Sunday, September 18, 2011

Coincidence and Weekend Entertainment

Two coincidences today, September 18.

I needed a book to take with me while walking the dog and I grabbed a nice Faber paperback copy of Paul Auster's Oracle Night.  (The UK paperback looks so much cooler than the American.)  Why do I need to take a book to walk the dog?  Because sometimes we sit by the statue of Samuel Hahnemann and he watches the traffic.  (I can't believe that we visit this statue so much because Hahnemann is the inventor of homeopathy and I hate nonsense like that.  I should boycott that statue based on principle alone.  And even worse, Hahnemann once had a theory that coffee was a major cause of disease.  Those are fighting words.  But he has a very nice statue in a nice little park so I overlook all of that.)

Coincidence is usually a major element in Auster's work.  I only had time to read 25 pages of Oracle Night so I don't know what part coincidence will play in this book, but that didn't matter because I already had my coincidence:  an important part of the book occurs on September 18.  (Okay, September 18, 1982.)  Auster uses footnotes in this novel so that's how I know the date.  I realize that this is a relatively minor coincidence.  Its only fun because its Auster.

Later on in the day I watched the first episode of the BBC television adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  And to my surprise, I greatly enjoyed it.  Typically I cannot watch adaptations of books I have read but I happily made it through the first episode.  (I watched the UK version of it.  The American version was cut down to six episodes.  No way I'm going to watch a butchered version of it.)  I've read about how hard it was to follow and I know I would've been lost if I had not just read the book.  I know the movie version of the book was released this weekend but it will not open in the US until December 9.  That hardly seems fair but at least it gives me time to watch the entire tv series first.

After TTSS, I decided to watch some of a BBC documentary series called the 7 Ages of Rock.  I watched the first episode, The Birth of Rock.  It was awesome and almost entirely devoted to Jimi Hendrix.  (The version broadcast in America was, I read, substantially different because the filmmakers didn't have the American rights to much of the Hendrix music and film used in the British version and couldn't show it in the US.  What a load of crap that is.)  Hendrix's career was relatively short and he died at age 27 on September 18, 1970 - my second September 18 coincidence of the day.

I also read a volume of Osamu Tezuka's Black Jack this weekend.  And the long-awaited issue no. 12 of Optic Nerve.  The first half of Optic Nerve was so-so.  It is the story of a gardener who struggles to convince the world of the greatness of his new art form, hortisculpture.  The second story was much better - Amber Sweet is the story of a woman who is constantly mistaken for a porn star because of her likeness the pictures on the starlet's website, a terrible, Auster-like coincidence.

Monday, September 12, 2011

20th Century Boys & More

The hurricane is long gone but I am still reading The Honourable Schoolboy.   Parts of it are great but other parts are irritating - like some of the nonsense we have to read about life in Hong Kong and in Italy. Can a thriller turn into a slow read?  This one has but on the whole I still find it greatly enjoyable.

I also started one of fall's most anticipated new releases, Tom Perrotta's The Leftovers.  I finally got around to reading 2007's The Abstinence Teacher in August (there is a monstrous backlog of stuff to read here) and enjoyed it tremendously.  Over the past few years I seem to have gone overboard reading mysteries and thrillers and it was nice to read some plain fiction.

I can't wait for the new Haruki Murakami novel 1Q84 to come out in October.  The New Yorker ran an excerpt from the book last week called Town of Cats.  And the story featured an illustration from Adrian Tomine - someone whose work I have been reading lately as well.  (Tomine also did the illustration for the New York Times Book Review of The Leftovers.  He's everywhere. I'm supposed to get issue #12 of Tomine's comic Optic Nerve sometime in September - the pub date seems to keep changing.)  Apparently anticipation for 1Q84 is so great that fans have been translating bits of it into English from Japanese.  And the Guardian ran a story over the weekend claiming that bookshops in the US will open at midnight to sell copies of it on publication day just like they did for the Harry Potter books.  As much as I would love to live in a world where this could happen, I have to call bullshit on the Guardian's story.  It would have been nice to name a single store with plans to do so.  Maybe a few places in New York and San Francisco will do this but I cannot see this happening anywhere else.

Continuing with the Japan theme, I started reading Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys.  I've already finished volumes 1 and 2.  I have all of them through number 9 from the library except number 4, which I had to order online.  I had been reading Osamu Tezukas series Black Jack - which I enjoyed - but I wanted something with a long and complicated plot, so I gave 20th Century Boys a try and was knocked out.  I shouldn't over praise it based on two volumes but it is thrillingly entertaining so far.  And in a nice bit of coincidence, Marc Bolan and T Rex are on the cover of the new issue of Uncut so I've been reading about them and listening to Electric Warrior and the other stuff I have in iTunes.  (I have a BBC 4 documentary on Bolan that I've been meaning to watch, too.)

I looked at some scanlation copies of 20th Century Boys and opted to stick with the books - Viz seems to have done a very nice job.   Except Viz refuses to sell 20CBs via their app - I would love to read it on my iPad.  That's frustrating.  And I noticed they haven't finished publishing these books yet - so I will end up finished with what is in print before the final few volumes are published.  Will I have to read illegitimate online copies?  I have also taken a look at Urasawa's new series Billy Bat via scanlation copies.  It looks fantastic but as far as I can tell there is no timetable yet set for an American edition.

One other thing I recently read that was utterly fantastic was the graphic novel David Boring by Daniel Clowes.  I grabbed several of his books from the library and quite frankly, thought David Boring was going to be the worst of the lot.  (Perhaps something to do with the title?)  I'm not even sure how to describe it.  Like something David Lynch would create - but more accessible.  A great, great book.