Thoughts on things, mostly books.
I picked up the first issue of this limited series because it was free. And it still is free on Kindle, at the least.
I think I first heard about John Henry because of a cartoon short. At any rate, before I saw John Henry the horse, I knew who John Henry was and, therefore, knew who the horse was named after (he lived up to the name).
Harris' reimagining of the story places Henry in a steampunk universe. It is long the lines of the Clockwork Century (though it is different. No zombies for one). The story does tie into the origin John Henry myth and then moves forward while using the myth/legend.
What is particularly enjoyable about this series is the role that Polly, John Henry's wife plays. Some people may not know that Polly had her own set of stories and songs. Harris does, apparently, and what Polly does is great. Her role is great. I really hope that Harris writes a graphic novel about her, and considering the closing panels of this book, a follow up to this book as well.
Harris does address the issues of racism and slavery, not just in terms of John Henry (a Black man) but also in the use of other characters and settings. He confronts the racism that existed (and still does) against the Chinese population whose labor was used to build the railroads.
So this is the first DeLilo I've read.
It is beautifully written, and it was strange to read this in the mid of lockdown. The book details a family dealing with a toxic spill in their city. The father is a professor of Hitler studies, the mother has multiple jobs. The kids are all different and strange.
It is beautifully written. It is quite strange, but makes excellent comments on culture.
And it is 50 pages longer than it should be.
What to say about this novel? Besides the fact that everyone should read it?
Based on a true story (more than one), this novel relates the work of an African-American reporter who is able to pass as white, allowing him to go undercover at lynchings. Johnson deals deftly with the issue. What moves the story is the relationship between the various characters. Pleece's artwork is a good match to the story. The use of black and white illustration is far more effective and powerful than color.
Zane and Carl's relationship lies at the central of the novel as does the relationship (if that is the correct word) between the races in the South. Some critics have pointed out that one subplot of the book could have used more attention, and perhaps there is some truth to that, but I don't see how that could have been done in the space and structure of the story. Perhaps Carl's story is a bit predictable, but both his character and Zane act like real people (as does everyone in the comic).
The ending is both moving and great.
Renaissance, though published later, is a prequel. It deals with passing and cultural theft. While it might lack the emotional impact of the first book, it does address heavy issues and does it well. It also focuses on the question of a woman in the times to a far greater degree than the first book.
I tend not to buy kindle children's books in general because I do not have kids. Now, I do "buy" them when they are offered free, and I will actually spend money on them if it is an author or a story that I know or has a good rec from people I trust.
I wish I had brought this because this creative duo, Robinson and Byrd, deserve all the money.
Princess Farisai's parents rule Zimbabwe and her adventure is to save her people. What is not to love about this book? A loving family where everyone supports each other? Farisai's father is sad that his daughter is chosen but he doesn't try to stop her and actively supports her. Her mother gives her advice.
And she has an awesome horse.
The illustrations are beautiful.
Farisai succeeds because she is brave and, more importantly, smart.
The book includes facts about the actual kingdom the story is set in as well as about the people and language.
This is what children's books should be.
Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book.
If you had asked me who Roger Rosenblatt was before I read this book, I would have responded, “Do you mean Ron?” So that is how ignorant I am.
But now, I want to read all of Roger Rosenblatt’s books because these bits and bobs about writing and reading are so great.
The book is a collection of essays as well as excerpts from novels and memoirs about writing. He makes observations about writing – how it is like plastering – but also about the right type of dog to have while reading Russian literature.
There are two extremely funny essays in the collection – “May I Kill You” and “Spark’s Other Notes”. “May I Kill” is a conversation between an author and an editor/publisher. It includes wonderful comments on Proust among other things. It is hard to disagree with what Rosenblatt writes about Hamlet in the Sparks Notes section. He is also right about Goldilocks. Seriously, it is an essay that speaks to both teachers and students.
And there are several essays that speak to teachers, like the plastering bit, and the struggle that we sometimes have to convey and teach something that we know, even if we are somewhat unsure about how we ourselves learned it. It is those essays, as well as the ones where he mentions his daughter that are the most moving.
And the one about Dickens’ Christmas Carol. It is impossible to argue with his reading of that classic text.
In many ways, this collection is like sitting with someone, perhaps Joyce, drinking a few pints and talking about writing, life, and reading. There is something both comforting and fascinating in such a reading. At once peaceful and stimulating. It’s strange, but the beauty and, at times, insecurity but hopefulness is a wonderful mix.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC via a Librarything giveaway.
This book has two disadvantages. The first is that it doesn’t quite have the space to be what it should. The second is that Daniel Mendelsohn’s Lost is what it is going to be compared to.
Goldenberg’s book is part story of her grandparents and part memoir or thought piece. As such, it doesn’t quite succeed at the memoir part. As for the story of her grandparents, one wishes that she had allowed more of their voice instead of telling the reader what her grandfather wrote or her grandmother said. And it isn’t really a detective story, the facts are there.
This isn’t to say the book is not worth reading. Narratives like this are important, especially since the generation that witnessed it is passing away. It is also important to look at the impact of the Holocaust on the children and grandchildren of survivors.
The book does capture, even if briefly, the life in Vienna before and during the invasion of the Germans. It is both a Vienna that had been and what it became. As such it is worth reading. In terms of much sense reflection or connection to current generations – for instance why the family keeps returning to Vienna, there is not much. There are flashes, but the insights are not closely examined. Goldenberg almost seems to be in a hurry to move away from them. Her thinking about her own life versus hat her grandparents suffered may sound trite to some, but there is something more at work there. Though she doesn’t quite reach it, it is still important.
Trip Trap Trouble (amazon link as it is an indie) is a retelling of the Billy Goats Gruff. It is part of the Fairy Tale Fraud series. The message is a bit heavy handed to be honest. But considering that we have been putting up with fireworks every night for two weeks now, I can so feel the troll.
United States of Lego is still free on Amazon for kindle (the link will take you). It is a book of Lego models of various sites from the 50 states. Some of the models are really funny.
Baby Moses Lego is also still free. It is a pretty good Lego retelling. Though I kept seeing The History of WOrld in one page.
The False Cause is a good book and deconstructs the whole Confederate myth quite well.
If you are dealing with stupid people who do not understand the Civil War, this book helps. Quite a bit.
(BTW, I have decided so BL is being glitchy and adding books is a pain, to link to the book at an Indie bookstore. I'm using Joseph Fox here in Philly at the moment. I plan to alternate between them and Harriett's Books but their web store is down at the moment).
So if you know someone who is like "taking down statues is changing history", just point out there was a movement to put a Mammy statue on the National Mall. I already knew this because of Melissa Perry-Harris' excellent book. McElya's book does a great job of showing the harm as well as the reason for the Mammy myth. This book is well worth reading.
Additionally, when certain people lost their sh*t over the change of a certain pancake syrup, this book illustrates why that change was long over due. Mrs. Butterworth, we're coming for you.
(honesty, people just use real maple syrup).
Savory Pies published by Booksumo press is free. Yeah, I know I hadn't heard of them either. I would also argue that a soufflé is not a pie. However, I made the Milky Asparagus Souffle and it was really good. Like, really good and rather easy to make. ( I mean Michael, my roommate who is a bit picky in a good way about his food - very cultivated taste buds - loved it and put it on the make again list). So if you are looking for cookbooks, it's worth a look.