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Graphic Novels 
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Post Re: Graphic Novels
majoraphasia wrote:
Everyone has 'issues' with their parents at one point or another -- kids are going to hate their parents at least a couple of times throughout life. These stages pass, for the most part, but in Art Spiegelman's case they don't even really look like they're subsiding even after his dad starts in on the story that makes up a good bulk of The Complete Maus.

I'd apply words like "brilliant" and "incredible" and all the rest but they wouldn't really do justice to Maus and its excellence. This was a tour de force of so many great ideas that only literature pulls off for me; the semi-meta moments where Spiegelman actively debates himself on the page over whether or not Maus is a worthwhile endeavor (the best, and most moving, of these occur at the beginning of the second volume where Spiegelman sees his psychiatrist after being -- literally, on the page -- reduced to a kid by enthusiastic press) were totally unexpected and lifted the story right into the ranks of major lit.

But it was more than the meta stuff; the relationship between Spiegelman and Françoise, and how it has some reverberations from his relationship with his present-day father, is an actual, living relationship captured on the page. This is to say nothing about the organic feeling that Spiegelman captures in his relationship with his father, a man he's drawing a biography of while contending with his uneasiness with the man. It's the lack of heroism that shocked me the most; this isn't a Rising Against or Rising Above adversity story that could have been told any number of ways. Like any brilliant epic, Maus feels married to its form and ranks among some of the more demanding literature I've read in the past 24 months.

Easily, and I mean without a single doubt, this is the best thing I've read so far in 2010. When I started out I was guility of thinking that some of the character assignments (Germans as cats, Americans as dogs, Poles as pigs) were leaden-handed but I quickly amended this view when I realized Spiegelman wasn't after assigning moral positions; he was interested only in capturing moments in history, both world and personal, that will echo into the future. As soon as I finished reading the library copy I went to the bookstore and purchased a permanent copy for the home library. Out of the book recommendations I've gotten from people on this forum this was the best. And I haven't mentioned the limpid drawing style that enriches the text on the page... . This was Something Else entirely.


Great, great post. It's hard to explain just how powerful a work it is, but you came close. It caught me offguard too. We're so inundated with Holocaust stories that we feel we've seen most of it before.

I love how Vladek is portrayed with all his flaws until you figure the portrayal is a caricature. Of course, shortly thereafter we see Art worrying whether he shouldn't fib a little to make his father more likable since people wouldn't believe that Vladek is so out there.


Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:11 pm
Post Re: Graphic Novels
stiefmo wrote:
I'm not a great writer, dare I say I'm awful. Thus my opinions are hard for me to defend and my taste is lost because of my inability to tell why I feel a certain way or about a film, show, book, or etc. So, I'm not going to tell you what's great about it, why I liked it, or why I feel you will too, but if you are a fan of comics or graphic novels, you MUST read Preacher. It's just that simple.

i have a reason!

it's just damn good fun with a western intonation.


Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:37 pm
Post Re: Graphic Novels
stiefmo wrote:
I'm not a great writer, dare I say I'm awful. Thus my opinions are hard for me to defend and my taste is lost because of my inability to tell why I feel a certain way or about a film, show, book, or etc. So, I'm not going to tell you what's great about it, why I liked it, or why I feel you will too, but if you are a fan of comics or graphic novels, you MUST read Preacher. It's just that simple.


Amen. But I would amend your statement to say, "if you are a fan of good literature, you MUST read Preacher." Like Maus, Sandman, Watchman and others mentioned in this thread, Preacher demonstrates the potential of the medium and great writing. It's brilliant.


Tue Jun 15, 2010 3:28 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
I have been reading comics. Let me tell you about some of them.

The Lagoon by Lilli Carré.

A beautiful exploration of sound and music and the effect it has on three generations of one family. From the way the artwork looked I was expecting this to be a lot more abstract and creepy, but it actually ends on an uplifting note. Carré is an artist I’ll be watching out for.

