Sunday, June 28, 2009

More books I've read in 2009

Despite what my sister the literary snob will tell you I do still read and enjoy books. I just haven't had a s much time to read since I changed jobs. (I used to do most of my reading at work, on company time.) And now I have even less reading time since I've started working out during the free time I have.
But I do still read and here are a few books I've finished recently.
ICON: A HEROES WELCOME Back in the early 90's Milestone became the first all-black comics publisher. I liked some of their stuff -- like Static -- but I loved Icon. He had a lot in common with Superman, I guess, he was from another planet and all. But he was also a shapeshifter and when he landed on earth in the 1840's to a family of slaves, he altered his appearance to look like his adoptive parents. Now he's a wealthy lawyer. A poor girl named Raquel convinces him he needs to use his powers to help people -- and also take her on as his sidekick, which he does. Thus was born Icon and Rocket. I remember trying to convince people to give these comics a try back on those early internet forums and people always assumed I was black cuz I read these comics, despite the fact that I've been caucasian all my life. I just love great comics.
I wanted to see if Icon was as great as I remembered, and I'm happy to report it holds up very well. As usual my favorite part of the series is not about the superheroics but about the relationship between the characters, specifically Icon and Rocket, and how they help each other grow. Icon gets her to see how much growing up she has to do and she shows him that his conservative views about the world are not how things are in her reality. Dwayne McDuffie is one of the best writers in comics today and I'll pick up anything he writes. Even this early in his career he was a master at getting you to empathize with and relate to his characters. This is the page right after Raquel tells her boyfriend -- the inaptly named Noble --- that she's pregnant, and he says "How do you know it's mine?"
I read Dai Sijie's "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" a couple years ago and loved it. It was such a powerful look at how important books are, and why people willingly risk their lives and their freedom to read them. It was also a love story with an unexpected twist.
I had high hopes for this one by the same author but I only liked it. A Freud-obsessed young Chinese man who has been living in Paris returns to China to try to get the girl he's a had a crush on since college out of jail. Her name is -- no kidding -- Volcano of the Old Moon, and she got in trouble for selling a photograph to a western media outlet. A bribe to the judge doesn't work -- he wants a virgin, and Muo sets out to find one, but there aren't many and he travels around interpreting dreams to finance his search. This was a satire on Chinese justice (if you can call it that) and since I don't know much about China and I found the main character hard to relate to, I didn't love this book.

I always have high hopes for a new Russell Hoban book, even though "Linger Awhile" didn't do much for me. Neither did "My Tango With Barbara Strozzi". A woman with some major issues -- most pressing an abusive ex-boyfriend -- tries to begin a relationship with a writer, but she keeps breaking up with him to return to her creepy old art professor, and even though the two are together again at the end, I have no reason to believe that they will be for long. As usual, plenty of great asides about art, literature and music make this book worthwhile even though the narrative is a disappointment.

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