KeskusteluClub Read 2023

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Muokkaaja: joulukuu 21, 2022, 4:56 pm

We had a lot of fun with this topic last year so let's have it again.

A lot of readers believe that comics and their counterparts in different cultures belong to the children literature shelves and that the medium cannot be used for meaningful stories. But then what about Maus, Persepolis, A Contract with God, V for Vendetta, Safe Area Gorazde and The Sandman? Or the work of Osamu Tezuka and Jacques Tardi? Or the huge number of current memoirs in graphic form? While some of the comics produced today are geared towards children and young adults, a not unnoticeable amount of the format output is for adults. Not that it was ever different really, at least in the last half a century - it just seems that these days the art is getting better recognition (finally!).

The idea of this topic is to celebrate the variety of titles out there in which the story is told in both pictures and words (and sometimes just in pictures). Maybe you never read one? Then stick around and see what everyone is reading and maybe something will catch your eye. If you already believe that good stories can be told in multiple ways and formats (prose, poetry, drama, graphic formats), come and tell us what you are reading.

All style and types are welcome - the US style comics, newspaper strips, caricatures, the European style Albums, the UK style comics (while similar to the US tradition, they tend to be distinct in their style and tone), the Japanese manga and everything in between. And it does not matter if you are reading about superheroes, a memoir of one of the (too many) wars of the last century, a speculative fiction story or a slice of life manga, they all have their home here.

Oh - and the titles and authors I started this topic with? If you never heard of them, check them - you may be surprised :) If you already know these? Share your favorites - I am always looking for new artists and authors. Not that this is my complete list of course :)

Want to see a list of the books we had been talking about in all iterations of this thread? Here we are:

tammikuu 14, 9:44 am

Pretty quiet over here. I better get it kick-started. I can always use more GN recs. I especially like nonfiction, including memoirs.

tammikuu 14, 9:44 am

Banned Book Club by Kim Hyun Sook 3.7 stars

When I first picked this off the library shelf, I automatically thought this graphic memoir was about North Korea. Once I started it, I quickly found out, that it was set in South Korea, during the terrorizing reign of the Fifth Republic. A military regime, which I remember nothing about. This made it worthwhile. It kicks off with the banned book club but it mostly deals with the author’s involvement in a group of young people rising up and protesting against the totalitarian regime. I will have to read more about this- how democracy took the country back and stayed in place. Recommended.

tammikuu 14, 9:59 am

I had never heard of the 5th republic of South Korea, much less knew it was such a messed up thing.

tammikuu 14, 9:59 am

Sounds interesting. Are there any books in it that were banned during this time period?

tammikuu 14, 6:02 pm

The 80s were a horrific time in SK. Students demonstrators being tortured, some dying in police custody. The Gwangju Uprising has been featured in some recent SK dramas. It was a hard won democracy.

tammikuu 17, 5:35 pm

I probably should post the two I've read so far this year :)

4. Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi

Type: Non-fiction, Graphic format
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2019
Series: N/A
Genre: Biography
Format: paperback
Publisher: Life Drawn, an imprint of Humanoids
Reading dates: January 3, 2023 - January 4, 2023

Rod Serling is one of those names that everyone who had ever cared about classic SF TV would recognize (although I would admit that it took me forever to stop reading his name as Sterling). If they don't, they may recognize his most popular show - The Twilight Zone - and the name had become so popular in the modern world that I suspect that even people who never cared about SF had heard of.

Koren Shadmi decided to tell the story of Serling in graphic form. And what better way to do it than to frame it inside of a story -- with a twist at the end, so reminiscent of the show that even if you expect it, you still smile when it comes.

On a long plane ride, Serling's seatmate asks him to tell her a story - and he decides to tell his own life story - from the WWII to finding fame in Tinsel Town. Science fiction was not where he started - he tried to be a serious writer first but it soon became clear that the censors won't allow a lot of what he wanted to say. So he moved his stories to the future, to Mars - seemingly away from the now and here. And yet, as any reader of the genre will tell you, they were the stories of today, of the here and now. At around the same time, the science fiction authors of the Warsaw Pact countries were using the same methods to hide their stories of subversion and critique -- and just as it happened there, the US censors ignored the genre (in a lot of ways, being considered a sub-par genre and something for children and not a serious helped).