Hey, Wait… by Jason

I’ve seen Jason’s book around for ages but I only finally got around to reading one last night. I really, really liked it. I think I had a lot of misgivings about Jason’s art style, but looking at it up close, it’s a lot more expressive than I was giving it credit for. It’s such a simple story of childhood tragedy, but it’s told in such a great way that I’ll probably read through it again tonight.

Young Liars by David Lapham

I finished the final trade last night. I have no idea what I just read. I’m sure there’s a clever explanation out there somewhere, and I’ll readily admit I just sort of skimmed through it after a while, but boy am I confused.


Mon Jun 28, 2010 1:31 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
Wrapped up Young Liars -- it took a while to work through as (a) it ended up being far less interesting than so many other things and (b) most nights I walked right past those volumes and thought "Why bother? It's all so messy, ultra-hip and crazy to impress."

It was all so messy, ultra-hip (in that cloying way of club kids that decry Radiohead as being "too commercial now" and claim Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music isn't for everyone (meaning you, stupid)) and crazy to impress. As in: the craziness scales so high as to destroy the reader's ability to take even one page seriously. Young Liars is all attitude without the cred.

But it contrasted so brilliantly with From Hell, a dynamite of literature that is as complete an experience as virtually any of its non-illustrated contemporaries. With From Hell you get a the impression that the volume of research involved in crafting the script -- not merely hinted at with detailed end notes that would put a history of Lincoln to shame -- is the difference between actual literature and Young Liars.

It's all a way of saying this: I forgive people for not taking graphic novels all too seriously. Although Maus and From Hell are great examples there must be hundreds of examples that would make the Agitprop For The New Cynical Generation that is Young Liars look like Faulkner.

Oh course, should people be so careless to judge literature from the works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and J.D. Robb we might be doomed to reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond as prime cut. It's all in knowing where to look and learning, as fast as you can, what to avoid. Since Attitude does not worthwhile stimulation make... .


Mon Jul 05, 2010 12:48 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
There is certainly lots of dreck out there. Every art form has its Freddy Got Fingered. I hope this thread starts people in the right direction, which is why I started it.

Major, you have to read Preacher. And Sandman. Those two are not to be missed.

And yes, From Hell was great.


Mon Jul 05, 2010 3:44 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
majoraphasia wrote:
But it contrasted so brilliantly with From Hell, a dynamite of literature that is as complete an experience as virtually any of its non-illustrated contemporaries. With From Hell you get a the impression that the volume of research involved in crafting the script -- not merely hinted at with detailed end notes that would put a history of Lincoln to shame -- is the difference between actual literature and Young Liars.

It's all a way of saying this: I forgive people for not taking graphic novels all too seriously. Although Maus and From Hell are great examples there must be hundreds of examples that would make the Agitprop For The New Cynical Generation that is Young Liars look like Faulkner.

Oh course, should people be so careless to judge literature from the works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz and J.D. Robb we might be doomed to reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond as prime cut. It's all in knowing where to look and learning, as fast as you can, what to avoid. Since Attitude does not worthwhile stimulation make... .


Even with my limited knowledge of the medium, it's clear that Alan Moore's work stands out. I think I'd check out just about anything from the man. Frank Miller, another legend, seems to be more hit or miss.

I've heard great things about Grant Morrison too. Anyone care to offer some input? And, for some reason, I've heard mostly bad things about the popular Mark Millar. A couple guys here share that sentiment. Thoughts?


Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:18 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
I’ve read a few things from Morrison. We3 is a weird three issue science fiction story that’s absolutely filled with over the top action. It’s about three animals that are being used as test subjects for experimental weapons. They escape with weapons intact and inevitably end up causing a whole lot of destruction (often by accident). They eventually find themselves hunted down by the scientists who created them.

He also did All Star Superman, a twelve part series that isn’t in continuity with the regular Superman series, but still keeps holds on to certain details. Put simply, it’s like a love letter for the character. Its Morrison doing his best to explain to the rest of the world why Superman is as loved as he is. I think it’s a little uneven, but when it shines, it really shines.

One thing they have in common is that they were drawn by Frank Quitely. The two have worked with each other a few times now, and I’ve always felt like they drag the best out of each other. I don’t think I could explain Quitely’s drawings if I tried, but he’s different, that’s fore sure.

