Death of the Artist, by Karrie Fransman (and friends)

https://i1.wp.com/s3.amazonaws.com/karriefransman/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Death-of-the-Artist-Cover-950-pix-width.jpgWhen five artists came together to write a graphic novel with the theme ‘Death of the Artist,’ nobody knew that one would be dead before the book was in print.

(Oops. Spoiled it. Just kidding, it’s in the Foreword.)

Karrie Fransman and her four friends- Vincent, Helena, Jackson, and Manuel- get together for a week to create. The artist inside each of them is dying- the essence of his life gulped by the banalities of everyday life.

Whatever limitations one might assume would be imposed upon the story due to the graphic novel format are gloriously defied.

Linear plotline? Nope. Each artist gives themselves up to telling a part of the story, and you, the Reader, must string the daisy chain together. Only the story isn’t as innocent as that sounds. (Can’t say I didn’t warn you, ’cause I just did.)

Consistency? Aw, hell no. Each artist uses a different medium (painting, photography, comic art) and has a distinct style. Some were ugly and terrifying  slightly unappealing at first glance. However, much like eggnog, pretzels or anything with bitter gourd in it, one simply has to acquire a taste for it.

It is easy to judge these people, who have bared themselves in the telling of this story. They are in turns self-absorbed, awkward, cruel, selfish… Then dawns the realization that they are us. (Suspend eye-roll and judgement at this sentence till after you read the book, please.)

The search for eternal youth.

The despair of disappointment.

The greed of desire.

These themes merge and overlap, sometimes coming to the surface to color specific characters or their actions. This book would appeal to both artists and philosophers, though perhaps one could argue that all artists are philosophers.

There is but one thing more: the ubiquitousness of drugs and alcohol rather plays into the stereotype. Contrary to popular belief, they do not make you more creative- in fact, they are more likely to fuel your distraction and eventual destruction, which is the fate of one unfortunate artist among them. In other words, DRUGS ARE BAD. STAY IN SCHOOL, KIDS. Be hug dealers, not drug dealers. Peace out.

Image Credit: Karrie Fransman
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Drama by Raina Telgemeier

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Image Description: A page from Drama, wherein the protagonist lies on her bed

As somebody snarkily reminded me, this blog was once about books.

Raina Telgemeier’s Drama has been on my TBR list forever, languishing, because there was no chance whatsoever of me being able to procure the book to read it. If you didn’t already know, I live on one half of an island shaped like a saddle, the coordinates of which are extremely clandestine. (Although they may be unwisely revealed at any time by three completely batty taxi-drivers.) On the other side of the island lives a vicious Cyclops. There are no libraries or affordably-priced book stores here, and I cannot complain about this enough. (I have a vague hope that if I groan about it loudly enough, it will fall out of the sky someday.)

Then came a Special Occasion, where I was given the power to purchase exactly one book, and I was torn between this and Telgemeier’s other graphic novel, Ghosts. (It is a truly Herculean feat to spell that surname correctly each time, try it if you want to subject your mind to cruel mental strain.) After much agonized deliberation, I chose Drama over Ghosts. I have not yet read Ghosts; therefore, to this minute, I have not a clue whether I made the right decision. Nevertheless.

This is an extremely light read. Amazon says the key demographic is eight year olds. I would now like to formally declare the following: I am not eight. I’m in my late teens. However, the comic books they write for people my age tend to be quite dark, and I just wanted a light, fluffy read, like a Saturday morning pancake. So I picked a book geared at eight year olds. Judge me.

This was an even lighter read than I expected, an ideal comic book to accompany you to the poolside. The Amazon reviews are partially composed of parents on various parts of the homophobia spectrum, because two of the male characters develop crushes on other male characters. Even if you’re eight, I really don’t think being exposed to the fact that people are different and that not everyone has crushes on the opposite gender is going to confuse the hell out of you. It’s a book about middle schoolers, and middle school in general is (or isn’t, depending on whether or not you’ve hit puberty) confusing.

My overall conclusion is that it’s a pretty good book. It’s not special, or ground-breaking, but it checks all the right boxes: fun, light, great illustrations, watertight plot.

This book isn’t the right one if you’re looking for a comic book that utilises the medium in innovative ways to tell a story, or one that breaks boundaries. It’s an enjoyable read, and it’s good qualities don’t extend beyond that.