Looking back, The Twilight Zone was a phenomenon. Back at the time it aired? It almost killed its creator and its ratings were not where they should have been.

Shadmi does not shy from the serious topics - Serling is Jewish and this did not sit very well with a lot of people. He neglected his family and his health during long stretches of his career and he was always chasing the next thing - more fame, the better review, the next best thing. And yet, he comes out of the story as a human - maybe a bit more talented than most but a hard working man who achieved what he set his eyes on... or almost did.

The art (again by Koren Shadmi) is functional and clean - it supports the narrative without distracting from it. It is mostly black and white - slightly different between the two timelines (the plane ride (where the black/grey turns into blue/grey) and the story the storytellers tells).

Even if you do not care about SF, this may be worth reading. It encapsulates a time that is long gone - the story of Hollywood and the modern television, the story of censors and the birth of a cultural phenomenon. And even if you think you know all about it, there will probably be some surprises.

tammikuu 17, 5:35 pm

13. It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken by Seth

Type: Graphic novel
Original Language: English
Original Publication: Serialized: 1993 to 1996 in issues #4–9 of Palookaville; 1996 as a book
Series: N/A
Genre: mock-memoir
Format: paperback
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly (2011, Fifth Printing)
Awards: Ignatz (Outstanding Graphic Novel or Collection, 1997; Ignatz (Outstanding Artist, 1997)
Reading dates: January 15, 2023 - January 15, 2023

I was browsing Drawn & Quarterly's site during the holidays to see what they are planning on publishing and saw that a new issue of Palookaville is scheduled for mid-2023 (the first in 6 years). I've always enjoyed Seth's work so decided to go back in time and reread his work up to this point. And this is probably one of the good entry points for his work - his first longer work which brought him two Ignatz Awards in the inaugural year of the now well-known awards: Outstanding Graphic Novel or Collection and Outstanding Artist (he lost Outstanding Story to Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's "From Hell", a category where the rest of the nominees were Dylan Horrocks's Hicksville, Daniel Clowes's Ghost World and Joe Chiappetta's A Death in the Family (in Silly Daddy)).

A Canadian cartoonist gets obsessed with an obscure cartoonist from the past and tries to find the man and to understand why such a talented man remained obscure. That is the premise of this graphic novel (Seth calls it a picture novella partially to highlight its connection to the past) and on the surface, that's pretty much what you get. Except that the text and the art are full of references to the actual history of the artistic form. If you are unfamiliar with most of it, this edition also contains a picture dictionary -- which may send you back rereading some parts when you realize what part of the story was actually true - while Seth (the narrator here and a namesake of the author), his circle and the cartoonist he gets obsessed with are mostly fictional, a lot of the other people and the rest of the art mentioned are not. And in addition to that, you get the Canadian landscapes, especially the ones showing small and big cities landscapes that are not that common in almost any type of books.

The picture novella is a love letter to the gag cartoonists of the 40s and 50s (think The New Yorker style cartoons). Seth's style is heavily influenced by their style and even if the tale is not biographical, it is based on the real author - the Seth of the novella may not be the real-life Seth but a lot of his actions may have been and the two of them view a lot of things the same way. The art is black and blue on cream pages - Seth rarely (if ever) uses color and this book is not an exception. And if you wonder just how realistic the story looks like - Seth even includes the "discovered" cartoons of his mystery cartoonist.

It was written at the time when the graphic memoirs were starting to get popular in the mainstream and Seth uses the format to its advantage (despite the story being fictional). Since the days this story was published, the format had become more and more mainstream and noone bats an eye anymore when a memoir comes out in graphic format but at the time this one was published, it was not as expected or accepted.