Other than that, I’ve heard good things about his work on Animal Man and The Invisibles, and not so good things about his work on The Filth.

I’ll admit I don’t know much about Mark Millar, but it seems like everyone agrees that Superman: Red Son is his best work (many say it’s the only good thing he’s done). I still haven’t got around to reading it yet.


At the moment I’m reading through Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. It’s a memoir about her growing up with an overbearing father, who dies shortly after she comes out as a lesbian. Even though it’s written from Bechdel’s perspective, and explores the troubles she faced growing up, most of the book is about her relationship with her father, who hid his own sexuality from most of his friends and family. It’s fascinating stuff, my only complaint is that the constant literary comparisons have felt a little unnecessary at times, even though it makes sense within the context of the story.


Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:52 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
I'm currently reading the Kabuki series, by David Mack. Very, very, good.


Tue Jul 06, 2010 6:05 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
ed_metal_head wrote:
I've heard great things about Grant Morrison too. Anyone care to offer some input? And, for some reason, I've heard mostly bad things about the popular Mark Millar. A couple guys here share that sentiment. Thoughts?
Grant Morrison gets lifelong respect from me on the strength of All Star Superman alone, which--as it has been pointed out--is co-created with the superb Frank Quitely. And let's not forget Jamie Grant's excellent coloring.

(Fun fact: one of the secrets to Quitely's idiosyncratic technique is that he does his final artwork in pencil. This is in contrast to the old school method of roughing the art out in pencil and finishing it in ink, and to the new school method of using computer tools.)

As for Mark Millar, I don't have much to add to the sentiments already expressed. He's not especially remarkable, with Red Son being a pleasant exception.


And to backtrack a bit, I concur with Majoraphasia on From Hell. It is perhaps Alan Moore's best work, though much credit is also owed to Eddie Campbell. Moore is often given the lion's share of the credit for his achievements, which is perhaps undue. He himself is quick to talk about the value of the collaborative process whenever he has the chance. The contributions of the artists he's worked with are not to be underestimated.

What was I talking about? From Hell. This is what I think of when I think "graphic novel." It is a full length novelistic story, with novelistic depth and attention to themes. It is as literary as any novel, the only difference being that the images are illustrated rather than simply described with words (which are, themselves, highly abstract images). Perhaps this is why it frustrates me when people refer to any comic book with a cardboard cover and a square spine as a "graphic novel."

Slapping together four issues of Batman from the 1970s and reselling them at Barnes & Noble for $20 does not mean you have a Batman graphic novel. The careless use of the term is an insult to authors and artists who legitimately try to achieve a novelistic standard in their work.


Tue Jul 06, 2010 2:19 pm
Post Re: Graphic Novels
MunichMan wrote:
Major, you have to read Preacher. And Sandman. Those two are not to be missed.


Sandman is in my possession (perhaps in or on my person...) although it'll be some months before I turn the first page. I've got a few biographies to get through and priorities priorities so on and so forth. Preacher looks great but that will have to wait for Sandman. End of the year, maybe? I'd hate to rule out the chances of receiving it as a gift? Hmmm? Gift? Because I'm so nice? Failing that (PM me for my address -- please have it wrapped before shipping; I love unwrapping everything from parcels to candy) I'll check them out of my local book depository -- they've got the first five volumes and others can be sent through the system to my favorite Book Reading Place.


Tue Jul 06, 2010 7:04 pm
Post Re: Graphic Novels
majoraphasia wrote:
Sandman is in my possession (perhaps in or on my person...)
I would be impressed and horrified if you managed to keister all 10 volumes of this excellent series.

Anyway, today is a very special day for everyone here. I'm currently embarking on a semi-regular feature on my blog, for which I'll be reviewing a handful of significant comics. The first one on deck is A Contract With God, and you all are in for a sneak preview of my latest draft:

Quote:
Notes on A Contract With God

Will Eisner's best moments showcase genuine empathy towards people. In A Contract With God, we meet Mr. Scuggs, a mysterious building superintendent whom nobody knows, yet everybody has an opinion of. People regard him with fear and mistrust. With a single facial expression, Eisner allows us to see Mr. Scuggs as his tenants either cannot or don't care to see. We also meet Frimme Hersh, who finds success as a business shark. Though Hersh has hardened his heart, there is a pervasive sense that he yearns for something that he once renounced. These characters typify the book, which catalogues flawed things done by ordinary people who cannot be dismissed.

