Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

I Luv Halloween

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I Luv Halloween by Keith Giffen and Benjamin Roman

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What I know about Keith Giffen, really, is one thing: He co-wrote the Ambush Bug series in the 1980s. I loved those comics, because they were wacky, lunatic, and bizarre. The humor was so off-the-wall that it tickled my 12 year-old funny bone, and I can re-read them today, at 34, and still get tickled. When I read that he was writing a series called I Luv Halloween, I remembered how much I liked Ambush Bug, and put it on my list of books to read.

What I had forgotten, though, is that Keith Giffen also created Lobo. This little graphic novel has more in common with Lobo than it does with the Ambush Bug series. It's dark, graphic, perverse, and disturbing. I knew that the book was going to be about some rambunctious kids running around on Halloween, doing whatever necessary to get candy, but I was expecting the darkness to be more balanced with a keen sense of humor. I suppose it's there, but in a much, much darker tone than I was expecting. The opening scene shows the main character, dressed for Halloween, coming downstairs to get his sister, who's dressed up as the Tooth Fairy and prying a molar from the mouth of the dessicated corpse of her mother. There's some talk about zombie hordes, and whether or not they'll have enough teeth to eat the flesh of the living when they return, but that's really just an aside. This all takes place within the first five pages of the story, but it sets the proper tone, since a lot of destruction and injury follows these two kids.

The theme and tone of the graphic novel put me off, but I really have to credit the author and the artist for capturing the characters of the main cast. Each had his (or her) own distinctive personality, and there were some honest, laugh-out-loud moments throughout the story. The interplay between characters felt genuine (if twisted), and the violence wasn't necessarily gratuitious; it was just extreme.

The story was composed of four vignettes tied together to take place all on Halloween night, but there wasn't a strong theme that carried over all stories. There seem to be more questions left at the end of the story as to exactly what's going on with these characters, but since this is the first of three volumes, I expect they'll be answered along the way. I'm just not really sure if I'm going to make it through the next two.

If you like dark, nihilistic themes, you probably won't have any issue with the story. For me, though, I read one Chuck Palahniuk novel and realized I didn't need to read any further; I think I may feel the same way about I Luv Halloween.

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Graphic Novels, Reviews | Leave a comment

Shutterbug Follies

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Shutterbug Follies by Jason Little

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Working in a library, I stumble across some interesting graphic novels. Chris Ware's The Acme Novelty Datebook was one such oddity, as was Jimmy Corrigan. In both cases, I was intrigued enough to pick them up, but not enough to read the entire works. Shutterbug Follies, though, was the opposite: I saw the book, but didn't think enough of it to even flip through it.

Well, thank goodness for boingboing.net. They linked to Jason Little's website, where I discovered Bee and her adventures. I was hooked on her just from reading the few pages available on her most current adventure, but what really drew me in was the teaser for Shutterbug Follies. In it, Bee works at a photo developing shop, and is drawn in to a mystery thanks to some gruesome photos that, the photographer tells her, are crime scene photographs. Bee isn't convinced, and starts putting together the clues of a growing mystery.

Jason Little's style reminded me some of Daniel Clowes, if only because his artwork is similar. They both have a cartoony feel to their artwork, which contrasts nicely with the serious themes of their stories, but the styles are clean in that they aren't intended to be impressionistic or otherwise stylish. The story of Shutterbug Follies could probably stand up next to other popular works of suspense fiction, thanks to the plot twists and action. The pacing is just right, and Little understands when to fill in the blanks, and when to let the reader draw his own conclusions. In the same sense that Watchmen and Sandman could appeal to readers of traditional science fiction and fantasy fiction, so could Shutterbug Follies appeal to fans of mysteries.

For people who are into superhero comics, Shutterbug Follies isn't for them. It lacks the escapist appeal that a traditional Batman or Superman story will hold. For those readers who read and enjoyed Goodbye, Chunky Rice, or Maus, though, Shutterbug Follies should be quite the hit. I would recommend it to anyone who likes their graphic novels a little more mainstream, story-wise, but still edgy and just off the fringe, all told.

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Graphic Novels, Reviews | 2 Comments

The Water Mirror

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The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer

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With Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord, the US was introduced to a world of fantastic juvenile fiction from Germany. Maybe it was to fill the gap that J.K. Rowling was leaving between her Harry Potter books; maybe it was just to make some extra money off of the fans wanting to read more Harry Potter (and being put off by the Charlie Bone series); maybe it was because the fiction was just so good that the publishers felt we needed to read it.Cornelia Funke has been hit-or-miss with me, but Kai Meyer has won me over with the first book of his I've read.

The Water Mirror is a wonderful blend of history, fantasy, and horror, combined with a beautiful narrative and some of the most vivid settings I've read in a while, for adults or children. The story is set in Venice, and surrounds two orphans who have been adopted by a famous maker of mirrors as apprentices. In this Venice, though, the city has been threatened by the Egyptian armies of mummies for over 40 years, the guards patrol the city from the backs of stone lions, and the canals are populated by mermaids with ghastly, tooth-filled smiles. Merle, the cental character, owns a hand mirror whose surface is made of water, but which never spills, and leaves her dry, even after she puts her whole arm through the mirror. What neither she nor Junipa know is that they are key players in an elaborate plot to free Venice from its imprisonment.

