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Archive for the ‘fiction’ Category

Why Girls are Weird, by Pamela Ribon

Sunday, August 14th, 2005

Amazon link

I stopped by the library yesterday to pick up some light reading to offset my Amazon nonfiction pile. While poking around, I saw this book, and the title amused me, as did the descriptions, so I borrowed it.

Ribon is apparently an online diarist, who put together a fictionalized account of the process of becoming an online celebrity. Her protagonist, Anna K, starts writing an online journal to teach herself HTML (Ribon apparently used edited versions of several of her own posts), and puts up stories about herself, stretching the truth to make her life more compelling, most notably claiming to still have a fabulous relationship with her ex-boyfriend. As time goes on, her journal attracts a readership, she gets fan mail, starts meeting some of her more stalker-ish readers, and her online journal life and her real life start interacting in more and more complicated ways. It’s romantic-comedy-ish (and apparently the film rights have been optioned). Very light, and a quick read, but fun.

It does address some issues with online identity in passing. When we are in public, we try to represent ourselves in the most favorable way possible. When writing online, it’s always tempting to re-frame things to make one seem cleverer or wittier than one is in real life, to avoid talking about the embarrassing things. I’ve noticed it even in writing this blog, which has primarily friends and family reading it, and tends to stick to book reviews and rants about bizarre topics, rarely venturing into the personal. I have been fortunate to not yet have to face the tension between my online identity and my real world identity, because they’re pretty closely tied. But I can sympathize with the struggles of Ribon’s protagonist as she does.

More graphic novels

Sunday, July 10th, 2005

As mentioned previously, my local library branch now stocks graphic novels. I picked up a few more yesterday, of which the only notable one was Fray, by Joss Whedon. As everybody knows, I was a huge fan of Buffy (and a somewhat lesser fan of Angel and Firefly (although I went to see Batman Begins (which was excellent) this afternoon and was totally totally jazzed to see the preview for Serenity, the movie that continues Firefly – the preview literally gave me goosebumps even though I’d already seen it online)) and once worshipped the ground that Joss walked upon. Anyway, I’d been meaning to read Joss’s attempt at a graphic novel, depicting a far future version of the Vampire Slayer, for a while. I even bought a couple of the Fray comic books from the store when they were being published before losing interest and deciding to wait for the graphic novel version. And then I never got around to it to buying the graphic novel, but now I was able to get it from the library.

It’s okay. It makes me realize how much of what I liked about Buffy is the interplay between the actors. The world of Fray just doesn’t come alive for me. Oh well.

The other graphic novels I got were all pretty awful. I picked up a Hellblazer compilation from long after Garth Ennis was done, and it was so bad I didn’t even finish an issue’s worth. I picked up a Books of Magic compilation, because I adore the original graphic novel, but the comic version does nothing for me, and I lost interest after only a couple issues. I also checked out an old Green Lantern compilation, but it was way too 70s Marvel-esque.

But, on the plus side, I bought none of them, so no harm, no foul.

Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino

Monday, July 4th, 2005

Amazon link

I borrowed this from my girlfriend Lilia, who had it recommended it to her by one of her planner friends. It’s a little bit hard to describe. Nominally, it contains Marco Polo’s descriptions of cities to the emperor Kublai Khan. But it’s more about the exploration of different aspects of what makes cities similar and different. Each city description is only a page or two long, but the descriptions provoke strong images from the humorous to the thoughtful. It reminds me a lot of Borges, but instead of Borges’s wild imaginings taking form in short stories, Calvino uses the medium of city descriptions.

I liked it a lot – I wish I had had more time to mull it over, because it seems like the kind of book that would benefit from going back and re-reading it and digesting the connections between the various city descriptions (Calvino uses categories like “Continuous Cities”, “Cities & Names”, and “Cities & Signs”), but I had to return it to Lilia before she leaves for Europe. If I see it used, I might pick myself up a copy for further perusal.

P.S. Apparently, some of Lilia’s friends were miffed that I did not give her proper credit in my previous post about good conversations, thinking that referring to her as merely “my friend” did her a disservice. So let it be known.

More fluff

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

A couple more books from my mindless fluff library trip.

Broken Angels, by Richard K. Morgan. Cyberpunk-y novel about a far future where personalities are downloadable into different human bodies, essentially making people immortal. Not too thrilling. But I read it anyway, because it was from the library and therefore free.

Astro City Vol. 1: Life in the Big City, by Kurt Busiek. A graphic novel collection of a comic that I’ve heard good things about. Busiek is subverting the superhero comic by examining what the rest of the people living in a city with superheroes would feel and how they would react. It’s kind of an interesting take on things, but not too compelling.