I've read this one before and I probably will read it again - there is always something else to notice, another line to pull on. It does not have the complexity of some other stories but it is still highly readable, especially if you like Seth's art style.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 18, 8:07 am

Thanks, Annie. Both of these sound good but I especially like Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television. I requested it.

tammikuu 25, 9:17 am

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi 4.3 stars

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.”

I grew up in the 1960s, so I clearly remember huddling around our black & white TV and watching the Twilight Zone. Of course, everyone remembers the cool, well-dressed host, with the smooth, somewhat sinister delivery- Rod Serling. Prior to reading this wonderful graphic bio, if you would have asked me if I knew anything else about Serling, other than being a writer, I would have been clueless. I had no idea that he was a paratrooper in the Pacific during WWII and was at the forefront of the Golden Age of Televison era. I cannot praise this graphic bio enough. Well-written and beautifully illustrated.

^^Thanks to Annie for putting this gem on my radar.

tammikuu 29, 8:28 am

After seeing a review of Cyrel/torontoc's thread for this book, I had to request it from the library. I had seen some of Tom Gauld's cartoons on the Goodwill Librarian, but didn't realize until later that he also wrote the graphic novel Mooncop, about which I had read many good reviews. I found the lockdown cartoons funny.

Revenge of the Librarians by Tom Gauld
Published 2022, Drawn & Quartered

A collection of cartoons about books, novelists, and bibliophiles, Revenge of the Librarians was a fun collection to browse. His artwork is colorful and simple, and I enjoyed all the literary references. I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more librarian jokes, given the title. Many of the cartoons are about novelists and the writing/publishing process.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 29, 8:42 am

>11 labfs39: Nice, Lisa. I just got Revenge of the Librarians from the library, after a very long wait. I am a big fan of his work. I will dip into it today. You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack is also a lot of fun.

tammikuu 29, 9:53 am

>11 labfs39: My sister got me last year Department of Mind-blowing Theories by Gauld which was all science based cartoons. I wish my library had Gauld's books, the librarian book looks good.

I've started Ducks by Kate Beaton. She's from my neck of the Canadian woods (Cape Breton - her, PEI -me) and this is about working in Fort McMurray after university, a very common life experience for Maritimers. I didn't do it, but two of my cousins moved to The Mac. One is still there, one made it back.

tammikuu 29, 11:42 am

>13 raidergirl3: I thought Ducks was excellent.

tammikuu 29, 8:36 pm

>10 msf59: those samples are really powerful.

tammikuu 30, 8:32 am

tammikuu 30, 8:32 am

Queenie: Godmother of Harlem by Elizabeth Colomba 4 stars

"Queenie follows the life of Stephanie Saint-Clair—the infamous criminal who made herself a legend in Harlem in the 1930s. Born on a plantation in the French colony of Martinique, Saint-Clair left the island in 1912 and headed for the United States, eager to make a new life for herself. In New York she found success, rising up through poverty and battling extreme racism to become the ruthless queen of Harlem’s mafia and a fierce defender of the Black community."

I love reading graphic bios, especially about historical figures I knew nothing about and Stephanie Saint-Clair is certainly one of them. She was a tough, admirable woman, up against some very nasty men, including Dutch Schultz. The stark black and white illustrations are well done too.

helmikuu 5, 2:49 pm

>12 msf59: I just got it too. About halfway through. Just a bit of fun in between books...

helmikuu 5, 7:46 pm

I finished Ducks and it was very good. It's about living in Northern Alberta in the tar sands, but it was even more about the 'stuff' (harassment) women deal with in male dominated fields. Infuriating.

Now I'm reading They Called Us Enemy by George Takei. I read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet which had the Japanese Interment Camps as a major plot point. I didn't think it was very well done, so I wanted to find a better book about internment.

helmikuu 5, 8:29 pm

>19 raidergirl3: If you are looking for something about the latter topic, I liked Clark and Division quite a lot last year. Not a graphic novel - it is actually a mystery novel (and works as one just fine) but it’s a historical mystery and the historical part of it works even better. It deals with the internment at the start but also with the aftermath and trying to reintegrate into society when allowed.

