Category: Book

Book reviews

Review: The Dirty Pair Strike Again

DirtypairstikeagainQuestion: how do you follow up on two action-packed novellas in which clairvoyant women solve strange cases and leave considerable destruction in their wake?

If you answered “why, you write a full-length novel for those two women and turn the dial on everything up to a ten!” then you are correct. And that’s just what The Dirty Pair Strike Again (ISBN 978-1-59582-101-0; $8.95) is: the first full-length Dirty Pair novel, and the story that kicks it up a notch.

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Review: Alec

alec_cover_sc_lgSome people can’t grasp certain concepts. The medium of comics is something that still has a long way to go before being fully understood. Despite the enormous selection and diversity present on bookshelves, in store windows and online, there are still those who have a very close-minded and unfair view of what comics are. Some are merely dismissive of all comics as “kid’s stuff,” while others say anything from it “not being real art” (whatever that means) to it being “utter garbage.” Truthfully, I think there will always be those who just won’t try a comic or a graphic novel out just because of what it is. They’ll literally judge a book by its cover. Hell, they might judge the book without even bothering to look at the cover. If it’s a comic, well, it’s not grown-up enough for them.

It’s a pretty safe bet that such people have never read anything by Eddie Campbell.
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Review: The MAD Morality

Original Abingdon Press cover artThe MAD Morality is an odd duck amongst the world of MAD paperbacks. Originally published by the Christian-based Abingdon Press in 1970 and receiving a second paperback edition by Signet in 1972, it’s remembered more as an oddity amongst both MAD and Christian circles than as a serious piece of work. The MAD Morality began life as an essay in The Christian Century, where it received a fair amount of praise for its clever writing and biblical foundations. He later contacted the editors of MAD to ask permission to use their material in a book-length version of the aforementioned essay, where (according to MAD historians) the editors were so amused by the concept that they agreed.
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Review: Al Jaffee's Mad Life

Al Jaffee's Mad LifeAl Jaffee is one of the most talented cartoonists in the world; not only is he a great artist, but he’s incredibly clever.  After all, he’s the guy who not only invented the Fold-In, but has done over 400 of the things.  He’s also done a lot of hypothetical inventions for MAD magazine… some of which have made it into the real world, with his name on the patent.  He’s 89 years old, and still going strong, despite having an essential tremor in his hand causing him to hold his drawing hand steady with his other hand.

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Review: I Know I Am, But What Are You?

Samantha Bee’s long been one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents… which is more true than you may expect, since she’s been with the show forever.  I think the only person on there now who’s been on longer is Jon Stewart himself.  Anyway, being a fan of hers, I was excited to learn that she’d written a book.   It’s more a memoir than a book of printed routines, though since she’s not really a stand-up, that makes sense.
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Review: The Suicide Cult

Suicide_Cult_-_coverIn the later 1970s, dozens upon dozens of ‘true-crime’ books flooded the shelves, riding a new wave of popularity and searching for their own fifteen minutes of fame. Kilduff and Javers, reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle, compiled their stories exposing charismatic religious leader Jim Jones (and his . . . well, Suicide Cult) into this addition to the field. Think Helter Skelter meets All The President’s Men. Continue reading

Review: Role Models

Cover of "Role Models"

Cover of Role Models

I’ve known people who don’t really like John Waters.  To those people, I can only play the “I accept your lifestyle choice, even if I believe it is wrong” card.  I just think he’s great — his films are delightfully trashy, but — and here’s the big thing — they’re WELL-MADE.  His writing, too, just speaks to me; his voice comes through with everything he’s written.  I suppose it’s a cliche about “he writes like people speak!”, but that’s OK, as it’s not quite true with John Waters.  He doesn’t write like PEOPLE speak, he writes like HE speaks; casual but erudite, with a wicked sense of humor that’s dark without really being mean.  For him, “freak” isn’t an insult — it’s just an apt description of some people.  Nothing’s wrong with it — and, honestly, a lot of times the freaks have it all over the “normals”.

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Review: Time’s Arrow

Cover of "Time's Arrow"

Cover of Time’s Arrow

Martin AmisTime’s Arrow is a pretty cool little novella. Or maybe it’s a novel, I don’t know. It’s either a long novella, or a really short novel. You can take your pick. It’s about 170 pages, at any rate, and it’s fictional. So take those two pieces of information and come to your own conclusion. I guess you can make your own mind up as to whether or not it’s pretty cool too, but if we do that, then there’s no reason for me to write this, or for anyone to write any review, but whatever — none of this is important. What is important: It’s a book, by Martin Amis, that goes backwards in time. And it’s not Counter-Clock World by Philip K. Dick, which is the one I typically think of when I hear of a book that moves backwards. There’re probably others, though.


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Ernest Hemingway

Richard YatesSince I have like three venues to publish it in, and I told Tao I needed a galley, I feel obliged to write a review of Tao Lin’s novel, Richard Yates.  I don’t think I will ever read anything by Richard Yates.  Reading Tao Lin has a way of erasing any literary knowledge one had.  I eagerly anticipated this release after reading Eeeee Eee Eeee and Shoplifting from American Apparel.  He sold shares in this novel to publish it and not have to work at a vegan restaurant while he was writing it.

I feel not conscious enough of how I’m mimicking Tao Lin’s Style.  Tao Lin’s Style is infectious and hypnotic.  Writing about Tao Lin in Tao Lin’s style, as The Observer, or rather Christian Lorentzen, did, is hard to resist.  I think The Observer was lazy.  I approve of that laziness.  Of course, as with Hemingway, another “bad” writer whose parody comes easy, and whom Tao Lin namechecks as much as Yates, and includes in the index, the style slips in anyway.  While reading Tao Lin I find myself becoming much drier and flatter.  I lose my obligation to feel strongly about anything, especially about how I feel about anything.
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Review: How To Wreck A Nice Beach

When most people think of the vocoder, they think of the robot voice on the Kraftwerk records…. or perhaps the mangling that Cher’s voice goes through on “Believe” or T-Pain’s voice on any T-Pain record.  (That last one’s not actually a vocoder, though; that’s Auto-Tune, which is different.)  But most people don’t know that the vocoder was originally designed as a secure way for heads of state to talk to each other during World War II.  Dave Tompkins’ new book How To Wreck A Nice Beach goes through the history of the vocoder, from its militaristic roots to its more fun applications in music, radio dramas and film.

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