I have been pretty busy with the start of fall quarter, and I'm not teaching any comics classes, so I haven't been paying a lot of attention to the funnybooks lately. I did, however, see a student reading Persepolis on campus and when I questioned her, she said it was a coursebook for Politics of the Middle East, a poli sci course. Coolness!
I did drop in at the LCS yesterday and grab a couple of the books. Messrs. Van Lente & Dunleavy over at Evil Twin have brought out Comic Book Comics #2, continuing their history of the medium into the war years and beyond. I was more than a little disappointed in the initial issue, and I have to say that I continue to be underwhelmed by the project. The comic does seem to be developing a bit more integration between the text and the graphics to relay the information, but there are still some swaths where the pictures seem superfluous and the text is shouldering all the narrative burden. More importantly, I can't yet see what this history is adding to our understanding of the story; books like Comic Book Nation, Men of Tomorrow, and The Ten-Cent Plague have covered a lot of this ground in detail. There's always room for more analysis, of course, but I'd like to see a fresh perspective or a new take. For example, CBC takes the easy path of framing the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings as a grudge match between Bill Gaines and Frederic Wertham; the reality of the situation was much more complex (and interesting) than that. I guess I'll follow it for a while, but I'm still not sure.
My other purchase was Tranny, produced by Steve Lafler (through Manx Media) in his cross-dressing identity of Fiona Mallratte. I was intrigued by early coverage of this part-autobiographical, part how-to, part fantastical rumination on cross-dressing, but once again, I have to say that I am sorely disappointed. Part of my response is merely toward the art; Lafler has a rough-hewn style with a sort-of underground sensibility that has never appealed to me on an aesthetic level; on top of that, I found his stories to be rambling and nearly incoherent, with unengaging characters and implausible plots. Maybe I'm just not hip enough to get them, but they hardly seemed worth the effort to try. Overall, the book is noteworthy for its honesty and effort, but is ultimately a failed attempt. I have to say, though, that Fiona looks terrific, both in the photo spreads from the book and on her YouTube channel.
Lest you think that I have been just stomping around in crankiness all week, let me recommend something wholeheartedly and without reservation. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is a masterpiece. In this young adult novel, Alexie takes the vernacular of teens and transforms it into poetry and in the voice of his protagonist tells a story that is at once passionately personal and universal. This is the sort of book that you have to put down every once in a while, because the tears in your eyes keep you from reading any further. Alexie's prose, complemented by some wonderful cartooning from the great Ellen Forney, will open you up and expose your heart to an intensity of emotion that is wonderful to feel. Go read this book, whatever your age.