Reading is fundamental - just read my stuff first.

If anyone is interested in becoming a guest poster on this world and sharing your literary taste, then send me a PM or comment on the latest post and I will consider you. :)


Preacher by Garth Ennis, with artwork by Steve Dillon

Comic books have always been the one area of geekery I was never into very much. I loved Batman and liked Spider-Man, but that was about it. However, the wonders of the Internet (and the ol' local library) have introduced me to many comic series I've enjoyed greatly. My favorite of the lot is the most beloved series of the 1990s, Preacher.

Preacher follows Jesse Custer, a small-town Texas preacher who isn't the biggest fan of God these days. While delivering a sermon, Jesse is accidentally possessed by a creature called Genesis, which is the spawn of an unnatural affair between an angel and a demon. The main side effect of this possession is the Word of God, a power enabling Jesse to give absolute commands to anyone or anything, living or dead. Using this power, he learns God abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis was conceived, and thus Jesse makes it his mission to find God and demand to know why he's let the world go to hell. He's joined on this journey by his ex-girlfriend, Tulip O'Hare, and a hard-drinking Irishman named Cassidy, who has some dark secrets up his sleeve.

The story is kind of weird and convoluted, but it really isn't what makes Preacher great. What really makes the series so wonderful is that it's the perfect example of the type of balls to the wall serial storytelling that the best comic books are known for. I read the series via the trade paperbacks, and I was STILL gasping and mouthing, "Holy shit, I wonder what's going to happen next??" whenever I got to the end of an issue. Mind, this is when I could literally turn the page in a second and immediately find out the conclusion of a certain storyline. I can't imagine what it must have been like getting to the end of an issue and having to wait another month to resolve a particularly brutal cliffhanger. The closest I can muster is having to wait to get through the wild cliffhangers Lost throws at people every week.

What also makes Preacher a ton of fun is that it's a heartfelt tribute to a dying genre: the western. Lots of people poo poo westerns, but I've always had a soft spot for them. The rugged, barren settings; the bizarre mixing of black and white morality and shades of gray morality; the larger-than-life heroes and villains; and so on. I also like that the series unapologetically lets its heroes be ass kicking machines. That's not to say they're boring, untouchable Gary Stu/Mary Sue-type - they definitely take their lumps and get grinded into the ground enough to where you say, "Man ... that's horrible." But when they make their comebacks, well, let's just say they don't fuck around. It's fantastic.

And the villains, wow. In Garth Ennis' words, the villains are "a bunch of shits." There's absolutely no good in any of them - they're all evil, hateful bastards. Watching these people do their thing reminds me how much fun it is to root against a truly slimy, horrible villain. Weirdly enough, though, the best of them, The Saint of Killers, isn't someone I actively rooted against, at least not as much as I did some of the more horrible of the lot. He's more someone I was in awe of the whole story. Essentially, the Saint is Clint Eastwood from the final 20 minutes of Unforgiven transformed into a comic book character. That's a winning formula in my book.

My only problem with the series is Vol. 7, which is basically a filler arc (and not one that's as fun or interesting as the side stories in Vol. 4). There are some good moments, and Jesse is as kickass as always, but the main villain is my least favorite in the series. That doesn't take away from the series as a whole, however. The story moves at a lightning pace and never stops being fun or shocking the reader with fantastic plot twists and great character turns. Preacher is amazingly violent, sexual, and darker than black (*wink*).

Really, if you enjoy comics and haven't read Preacher, then you should stop wasting your time here and get on that. Even if you're not a comic fan, though, this might be the series to convert you - or it might just be the diamond in a bucket of shit. Who knows, really.

A Year at the Movies

Yo, everyone who I added to the guest posters list for this world - you are all able to post, correct? Just want to make sure I added you all in correctly ... if I do something wrong, I'm pretty sure this place will explode.

Anyway! Second entry to the library. Excitement!

A Year at the Movies: One Man's Filmgoing Odyssey by Kevin Murphy

After Mystery Science Theater 3000 ended, and before the advent of Rifftrax, the most immediate way to get a fix of the MST3K crew was through the books they released. Before this, I'd read both of Michael J. Nelson's books - Mind Over Matters is pretty funny, while Movie Megacheese is really disappointing. My expectations of this were similar to the types of books Mike Nelson was writing, but what I got was something totally different and much more interesting and affecting.

