Tag Archives: Short

Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown, by Jill McCabe Johnson (2017)

Johnson’s poems hit that sweet spot of being approachable yet challenging, not too simple, yet not too arcane.  The opening section was written during her walking trek through France in the days leading up to the 2015 Paris attacks and captures both the country’s historic character and the ideological ugliness behind ISIS, including its abominable treatment of women (which tends not to get as much coverage).  The collection’s other poems convey images of loss, humiliation, and conflicts with loved ones in moments that quietly ask for our reflections, along with a few plays on words to break the rhythm.

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Jill McCabe Johnson’s website

Revolutions We’d Hoped We’d Outgrown at Finishing Line Press

THIS IS A BOOK BY DEMETRI MARTIN (2011)

Demetri Martin’s wordplay-filled humor translates ridiculously well to book form, as this collection of drawings and short humor shows.  His best pieces expose absurd situations with exaggeratedly forthright reactions (a man obsessed with speaking into a megaphone, a Rashomon-esque recount of a bee sting that includes inanimate objects) while the least successful ones run with simple concepts far longer than necessary, such as the list of bugle performances that all include reveille or the protagonists’ hospital where male action heroes get treated for superficial wounds.  Fortunately the hilarious far outweighs the lame, making this book a damned funny read.

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Election, by Tom Perrotta (1998)

A high school presidential election pits a goody two-shoes overachiever against a clueless jock and his rebellious younger sister, with one teacher viewing the race as a microcosm of who gets ahead in life and why.  Election shows how much these contests seem to matter in the moment but afterwards feel trite—it explores rivalries based on jealousy, social class, love, popularity, and the glory of the spotlight.  The novel’s rapid switches between narrators (often in mid-scene) are among the most effective I’ve ever read, and keep the novel constantly moving.  Read this even if you’ve seen the movie.

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Sinbad’s Seven Voyages and Other Stories From the Arabian Nights, retold by Gladys Davidson (1974)

Things I learned from reading/rereading these four stories:

  1. In the original tale, Aladdin, far from being a purehearted street rat, is an “idle, careless” boy who through the adventure of the lamp becomes a responsible, skilled adult man.
  2. The forty thieves dismember Ali Baba’s greedy brother into four separate pieces so that the local cobbler has to sew him back together, which is badass.
  3. The Sinbad stories are kind of repetitive, and made me want to watch the Ray Harryhausen films.
  4. Like in all good stories, servant girls are always more clever than their masters.
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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis (1950)

Do children’s classics still hold up when read by adults?  I never read the Narnia books when I was younger, but I did read The Screwtape Letters a few years ago and liked its sinister plot and epistolary storytelling.  Similarly, this book’s heavy Christian undertones fall just short of eye-rolling at times, though the themes of temptation, redemption, and righteousness enhance the plot so effectively that without them the book would have been forgotten as just another kid’s adventure.  A final plus is that the fantasy world feels real enough to immerse readers but not enough to overwhelm them.

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Shakespeare Wrote For Money, by Nick Hornby (2008)

I love Nick Hornby’s Stuff I’ve Been Reading column (which he’s written on and off for The Believer since the 2000s, and perhaps will again when the magazine finally makes its return??) because he talks about books like a real person, avoids pretentious review-speak, and jokes about how Americans don’t understand British football.  Though this review collection’s in the same vein as his others, I missed the more stylized jacket flaps and the book excerpts that came with the first two collections, which made finding new books for my own towering To-Read stack that much easier.

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Fight Scenes, by Greg Bottoms (2008)

Fight Scenes is about growing up in the 1980s with your friend whose dad keeps naked pictures of women he’s slept with under his bed; it’s about dealing with bullies and looking at porn with girls you like and sitting in front of the 7-Eleven and smoking pot in the woods and fending off crazy racists at the local Popeye’s.  Bottoms shows us these moments in a series of vignettes that all say more than they seem to at first glance, so that the book shows us both his ridiculous middle-school adventures and how fucked up life can be.

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Where I Got It

A 2016 Christmas gift from the same friend who got me Rose of No Man’s Land, which is also pretty rad.

