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“I’m not a Starcatcher anymore, James.  I’m a mother of three and the wife of a prominent barrister who does not approve of talk of starstuff and evil creatures and the like.  Childhood fantasies, he calls them.”

These are the words of Molly Darling, nee Molly Aster, a hero in the previous Peter installment, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon.  Now, I’m not here to disparage wives and mothers, especially now that I’m both of those things.  But I reserve the right to mock a formerly powerful girl who not only worries about, but abides by what her uptight, self-righteous husband “approves” of.

Thankfully the lady doth protest too much and by the beginning of the next chapter has embroiled herself in the dangerous adventure that threads through the book.

But Wendy, she’s another story.

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Forgive me, readers, for two things.  One, for being absent for so long, and two, for being self-indulgent and explaining away my absence.  Humor me, it’s relevant (sort of).

Toward the end of the summer I took a new job and simultaneously, somehow, and totally on purpose, I found myself knocked up (no oops there, but I do wonder at my timing). So between the working, the throwing up, the commuting, the being exhausted and the studying for the MBA which suddenly seems much less important, I haven’t had time to crack a book for enjoyment since.

This, I have discovered, is a very unhealthy place for me to be.  My body is having a hard enough time keeping down food (like some women, I’ve lost weight in my first trimester).  This is no time for my soul also to be lacking in (literary) nourishment.

This baby may not end up being a reader, though with nature (on both sides) and nurture (on all sides) I don’t see how that will be possible.  Regardless of how he or she turns out, it will not be from lack of a steady diet of stories.

Starting now.

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590-1I avoided 1602 for years for no good reason. One of my biggest problems with the big serial mess of the superhero genre today is the “in crowd” exclusivity it seems to revel in, making for a literature of fandom rather than one of universal questions and challenges. Gaiman’s purpose to writing 1602 seemed, at first glance, to be nothing more than this; a “wouldn’t it be cool if” scenario where he gets to put familiar superhero characters in the unfamiliar setting of Elizabethan England and thereby allow himself to reference two of his favorite geeknesses: 1960s low art and 1600s high art. So I passed.

My prejudice wasn’t completely meritless. The first couple chapters are full of groaners, especially with the name-plays. See, in 1602 his name is Peter Parquagh – get it? It’s like Parker but archaic! And why does this boy have such an odd fascination with . . . spiders?! Hooo, I get that reference! Then there’s the muscled-up stranger from the New World who’s an unusually blonde and white captain-like Native American named Rogers . . . oops, I mean “Rohjaz.”

The rest of the set-up pages follow suit as we’re introduced to the cast and settings. Nick Fury is instead Sir Nicholas, and instead of a techy super spy he’s the Queen’s most trusted intelligence aide and protector. Dr. Strange, who normally lives in New York’s Greenwich Village, awkwardly states that he lives in “the village of Greenwich” to someone who already knows where he lives. The Fantastic Four are still a band of friends led by a scientist who gain powers in a freak accident, but here they travel to the New World in a ship called The Fantastick and are never heard from again except in legends of super-powered transformations and do-goodery. The “a-ha!” and “oh yeah!” moments are many and frequently grating.

But then I surprisingly found myself buried knee-deep in the middle of the book without pausing to take a note or breathe or eat a sandwich and I realized that the story is good despite itself. Or is it actually just good despite my knee-jerk presumptions of hokeyness?

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huck-finn

I apologize dear reader(s), for being gone so long.  My blogging has been stymied by other obligations.  I have been reading like crazy, however.   I promised to get back to y’all about that.

*****

I decided to devote some of new year to books that high school or junior high has ruined for millions.  Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are two of these.  I must admit I was looking for the same lightning in a bottle as To Kill a Mockingbird.  Alas it was not to be, though I can’t say I’m disapointed either.

Tom Sawyer has been accurately described as a children’s book about a boy.  I would venture to guess that if it were written today it would not make the best seller lists.  What it lacks in complexity, it doesn’t make up for in plot.  There is a lot of action and adventure and not much substance.  One wonders how one boy got into so many scrapes in such a small amount of pages!  I must be getting older, because I wonder about Aunt Polly’s fitness as a guardian.  Though her Mary seemed to turn out alright.  All in all, it’s over too soon and not much of it sticks with you, besides the whitewashing scene.  Though cultural prevalence probably has more to do with that than anything.

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Someone smash me! I’m a year late to the biggest summer comic book blockbuster of the century! Nothing will ever be the same! Wait, it’s a year later and everything’s the same. Oh well, so much for Marvel’s 2007 summer fracas World War Hulk. At least I didn’t pay $300 for all the issues and crossover tie-ins while it was coming out.

Maybe catching up on World War Hulk now is better since it allows me to read it as I like to read everything (a contained literary work) rather than how it must be read when it’s being published (a fan community social event). I’m still halfway through the Greg Pak-written main series and I love it so far. The gist of it is brilliantly simple: a group of superheroes blast the unstable monster of green destruction into space but when he lands in a far-off barbarian planet and starts a new life the spaceship in which he arrived self-destructs, killing his family. What happens next? You guessed it! But I took a sidestep to read Paul Jenkins’s tie-in story, World War Hulk: Front Line, mainly because I needed a respite from hardcore violence but also because Jenkins writes consistently satisfying superhero stories and I suspected I would like this even more.

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I wonder sometimes if the critical acclaim some comics receive does more harm to the medium than good. If a comic gets lots of attention and it turns out that it’s inaccessible or badly written or just plain pedestrian yet illustrated, can that be good for a medium seeking acceptance? I sometimes wish we would stop holding up genre potboiler page-turners like Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns as the highest mark of artistic merit we can achieve. Fans are so quick to show off anything that even tries to be “smart” which validates the invalid feeling among the literati that comics naturally aren’t intelligent and therefore must try to transcend themselves. And how long before the literati catch on that what we’re showing off is sub-par anyway?

