Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oprah and McCarthy

The story's been popping up on just about every book-related blog I look at, but in case you didn't know the newest Oprah book pick is Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

I'm not an Oprah fan. In fact, if there's any one celebrity I'd love to see go away it's her. Not die, per se. Just go away. But she does manage to pick interesting books. The Road is a brilliant book, but All the Pretty Horses it's not. I can't imagine what the reaction to it will be from the typical Oprah crowd. It's set just after an apocolyptic event---you never find out exactly what happened----so it's pretty dark and, at times, grisly. But at its core The Road is really about the love between a father and his son and how they will endure anything for each other. The two travel together along a nameless highway, hoping to find a better life at the coast. Be prepared cry at the end.

The O-watchers are already working full steam ahead; in the last 24 hours the library I work for has received 180 requests for the book. And I'm sure bookstores are facing a similar situation.

I do wonder, though, how the O-watchers will react to the pretty graphic scene of starving people eating a bbq'd baby.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Stagger Lee Signing

Derek McCullough and Shepherd Hendrix, author and artist for the amazing graphic novel Stagger Lee, will be signing locally in the D.C. area as part of their East Coast tour.

Wednesday, March 28, 2 p.m.-4 p.m., we'll be signing at Big Planet Comics, 4908 Fairmont Avenue, Bethesda, MD.

Dates outside the area include the following:

On Tuesday, March 27, 3 p.m.-6 p.m. EST, we'll be appearing on Bill Wax’s Bluesville show on XM Radio. Bill will be playing every version of Stagger Lee he can lay his hands on and we will be discussing the history and myth of Stagger Lee.

On Thursday, March 29, 11:20 a.m.–12:40 p.m., we'll be doing our Stagger Lee slide show for the students of Prof. Bill Foster’s class on Graphic Novels as Literature at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Connecticut. Visitors welcome! 750 Chase Parkway, Ekstrom Hall, Room E440.

On Friday, March 30, 7 p.m.– 8 p.m., we'll do the slide show again at Barnes & Noble Chelsea, 675 6th Avenue, New York, NY 10010. The Q&A will be moderated by world-renowned diva of comics, Heidi MacDonald.

As always on the Stagger Lee 101 tour: wear a Stetson hat, win a prize!

For more info on the graphic novel, check out my review back here or their publication blog. Sadly, I'll be working. Otherwise I would definitely be there. It's a great book.


Paper Time

I handed in the proposal for my final paper for my reference services class tonight. We're supposed to develop a bibliographic essay, which is basically an annotated bibliography with a two page intro, around a particular theme or subject area.

I proposed one for graphic novels for use in academic libraries, particularly libraries that support art programs. A number of college art programs are starting to offer comics as a class, and some like the Savannah College of Art and Design even offer it as a track for a thesis project. Oh sure, they try to hide it by calling it things like Sequential Art, but it's all comics. You can't fool me.

There's a lot of literature out there on how to use comics with teens in public libraries, but not much of anything yet for academic libraries. Seems like a tiny piece of territory that's just slightly unexplored, which is something I'm usually good at. Plus it will allow me to justify reading things like the new Jack of Tales trade.

I'll look at works of criticism, history books, how-to books, library-specific books, and kick ass comics. There aren't many professors that would let you get away with a graduate level paper on comic books, but I think this one just might. With his Asian-European heritage, slight southern twang, and constant references to Jane Austen, he's pretty cartoony himself. I have a backup plan just in case, but I hope I don't have to use it. I'm actually looking forward to this (unlike my group presentation on library catalogs...bleh).


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kiss the Sky Reading: A Slight Return

The reading last night for the anthology Kiss the Sky was one helluva good time. Miss L and I walked into the Writers Center to Jimi Hendrix Experience playing on the stereo and the smell of incense burning. A table was set with postcards and images of Hendrix, along with a plate full of sugar cubes dyed with food coloring,making them look like something Hendrix might have dosed on back in the day. It all helped set the mood for what was a pretty fun night. Special thanks to Miss L for taking all the photos in this post.