The basic premise of the book is that Kevin Murphy watches at least one movie a day for an entire year, sticking mainly to movie theaters though he does have portable projectors in a pinch. Kevin's purpose with this experiment is to rediscover his love of movies and to find out what really makes the theater experience, from the largest multiplexes in America to the smallest places in the most out of the way regions in the world. It's a journey to find what he believes was lost in the film industry long ago: The magic of the theater experience.

This could easily devolve into some bizarre, publicity-seeking stunt, but it's much more than that (though Kevin's achievement was mentioned on Ripley's Believe It or Not). The stories he finds everywhere are fascinating, and the love of movies he unearths wherever he goes is a ton of fun to read about. Many of the best chapters concern the smallest, most rundown places in the middle of nowhere, where dedicated groups of people watch movies for the sheer love of it. There are groups of people in Minneapolis who gather every Saturday to watch Hong Kong action films; the world's most friendly, outgoing film festival, located at Sodankyla, Finland; a tin-roofed, rain-soaked theater at the Cook Islands in the South Pacific; and a lot more interesting stuff.

How Kevin's view of the moviegoing experience evolves throughout the book is just as interesting as the places he goes. Going in, you should know that calling him a film snob is an understatement. He's seen tons of movies, has a more complete knowledge of film history than I could ever hope to achieve, and is prone to writing intellectually in a way that is a bit annoying at times. But his love of the movies is so infectious that the smile on my face grew to Grinch-like proportions by the time I finished the book. When you read about him sitting down to watch movies outside on an old film projector with family and friends in Venice, it's difficult to not feel the utter joy the experience brought him.

It's sort of disappointing that Kevin doesn't talk more about the movies he's seen (I was dying for his thoughts on Mulholland Drive, among others), but that's not what this book is about. Although there are a couple of chapters dedicated to this, he's not writing this book to rip on bad movies - it's not MST3K2. I've read reviews online where people are legitimately annoyed that Kevin doesn't spend the whole book reviewing the movies he saw. I don't say this much because it smacks of pretension, but those people totally misunderstood the point of the book. This is a journey about why people love the movies and how they express that love. It's not a super hilarious ripfest, but that isn't what the book is trying to be.

A Year at the Movies is one of the best books about the movies you'll read. Give it a shot. For me.

Guest Posts?

So, um, Guest Posts feature. It's practically made for a world like this. After all, it would be a crime for a library of loons to have but a single loon (as loony as that loon is).

If anyone is interested in becoming a guest poster here and spreading your literary taste abroad, just shoot me a PM (or comment here - seems to be much easier lol) and I shall add you. I'd appreciate it if any of you could link this world in the intros to your worlds, but I'm not going to force that on anybody.

As for what you could post about, I'm going to be pretty loose with the definition of "literature." Novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, comic series - they are all good with me. My only restriction is that if you're doing something separated into parts, then post about the entire series instead of a single part of it. For example, if you were to post about Death Note, then you would post about the series as a whole rather than just Vol. 7 or something. Other than that, feel free to go wild.

EDIT: Also, as I said in my first post, nothing shall be as long as the Boogiepop and Others review. That just got too long for its own good. I think something like 4-6 paragraphs per post (with one paragraph dedicated to plot explanation) is something good to shoot for. Condense your thoughts, people!

Collaboration is fun!

Boogiepop and Others

I've wanted to do this for a while now at Vox but have never got around to it. Now that we can make many specific worlds for random purposes here, I figured it was about time to put my idea into fruition.

So here we are. I like to read. I'm sure many of you also enjoy reading. Right now I am in the point in the Reading Cycle where I've decided I don't spend enough time reading for pleasure. Thus, I read on my bus rides to and from school and also before classes begin. This has allowed me to burn through a few books in the past few months.

It was a while ago that a light bulb went off in my head. "Hey," this bulb said, even though as an inanimate object it had no possible way of speaking. "People who like reading also like getting recommendations! Spread the word!" And here I am, spreading the word.

I have a nice backlog of books I plan on posting about, along with whatever I read in the future. None of these posts shall be long; I want to get in and out quickly with a bite-size chunk of opinion. If there is anything my vast experience with posting crap on the Internet has taught me, it's the longer and more in-depth I make things, the more compelled I am to keep topping myself (moreso in length than quality), and subsequently, the less inclined I am to keep writing as the gap between posts grows ever larger.

