamin Legrand/Dominique Grange's New York Mon Amour. If I read them all, I have more onmy bookshelves. Now tell me what are some of your favorites that you think I should check out. Happy reading.

miércoles, 8 de marzo de 2017

Guide to writing your fifth novel

Guide to writing your fifth novel (yeah, it only works for the fifth one...and your mileage may vary):
1. Stand in the middle of the road in a strange part of town and scream "Everything's a construct!" at the top of your lungs.
2. Read amazing novels and get angry because you'll never be that good and maybe no one loves you.
3. Get inside your blood. Find the ghosts that ride your veins and fight them.
4. Pull your deepest fears outta the bottom drawer of your soul and staple them to your face with the sharpened bones of tiny birds.
5. Listen to your favorite music. Then listen to something impossibly darker. Listen to something new. Listen to something awful and scary. Listen to the ominous silence.
6. Eat tacos and ponder life without soy sauce.
7. Remind yourself of every fight, every accident, every dance with absolute fear, every instance in which a fucking gun made an unexpected appearance, every night spent pressing your tongue against the blood clots on the inside of your lips, every broken promise, every drop of anger, every death that crushed you, every spirit you've ever felt.
8. Punch a wall until your knuckles bleed. Lick the blood off your knuckles. Punch the wall some more. Remember no one owes you a thing. Smile. Pick up a gutter flower and put it in your hair.
9. Type as if the keyboard owed you money. When you hit a passage that means something, hold your breath.
10. Reply to the voices. Recognize aliens are real. They live in the closet and come out to watch you sleep sometimes. Scream at the moon. Understand that, if there is a hell, its fire is nothing compared to what you hide underneath your skin. Obsess about everything. Cry without shedding any tears. Finish the damn thing. Move on to the next one with a new set of neon scars.