Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Joss Whedon's Three-Part-Internet-Only-Take-That-You-Villains Musical and a Review: Soon I Will Be InvincibleAs a society, we must be in reaction to superheroes in comics and movies, because there is a mini-wave of takes from the super villain's viewpoint. Let's start with Joss Whedon.
No one could reasonably claim that Joss Whedon was wed to formula. I thought the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was brilliant (and the writing and execution of the rest of the series weren't too shabby, either). During the Writers Guild of America strike, Whedon started writing a three-part musical about a low-rent super-villain called Doctor Horrible - and they're all streaming for free this week only.
But what first got me thinking about super villains was the amusing Soon I Will Be Invincible, a debut novel by Austin Grossman. The novel rests on two points of view: that of super villain Doctor Impossible, who has an IQ of 300 and rookie superhero female cyborg Fatale. And there is the battle between good and evil, with people trying to take over the world in one way or another, but it's not always clear exactly who is doing what. Addressing childhood, shame, love, lust, and the weird twists of fate that make us who we are, the book shows how sometimes the difference between one path in life and another might be a chance word, a bit of kindness, and someone understanding. My daughter wasn't too fond of the writing, though for the most part I enjoyed it, with trite comic book dialog craftily placed to create a kind of character chiaroscuro, only the contrast not being between literal light and dark, but the metaphoric public and private parts of someone's psyche that help define the whole person. There were times that I thought the story got badly out of hand - for example, one character realizes the real identity of another and states it, when a hint would have done the trick and left one area of tension and suspense for resolution at the end for greater effect. But overall, worth the read and a book I can recommend. Check the link for an excerpt and pointer to where you can get a copy.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Cellphone Novels Are Hit in JapanIt seems that the younger generation in Japan - the country that gave the world its first novel - have started reading the genre ... when composed on a cellphone. A New York Times article examines the phenomenon:
Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels, five were originally cellphone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels. What is more, the top three spots were occupied by first-time cellphone novelists, touching off debates in the news media and blogosphere.It seems that since flat rate message charges started becoming available, young people with novels in them started discharging their literary works via cell phone. The works get posted online for free, with only the sites getting paid via advertising. (Some things never change, even with technology.) And then, if your novel is exceedingly popular, it may get turned into a print version. It's a different kind of read, as one cellphone novelist puts it:
“They don’t read works by professional writers because their sentences are too difficult to understand, their expressions are intentionally wordy, and the stories are not familiar to them,” she said. “On other hand, I understand how older Japanese don’t want to recognize these as novels. The paragraphs and the sentences are too simple, the stories are too predictable. But I’d like cellphone novels to be recognized as a genre.”
Friday, September 14, 2007
Entering the Market Frey - When Bad is GoodI have often argued that eventually a person's behavior catches up in all sorts of ways. But the case of James Frey leaves me scratching my head. As the New York Times reports:
James Frey, the author who admitted making up portions of his best-selling memoir “A Million Little Pieces,” has signed a new book deal for his novel “Bright Shiny Morning,” with HarperCollins. The dollar figure was not disclosed.Maybe he's turned over a new leaf. Maybe publishers can trust him now that they're willing to run out and out fiction, and not make the kinds of demands that sometimes drive ambitious, hungry, or needy writers into fabrication. Then again, here's the end of that article:
Reached by telephone before the announcement, Mr. Frey denied rumors that he had sold a short story collection, saying, “I have never written a short story in my life.”Then again, maybe not.
But Mr. Frey published a short story last fall in a catalog for an exhibition by Malerie Marder, a Los Angeles-based artist.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Mystery Research is MurderousPolish author Krystian Bala has received a 25 year jail term in his country for murder - that seemed to have inspired the writer's latest novel. Even the brief accounts in the BBC story of the 7-year-old murder sound grizzly:
The body of Dariusz Janiszewski, the young, well-liked owner of a small advertising agency, was spotted by fishermen seven years ago on the banks of the River Oder, near the Polish city of Wroclaw.Apparently, Bala's novel, recently published, uses similar details that he claims were from news account of the time - but that doesn't explain his having called the victim on the last day he was seen, nor the prosecution's assertion that he was jealous of Mr Janiszewski for having an alleged affair with Bala's estranged wife. There obviously is such a thing as over-researching a book.
He had been tortured, starved and tied up in a way that made it impossible to swim.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Free Novel in Progress from Nobel LaureateElfriede Jelinek, Austrian feminist playwright and novelist, is experimenting with posting her new novel Neid - German for Envy - onto the web in parts as she completes them. Here's her web site - though the three chapters she has posted, as most of the site, are in German. If you'd like a sense of her writing, go to the site, look under the 2007 posts, and click on the Bambiland - Translated by Lilian Friedberg link.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Book Review: The LunaticI had never heard of Anthony C. Winkler before receiving information from Akashic Books that they were republishing his 1980s comic novel, The Lunatic. But I've seen interesting titles from the house before, so asked for a review copy - and I'm delighted that I did.
The story concerns a Aloysius, a Jamaican madman who claims a thousand names, who talks to trees, bushes, and rocks and lives alone in the open forests. He eventually meets a German tourist who sees the world through the lens of a camera and sex. They improbably become lovers, eventually add a third - a butcher - and go through a series of experiences and situations, culminating in the robbery of a rich man's house.
I've seen references to Winkler as Jamaica's Mark Twain. His humor manages to be both earthy - the running comments about sex and how it dominates life are funny in a way I find little sexual humor to be - and cerebral at the same time. But the humor isn't something to be enjoyed for its own sake. Winkler uses smiles and laughs as tools to further both the story and the ideas behind it. He deftly starts blending the worlds of the sane and the mad until they mingle, and suddenly he shows how much of modern society really is crazy, and how basic decency is too often viewed as a type of insanity. But that quality really is redemptive.
Winkler's use of symbolism is smooth and deep. The thousand names theme, for example, brings an association with the Hindi concept of the thousand names of God, each of which describe an aspect of the deity. The list of words - Aloysius Gossamer Longshoreman Technocracy Predominate Involuted ... and so on - actually read like a list of attributes of life and of people. They were all names he heard, sneaking outside a classroom because he had a desire to learn something. Aloysius isn't a deity, yet he seems to walk with God. Instead of seeing the change in him, we see the changes he works, just by his presence, in all around him. He calls forth mercy, a connection to the world, and true love.
Winkler is also a master of language. The book's pacing is smart - fast but not driven - and his use of dialect leaves the characters, and eventually the narration, ringing in your mind. Well, at least mine.
I'd strongly recommend this book for a pleasure read that lets something more substantial sneak up on you.