Monday, June 19, 2017

Barely Making a Dent: June 2017 Books


In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

If you think it's been a while since the last post in this series, you're correct. During that stretch, I finished Stephen King's It. I'm a longtime King lover, so I'm an easy mark for this one, yet so far I'm not ranking it in my top five King books. I'm fine with the excessive length (1,100 pages) if it's warranted, but at times it felt like needless meandering. Still, a terrific book, at times also terrifying and at others heartbreaking. And, um, that ending? I finished the book several weeks ago and I'm still not sure how to discuss it. You can read about the scene I'm referring to here. To say it yanked me right out of the book is an understatement. I'm no prude, but even I was disturbed by it. It's not only distasteful but also feels like a narrative leap that comes out of nowhere. It's ludicrous and just plain nonsensical, really. I have a feeling that King wouldn't write the scene in the same way if he were to write the book today. All in all, though. It was a solid King story, but a notch below some of his best work, which includes The Shining, 'Salem's Lot, The Stand, and the Dark Tower series. Really glad I finally read it because it's felt like a huge hole in my personal reading list for decades.

Somehow I've managed to read the following while reading It and since reading It.

Recently read

Blondie Unseen 1976-1980, photos by Roberta Bayley. Simply stunning photographs, on stage and off, of Debbie Harry and Blondie at their absolute peak. It proves what I've always known: Harry simply does not take a bad picture, ever. Hoping to write more about this one soon; stay tuned.

South and West, by Joan Didion. After the mammoth It, it was nice to kick back with a small, 120+ page collection of Didion's notes on her home state of California and her travels through the south in 1970. Didion is a personal favorite, so I cherish any chance I find to read her work, even her unfinished notes from four decades ago. They may be raw but they still manage to create an impressively cohesive book. Didion is one of our finest chroniclers of this increasingly strange late-twentieth/early-twenty-first century American experience, and all of the emotional turmoil inherent in that. Here's an example of how she drills right down to the heart of things, finding ways to express feelings so many of us continue to feel today, in 2017:
“It occurred to me almost constantly in the South that had I lived there I would have been an eccentric and full of anger, and I wondered what form the anger would have taken. Would I have taken up causes, or would I have simply knifed somebody?”
The Many Lives of Catwoman, by Tim Hanley. This was a review copy and I'm currently working on an interview with the author for Sequart; stay tuned.


The Caped Crusade, by Glen Weldon. I reviewed this one a few weeks back. I can't gush enough about Weldon's work so I'll just say this: if you're a nerd, buy this book. If you're a Batman nerd, rush right out this instant and buy this book. It's one of the most insightful examinations of nerd culture ever written. Plus Weldon is hilarious, so the book is always a rollicking good time. And with Adam West's recent passing, it also serves as a fine remembrance of what made his particular take on Batman so lasting for fans.
Quintessential Chaykin: guns, femme fatales, and action

Currently reading


A whole lot of Wonder Woman comics. You might have heard there's this little movie out now that's doing gangbusters with critics and fans alike. My daughter is turning into an enormous Wonder Woman fan, which is only ratcheting up my already-strong appreciation for the character. I know this post is about books, but I implore you to go see the movie, and if you're already seen it, see it again. I've seen it twice and my admiration has only grown for what Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, and crew did with this film.

Howard Chaykin: Conversations, edited by Brannon Costello. Another review copy, but one that I've had for a while now. Just getting around to it. Chaykin is a fascinating writer/artist whose work has been both innovative and controversial for decades, including a recent example of the latter. He's also an absurdly honest interview subject who doesn't shy away from any subject, especially when offering opinions on fellow artists, writers, editors, and the commercial art/comic book industries as a whole.

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