Peabody Giving Background on the anthology Kiss the Sky

Editor Richard Peabody started off the evening by dropping a little Hendrix knowledge and giving some history on the anthology. It was a labor of love, a project that started roughly seven years ago to create an anthology based around Hendrix as a theme. He shopped it around through several publishers, and while several like the concept they always wanted to make changes. Odd changes. Changes like replacing all the works by African American poets with essays by white rock and roll critics (Lester Bangs is in the book, but he gets a pass because he kicked ass when he wrote about music). But Peabody stuck to his vision and, using his own Peacock Press, put out the book himself (for more details on the book itself, go here).


Ruben Jackson reading his poem Hendrix at 49

The wide variety of works we heard that night was really impressive. Ruben Jackson started things off with a poem that answers the question "What if Jimi lived to 49?" There were drug-hazed remembrances from people like Kevin Downs. Matt Kirkpatrick's story tells the fictional history of Hendrix's first guitar as it passed from owner to owner via a variety of pawnshops. Steve Messner's tale of the reincarnation of Hendrix, an odd man who creates music not with guitars but vacuum cleaners, was probably the funniest piece of the night.


Author Steve Messner introducing his story "The Jimi Hendrix of Vacuum Cleaners"

But really the standout piece of the night was a personal essay by Meredith Pond entitled "Proud Hail". Pond attended, not the one with the Chili Peppers or the one with Green Day, but that first one everyone else wishes they attended. Written in a beautiful, poetic prose, she tells what it was like to see Hendrix take control of the stage and perform his (in)famous rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". The whole book is worth it just for her piece alone.


Meredith Pond reading her piece "Proud Hail"

My own reading went ok. I kept it short and focused on the one section of my story that I really like. I gave a little intro and launched into things; everything was going pretty well until about 2/3 of the way into my reading. A lady sitting in the front row hand a handbag that started chiming. Or, rather, she had a cell phone in a handbag that started chiming. I tried my best to ignore it, but it was like a scab that just had to be picked. The more I tried to ignore it the louder it seemed to become. I started stumbling over my words, and, of course, felt like the phone was getting even louder. I felt bad that I was flubbing my reading a little and I felt bad for the woman, who seemed really embarrassed.

After the fourth ring she finally managed to lay her hands on her phone and hit the ignore button.

"About time," I thought. "Now I can forge ahead."

But two more lines into my piece and the damn thing rang again. I guess whoever was calling really wanted to get ahold of this woman. The poor lady finally gave in, stood up and took the call in the next room. By that point, though, my reading was just about over.

The reading was followed up by some socializing augmented with chocolate, wine and coffee. Peabody also arranged a raffle of some choice Jimi artifacts: a few posters, a t-shirt, and copy of the Hendrix Box set. The t-shirt, which seemed to be made for a ten year old girl, was won by Steve Messner, one of the bigger guys in the room. Hopefully he knows a kid to pass it on to.

I chatted with Steve a good bit. We had some classes together in the Hopkins program, and it was nice to see him again. We commiserated a bit about writing fiction that's slightly offbeat, and how we're handling or not handling it. He mentioned moving into Noir a bit more, which actually sounds kind of fun.

On my way out, I picked up a couple of mags to buy from the Writers Center store. I ran into Matt Kirkpatrick in the line to pay. We chatted a little, and then he just looked at me a second and said, "Do you have a blog?"

I nodded.

"You're Hebdomeros, aren't you?" he said.

I admitted I was. He said he saw my post that I was reading that night, and that he wanted to figure out who I was. He then asked if I knew a particular author of local prominence. I've never had the pleasure of meeting this person, but I know her work a little bit. Apparently, some time ago she asked Matt he knew who I was. Never knew I was such a man of mystery.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Review: Warlord by Jennifer Fallon

Fantasy fiction’s had some interesting cross-pollination things happening in the last decade. You’ve got people like Gene Wolf using the tropes of quest fantasy to create literary masterworks like Knight. There’s also Lois McMaster Bujold, who with her current series The Sharing Knife uses quest fantasy as a backdrop for tales of love. And then there’s Jennifer Fallon, who’s been creating political thrillers that just happen to be set in a world of swords, wizards and thieves guilds.

