Microviews Vol. 45: Hey Maw, I Drewed Me A Pitcha

on Thursday, December 5, 2013
The Complete MAUS by Art Spiegelman
I couldn't think of anything new to say about it so I drew you a picture:

5 Out of 5 Charcoal Fences

Let Him Go by Larry Watson
First things first. Hillbillies creep me the fuck out. Sure, there's that thin veneer of civility, but scratch too hard against the surface and you're likely to open the gates to hell. Cue the banjo music. Let Him Go is a thoroughly disturbing return to form for Montana 1948 author Watson. George and Margaret, a frankly deluded couple, set off to convince their daughter-in-law Lorna to leave her new family and return to them. They like the girl but, more importantly, she has little Jimmy, their grandson and only living reminder of their dead boy. Pretty soon love and longing give way to desperation and Margaret (George is really only along for the ride) finds herself willing go to any length to get Jimmy back. Unfortunately, Lorna's new clan, the Weboys, will go to much greater lengths to keep him. It is a Hatfield versus McCoy tinderbox and holy stuck pigs does it explode. Margaret's grief is little match for the Weboys' fury as the novel builds to its cataclysmic end. It's a hell of a crazy ride, but one with a very serious moral message.
3.5 Out of 5 Burning Tumbleweeds

The Embassy of Cambodia by Zadie Smith
For all the hooplah that's followed Zadie Smith since her debut, I've only ever been able to take her in small doses. White Teeth was pretty good in parts. I'll give her a leave pass for The Autograph Man. And, NW, well... it was kind of more White Teeth. Only On Beauty really spoke to me; it's as good a campus novel as has been written in the last two decades. Now comes The Embassy of Cambodia, essentially a short story bound quite beautifully and palmed off as an entire book. The story is touching and simple - Fatou works for a rich Pakistani family near the Cambodian embassy in Willesden. Having escaped from the Ivory Coast with dreams of freedom she is living out her days as a low wage slave, given only a few hours to experience the world outside. She uses the family's passes at the local pool, meets a missionary, falls in love. These moments of light radiate with the kind of joy that almost eclipses her otherwise heartbreaking existence. Fatou might be invisible, but Smith bestows her with dignity, warmth and humanity. An urgent, beautiful little book.
3.5 Out of 5 Shuttlecocks

The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
When trawling through the major religious texts a couple of years ago, I was particularly struck by the similarities between the various creation myths. For all the divisiveness in their operationalisation, religious stories seemed to share an awful lot of material. In this gorgeous graphic novel, Isabel Greenberg posits a cool theory of a "first draft" of humankind, a civilisation that predates all our known history and sets the scene for everything that has followed. Drawing heavily from the Old Testament but with many a nod to the other texts, she weaves a complex, subtle, vibrant tale that is, at its essence, a profound meditation on the nature of storytelling itself. Stories pile upon one another, others shoot out from the cracks, some are crushed or silenced. But, above all, stories create, save and give meaning to our lives. It's been a long time since I've had the privilege of reading such a good old fashioned fable as this.
4.5 Out of 5 Little Bangs

One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin
This is one sexy looking book! The design, the title, the concept. Kudos to McSweeneys and Lucy Corin, you won me over before I even started. So what then to make of the contents? There is no denying Corin's abundant talent. The cycle of one hundred stories that make up the greater part of this book is a dazzling display of imagination; interpretations one and all of the very concept of the apocalypse. Some are personal (end of a relationship, end of someone's individual world), others are worldwide cataclysms (you know, in the biblical sense). Some are light and flippant while others will drag you into their murky depths. Corin is clearly comfortable wherever she points her pen. A hundred stories, however, is a lot to take in and, while I enjoyed a good many of them, the cycle began to feel like a chore. It is an exhaustive exercise, but it is also exhausting. That said, perseverance pays. The final salvo is, to my mind, probably the best. Twenty five stories in which Corin explores the aftermath of the apocalypse. It's a grim picture. I suspect it's also accurate.
3.5 Out Of 5 Horsemen


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