Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Shit happens when you party naked

Last week picked up Daniel Clowes' graphic novel Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, not sure what to expect. Surface level it looked non-sensical and twisted, but it was hard to guess what it was about, even flipping through it. I knew Clowes from his comic Eightball, an incredibly jaded, often hilarious, often cruel look at modern day life. He is also the author of Ghost World, which I haven't read, but seems to be a toned down version of Eightball; a more acceptable kind of jaded disallusionment, bored rather than hate-filled. This seemed like a far different project than the Clowes I was familiar with.
Velvet Glove goes something like this: a guy goes to see a porn, one of the movies they show is "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron", which is a bizarre movie of masks, bondage gear, a grown man in a crib, possible decapitation. No sex, no nudity. He's intrigued, think he might have dated the girl(?), asks the all-knowing shiek in the bathroom about it, he tells them where the production company is run out of, dude borrows his friend with Asiatic sea crustaceans in his eyes' car and takes off to find the filmmakers. Here's where the story gets weird...(of course I'm joking, the whole thing is really weird). Cops beat him up, leave him in a ditch, he gets picked up by a cult led by God, who is a guy named Godfrey who has prophecised an imminent sex war where women win and he becomes the only man left, the "kind and loving father of the new world". God's walking around naked leading this cult of women to enact this prophecy. The dude escapes, meets a potato girl in a diner, stays with her and her mom, potato girl falls in love with him while the mom seduces him. Comes across the logo on his foot in various locations, buys a souvenir one at an antique store. A guy tells him the story of the character, some kind of mason-like secret organization that no one can fuck with. He accidentally steals the guy's dog with no orifices, finds the address of the production company, spys on them from a motel across the street, but it just seems to be a little girl that sits at a desk smoking a pipe and drawing horses all day everyday. More craziness, a shirtless agro guy gets hired to find him, snuff porn, I can't spoil too much.
The book is great, some of the characters are completely repulsive, but other then that, it was all good. It was like Hitchcock and David Lynch teaming up to make a maybe-it-makes-sense mysteryhorrorcomedy. The characters alone are worth the time. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 07, 2005

at a loss

i've been trying and cant find anything to read. for a while i kept picking good things up: King Lear, a book of Burroughs interviews, the World According to Garp, the Wayward Bus; but now i'm stuck trying to get into either Cry, the Beloved Country (apparently everyone else read this in school) or Everything is Illuminated and it isnt working. tomorrow i might see how the Good Earth does for me but if anyone has suggestions...i have a library card...

the comics.

Came across a great book of biographical comics from a comic fesitval called SPX. It's a compilation of different cartoonists giving short biographies of everyone from St. Francis to Edward Gorey and a whole lot in between. A lot of obscure people that I never would have known anything about, let alone their name. There's Harou Nakajima, the guy who was the man inside Godzilla and may other low-budget Japanese monster flics; Terry Sawchuck, a hardcore, injury-prone, hockey goalie from the 50's; Jack Nance, who was Henry from Eraserhead (who knew that production on that movie took five years?) and Jeffery in Blue Velvet; the ethnobotanist Richard Even Schultes, who spent 12 years in the Amazon collecting plants and studying/participating in ritual healing and ceremonies; Bernard Buffet, the French painter behind tons of bad thrift store art. I learned that Atari once loaded up 14 tractor trailers with E.T. and Pacman games that hadn't sold, crushed them and buried them under cement in a secret landfill in New Mexico; one of New Zealand's most popular love songs is a song a guy wrote for his sister; the jacuzzi was invented when one of the Jacuzzi brothers who had a child born with severe arthritis that required regular hydrotherapy; the word "assasin" comes from Hasan-I-Sabbah, who fed his warriors hashish (assasin meaning "users of hashish"). The story that sucked me in was a story of P.T. Barnum as a kid, where his grandfather spent most his childhood fooling him that he had inherited a valubale piece of property when he really had an inexcessible island of ivy.
The comic Bone by Jeff Smith is pretty fun. I remember seeing this comic when I used to occasionally browse the underground comics when I was in high school, but had never sat down with it. We got the collected first year into Orca, so I picked it up and it was cool, much more of a comic than a graphic novel, it was action-filled, humorous, but so well done, I didn't really care that it wasn't amazingly inovative.
Read Understanding Comics about a month ago, which is a very inovative graphic novel about comics, how they work, the different levels they work on, the many variations, the possibilities, and so much more. I'd read it in pieces before, but sitting down with it made me realize how intellectualized it is. Might change the way you look at comics.

And when you are filled with sleep, you never were.

Maybe it's too early in this blog's life to repeat a review, especially if it's not offering a different opinion, but I really can't help myself. I read As I Lay Dying on Cole's recommendation and fell in love; I was definitely not expecting it to be what it was. Pure Southern poetry, it's written in this hypnotizing way. You know how an author can win you over by making characters that feel so real you think you know them? And dialogue that's so familiar you can almost hear it? Faulkner throws that in the trashcan and makes characters that are so alien and talk in such a bizarre way that you can't help but be like "what kind of people are these?" and fall into his spell. (Seriously, even in turn of the century South, I can't imagine anyone talking like the characters in this book). I need to read this again someday because I can't say I always had a handle on what was going on. I read it very slow because the words would just loose me, their cadence would catch me and their meaning would escape; it was like trying to say a tongue twister ten times fast. The different perspectives kept the book fresh, the book isn't full of non-stop action or anything, so the real excitement came from the different points of view. Vardaman was something else, I awaited his chapters like none other's. He was the youngest child and possibly had some mental handicap going on or something because everything he had to say was just wild. "She was under the apple tree and Darl and I go across the moon and the cat jumps down and runs and we can hear her inside the wood." The chapter from Addie, the dying mother, is something else; her perspective on life set me back, wasn't what I was expecting her to be and was a good reminder to how different experiences make such different humans. A couple times during the book I threw my hands up in air like I'd just won the world series and yelled "this book is so good!" It even shows you the shape of the coffin.