Two books I didn’t like (sad, sad)

I put the words “sad, sad” in the title line here, but that was silly.  I am not sad at all.  I am still very happy, because as you may recall, THE SAINTS WON THE SUPER BOWL, causing me to tear up happily every time Drew Brees opens his mouth (he’s such a sweet dear) or every time I see a picture of all the confetti and rejoicing.  And everyone is all “If only my daddy were alive to see this day,” and New Orleans is throwing the biggest party possibly every thrown, like even bigger than that party in “Death in Venice” with the elephants, and somebody predicted on Saturday that Porter would not be able to block Wayne effectively, and (he did though)—

(Dear Crazy Jenny, Hush about the Super Bowl.  Kisses, Sane Jenny)

So here are some books that I did not enjoy so far in February.

Clara Callan, Richard B. Wright

When I first read about this book, I discovered within myself a love for epistolary novels that was greater (I thought) than my unlove of novels set during the Great Depression. But do you know, I was completely wrong.  I mean if there was ever going to be a Great Depression book that I could manage, it should have been this one.  It is epistolary, it focuses on the relationship between two sisters, and one of the sisters becomes, I swear to you, a radio soap opera star in New York.  Those are some ingredients that should mix together to create a book that I would love – but they did not.

So I’m swearing off Great Depression books forever, unless you tell me with great conviction that you have a Great Depression book that transcends its Great Depression-ness and manages to be amazing anyway.  And not dreary.  And it obviously can’t be set in England or it doesn’t count.  Any thoughts?

Other reviews:

an adventure in reading
Books for Breakfast
Kristina’s Book Blog

Gray Horses, Hope Larson

I read this for the Graphic Novel Challenge, making it my one, two, third book read for the Graphic Novel Challenge, and the second one about which I was just not that crazy.  I wanted to like it because I have read nice things about Hope Larson’s Salamander Dreams, which the library didn’t have but they did have this.  Lesley read it and said there wasn’t enough to it, for a book, and I said, I don’t care what you think, I’m reading it anyway.  And no, she was totally right.  There is not enough to it.

Noemie is a French exchange student trying to find her way in an American city, and she has vivid dreams where she has a horse and helps a kid.  Back in real life, she makes a friend, and a dude follows her and takes her picture and leaves the pictures for her to find, which she finds sweet.  That is not romantic at all; it is completely creepy.  In fact I always felt that the creepiest deed committed by the Big Bad Villain of Season Two of Buffy was when he drew pictures of her sleeping and left them on her pillow.  This doesn’t feel so different from that; except that when the Big Bad Villain of Season Two of Buffy behaved in this manner, steps were taken.

I read this for the February mini-challenge, graphic novels with animals in, hosted by (fellow Louisianian & Super Bowl celebrator & I’m really shutting up about this now) Chris at Stuff as Dreams Are Made On.  But I am going to read that Darwin book if I can get it, and that will be for the mini-challenge too and hopefully I will enjoy it more.

Other reviews:

A Life in Books
A Striped Armchair
The Zen Leaf

Tell me if I missed yours!

P.S. Okay, I am a little bit sad.  A very little bit sad, though still mostly happy about the Saints.  I am a little sad because I found out today that I didn’t get into one of my grad schools.  Mostly I am still pleased about the Saints, and I reminded myself of this by watching Porter and Shockey give man hugs, and by watching Drew Brees holding his little son.  But a small part of me is a bit sad that I didn’t get into one of my grad schools.

Tricked, Alex Robinson

My graphic novel experiments continue!  I checked this out because I opened it up and I liked some of the things the artist did with panels.  I still do actually – there’s a page I remember, where the whole page is the character’s face, and it’s broken up into panels with dialogue across it.  It’s a good effect, how the dialogue washes across the character as he’s deep in thought.  Maybe it’s because I read Scott McCloud’s books, or maybe it’s because there were some rather flashy art choices (not flashy in a bad way!), but I noticed panel divisions and art tricks a lot more, reading Tricks, than I have in past graphic novel readings.

Tricked is about a number of people – a musician, Ray Beam, who hasn’t recorded an album in years; a pretty girl called Lily who becomes his personal assistant (with or without quotation marks); a waitress called Caprice who’s looking for luuuuv; a girl who comes to find her long-lost father; a fantastically boring forger in a pawn shop; and a schizophrenic IT guy called Steve who has gone off his meds.

I don’t know.  I enjoyed reading this, I guess,  but I didn’t really care what happened to any of the characters.  They were cardboard cutouts of Types, I thought, and not much happened to make them more interesting.  A lot of the situations seemed far-fetched, and just became more so as the story went on.  Even when the characters themselves acknowledged the craziness of their lives, it didn’t make their lives any less implausibly crazy.  When I finished the book, I felt like I had been waiting for better things.

The art was excellent though.  Really.  I think the reason I finished the book at all was that the art was very cool.  Lots of good tricks (tricks, Tricked, ya see what I did there?) with the panels, and with making the pictures and dialogue work together.  I love that stuff.

If you reviewed this let me know and I will link to yours!

