review

Review: The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman

Hodgman's fake almanac, The Areas of My Expertise, is a prime example of a relatively new and increasingly popular genre. That genre is not the fictional resource book, which belongs to a long and noble tradition that goes at least as far back as Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary, released in installments from 1881-1906 and collected in 1911. Rather, what areas is an example of is the comedy of literary-geekdom, a blend of reflexive humor, satire, silliness and surrealism that, if not invented by the McSweeneys' website, is at least exemplified by it.

Review: Black Hole by Charles Burns

Charles Burns' Black Hole is the kind of graphic novel that should bring more readers to a medium whose audience is already growing. It is a story of high school alienation and the lurking fear of 'others' that crosses the humor and realism of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused with the dread and gore of the early EC Horror Comics. Burns has an ear for the dialog of his characters and era, and his vivid black and white illustrations seamlessly blend the surreal with the mundane.

Reading Versus Watching Additional: The Genius of Dante

Perhaps in looking for plot and character development I've given the book short shrift. What Dante has created is not a litany of tortures but a landscape of them.

Reading Versus Watching: What's Wrong with Dante?

I think there is an under-analyzed read in which Dante is a transgressive writer; before Brett Easton Ellis, before Kathy Acker, before Sade and von Sacher-Masoch, there was Dante. (Though Dante couldn't claim to be the first transgressive writer; there's always Ovid, Seneca, Catullus and God knows how many others who've vanished beneath the waters of history.) Both Dante the author and Dante the character seem alarmingly unperturbed by the horror of what is being described. On the contrary, they seem to revel in it; Dante the author is practically joyous in his ever more fanciful descriptions of torture.

Reading Versus Watching: Science Fiction Picture Show

The problem is that the very things that appeal to the core of this subculture are the selfsame things that turn off those outside of it. Consider, for example, that staple of Sci Fi, Star Trek.

Reading Versus Watching: Whither Superman?

What a joyless, uninspired, heavy-handed and dead thing this new movie turned out to be. What we wanted was something that returned the franchise to its solid foundations, both corollary and flip-side to the excellent Batman Begins. What we got instead was one scene after another lifted directly from the original movies in what seems intended to be an homage, but instead comes off wearyingly unoriginal. Scene after scene of Superman bearing things cross-like on his shoulders, overdubs of Marlon Brando from the first movie ("And so I gave my first born son..." et al), Superman getting stabbed in the side, falling through space in a crucified posture, dying and being reborn, the whole Jesus analogy so unsubtle it's almost surprising the movie isn't in Aramaic. Scene after scene of long, drawn-out shots of characters on the verge of tears. We get Superman as a creepy guy who loiters outside Lois Lane's house, spying on her and listening in on her conversations. We get a "mad genius" scheme from Lex Luthor that doesn't even pretend to make sense. We get at least a dozen tiny plot-holes. About half-way through I just wanted god-like Superman villain Darkseid to show up out of nowhere, laugh at this annoying pussy calling himself super and lay waste to the Earth.

Reading Versus Watching: Wuxia

My question is this: if Jin Yong is the most widely read contemporary Chinese author, not only in China but all over Asia, and thereby certainly one of the most widely read authors in the world, why is he so sparsely translated into English?

Reading Versus Watching: Fantastic Voyage

Kelly Link is an extraordinary fiction writer. She will take an old saw like the ghost story or the fairy tale or the girl with latent, supernatural powers, and completely reinvent it in a startling way; this always with a depth of character and emotional complexity that is lacking in so much genre fiction. Even people who are totally turned off by the fantastic and the supernatural should find themselves absorbed by her use of genre methods to get at what it means to be human.

Confessional Fiction

Confessional fiction and the cautionary tale of Richard Grayson. A review.

Reading Versus Watching: Episodic Characters

One thing that surprised me about Cervantes' classic was it's episodic nature. It doesn't have the overarching narratives that have been been imposed on it by countless adaptations in other media. Instead it moves smoothly from one vignette to another, much like a television show. And what a television show!