Ultimately, I got the most happiness out of the drawings, because all those minor touches which speak of the thought that went into its creation are what I live for.

So if you’re eight, or eighteen but can’t handle sad stuff, this one’s for you!

Image Credit: goodreads.com

I Read “The God of Small Things” For The First Time.

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This is unlike any book I have ever read. Each sentence is constructed carefully, and needs mulling over. Except for those sentences that paint vivid images of scenes I would rather not see. Those I try to forget, as quickly as possible. And these are only the Small Things.

The book has no linear plot. Time is fluid. One moment you are reading about an incident that occurred decades in the pas, then you jump forward to when the character is thinking about it in the recent past- a year or two ago. It’s like having the rug pulled out from under your feet. You’re eagerly reading, trying to find out what happens, and all of a sudden, the screen goes dark in the movie theater, and word “Intermission” flashes on the screen. You have no choice but to wait, and watch the ads that play in the meanwhile.

This is That kind of book. The kind of book where words in the middle of the sentences are casually capitalized, in a cheeky hat-tip to grammar rules. The sort of book where you know better than to hope for a happy ending. The kind where the minute the little boy goes out of the theater and into the cinema hall alone, and the Orange-drink man starts talking to him, dread fills the pit of your stomach. You know just what is going to happen to him.

The characters are bound, confined by societal constructs, while simultaneously defying them simply by being human. I feel silently vindicated when Ammu begins to have relations with an Untouchable, as though her doing so is revenge upon the society which considers her a pariah.

Some scenes are almost too much to bear. They tug at your heart long after you’ve read them, like when Ammu snaps at her daughter, Rahel: “That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.” Long after this, Rahel agonizes over her mother’s words. “A little less her Ammu loved her.”

I read it in small, miserly quantities at first, because it made me miserable and tainted the colour of my day. The last half I read in one glorious rush, because I couldn’t wait any longer, sitting in the same shape on the couch without moving for hours. The plot is a cane chair- beautiful, rich with detail, but with gaps in between, parts of the story that have been left unwritten. For instance, I wonder what Estha’s life was like, when he was Returned to his alcoholic father. And what of the gaping, blank hole in place of a future, that lies before Estha and Rahel? Time does not stay still, even at the Ayemenem house.

And yet seemingly irrelevant things are described vividly. A television report in which an American boy is being handcuffed, being watched by Kochu Maria, the cook.

There is much to make the Reader uncomfortable, uneasy, disgusted. I have read the book from cover to cover, and yet I still don’t know whether I liked it or not. I think I did like it, in the end. Reading this was a stepping stone, a Book That Must Be Read, a step away from the books I usually read, and into uncharted, unfamiliar territory.

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto: Don’t Judge the Disturbing Book By It’s Lovely Cover

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Image Credit: goodreads.com

This will go down in history as one of those books I never finished reading. (Let’s ignore the more critical things going down in history for the moment.) I know plenty of people who say that they ALWAYS finish the book once they start it, no matter how awful it is.

And this is generally said in the tone of a boast, with some underlying pride. It puzzles me. Why would anyone struggle to finish a book they didn’t like, when they could be reading something they do like? What a perfect waste of time, right? I thought everyone was about YOLO and stuff.

Everyone is entitled to the use of their own time, and if you want to spend your’s reading a crappy book, go right ahead. You do you. On the other hand, if you start doing something detrimental to your well being, I can’t stand there and continue to say, “You do you,” I’m going to have to dash over, pluck the scissors out of your hands, and ask you why you’re trying to cut your nails with them.

This book was actually kind of disturbing for me, and ruined my state of mind for the days after I stopped reading it. So I have to warn you: decide whether or not it’s for you first. I honestly feel that I should have stopped myself before I’d already finished three quarters of it. It was given to me as a gift, and when I read the first page, I thought it was wonderful.

Pinto’s words are woven exquisitely, and the prose is a joy to read. The subject of the book, however, is the narrator’s mother, and her manic depression. I couldn’t handle it.

The book will continue to sit in my shelf in all it’s rich plum-coloured glory, a piece of art, to look at, but not consume.