I believe this is known as Lazy Bum Syndrome.

Anyway, this introduction is already growing into Too Long Territory. I'll just cut if off here and jump in to the first book - enjoy...

Boogiepop and Others by Kouhei Kadono

Boogiepop Phantom is pretty awesome. Even when it's unclear just what the hell is going on, this fact is indisputable unless you are some sort of child-murdering cannibal Communist. But because the anime doesn't give much more than vague hints about the backstory, I took a genuine interest in actually knowing what the hell led up to everything. I'm kind of picky about that sort of thing.

Boogiepop and Others fills that gap nicely; it should, considering Boogiepop Phantom continues immediately after the former story's conclusion. Kouhei Kadono's novel tells the story of disappearances of several female students at Shinyo Academy. The police and school faculty, being the wonderful guardians they are, suspect the missing girls are nothing but runaways. However, several students take a genuine interest in the events - some suspect it is the work of Boogiepop, a figure of urban legend in the area, while other students slowly uncover something more sinister at work.

If you've seen Boogiepop Phantom, then the storytelling method should be familiar. There are five chapters in the novel, each telling a part of the story from a different student's point of view. Some students give their insight on events that happen later in the story, while others only have knowledge of the tale's beginnings. Most of the story's major players are seen only through the eyes of these characters, with the notable exception of Saotome Masami. Several points in the story are seen multiple times through the fresh eyes of different characters. This often gives completely different meanings to these plot points than they have when the reader first witnesses them.

I like the way the story unfolds. It could easily come off as an artificial way of building suspense by referring vaguely to future or past events without actually showing them, but it succeeds in constructing the story the way it would be told by a bunch of high schoolers. All they have to offer is their view of events, no matter how insignificant they are. Everyone has something to add, but nobody has the whole truth. The reader has to piece the rumor and hearsay into a coherent narrative just like any of the students would.

Overall, I enjoy the story, which is why the novel's major fault frustrates the shit out of me. Well, actually, I shouldn't say it's the novel's major fault, because I can't be sure of that. I can't read Japanese, and I don't pretend to know how. For all I know, Kouhei Kadono could be the William Faulkner of Japan; I'll give him the benefit of doubt and assume he's at least a better writer than I am.

This forces me to assume the novel's translator, Andrew Cunningham, is a big ball of poop. The reviews of Boogiepop and Others I've read have mainly featured the writers shamelessly orgasming all over the translation because it keeps the Japanese name order and honorifics intact. That is fine. I just wish the translation had also kept the basics of English intact.

I'm not going to sit here on my lazy, complaining ass and act as if translation work is easy. It's not. If I translated this novel, the only thing on each page would be big, bold letters reading, "WHAT THE FUCK DOES THIS SAY." However, once all the hard work translating everything into English was finished, would it have been too much trouble to make sure the English was actually decent? Really, would it?

I am not exaggerating when I say I could have written this in high school - not the story but the sentence structure, sloppy grammar, and overuse of punctuation marks. Reading this novel was like a painful, Vietnam-esque flashback to my high school English courses. "Oh God, I'm surrounded by run-on sentences! The repetition of form burns like napalm!" I'm definitely far from the elitist assholes who demand every other word should send them scrambling to the dictionary, where they could then whack one off while searching for the definition of "bedizen." But I really shouldn't be stopping every other sentence to wonder who murdered the editor before the novel shipped.

It's not even a case of just emulating the way teenagers communicate with each other. A writer can do this without butchering the English language. Hell, one only needs to look at Haruki Murakami's cadre of wonderful translators to know it's more than possible to write believable teenage characters and not have them destroy all that is dear to the reader. They're not perfect, of course, but Murakami translations are light years ahead of this.

Boogiepop and Others is a worthy read despite this. The relationship between Saotome and the Manticore is especially good. It is depicted as something twisted and normal at the same time; the scene where they eat together at a popular hangout and drink out of the same smoothie like lovesick teenagers is so creepy and effective I had to put down the book for a few minutes afterward. Be prepared to put up with highly unpolished writing on the side.


That's it for my first addition to the library. I swear to God these won't be as long in the future.