Daredevil graphic novels

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

My local library branch now has a graphic novel section. I was astonished, really. While I can understand why they put it in the “young adult” section, they may want to reconsider their filing, considering they had Watchmen filed there as well, and that is anything but a children’s tale. I thought about flipping it open to one of the sex scenes and showing it to a librarian, but decided that kids should be exposed to really good graphic novels, so I left it.

I checked out three Daredevil graphic novels. I don’t know much about the Daredevil series, but after seeing Sin City, I wanted to go back and check out the original Frank Miller Daredevil work, and they had both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the “Visionaries:Frank Miller” graphic novels available, as well as the Guardian Devil run, by Kevin Smith.

Reading volume 1, I thought it was okay, but pretty pedestrian stuff, not anywhere near what I expected from Frank Miller, even a young Frank Miller in his first comic job. Volume 2 was an immediate quantum leap in quality of writing. On a hunch I went back and looked. It turned out that the issues in volume 1 only had Frank Miller as the artist (and apparently occasional co-plotter). Volume 2 is when he took over as both writer and artist. And the difference is stark. The stories have much more emotional depth, and are just plain more interesting. Volume 2 traces the Elektra story line, which is pretty awesome in and of itself.

The Kevin Smith run was okay. Nothing too great. He gets into his schtick about dealing with his lapsed Catholicism issues, but whatever.

I’m glad I was able to get these from the library – they wouldn’t have been worth paying for. Daredevil just doesn’t do it for me. He’s not an interesting character that I sympathize with. Even less so after seeing him played by Ben Affleck in the movie. He’s just a little too invincible for a blind man. Actually, that was the same issue I had with Zatoichi, which I saw last night at a friend’s house. Anyway. Not a huge fan of the Daredevil series. But Frank Miller, as a comics writer, is pretty awesome.

Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

Amazon link

Similar to the Evanovich books, when I saw the latest Terry Pratchett at the library, I grabbed it and read it. As usual, it’s clever and funny, but not particularly memorable.

More Evanovich

Thursday, May 12th, 2005

Ten Big Ones and Metro Girl, by Janet Evanovich

I like Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, so when I saw the latest one in the library, I picked it up. And Metro Girl is the start of a possible new series. I liked Ten Big Ones better than Metro Girl – the Stephanie Plum antics are consistently funnier, with several incidents in each book that have me laughing out loud. Metro Girl was okay, but not as clever. Not sure why.

Only Forward, by Michael Marshall Smith

Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Amazon link

While we were driving up to Cornell, Jofish recommended this book. I’d read another of Smith’s books, Spares, borrowed from the library, but it made absolutely no impact on me, and I didn’t remember a single detail. But, in the mornings, while waiting for others to wake up, I picked up Only Forward from Jofish’s bookshelf, and slammed through it.

I thought it was interesting. I liked the world that it takes place in, which is sort of the logical extreme of the Burbclaves in Snow Crash, where the Neighborhoods grow to be completely separate and cut off from each other. And I really like how the protagonist’s flexible viewpoint lets him move between the different Neighborhoods seamlessly, because it picks up on the contextual nature of reality that I’ve been thinking about. The second half gets more metaphysical, and I’m not sure I liked where Smith went with it. But it was a quick read, and had some interesting ideas, so it’s a qualified thumbs up.

Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk

Monday, March 7th, 2005

Amazon link

Picked this up in my big library trip of a couple weeks ago. Again, recommended by a friend. Plus, I’ve been curious about Palahniuk since seeing Fight Club. I really like his stylized writing in a lot of ways, and it’s easy to see the resemblance to the style of Fight Club. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, though, so I didn’t get into it as much as I do some other fiction. For me, fiction is all about identifying with characters, I think. The early years of Buffy, when the Scooby gang were all high school outsiders? Total identification. Gilmore Girls with Lorelai’s mother issues? Yup. Miles Vorkosigan’s brand of demented genius. Ender’s loneliness and supernatural observation skills. Pretty much all of the fiction I like has a central character that I identify with strongly. So when I don’t connect to the characters, I tend to feel eh about a book, no matter how beautiful or creative the writing. I’m just not enough of a literature geek yet, I guess.

King Rat, by China Mieville

Sunday, March 6th, 2005

Amazon link

I remembered China Mieville’s name from Aneel’s book page, so when I stopped by the library, I looked him up, and this was the one book by him that they had. It’s somewhat in the same vein as Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, describing a London with more dimensions than most of us ever get to see, or the urban fantasies of Charles de Lint. The cover description plays up the importance of drum and bass techno music to the story, but I think that’s just to draw in the hip kids. I thought it was okay. The writing is gorgeous in spots, but the narrative seemed to kind of wander without a clear idea of where it was heading at times. It was okay. I’m happy I got it from the library.

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