Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Recent Reads

I finished reading two books today. The first is Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, detailing their journeys to see various forms of wildlife before it becomes extinct. It's a somber subject, but the book is full of humor. (It also is very episodic; I was able to put it down for a month or two, knwoing that when I picked it back up again they'd be off to a new place, on a different journey.)

The China chapter might be the funniest of the lot -- their sudden (and completely innocent) need for a condom, combined with the language and cultural hurdles of where and how to buy them, makes for great reading. But the final chapter, about the bird populations of Mauritius, was to me the most poignant. The constant state of emergency, in which a fruitbat population of 200 is considered thriving was heartbreaking, but the idea that such a difference can be made by such a small group of people is exhilarating. For example, there were only a handful of pink pigeons in the late 80s, when Adams and Carwardine visited. Now, Birdlife International estimates there are 359-395 on the island. That's progress.

The other book I've read is The Aviary, by Jamie Tanner. Calling it a graphic novel is a misnomer -- it's actually a collection of short stories in comics form. Brief and absurdist, they give the impression of Victorian woodcuts or 18th-century newspaper cartoons, but the form makes the subject matter even more unsettling. Amputee comedians, zombie travel-show hosts, monkey-faced pornographers, and a striking bird doll that blinks with strange import all populate this book, to say nothing of its other luminous, weird delights. It's masterful in its restraint, seemingly implying less than you infer, even though what's on the page are some of the most outlandish ideas ever put to paper. Even reading it seems like a kinky act.

Needless to say, it's highly recommended.



Jeri said...

Loved Last Chance to See. It was very Douglas Adams, and yet very poignant.

Did you know Warren Ellis has a novel out? It's called CROOKED LITTLE VEIN. It's about a PI who gets enlisted to find the real Constitution (the one with missing Amendments that the Founders wrote as a fallback, and that Nixon misplaced). It's supposed to be awesome. I'm buying it today.

Also Mike Carey's first novel is supposed to be really good. I think it's called THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. It's nice to see more comic authors going the novel route.

And I just realized that could have been a post of its own.

Rob S. said...

Thanks, Jeri. I knew about both, and intend to get to them sooner or later. Right now I'm reading Carey's The Re-Gifters the comic he and Sonny Liew have done for DC's Minx line. I really liked their first collaboration, My Faith In Frankie, and while this doesn't seem to have those supernatural aspects, the comedy and ear for dialogue continue unabated.

On the novel side, I don't know what's next for me. I've been meaning to reread Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain (looks like I gotta buy the first two books again, I can only find volumes 3-5), but I might opt for another crime novel now that I've finished Ed McBain's The Frumious Bandersnatch. (I loves me the McBain.) Or maybe I'll just bite the bullet and read Blood Meridian at last. I need time to sink into that one, and if I don't do it now, who knows when I'll get another chance?