French Milk, Lucy Knisley

This was a gift that I bought for someone’s birthday, and I read it before I gave it to my friend.  I’m sorry! In my defense, I read it incredibly carefully.  I mean just incredibly carefully, you have no idea, I practically had to poke my nose inside the book, because I was opening the covers only the littlest possible bit. Whatever, there is no excuse for me.  This is fine when I do it with my friend tim, or my Indie Sister, or even my mother, because I know they are all doing the same thing with (at least some of) the books they give to me.  But I should not make a habit of it.  Bad.

French Milk is a graphic memoir.  When she was twenty-two, Lucy Knisley and her mother spent a month in Paris, eating the foods and seeing the sights.  It’s simple black and white drawings, with everything labeled, just a journal of the things they did and saw, and Lucy’s struggles to be, you know, a grown-up.  It’s tricky.

They went to see Oscar Wilde’s grave!  She knows who Ada Leverson and Robbie Ross are!  Ada Leverson and Robbie Ross are two of my most favorite people of all time!  Robbie Ross was such a darling darling darling dear, and Ada Leverson was witty and clever and nice and cool.  I squealed like a little fangirl when I saw the picture of Oscar Wilde’s grave – she even said what it says on the grave, and I love those last two lines, “For his mourners will be outcast men / And outcasts always mourn.”  There were smoochy lip marks all over the photograph of the grave.  I want to visit Oscar Wilde’s grave.  I love Oscar Wilde.  I love him.

(I wrote “I love him” like four more times, and I had to go back and erase them.  I kept thinking of other cool things Oscar Wilde had done, like that time that he fixed that woman who was sad, or that time that Bosie’s wretched father wanted to meet him, and Oscar Wilde charmed the shit out of him BECAUSE HE HAD THE POWER TO DO THAT WITH HIS CHARMINGNESS, or that time, oh my God, that the Christian Scientists thought that mean guy was the Messiah so they wanted to breed little Messiahs.  Oh, Oscar Wilde, you bring happiness to my life.)

For a lot of the trip, Lucy was unhappy and worried – she was twenty-two, and trying to see where her life was going to go.  At one point she said, “I QUIT ART,” which was so funny to me because I am constantly feeling like that.  I will often read a book or a play or something, and be like, OH THIS IS POINTLESS.  I QUIT WRITING FOREVER.  Besides, I am always wondering where my life will go, and I could identify.  I enjoyed her wry remarks about the sights of Paris, and her helpfully labeled drawings.  Plus, I am grateful to her for writing this, because it gave me the idea of going to London with my mother, which I am departing to do in two weeks.

(Two weeks!)

Thanks to A Life in Books for the recommendation!

Dream Country, Neil Gaiman

Evidently the stress of writing a nice coherent plot in The Doll’s House proved temporarily too much for Neil Gaiman, and he took a break to write some single-issue self-contained stories.  And these are some damn good stories.  Except I don’t like “Façade”.  I remember not liking it so um, I sort of skipped it this time.  I know!  I could read “24 Hours” but not “Façade”?  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

No, actually, I know exactly why I did that.  Lately I’ve been getting ready for bed around eight, then lying in bed reading for several hours.  I collect three or four books that I might feel like reading, climb up onto my bed (it’s a loft bed, so once I’m up there, I’m generally too lazy to come down before morning), and read until I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.  And last night, when I was reading Dream Country, I had Season of Mists sitting enticingly on the pillow.  So when I got to “Façade”, I just couldn’t stand the idea that there was this one story – a story I don’t even like – standing between me and the first issue of Season of Mists, probably my favorite single issue from a complete storyline (as compared with the self-contained stories), because I love it when the Endless all get together and hang out (though I hate how Delirium is drawn in this one).

Now I feel guilty.  I will probably go back and read “Façade” this evening, out of guilt.

Anyway, the other three stories are very, very good.  I like “Calliope” the best.  It’s not that I don’t like the other two – I do – but I just like “Calliope” way the best.  “Dream of a Thousand Cats” is a smidge too – I don’t know, I think it takes itself a tiny bit too seriously, considering how whimsical a story it is.  And “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is gorgeous and delightful, and no wonder it won a prize, but I am not in love with Sandman’s treatment of Shakespeare.  I love Shakespeare.  AND HE WAS NOT FRANCIS BACON AND HE DID NOT MAKE A DEAL WITH DREAM AND HE WAS A GENIUS BY HIMSELF OKAY?

Calm down, Jenny.

Anyway, I think “Calliope” is great.  I adore the brief one-panel vignettes you see of Richard Madoc – chatting up a girl at a party and telling her he does consider himself a feminist writer – then going home to the woman he’s keeping prisoner so he can be a genius.  And as well, this story casts Dream in a better light than we’ve really seen him.  His last two encounters with women haven’t been nice: condemning Nada to hell forever and ditching Lyta Hall all pregnant and despairing.  I’m always glad to see him being helpful to Calliope and screwing up Madoc’s life permanently – though without the vindictiveness I would have expected.  (This is change on his part.  Watch how it will remain a theme.)

Next up: Season of Mists.  I love Season of Mists.  It was my favorite for a few weeks in June 2004, and although I now like other volumes better, this one still holds a special place in my heart.