A Contract With God is frequently described as the first graphic novel*, which is misleading. In actuality, it is a collection of four short graphic stories. The first one, the titular "A Contract With God," consumes a full third of the book. The page length is fitting enough; the story bears the hefty burden of depicting the life of Frimme Hersh from childhood to death. In doing so, it strains even the generous page count that Eisner allots to it.

The heavy reliance upon third-person narration in "A Contract With God" might indicate a couple of things. First, the story is being briskly summarized to fit into a predetermined page length. It comes across as more of a yarn with accompanying illustrations than a complete comic. Secondly, this simply may not be the format best-suited to telling a story of this scope. It is difficult to span a man's entire life in any fashion, let alone in the sparse, scattershot fashion seen here.

That issue aside, "A Contract With God" does contain a strong moment in which the character of Frimme Hersh renounces his faith, which is conveyed through a two-page physical transformation. It's a strong visual idea that will hang like a specter over the subsequent stories. Eisner's original preface to this book reveals the private, long-held grief that inspired "A Contract With God." Hersh's transformative moment is strong enough to earn that inspiration, even if the rest of the tale falls short.

There is a recurring theme of life-changing events, punctuated by one last ritualistic run-through of daily routines. Frimme Hersh says his daily prayers for the last time. In the next story, "The Super," Mr. Scuggs shovels one more load of coal into the fire. It's a classic literary move, but there is a sense of something vital in these moments. The characters understand the passing of their way of life. They do what they do for the last time, perhaps out of attachment, out of obligation, or as a symbol of burial. It's not easily put into words, which is probably why Eisner didn't.

In "The Street Singer," Eisner ingeniously switches among different points of view. First, an omniscient account of street singers and their activities, then that of a washed-up opera queen looking to reignite her career, and finally to that of the street singer himself. While not as emotionally involving as the other stories in this collection, "The Street Singer" almost functions as dark comedy. The climactic moment of the story centers around an ironic misunderstanding, coupled with the punchline of the street singer getting banned from his favorite tavern.

The final story in the collection is called "Cookalein." It seems to be the most overtly autobiographical of the bunch, and it is also perhaps the most illustrative of both Eisner's strengths and weaknesses. Until this point, the stories have toed the fine line between drama and melodrama. "Cookalein" crosses that line. Events occur that demand greater attention to complexity and nuance than is allowed here by the remaining space of the book. There is the sense that the story condenses events from several boyhood trips like the one depicted here, resulting in a sort of greatest hits collection of mishaps and milestones. This kind of story is best dealt with in fine touches, rather than the broad strokes used here.

But even if the scope of the story escapes the storytelling, the characters are as vividly drawn as one could hope--in both senses of the phrase. The events do offer a glimpse into a way of life that is distinctly Depression-era, urban, and Jewish, which most readers know of only through anecdotes and history books. Here, Eisner is letting the audience in on the secret rituals of his upbringing. It's his human touch that shields these stories from mere sentimentality and cliche.

The environments throughout, inspired by old NYC tenements, are presented impressionistically. Often, a patch of bare floorboards, a set of steps, or an arch of bricks stand in for the complete picture. Eisner's art is not sloppy or lazy. Every partially (or completely) omitted background is calculated to represent the environment in effect, rather than in totality. A few key details present all the necessary information to evoke a feeling of being there, even if all the mundanities of the room are not accounted for. Make no mistake: this a forceful way of placing focus upon the characters at the center of the action. That said, the sense of environment is strong enough that completing the backgrounds might have done more harm than good.

