Archive for December, 2015

Review: Drawing Blood

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

Drawing Blood is Molly Crabapple’s memoir. It is keenly and carefully observed. Each simple sentence amplifies the sentence before it.  Each captures a sharp observation about the world.  Molly herself is part of the world.  Some of the sentences describe her, inside and out.  Some describe her world, unique and diverting.  Some describe the how each affects the other.

Molly Crabapple is a peerless visual artist.  Drawing Blood is an illustrated manuscript that features her work. She draws incredibly dense scenes of metaphorical power.  She draws clear, simple sketches of people exploited and manipulative. She captures beautiful places in the throes of revolution. Her art hurls the viewer’s heart from their rib cage and electrifies their brain.

These two forces meet and combine throughout Drawing Blood. Each alone is remarkable, but when combined their power is unrelenting.

A must.

Review: The Atrocity Archives

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

I’m not so much part of the target audience for Charles Stross’s Laundry Files books as I’m a member of its core constituency. His blend of fantasy and horror tropes, spy thriller homages, and computer systems in-jokes is pitch perfect to me.  There is a great joy in following the combination of humor and plot allusions and realizing what’s coming a beat or two before one of the characters explains it.

None of that would be worth anything if Stross put together a less diverting story behind the trappings.  He’s quite an excellent and fun writer, executing a good story populated with believable characters – even when they’re supernatural.

Strongly recommended.

Review: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States

Friday, December 11th, 2015

I love to read history and I love to read Sarah Vowell.  I expected to love reading Lafayette. And I enjoyed it a great deal, but I didn’t love it.

Probably the aspect of Vowell’s writing that I love the most is her enthusiasm for her topics – especially when it’s America and history. Her first book that wasn’t a collection of columns, Assassination Vacation was full of excitement and gleeful asides. I had the impression that finding out everything she did was so exciting and so much fun that she couldn’t control the desire to tell everyone.

Better than that, she clearly could control that desire and turn that excitement into a wide-ranging, beautifully written book. It includes delightful historical facts, a sincere paean to the National Parks Service, and a dozen other merits. One of those merits is an ability to connect history and modern times with a brilliant turn of phrase.

All of these are present in Lafayette as well, but not to the same extent. There is a lot of the book that reads like a well-researched, well-written popular treatment of Lafayette’s time in America and its effect on our nation. That’s a great accomplishment, and we need more books like it. And yet, I miss the sparks that fly from every sentence in Vacation.