Fallon’s new novel Warlord, book three in her Wolfblade Trilogy, continues the education and rise to power of Damin Wolfblade, prince and heir to throne of the Hythria. Damin faces his most difficult challenge yet; he must call upon all his training and natural abilities to lead an army against the superior forces of an empire invading the borders of his homeland. Back on the home front, Damin’s mother Marla finds herself pitted against powerful political forces threatening to destroy both Damin’s claim to the throne as well as their entire family. And the success of everyone rests on the shoulders of Damin’s childhood friend, the revenge-seeking thief Starros, and his plot to take down Mahkas, the most tyrannical Warlord in Hythria, by stealing all of Mahkas’s subjects out from under him.

The two previous volumes of the series delivered tightly plotted stories of political intrigue mixed into a world of fantasy, but the tales often fell a little flat at the end when they failed to provide a powerful ending. The political intrigue still works as Fallon’s focus, but she’s provided enough action through warfare and bloody assassinations that it makes up for what her other books lacked. Damin himself is a compelling character; despite some of the conniving things he does it's hard not to like him. Plus it’s fun to watch him grow from a still somewhat na├»ve young man into someone fully in control of his abilities.

The layers upon layers of plots and subplots will likely bore readers craving a basic hack-and-slash adventure, but anyone searching for fantasy-based tales that build tension through subtle subtext will find much to enjoy here. Warlord will appear in stores in August of 2007.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kiss the Sky Reading

If you've ever had the grand desire to meet me, I'll be reading this Saturday at 7:30 pm at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland. I'm joining forces with other writers who contributed to the new book edited by Ricard Peabody Kiss the Sky, a collection of fiction and poetry either about or inspired by the life and music of Jimi Hendrix.

Readers for the night include Theodore Carter, Barbara DeCesare, Kevin Downs, Sunil Freeman, Reuben Jackson, Matthew Kirkpatrick, Steve Messner, Rebecca Motil, David Nicholson, Meredith Pond, Darrell D. Stover, Ross Taylor, Jeremy Trylch.

My own piece is a loopy sci-fi thing heavily influenced by Philip K Dick. I've read a handful of the other pieces in the book here and there, and they are pretty good. It promises to be a fun evening. If I can remember, I'll bring my camera along and post some pictures later.

You can find full info on the event online here.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Review: Krazy & Ignatz: A Brick Stuffed with Moom-bims

Fantagraphics continues their run of reprints of George Herriman's Krazy Kat series with this beautifully designed eighth edition, collecting all the full color Sunday strips printed in the Hearst newspapers between 1939 and 1940. Most of the stories focus on the enduring character triangle of a Kat deep in love with a mouse, a spiteful mouse named Ignatz who returns the affection by tossing a brick, and Offisa Pupp, the staunch defender of Krazy Kat who constantly seeks to catch Ignatz in the act.

Despite the repetitive nature of the stories, Herriman makes it work by giving Ignatz a delightfully crafty mind for creating wild schemes. In this volume we see Ignatz don bizarre disguises, hide the brick in boxes and even create Rube Goldberg-style machines all to sharply deliver that brick to Krazy Kat's head. The vaudevillian slapstick will certainly entertain young readers while the cleverness of the characters and fun wordplay in the dialogue will grab older readers looking for more depth. A set of endnotes help readers new to the series orient themselves in this world while an introduction by journalist Jeet Heer helps place Herriman's work within a cultural context.

This was my first exposure to Herrriman, and I was a little dubious at first. I initially found the stories simple-minded and repetive, and the art often cluttered. But as the book moves forward Herriman finds his way to creating large-scale color pages; bold reds and glowing yellows of the landscape shine behind the sketchy and surreal characters in the foreground, creating page after page of comic strip masterpieces. We even see him experimenting a bit with page layouts, breaking the mold from the static square block design common to comics by shaping things around a circle and even using a single image on a page. It's smart, but it still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun. By the end I didn't just warm up to Herriman, I became awed by everything he was able to accomplish with so little.