Lichtenstein, by Janis Hendrickson (1988, 2012)

This picture-filled guide to Roy Lichtenstein’s career covers both his paintings of starry-eyed comic-book heroines (an example of which graces the cover), his images of everyday objects like washing machines and golf balls, and his later, more abstract paintings.  There’s also a close technical and thematic look at the Benday dots used in so many of his works.  Though I was most interested in Lichtenstein’s Pop Art images, the book covers much more, though the latter half goes into more depth than I was looking for.  Still, a solid introduction to Lichtenstein’s life and work with cool pictures.

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Where I Got It

At a bookstore in the Germantown section of Columbus, Ohio in summer 2015.  I’d been interested in Lichtenstein’s Pop Art works for a while (one of my teachers had a large “I’d Rather Sink Than Call Brad For Help” print on his office door in college, below), and buying this book was my reminder to actually learn more about him.

 

 

Golgo 13: Supergun, by Takao Saito (1979 & 1997)

Golgo 13 is Japan’s longest-running manga series, chronicling the exploits of super-tough, laconic sniper Duke Togo, alias Golgo 13.  The two jobs in this collection involve an Iraqi ballistic superweapon (a story where both Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein feature prominently) and a mafia hit and run, plus a background dossier on Togo himself.  If you’re looking for an intro to pulp Japanese action manga, start here—the drawings are dark and the midnight cityscapes majestic, with plenty of guns, planes, action, and sex to capture the feel of an ‘80s action movie in comic form.

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Where I Got It

Christmas 2016, from a friend who knew I loved the Golgo 13 NES games. While every convenience store in Japan sells the Japanese manga books, I never got to the chance to check them out when I lived there since English translations are harder to find, .

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Wikipedia

Playthrough video of Golgo 13 – Top Secret Episode on the NES

The Medium is the Massage, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore (1967)

Marshall McLuhan is the guy Woody Allen pulls from offscreen to prove his point to the pretentious academic in Annie Hall.  His work in the 1960s tackles the power of media and its ability to deliver information in different forms; this book is a short, coherent explanation of how media affects us, assembled by graphic designer Quentin Fiore with black and white photos to enhance McLuhan’s points.  There are comics, two-page spreads, ‘60s pop culture, and a page printed in backwards text to keep things interesting, pushing the limits of what the printed form can do.  Very cool.

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Where I Got It

Found in a free box outside my apartment building with a bunch of other textbooks and books on programming, sometime in the fall of 2015.  This was the only one that looked interesting.

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Official site

Aphorisms on Love and Hate, by Friedrich Nietzsche (1878)

This pocket-sized British edition of Nietzsche reflections is pretty awesome: it’s more manageable than the full-length essays by Nietzsche I’d read previously, but more substantial than the 140 character Nietzsche Twitter feed.  The editors picked 55 pages of reflections from Human, All Too Human that tackle such truths as how we despise the people we pretend to like, how we can’t ever really promise to always love someone, why rich people just don’t understand their own cruelties, and why those who seek to understand life will always undergo struggle.  Nietzsche’s ideas are relatable and real, so check ‘em out.

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Where I Got It

Picked up from the break room free table at the university press where I used to work, sometime in the spring of 2015.

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Nietzsche quotes on Twitter

Nietzsche on Love (essay)

The Epic of Gilgamesh (2100 BC), translated by N.K. Sanders (1972)

I like reading myths from other cultures because they capture the familiar spirit of the Greek myths with new sets of heroes.  Ancient Sumer’s Gilgamesh is no exception: our hero befriends a sidekick from the wilderness, journeys through forests to slay a deadly monster, grapples with a jealous goddess, and seeks the prize of eternal life.  There’s even an ancient flood that shares more than a few similarities with the Biblical one.  Editor N.K. Sanders also provides a lot of textual background in her introduction, padding out the Penguin edition since the myth itself is so short (60 pages).

Rating:

3-kafkas

Where I Got It

Bought used at a local book sale, October 2012, making it one of the longest-running books in the stack.

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Background to the Epic of Gilgamesh on Wikipedia

The entire Epic of Gilgamesh in PDF form