Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #240: Young Lovecraft, Vol. 2 by Oliver & Torres

It's inevitable that any high-concept idea moves away from that concept if it becomes an ongoing work: what works for a one-off or to launch a concept is only one possibility, and the nature of ongoing storytelling is to investigate as many of the possibilities as is feasible.

So it's not a surprise that Young Lovecraft, a webcomic by the Spaniards Jose Oliver (script) and Bartolo Torres (art), has moved pretty far from its original concept in this second collection, the cleanly named Young Lovecraft, Vol. 2. Young Howard Lovecraft is still supposedly at the center of the story, but he's less obviously HPL here, and the goth/metal take on things is mixed higher than it was the first time around.

That's not a bad thing, since it continues the process by which Young Lovecraft becomes its own thing: the stories about this neurotic boy named Howard in what sometimes does seem like 1900ish, and about his "dog," the ghoul Glenn, and his gothy friend Siouxsie -- and, in a new style in this volume, a series of adaptations of classic ghost and horror stories (Stevenson, Hodgson, James) using that cast as part of a repertory company.

This time out, we also get a solo adventure of those dead French poets, Baudelaire and Rimbaud. And a quick appearance by Ambrose Bierce, happier and more positive than he ever was in life. We also get a somewhat misfired sequence with HPL as an exchange student in Norway, replaced at home by the very metal Ishan. (This is the height of the anachronisms in this volume, but more of a problem is that Oliver doesn't have much for Howard to do in Norway, and Ishan is similarly reduced to an anti-clerical, anarchist caricature.) Much better are sequences about a visit from a few Hounds of Tindalos -- friends of Glenn's naturally -- and a picnic, which we first see, very amusingly, from Howard's horrified, usually-sedentary point of view.

This book still only collects work from 2009, though the English edition was published in 2012. I'm not clear whether Young Lovecraft still continues -- though there is a third volume available in English. It's strongly individual work, with a quirky take on a horror legend and very expressive and individual cartooning. It will always be an odd idea, but webcomics are made for odd ideas, and this is a great version of a great odd idea.

(I reviewed the first collection as Day 118.)

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Incoming Books: End of August

I'm on vacation this week, so the usual frivolous activities are going on (shopping at IKEA for bookcases, for example). And one of my favorite frivolous activities is shopping for books, so of course I've been indulging that. I've gotten books from a bunch of directions this last week: from the library (both the you-have-to-bring-them-back kind and one unlikely book from the selling-donated-paperbacks table), from an online retailer, from a hospital-organized "book barn" (only 20 minutes away, though I'd never been there before), and from a good used book store in Harrisburg, PA, close to the site of our most intense recent frivolities. (The latter is particularly good for scholarly books; they've got a metric fuckton of art and art history, for example. But they also have a decent little graphics novel section in the very back of the basement, metaphorically behind the "beware of the leopard" sign.

So I got a lot of new books -- mostly from that book barn, since prices there topped out at two bucks. And I enjoy making lists of books, so here's what's come into the house this week:

Matter, the 2008 Culture novel by Iain M. Banks that I actually reviewed here at the time. As I type these words, I have the disconcerting feeling that I already have a slightly nicer copy of this in hardcover and may be out a whole two dollars!

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger -- I had a copy of this for years (pre-flood) and didn't manage to read it then, but now I have another chance.

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black -- the first of the Quirke thrillers, by John Banville under a pseudonym. I haven't quite managed to keep up with all of Banville's novels, but I've read a lot of them -- and I've never gone backwards to read his earliest books, from before I discovered him. But the Black novels look a lot like my kind of thing, and I mostly liked what Black/Banville did with the Philip Marlowe novel The Black-Eyed Blonde.

Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll -- there was a time when I was a big Carroll fan, but I hit the point where all of his novels felt the same to me, and so I've missed his last few books. But this is one of his best, and it's a Vintage Contemporary -- and I am building a shelf of those, with a vague idea of collecting the first year or three of that series and reading them straight through.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion -- it's a modern classic, and I find myself drawn to both strong writing and nonfiction these days (and those are often hard to find together).

Coyote V. Acme by Ian Frazier -- one of the great collections of short humor ever written (along with Frazier's Dating Your Mom). Another post-flood repurchase, though I expect to re-read this before it hits the regular shelves.

On the Rez by Ian Frazier -- the other side of Frazier's work; this one is a serious book of reportage about modern-day Native Americans. I probably won't get to it until after his Great Plains (which I already have), but I like Frazier, and this was dirt-cheap.

Casanova Was a Book Lover by John Maxwell Hamilton -- a breezy book about books with a historical theme. I know I had a copy of this before the flood -- this very edition, in fact -- and I'm pretty sure that I didn't manage to read it before. I look vaguely askance at myself for buying the same thing twice without reading it, but a flood is certain extenuating circumstances, isn't it?

Now and Then by Joseph Heller -- a late memoir, which I have here in a UK edition for some odd reason. Catch-22 is a masterpiece, and I periodically think I need to read more Heller -- maybe this, maybe Something Happened.

