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Pope in his grotto
It's clever, but is it art?
(This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time.)
 
18th-Dec-2008 06:29 am - End of the year: more about books.
Literature
At long last, finals are over. I have no idea how I did on my College Algebra final, and luckily I don't have to care, because unless I utterly failed it, I should still get a B in the class. And if I did utterly fail it -- I'll still get a C.

So. It's time once again for my embarrassingly short list-of-books-I-read-this year. I'm still a hell of a long way from "read your height in books," but I did better than last year, anyway. (And as usual, I'm not including stories and plays from collections -- just whole novels.)

Here, then, are the books, complete with commentary of great prolixity and spoileriness.

Toilers of the SeaCollapse )
er, here, have some extended rambling about Hugo and MelvilleCollapse )
Brief LivesCollapse )
FrankensteinCollapse )
CoralineCollapse )
Nineteen Eighty-FourCollapse )
reread: The Man in the High CastleCollapse )
V for VendettaCollapse )
Atlas ShruggedCollapse )
Tao Te ChingCollapse )
The StrangerCollapse )
Big FishCollapse )
Lots of Batman stuff...Collapse )
WatchmenCollapse )
The Golden CompassCollapse )
The Valley of FearCollapse )
The General in His LabyrinthCollapse )
DraculaCollapse )
This Side of ParadiseCollapse )
War of the WorldsCollapse )

Aaaand there you have it. I may not read much, but I sure do make long posts about it...
Batman: grrr
Been reading a lot of Batman comics lately. I didn't read many comic books when I was a kid, because the few that I picked up were so bad (apart from Sandman -- for a while I really thought Gaiman was the only good comic writer ever). But now that I have access to stuff that wasn't published circa 1960, the genre feels much more respectable, and really pretty awesome. :D

There will be lots of spoilers in here.

Hush by Jeph Loeb. Pretty, but not amazing.Collapse )

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. Nice.Collapse )

Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb. Meh.Collapse )

Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison. Holy shit, man.Collapse )

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller. Entirely excellent.Collapse )

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. o_OCollapse )

Also, some thoughts on the comics versus The Dark Knight.Collapse )

I'm also reading Gabriel Garcia Marquéz's The General In His Labyrinth. So I haven't abandoned real literature or anything, I promise. ;) Oh, and if anyone is comparing this to my post about Watchmen -- well, Watchmen is better than any of these comics (bar maybe Arkham Asylum, which is like a whole different genre, anyway); I was just more critical of it because I had set such high standards. I appreciate it a lot more now that I've got in in proper perspective.
16th-Aug-2008 12:55 pm - Watchmen
V for Vendetta
I really, really wish the cover of Alan Moore's Watchmen was not plastered all over with "Groundbreaking!", "The greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced!", "Peerless!", "A landmark!", "Staggeringly complex!" I really wish it wasn't.

Because I'm positive that if I'd come to it expecting nothing more than a graphic novel, with superheroes in capes and stuff, I'd have been very, very impressed. Overwhelmingly impressed, no doubt. But instead -- in spite of my best efforts to ignore the reviewers and banish all preconceptions -- I came to it expecting the greatest graphic novel ever written. And hell, maybe it is the greatest graphic novel ever written. But when something has been praised that highly, what you bring to it is mostly judgment, and unfortunately most of what I've ended up thinking about it is simply, "Well, it wasn't that amazing."

Which, like I said, is almost certainly purely a consequence of having been told -- by the blurbs on the book itself, by the reviewers on Amazon when I bought it, by the previews for the upcoming film -- that I would be, you know, completely blown away by its epicness. I really wish that I had somehow stumbled across it by accident, because then I could have actually been blown away. Why the devil are we so incapable of seeing past our own preconceptions, and appreciating something for what it is and what it was intended to be, rather than some shapeless anticipation of the impossible?

It seems to me that if people were able to judge things -- including each other -- for what they are and what they're intended to be, half the world's bloody problems would be solved right there. But hell, that's a whole other topic.

Beware of MAJOR SPOILERS.Collapse )

Relatedly, and yet not: I've been rather depressed about how much publicity and hype The Dark Knight has gotten, and I guess now I realize why. Because it's like all the hype surrounding Watchmen, which made it so hard for me to appreciate it, so inclined to judge every little thing about it. I went to see The Dark Knight expecting your typical superhero flick (more respectable than, like, Spiderman or something, but still inevitably silly); I figured the best thing about it would be Bale in his batsuit looking pretty. I was blown away because I had no expectations. If I'd been looking for something revolutionary, profound, nuanced... hell, maybe I'd have been utterly disappointed. I don't even know. I hate that I keep hearing people saying they're not interested in seeing the Batman movie, and I can't tell them how good it is, becuase if I do, they're bound to be disappointed when/if they see it, because its greatness... is relative to what it's intended to be. Relative to its genre and what is demanded of that genre, and relative to the preconceptions you have about it before you walk into the theater. Or pick up the book. Or whatever.

I just wish we could see things as they're meant to be seen, and judge them as they're meant to be judged. But look, here I am quoting Pope again. "Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see, thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be. In every work regard the writer's end, since none can compass more than they intend; and if the means be just, the conduct true, applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due."

Amen to that.

ETA: I'm pretty excited about the Watchmen film now, though. I was skeptical before, and I'm still a bit worried about how much they'll leave out, but it has the potential to be very neat. Hopefully they'll do like they did with V for Vendetta and make the chick not suck in the movie version...
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