As with all of Eisner's work, the drawings are slightly cartoonier than one might expect from stories ostensibly grounded in reality. This aesthetic is a clever deception on Eisner's part. Rather than put the stories at a distance, the theatrical gestures and exaggerated facial expressions have an immersive quality that captures the quirks of humanity by amplifying them. Drawn more subtly (or not at all), the visual action in the story might never achieve those human qualities. There are far too many comics with nominally realistic artwork that don't achieve Eisner's truth to life. Eisner's faith was in the visual as the most character-expressive element of his stories.

As it happens with items of historical importance, A Contract With God's reputation does not rest entirely upon the merits of its content. It is a strong book, and it would be unfair to blame it for its place in history. Now that its epoch has passed and the newness of its ideas has worn off, it can be appreciated for what it is--not Eisner's best work, but an original achievement in comic art. It goes without saying that it is necessary reading for an informed and literate reader of comics.

*Again, A Contract With God is allegedly the first-ever "graphic novel." Eisner would later admit to using the term to court publishers, many of whom weren't interested in comics. The etymology is quite simple. A graphic novel is novelistic storytelling carried out through images rather than text. As a collection of short stories loosely connected by common themes and environments, A Contract With God does not fit the bill. That's not to say that Eisner was wrong, but "graphic novel" in this case applies only as a marketing tool for skeptical publishers. For the rest of us, a more accurate descriptor could be "graphic anthology," or simply "comics."


It's not exactly something I've never done before, but if I'm going to devote significant time to it, I figured I'd test it out on a group of seasoned review-readers.


Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:03 pm
Post Re: Graphic Novels
BUMPed for Wired's lengthy interview with Alan Moore. The topic is the new LXG comic, but it's Alan Moore. That guy talks about everything and here he takes time to share his thoughts on LOST, the state of comic books (hint: it's not good) and a whole lot of other stuff

http://www.wired.com/underwire/2011/07/alan-moore-league-1969/


Fri Jul 22, 2011 9:10 pm
Post Re: Graphic Novels
majoraphasia wrote:
Amazon has shipped off the three volumes of Young Liars as well as the way-too-expensive-but-we'll-cut-back-on-Holiday-shopping The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1. As I know I like Gaiman's writing there is a little less risk involved than with some of the others. The Complete Maus was picked up first thing this morning from the local library and I'll read it tomorrow or Sunday. Thanks for the input and recommendations from everyone.


Hey Major, just wondering if you had started/finished Sandman yet. Inquiring minds want to know...


Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:11 pm
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Post Re: Graphic Novels
Any opinions or thoughts circulating around King City?

It was covered, along with four other graphic novels, here: http://www.npr.org/2012/08/15/154441182 ... hic-novels

I read both Fun Home and Are You My Mother? earlier this summer and admired both as further advances to the argument that this form deserves consideration by snobs like, well, me.

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Sat Aug 25, 2012 4:55 am
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Post Re: Graphic Novels
I like King City quite a bit, but I can see how it might not be to everyone's tastes. King City is essentially a playground for Brandon Graham to play around with; he draws sexy ladies, fits in as many puns as humanely possible (things are always happening in the background and he loves to break the forth wall) and the adventures the main characters get into are always crazy. It's unique, for sure. I don't think there's much of an emotional hook though, and I don't think the story really builds towards a whole lot. I mean there's a big climax, but it still feels like things just kind of get wrapped up. That's probably because the original run was cut off early, and was only brought back to life when Brandon managed to work out a deal with another publisher.

But it's definitely worth checking out. And if you do like King City; my next suggestion would be Orc Stain, which has a similar level of insanity and imagination.


Sun Aug 26, 2012 12:33 pm
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Post Re: Graphic Novels
AJR wrote:
I like King City quite a bit, but I can see how it might not be to everyone's tastes. King City is essentially a playground for Brandon Graham to play around with; he draws sexy ladies, fits in as many puns as humanely possible (things are always happening in the background and he loves to break the forth wall) and the adventures the main characters get into are always crazy. It's unique, for sure. I don't think there's much of an emotional hook though, and I don't think the story really builds towards a whole lot. I mean there's a big climax, but it still feels like things just kind of get wrapped up. That's probably because the original run was cut off early, and was only brought back to life when Brandon managed to work out a deal with another publisher.