The Pinhoe Egg by Diana Wynne Jones -- she wrote another couple of Chrestomanci novels after the first batch were collected (and I read and did them in the SFBC), which means I missed them. This is one of those; I need to fill in the holes in my DWJ reading.

Corrupting Dr. Nice by John Kessel -- a 1997 time-travel screwball comedy. I had a copy of this for a long time, and I can't quite remember if I read it or not.

The British Museum Is Falling Down by David Lodge -- I seem to recall hearing good things about Lodge, particularly about this early-sixties comic novel about academics.

Ransom by Jay McInerney -- Another Vintage Contemporary, and this one is early enough that it's got a list of prior books in the series on the card page. It's also the mostly-forgotten second novel by the author of Bright Lights, Big City, which is interesting to me.

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan -- I've read a bunch of O'Nan books, but I tend to have to space them out: they each pack a serious emotional punch, and tend not to end well for any of the main characters. (O'Nan has the writing chops of a literary writer and the cold-bloodedness of a horror writer.) I've already got this in hardcover, but I prefer trade paperbacks, so this counts as an upgrade.

Holidays in Hell, Parliament of Whores, and All the Trouble in the World by P.J. O'Rourke -- I've grumped over the last few years about the grump that O'Rourke has become over the last few years (search this blog for "P.J. O'Rourke" for the details), but he's an incisive, bitterly funny and observant reporter when he takes his ideological blinders off. These are probably his three best books, from his best period right after the end of the Cold War (when, I think, he didn't have as all-encompassing a central ideology to organize his writing around), and the ones I'd be most likely to re-read. So it's nice to have them back after the flood.

Family Resemblances by Lowry Pei -- a Vintage Contemporary from 1988, from a writer I've never even heard of. Assuming I do collect a big clump and read them, that will be the point: to read things I otherwise would never have thought about.

Last Call by Tim Powers -- one of the best modern fantasy novels by one of our very best writers. It later became the first book of a very loose trilogy -- there was a second, unrelated book, and then a third that was a sequel to both of them (though mostly the second) -- but you can ignore that (and those two books, until you've read all of the better Powers, like Declare and The Anubis Gates and The Stress of Her Regard).

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie -- his memoir of the decade-plus that he spent under fatwa. Some people think it's brilliant; some think it's self-indulgent. (My copy has a long message from the first owner on the half-title to the latter point.) I had a copy of The Satanic Verses that was in the running for my longest-held unread book: I got it when joining Book-of-the-Month Club early in my college career (around 1987), and it was still on my shelves, unopened, at the time of the flood in 2011. I miss having books like that: it's comforting to have books you still haven't read after two decades.

The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders -- essays by a current critical darling for his short stories. I've only read a couple of Saunders pieces, but I seem to prefer nonfiction these days, so this looked like the best way to sample his work. Plus: cheap!

A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg -- I thought my next reading project in 2011 was going to be Silverberg's classic period (the rough decade from Thorns to Shadrach in the Furnace); I had all but one or two of those books and was figuring out when to do it. But the flood killed all of them, and I'm only now starting to re-buy those books (there are twenty-three of them) for another month like last year's Starktober. This one is the 1971 novel about a far-future society where the word "I" is outlawed.


The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux -- I'm slowly finding and reading Theroux's great travel books, and I haven't gotten to this one yet.

The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn -- More humorous novels from the UK; this series has gotten a lot of critical attention, and I like funny stuff.

Get Real by Donald E. Westlake -- another potential reading project; since I did Stark's Parker novels, I feel like the next natural step would be his alter ego Westlake's Dortmunder books. But I need to track down about a dozen of them first.

Build a Better Life By Stealing Office Supplies and Always Postpone Meetings With Time-Wasting Moronsby Scott Adams -- two of the very earliest and best Dilbert books, and two of the few I kept when I cleaned out my comics-collections shelves (ironically, less than a year before the flood made the exercise moot).

Do Not Disturb Any Further by John Callahan -- I think this was the first collection of his cartoons, and it's great stuff: Callahan was the master of the tasteless joke, with every single one of his cartoons guaranteed to offend someone.

Sex Criminals, Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky -- I reviewed this a couple of weeks back, from a copy I got through NetGalley. I expect to keep reading and buying the series, so I wanted the first one in a copy I could keep.

The Trouble With Girls, Vol. 2 by Jacobs, Jones, Hamilton, and Garcia -- One of the great forgotten comic books of the 1980s (and one of my wife's unlikely favorites from when I was getting her to read some of my comics), from the pretty-darn-early days.

Chew, Vol. 2 by John Layman and Rob Guillory -- Just read the first one and liked it, so I'm moving forward.

Finder: Talisman by Carla Speed McNeil -- a standalone graphic novel in a long-running SFnal series that I keep thinking I need to read more of. (I also have one of the thick collections also on the to-be-read shelf.)

Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples -- Again, I recently read and was really impressed with the first volume, so I'm going to try to catch up.