13 November, 2013
Yesterday I posted a piece on the new Lily Allen video's failure to rise above the racism it was trying to satire. When I wrote it I wasn't aware of Allen's history of racism and blackface via penis. There is no defense for perpetuating that image, whether she created it or simply deployed it. My intention was to update the post reflecting this new information. Upon consideration the positive words I had used in relation to Allen's music no longer apply. I was granting her the assumption of good intentions with a failed execution. As I no longer believe that, I pulled the entire post. The image is here, along with some tabloid coverage of the twitter war gone racism nuclear.
11 November, 2013
* This review originally appeared at Love In The Margins.
In the interest of disclosure, I follow Megan on Twitter and have done since before she was published. (Now that I'm reviewing her books she no doubt regrets that.) The beginning of If The Shoe Fits is brilliant. Then the clock strikes midnight. Well, at least for me. I think many of my issues with Sarah and Devon are unlikely to bother other readers.
Sarah James is a Hermetically Sealed Heroine. And yet, I didn't hate her. She was a believable twenty something virgin instead of an improbable one. Having decided she's ready for a fling, Sarah offers Devon a weekend of no strings sex while they both attend a wedding. The opening chapters are light and fun. Sarah joins the promiscuous world and Devon marvels at the freedom a plain speaking woman holds. I was thinking "I'm going to love, love, love this story" even as I was reading it. Sarah is neither plus size nor thin. She makes casual references to her size without being overly focused on it. As a woman working in fashion, her curvier figure could have been truly annoying (if mishandled) but Mulry wisely leaves it on the sidelines. As the wedding weekend ends, Sarah returns to her everyday life. This is where we start to unravel.
Sarah has handled her sexual awakening well. She is more aware of how she may have been ignoring signals from interested men in her life. She is more aware of what attracts her and what she wants for her future. Devon's response to his emotional awakening is anger. He blames Sarah for his uncontrolled feelings and he lashes out. While Sarah wisely drops him, Devon never really deals with the source of his anger and jealousy. It remains at the fringes of their relationship in a way I wasn't comfortable with. When she should be moving on, Sarah obsesses. Devon's utterly unacceptable actions are excused and reassembled. Sarah's grandmother talks about passion and fire. Devon talks about jealousy and possessiveness. No one talks about domestic violence but what happened between Sarah and Devon is a huge warning sign. Sarah allows attraction to overcome self protection. I badly wanted Mulry to surprise us all with a left turn into a new hero for Sarah. Instead Sarah's secondary love interest turns into a Helpful Friend as everyone on the canvas conspires to reunite this now dysfunctional couple.
Before Devon our Sarah was frank, open and focused. After Devon she's a bit of a mess. She devolves into a weeper who manipulates situations nonverbally. At three different points I wanted Devon and Sarah to just talk to each other instead of everyone else. The passage of time becomes arbitrary. At one point Sarah asks family to come from Paris to London and it takes a week to happen. The family in question is not employed. They could have been there by dinner, or the next day. Without a reason for the delay, without a reason for Devon not to try and contact Sarah, the time frame feels very artificial.
Back on the positive side, the side characters are distinctive and interesting. Mulry has an intriguing subplot started with a sexually ambiguous sibling that is either going to crash spectacularly or make her name in the field. I don't see a middle ground and I can't wait to see how it falls. Family relationships are heavy handed yet also refreshing in their refusal to hit genre conventional marks. There are no villains here, only flawed people finding their way. In that context I could have been moved to root for Devon and Sarah. As the book ends they're happy for now, but I don't think it's forever. Sarah's mired in that first mad love where you excuse anything for another hit of the drug. Devon's doing the bare minimum. He needs therapy, stat.
08 November, 2013
Beginning with an excerpt from what I would argue was Alison Bechdel's weakest book and ending with pinups on the moon the 2013 TBAC was the first collection that didn't make me seek out at least one full book. My view may have been colored by the inclusion of Craig Thompson's Habibi, a work I absolutely loathed. Just seeing Habibi in the credits made me set the pre-release copy aside for weeks. (Typing the phrase Craig Thompson's Habibi makes me want to stop writing this review.)
Whatever, we move on. There's a ton of sexualized violence toward women on display. I'm sure it's very profound to visualize the wife as something you can literally dismember to make full use of but haven't we worn that tired song out yet? How many rape fantasies do we really need to commit to paper? I'm starting to think the easiest way to get into TBAC is to depict as much sexual violence as a PG-13 rating will permit. Or go farther, but give them a few milder pages to include.
With Kate Beaton as the cover artist TBAC is trying to have it all ways. Look girls! A book not solely concerned with rape and mutilation! It's true that Kate Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant is always welcome. In this context it seems even more unlike the rest of the field. Eleanor Davis offers a post apocalyptic setting for Nita Goes Home. It's possibly the most interesting of the group as it pits a self indulgent artist against her family of origin. Even as she strives to relate to them she continues to condescend. Their paths have taken them to different realities. Nita, who has the easier existence, is the more mentally fragile. Derf Backderf is included for a few pages from My Friend Dahmer, a book I considered reading but skipped. An exploration of the young serial killer is probably of interest to many readers but I'm not one of them. Backderf uses a style suited to the 1970's in his almost loving exploration of their shared childhood. Let's just say Backderf isn't the only person to grow up with a serial killer and leave it there.