But it's definitely worth checking out. And if you do like King City; my next suggestion would be Orc Stain, which has a similar level of insanity and imagination.


Thanks for the input. I'll be taking a look at it, having ordered it on the cheap from Amazon. The samples I've seen look very good, busy.

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Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:39 am
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Post Re: Graphic Novels
AJR wrote:

Blankets is another one I really like. It’s a memoir by Craig Thompson about his early childhood and teenage years, mainly centred around his relationship with his first girlfriend. It’s such a sad, sombre look at the awkwardness of being a teenager, and it really hit home for me. I’m eager to check out his other books.


I'm about halfway through this and so far feel something like a conflict: the novel is very immersive and heartfelt but there's something almost whiny about some of Thompson's recollections of early alienation from religion. He gives his childhood self both more and less credit than he likely deserves. We'll see how it turns out.

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Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:24 am
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Post Re: Graphic Novels
Fuck me, has it really been over two years since my last post in this thread? I no longer measure time merely through the expansion of hairs on my shoulders and the drooping of my generative organs.

Anyway, the best thing I've read in the intervening time is The Invisibles, the long screed on magic, violence, and consciousness by Grant Morrison and a slew of artists on assist duties. It was plundered lock stock and barrel by The Wachowskis in a fit of memetic mutation.

It is at times slightly incoherent and even obtrusive to reader engagement, but I nevertheless find it essential. It has a little bit of everything and it pulls no punches.


Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:10 am
Post Re: Graphic Novels
Mark III wrote:
I'm about halfway through this and so far feel something like a conflict: the novel is very immersive and heartfelt but there's something almost whiny about some of Thompson's recollections of early alienation from religion. He gives his childhood self both more and less credit than he likely deserves. We'll see how it turns out.


I think that’s a part of why it worked so well for me. It captures perfectly the kind of thoughts and feelings I would have had around that time. I guess it’s kind of similar to what you were saying about Miyazaki’s films capture what it’s like to be a kid, Blankets looks at things from a young, emotional teenager’s perspective, which makes it seem needlessly dramatic at times. I admit; I probably won’t read through it again, even though it really captured me in the moment. Because there’s only so much of that I can take. I will probably continue to browse through it every now and again just to look at the pretty pictures.

And since this is two years later I can say I have read through Thompson’s other graphic novels.

Good-bye, Chunky Rice: This is Thompsons first full graphic novel, and it’s honestly my favourite. It’s super emotional, with every character having a hugely distinctive personality and design; everyone just kind of wears their emotions on their sleeves. It feels honest though; like a young man trying to show his struggles with abandonment by pouring everything into his artwork. I think it gains a lot by being fairly brief, whereas everything else Thompson has done has been really long. You only get to spend a little time with these weird characters before you’re swept somewhere else, whereas Blankets feels like you’re trapped for quite some time with this sad, awkward teenager. It’s good stuff.

Habibi: Thompsons latest work, and something that he’d been working on for years. It’s Thompson’s attempt at creating an adult fairy-tale, set amongst a fictional middle eastern world, where two escaped slaves struggle to reunite after being torn apart by an oppressive society. Surprise surprise; it’s emotionally charged with both of the major characters working through some major issues, mainly in regards to their sexuality. It's really ambitious, explores Islam and Arabic culture from an outsider's perspective, and it's got a lot of great ideas throughout.

That said; I don't care much for it. Thompson explored sexuality and religion pretty extensively Blankets, and the awkwardness worked for me because it felt like it was coming from a teenager's perspective. Here it just feels way over the top. I get that we live in a pretty fucked up world, and a lot of the stories that happen in this wouldn't stray too far from reality (although a lot of it is completely fantastical) but good god, these guys just keep getting put through the ringer. I think the biggest problem is its ambition; Thompson tries to tackle so many issues and ideas, but I don't think they should have all been put into the same story. It's really hard for me not to look past the characters and see Thompson dealing with his own sexuality behind everything. I wanted to love this book, but I stepped away feeling kind of empty. I think I would have liked this a lot more if it was a collection of short stories. As it is, it just feels too muddled.

AND I’M SPENT.


Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:42 am
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