This is a fabulous book filled with imagery and emotion, and some of the passages will leave you in awe at the author's craft. Small passages are elevated with some carefully placed words, and the settings are heightened by his ability to create a vivid picture from the smallest number of words possible. In cases like this, where a book has been translated from another language, it's hard to know whether to credit the original author, or the translator, but the end result is wonderful. It reads quickly and easily, and since this is the first in a trilogy, it ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, with only a few issues resolved. In a way, it's frustrating, if only because you're going to want to know what happens next; in another way, it's reassuring, because Meyer has started an addictive story of intrigue and subterfuge which you will eagerly await reading.

Though this is cataloged as a juvenile book, I would hesitate giving it to young readers. Some of the imagery is a bit disturbing, and some of the thematic elements of the story could cause consternation with parents. I can't say what that would be, without giving away a key element of the story, but I will say to parents: Read this before giving it to your kids. I have no doubt they would enjoy it, but it's worth your time to review it beforehand.

For adults, I recommend this without hesitation. It's a wonderful book.

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment

Divinity

"Is the Pharaoh a god because the Egyptians honor him as a god? For them he may be one. For you not. Divinity is only in the eye of the beholder."

–The Flowing Queen
(Kai Meyer, The Water Mirror)

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

Responsibility

"Sometimes responsibility sneaked up on you without your seeing it coming, and then, very suddenly, it wouldn't let you go anymore."

–Kai Meyer, The Water Mirror

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

The View from Saturday

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The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

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Thanks to a comment from some friends of mine, I picked up The View from Saturday at the library a couple of weeks ago. The book came up during a discussion of Sharon Creech, and I have to say, I'm very glad that they recommended the book to me. It does have the same sort of warmth, simplistic style, and depth that I find in Sharon Creech's works.

The View from Saturday (a Newbery Award winner, and deservedly so) is about a group of four sixth-graders who form a trivia bowl team and take the victory for the entire school. They beat the seventh- and eighth-graders before moving on to the regional championship, and that championship takes place on a Saturday. During that day, we learn more about the four sixth-graders, their homeroom teacher and coach, and what it means to grow up. It's a touching, beautiful story, and one that will raise a smile on the faces of the most hardened cynic.

One of the hard things about writing a review of a good book is that I don't always know what to say. When I read a bad book, I know why it was bad: poor characterization; bad narrative; awkward pacing; or an unengaging plot. In a good book, much of the style and craft of writing is hidden beneath the surface, and the reader is never realy aware of reading a book; in fact, the book is carrying him along like driftwood in the tide.

What I do know about The View from Saturday is that the characters feel real. I cared about them, what happened to them, and what happened to their loved ones. I rooted for them, laughed with them, applauded their victories, and wanted to know more about them. They were the underdogs, but what they had learned about themselves and about each other allowed them to triumph.

The View from Saturday is a wonderful book. If you have kids, encourage them to read it, and read it along with them. If you don't have kids, read it for yourself. In a world of fiction full of despair and nihilism, it's refreshing to find a book so innocent and honest, and so real and effective all at once.

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews | 1 Comment

Kindness

“‘How can you know what is missing if you’ve never met it? You must know of something’s existence before you can notice its absence. So it was with The Souls. They found on their journeys what you found at Sillington House.’

“‘A cup of kindness, Mr. Singh? Is that what I found?’

“‘Kindness, yes, Mrs. Olinski. Noah, Nadia, and Ethan found kindness in others and learned how to look for it in themselves. Can you know excellence if you’ve never seen it? Can you know good if you have only seen bad?'”

–E.L. Konigsburg, The View from Saturday

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Quotes | Leave a comment

Welcome!

Welcome to Six Impossible Things, a blog about books, reading, and fiction in general. I’m a professional librarian, and come across some diverse books in my work, but my general interest is in fantastic fiction, whether it’s in fantasy, science fiction, magic realism, or mysticism. I go back and forth between reading adult books and children’s books, but most of them have this common theme between them.

For about a year now, I’ve been reviewing the books I read for a small group of friends, and, after a little encouragement, I’ve decided to make those reviews more public. I’ll continue to write my reviews, but I will also take some asides here and there to discuss other topics in fiction. It’s sort of a “Whatever strikes my fancy” approach to the subject, but I will keep my focus on fiction and reading.

Please feel free to make recommendations, based on what you see. I’ll keep a running tab on what I’m reading, what I’m waiting to read, and what people are recommending. This may not be immediately available, as I work out how and where to post these lists.

I hope you enjoy this blog, and if you have any suggestions, please post or send me an email!

May 12, 2006 Posted by | Introduction | 1 Comment