Halfway through The Golden Age I thought it was “fine enough.” An interesting plot, unpredictable characters, good solid Saturday-afternoon-in-the-park reading much like The Dark Knight Returns. A few more pages in and I realized it wasn’t even that. It’s just a bad comic — amateurish writing from James Robinson that any first-year fiction workshop would whip into shape and art from a normally brilliant penciler (Paul Smith) who tries so hard to change his style that he comes up with a mix of ugly and anatomically incorrect. So why bother writing about it at all here? Because this is one of the most critically acclaimed “graphic novels” of all time, a post-modern superhero genre critique that supposedly takes apart all of the things that make it work and exposes its dark underbelly, and it’s not at all. It’s a comic that forces its characters like so many chess pieces into a strategy that resembles something like an intelligent genre critique, leaving all relatable human feeling at the door.

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I read an article this morning in the latest Horn Book Magazine about Peter Pan.  In the article, Peter Pan. I am he. I am not, the author, Emily Jenkins, mourns the fact that while the stage version of the story allows for girls to imagine they are Peter Pan, the book and Disney movie version did not.  This saddens her.  She describes her extreme dislike of Wendy and her love for Peter thus:

“I couldn’t bear to be boxed in as Wendy boxes herself, with Peter’s complicity: she sews on pockets and prepares meal in the underground lair, spending her Neverland time playing Edwardian household rather than having adventures.  I didn’t want to be her, I wanted to be Peter.  And therefore I wanted to be a boy.”

When I was younger I thought I was the only little girl to feel this way.  To be indignant that the boys got the snakes and snails and puppy dog’s tails (the greatest injustice, for I loved puppies) and girls were left with sugar and spice and everything nice (yes, I loved sugar, but as much as puppies? No way!).  I now know many women who felt that way.  To know that it’s not weird and that these are the women I tend to respect more anyway is a a great validation. 

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I have a really hard time choosing books for trips.   What you may ask, just take one of the three books you are currently reading!  Ah, but you would be quite mistaken.  First, I am very likely (unless I just started it) to finish any of them while in the middle of the trip (or worse, halfway through a plane flight).  Second, especially on a vacation, I want to bring something new and potentially exciting.  I don’t want the same old book I’ve been reading before bed.  I want a vacation book!

So alright, I’ll bring an entirely new book.  Except well, that too leaves me open to problems.  What if, on the plane on the way there, I decide I’m not really that “into” the book I brought.  Perhaps I brought the wrong book for the mood (often a hard thing to gauge when one embarks on a journey) or maybe the book just stinks.  Then what?

Let me try this again. Clearly new books are the way to go, but I’ll need a backup.  To be safe probably two backups.  Of course if I’m going on a trip of more than a few days, one with some downtime for reading, I will likely read one book at least, so to be quite certain I’ll need three backups. 

OK got it.  Four new books. Read the rest of this entry »

Cover Image

In my opinion superstrength should not be considered a true super power. What good is it against all the other guys who have it too? I’ve decided instead that superstrength is a given (or should be) and is only really a super power if partnered with say, super speed, force fields or lazers, X ray vision, mind control or flying capabilities.

As a young girl my first infatuation was, not surprisingly, with superstrength. Because really, what power does a small female child have less of in today’s (or -I guess – yesterday’s) world? My childhood heroes were Hefty Smurf (was he really endowed with special powers or did he just work out a lot? Either way he could perform super Smurfian feats) and Popeye (my mother could only convince me to eat spinach – which I still hate – by telling me my biceps would grow that big. Sadly, they didn’t).

Over the years, I’ve moved past the mere consideration of super strength. Super genius now tops the list. I’m also a bit obsessed with telekinesis. In general I flatter myself in thinking that my super power philosophies have evolved a bit since I was five years old, when I was impressed if someone merely lifted a stationwagon.

Of course that assumes that the discussion of super powers can be considered mature. I believe it can be, as I’m sure Jesse and Devin would agree. The desire for super powers is, I think, one of the few things that most people can agree on. We all want to be greater than we are and it’s fun (and not to mention revealing) to imagine what powers would enhance us. We may want to be smarter, stronger, or more beautiful. Or maybe we just want to be able to walk through walls or move metal with our minds (another of my personal favorites).

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SDThe pressures of Ms. Prose notwithstanding (yes, she has a point; she’s just sending me in the wrong direction), my goal with this blog was to slow down my reading. To allow myself to digest what I am reading. To pause and enjoy each story for itself, as a journey instead of a notch on my bookshelf. Though it may not seem like it, I have actually slowed down considerably.

I still read a lot because reading is what I love to do. It’s what relaxes me; it keeps me sane. It makes all that time spent inside my own head not only normal but productive. I used to think I was weird, but I’m beginning to realize I’m not abnormal. Just perhaps in the wrong profession. I’m sure I would love to hang out with popular fiction writers (except Robert B. Parker who is a notorious – and arrogant – non reader. Could be why his books stink). Earlier this week I read an article about J.K. Rowling and her words only solidified my love for her:

“I never need to find time to read. When people say to me, ‘Oh, yeah, I love reading. I would love to read, but I just don’t have time,’ I’m thinking, ‘How can you not have time?’ I read when I’m drying my hair. I read in the bath. I read when I’m sitting in the bathroom. Pretty much anywhere I can do the job one-handed, I read.”

Exactly.

 

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

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