The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on August 4, 2010

Because I’m sure you’re all wondering what I’ve been doing in my free time for the past month or so, and I because I actually want to do something different on here:

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
I finished it a month ago, after starting it last year and stopping after 300 pages (it was for a class). I felt really bad about not getting any further into it sooner, because I really quite liked it. I’ve now read two Rushdie novels (this and The Satanic Verses, his two most famous books), and I really quite like his style; his combination of the dream-like and the real world, his blending of the modern day and the old eastern mythologies, and his depictions of real human tragedy.
I think, for the most part, Midnight’s Children surpasses Satanic Verses for the first 60% of the book: while I find the ideas in both intriguing, the former was able to grab me more. Maybe it’s because Saleem is just a more likable protagonist than the two in Verses , who are both…kind of jerks. I also think the fantasy and ‘real’ elements of MC blended a bit more seamlessly, and was just a bit more fun to read. I will say, however, that Children featured some real squirm-inducing moments for me, which weren’t really present in the other book, even if it went in a much darker direction.
Which brings me to the one point that I felt Verses exceeded Children: the latter part of the book worked a lot better. The ending of Verses really saddled the lines between being sad, poignant, and then ends on a note of pitch-black comedy. Children, in contrast, kind of loses itself, feeling a bit rushed (which is even acknowledged in the meta-story), and kind of getting a little cute in the end with its metaphors and imagery. I would recommend reading both, as from them you get a good picture of Rushdie’s idea of the ‘Indian experience’ (both in the west and east). Plus, despite their flaws, they’re just really enjoyable reads.


by The Who

Yes, it took me this long to get to The Who’s two ultra-famous rock operas. But I did get to them. So screw you all, invisible detractors.
I don’t know how much I have to say about these two; despite me really liking individual songs from both, I think I need to give them both another listen-through in order to definitively say how they cohere as albums. As for initial impressions though: both manage to contain lots of good music, despite the pretense of trying to tell a story possibly getting in the way (Quadrophenia especially). They also generally manage to avoid the problems that plague most concept albums, where the music is interrupted by often very very dull non-music stuff (Tommy has a few ‘character’ songs that are kind of weak, though). Quadrophenia is definitely my favorite of the two, and I think comes pretty close to Who’s Next for the title of best Who album.

Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
One of the reasons I read the first Umbrella Academy was because all the comic sites I frequent repeatedly compared it to Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol, which is possibly my favorite comics ever. And while there was clear influence from DP on it, it didn’t really ‘hit’ me as the true successor of that series. It was good; very entertaining and definitely something up my alley, but I didn’t really go as far with the comparison as others did.
Dallas changes that pretty quick. From the end of the first issue, with the introduction of the time-travelling ‘fixer’ group with its army of openly disposable minions and then Jules and Vincent from Pulp Fiction with cartoon animal heads, the comparison is now solidified. This entire story is real Grant Morrison territory stuff, bringing back a level of gleeful insanity that Morrison has sort of drifted away from recently while he fiddles around with Batman and other stuff I have no real interest in. But even though it really feels like a Doom Patrol extension it times, the book never feels like a rip-off; aside form Ba’s great art really getting at the profound weirdness of the entire world these characters inhabit, the tone of the book is entirely its own, as well, often feeling more in line with the kinetic hyperviolence of something like Scud: The Disposable Assassin than with the sort of creepy funhouse weirdness that one got from Doom Patrol.
So…yeah. If you like this sort of thing, and I most certainly do, this is probably your best bet. And it really is a worthwhile read, especially if you enjoy fun.

Pluto Volume 1 by Naoki Urasawa
This one’s been gnawing at me for a while, so I finally picked up the first volume. I’ve never been a big manga reader, so this was the first time I’ve ever sat down to read a full story in the format (I was able to pick up the whole right-to-left reading thing pretty quickly). But this one had an intriguing premise, and one that revolved around robots, one of my favorite things to read, write, watch, or think about. The fact that is a really good story about robots is a nice bonus.
First and foremost, Urasawa’s art really makes this book. There are a lot of quiet reactions, many of them from vaguely cartoonish-looking robots as well as humans, but the art really sells it. I also marveled at almost every depiction of the future world of the story; the design and detail are stunning.
The dialog, at first, seems a little melodramatic (it’s been a while since I’ve seen so many exclamation points in sentences), which I could easily chalk up either to the translation, or maybe just to the fact that it’s different from what I’m used to. The characters, however, are all interesting, especially as we delve deeper into their pasts; the history of the world and the interactions between the humans and robots is introduced slowly, but it constantly makes me want to know more; and finally, I really want to see the unraveling of the central mystery, not necessarily because I want to know about the thing itself, but because I want to see how all these things tie together in the end.
I think I’ll be sticking around for the other seven volumes; each one is a little decompressed, being serialized, so it actually doesn’t take very long to get through them.


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