I enjoy much of Laura Park's work, but the included piece, George (about a man who treats terrorism as a hobby) isn't my favorite. It's slight and sometimes clever. It's a moment in time without weight. However, Park is worth checking out as an artist. If you were going to take only one suggestion from this year's TBAC she'd be my choice. I know there are better comics out there, Park is proof. I wish the series would lift it's gaze from the exploitation of women's bodies and produce a collection designed to trigger the mind instead of the traumatic past of a reader.
05 November, 2013
02 November, 2013
Since we launched Love In The Margins I've been ignoring you shamelessly. It's the nature of the new, I'm afraid. When I saw this, the best of Bowie's recent videos, I had to come back. Bowie is claiming production costs ran 13 bucks. I'm assuming he paid the crew a bit more than that. Either way it's still an exceptional piece. Bowie's using the projection technique of his Where Are We Now video to create an aged version of his deceptively youthful physical self. It lends him a vulnerable frailty that he may (or may not) feel despite our perception of him as ageless.
Our setting is ambiguous. Backstage at a show? In hospital? A well appointed storage section of the office? There is a physical Bowie, a projected Bowie, a puppet Bowie (or two or three) and our own experience of Bowie blended into the work. Instantly recognizable aspects of his career are set into conflict (or collusion?) while the physical Bowie observes at a remove. Like all of Bowie's best work, the images lend themselves to multiple interpretations.
Someone is dying. Is the aged Pierrot the fearful witness or the diabolical ringleader? The juxtaposition of wooden and human hands against each other offer eerie suggestions of who the perpetrator is. Have they killed the physical Bowie or has he simply abandoned them yet again? The king of reinvention discarding these more recent personas the way he closed the door on The Man Who Sold The World and Aladdin Sane? Or is the physical Bowie musing on what these reinventions have cost him through the years? Has he divided himself beyond recognition until he is trapped and wrestling with the cost?
The final scene is meant to disturb but not to define. Has physical Bowie simply walked away from them, and therefore from us? Is The Next Day the final chapter in a decades long dance of imagery? Has Bowie washed his hands of us all?
28 October, 2013
18 October, 2013
* This review first appeared at Love In The Margins.
Sometimes I self harm. Mostly with books.
I really hated everything about the first Dr. Charlotte Stone book. I wasn't planning on reading another but Suleikha Snyder wouldn't stop talking about ghost sex. (Wait, is it still self harming if I can blame someone else?) The Last Kiss Goodbye is so much worse than The Last Victim. I am completely cured of my Karen Robards fandom. We had some good times together but they are o-v-e-r. Capital O. Underlined. Exclamation points. Freezer full of ice cream. If I could go back to 1981 I'd tell myself to put the book on the shelf and walk away, because this isn't a forever love.
In The Last Victim Robards rolled out a love triangle between a living FBI agent, a dead serial killer and the lovely yet self destructive psychiatrist in peril, Charlie Stone. Although she alludes to his potential innocence, our serial killer (Garland) is still far from a prize. He's crude, thoughtless, dismissive and consigned to hell for unknown reasons. (Assuming he didn't really slice and dice all those women). Charlie falls for him hard on the basis of nothing but his appearance. The Last Kiss Goodbye picks up seconds after The Last Victim's end, launching the team on the trail of another killer.
I will give Robards one piece of credit. She doesn't dwell in terror porn. Robards largely keeps her focus on the investigative team. I wish they were a more interesting group. (Charlie is toxic.)
Where The Last Victim reminded me of Darynda Jones The Last Kiss Goodbye reminds me of fan fiction. Charlie's entire inner life consists of "He's probably a dead crazy psycho killer but omg he's so hot and I want him he can't leave me omg what if he is in pain?" Because she knows her kink is destructive she leads the barely-there living love interest along in a really distasteful forced triangle of dishonesty. It's not pretty. "You can't control me, dead psycho lover! I will show you!" Of course, her psycho dead lover totally can control her. So he cockblocks the FBI agent and gets sent (yay!) to hell. Charlie is codependent so she panics and begs him to come back.
If you only do what he can do, you won’t be doing much, she told herself severely. But then she thought, By now, the coffee’s probably cold. So she didn’t want to drink it anyway, and that had nothing to do with Michael at all. - Robards, Karen. “The Last Kiss Goodbye.”
This thought happens during a team meeting on the serial killer who invaded her home a few hours prior. Because what's most important to Charlie is that Garland might miss drinking coffee. This won't be the only time Charlie actively ignores her own self interest to climb the cross. Besides thinking he's hot and trying to save him from hell, Charlie also stands up for herself.
“You’d want to drive, too, you—you man,” she mouthed, piling a fair degree of venom on that last word. - Robards, Karen. “The Last Kiss Goodbye.”
I mean, wow. You tell him, Dr. Stone. Slow clap for sure. In addition to Charlie's inexplicable obsession with a man who agrees hell is the proper destination for the life he lived, Charlie has to find the second serial killer to target her in so many weeks. (Maybe she needs a new perfume?) Luckily she has a secret psychic friend to phone for vital yet obscure plot clues. Between talking to dead people and phoning a friend Charlie has this investigation on lock! We are also treated to the only other major female character in the book continuing to resent Charlie for incomprehensible reasons. (Because bitches?) After Charlie is inevitably placed in peril at the hands of the killer (gosh, who could have seen THAT coming) it is revealed that her taste in men has always been tragic. Well, there's also a bit in the middle of the book involving a college affair with a predatory professor. That Charlie. She just can't help herself!