I’d conclude with some comforting homily about how maybe I’ll enjoy it when I’m older, but I don’t think I’ll ever be that numb to suffering.

Now that just made history as the saddest ending ever.

 

Someone Made Me Start Reading The Lord of the Rings Series. So Here We Are.

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An extremely devout Lord of the Rings fan whom I am acquainted with has relentlessly been persuading me to read the series. Or rather, as he is fond of saying, the book, as it was not originally a series but meant to be consumed as a single book. I read (and enjoyed) The Hobbit, but it did not really give me a sense of urgency to read the rest.

The thick, scarlet red volume lies on the coffee table, staring at me with the enormous gold eye emblazoned on the cover. The size of the thing does not daunt me, the child who happily devoured one installment of Harry Potter after another. No, it’s the other things.

The other things being various odd gaps in the story itself. First, (and oddest), why are the characters all men? There is like, one woman who pops up, and she’s part of a husband-and-wife couple. Bilbo throw what sounds like the craziest birthday party in the history of the universe, and there’s just this one female worth mentioning. Moving on to after Bilbo vanishes, there are still no females.

I do know that the story involves Frodo setting out on a journey, because that’s where I reached the last time I started reading it. Somehow, I kind of doubt that there will be (significant) female characters along the journey. The author doesn’t seem to think important characters can be female, or that female characters can be important. Whichever way you look at it, it amounts to the same sentiment.

I have now come to where Frodo is in the midst of a long conversation with Gandalf, who is explaining the One Ring’s long murderous history, and I am falling asleep, because I cannot find it in myself to be invested in this story.

Will the potent combination of the hype around this book and my very persistent acquaintance be enough to combat my unwillingness? Will I finish reading this after all?

Now there’s a cliffhanger.

Image Credit: cdn.collider.com

Book Review: The Trials of Apollo

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My feelings are… quite mixed about this one.

 

Was it funny? Yes, it was. The classic humor found in the PJO series with Apollo’s ownnarcissistic twist makes for a pretty solid yes.

 

Was there a spectacular adventure? Certainly.

 

What about unexpected twists and turns? Hell yeah.

 

Yet, somehow, I didn’t feel it. That feeling that accompanies the reading of every Rick Riordan novel. I didn’t feel as emotionally involved in the story. Maybe it’s because we’ve been through too much already.

 

We’ve watched Percy as he fought his way through one war and another. We lost many a dear character along the way: Beckendorf, Silena, Bianca… The struggles, the heartbreak, all the complicated feelings- we’ve wrestled with them, not once, but twice, and the second time, on a far larger scale.

 

It feels like Percy and everyone else who survived those wars, should get a well-deserved break instead of being plunged headfirst into another situation.

 

I just don’t care that much any more, about what challenges they face. It feels tired, like that’s the only thing they’re good for. I don’t want the Percy Jackson books to become yet another of those novels: the ones you read to feel good, because you know the characters will end up safe and sound in the end.

 

Perhaps the old gang should be shelved, just for awhile. Give them a break, they’ve been through a lot. Let Apollo go on his adventures alone, and please, no more major wars. The trials of a narcissistic former god? Count me in. Just as long as it isn’t yet another life-changing prophecy that impacts the whole world.
Image Credit: USA Today

The Boy in the Woods: An Update on the Baffling Situation We Now Find Ourselves in

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This post is the direct (totally unexpected) sequel to a previous post.

Out of a strong sense of duty to God/Forces of the Universe/Code of Honour I know find it necessary to post the following disclosure. Yesterday, when my existence went into a downward spiral of meaninglessness, I binge-read the entire thing. It was pretty good, I guess?

Am I glad I read it? Yeah, kinda. I mean, I was pretty bored.

But am I glad I read it? Nah, not really. It was good, not great.

Still, I suppose it was better than I expected, overall. None too realistic, but there you are. You cannot really expect these things to be. Wattpad readers are a barbaric, violent lot. If the ending you serve them is not what they expected, or if there aren’t an adequate number of “moments” between the two lead characters, they will immediately commence slinging mud at you in the comments section.

The meeker ones will quietly slink away, and you will not notice until you see the drastic drop in the number of reads each chapter gets.

And so it goes, the vicious cycle of trying to appease readers in order to garner more of them to win Wattys and generally acquire fame and success.

Ah, well.