PS: Takei’s book is good. I just could not resist mentioning a book I liked when you mentioned the one that did not work very well. :)

Muokkaaja: helmikuu 5, 9:11 pm

>19 raidergirl3: I agree that the Jamie Ford book was not the best treatment of the topic. I read Takei's book last year and thought it excellent. Others I've read and would recommend are When the Emperor was Divine (novel) and Farewell to Manzanar (memoir). There is also Obasan about the internment of Japanese-Canadians in Canada. I have No-No Boy on my shelves, but haven't read it yet.

Edited to add, they are not graphic novels.

helmikuu 5, 9:23 pm

>20 AnnieMod: thanks for the suggestion. I love mysteries and my library has the audiobook!

>21 labfs39: thanks, Lisa! So many good looking suggestions! I have loved Otsuka's 2 other books, I can't believe I haven't read that one yet. I'll have to spread out the books, as while good, it's so infuriating to read about.

helmikuu 6, 7:34 am

>22 raidergirl3: it's so infuriating to read about

Agreed. I liked how Takei's graphic novel talked about his activism after the war too.

helmikuu 8, 5:00 pm

>21 labfs39: My book group is doing Obasan this month... the book is on its way to me as we speak.

helmikuu 8, 5:58 pm

So, is George Herriman the greatest American modernist?

helmikuu 8, 6:05 pm

>25 slimeboy: Modernist as in the usual art definition (1900-1940-ish with some specifics in the genre)? Or something else?

helmikuu 8, 6:54 pm

>26 AnnieMod: the former

helmikuu 23, 9:18 am

American Cult: A Graphic History of Religious Cults in America by Robyn Chapman 4 stars

"A graphic history of religious cults in American from the colonial era to today. From its earliest days, America has been home to spiritual seekers."

I enjoyed this graphic anthology. Each profile was done by a different writer/artist. Several I had never heard of, especially the early ones but it did cover Manson, Jonestown, the Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, and Vanguard. I am really astounded how many people are seeking some kind of "higher place" and are willing to follow these various leaders down some very dark paths and to their own destruction, in many cases. The only cult I am interested in is the LT one. I like that kool-aid.

maaliskuu 21, 12:04 pm

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (author and illustrator)

Type: Graphic novel, 272 pages
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2015
Series: N/A
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult (Children?)
Format: paperback
Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Reading dates: 22 January 2023 - 22 January 2023

The first (and only?) graphic novel based on the web-comics with the same name, Nimona is the kind of story that cannot fail to make a reader smile. It takes every single convention of the superhero and fairy tales genres and flips them on their head - and have a lot of fun while doing it.

Meet Nimona. She wants to be a side-kick but not to the superhero/protector but of the super-villain. He really does not want a side-kick in any way or form but before he realizes it, he ends up with one. And as it turns out, he is a lot less of a villain than our heroine expects him to be - one would say that he is actually the hero of this tale. Which is not what Nimona expects. Or what people believe.

There is a plan to destroy the kingdom. There are battles. There is the past coming back to bite various people when they least expect it. There are sweet moments back in the castle. And then there are the rest of the secrets - Nimona is not what everyone believes her to be - but then how could she have been in this kind of story - and the powers to be will do everything they can to keep their secrets.

The story ends like most fairy tales - with a kiss. Except that there is no princess in sight - and neither is Nimona interested in that (she is a kid after all).

The story is fun - it is written like a children book and mostly stays clean enough to qualify but there is enough in it to be enjoyed by anyone who had not forgotten what it is to be a child. And even if the illustrations do not completely win you (they are in a style I am not a big fan of), it is still worth reading it. If for nothing else, at least it can provide a few smiles and if you are so inclined, some fun in figuring out just how many fairy tales and medieval romances are hinted at or changed inside of the text.

maaliskuu 22, 8:39 am

>29 AnnieMod: Interesting. Added to the CR recommendations list.