Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Berlin: City of Stones: Book One

Berlin: City of Stones: Book One (Part 1)
Jason Lutes
Drawn and Quarterly (2000), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 209 pages

Berlin: City of Stones, according to the magazine Time, is one of the best graphic novel ever written.

Berlin: City of Stones by Jason Lutes is supposed to be a graphic novel series describing life in Berlin between WWI and WWII. The main characters of book one are an art student (Marthe Mueller) and a journalist (Kurt Severing), a second story line tells about a family who decides to follow the main political streams: mother and daughter join the communist party, while father and son join the Nazis.

In Germany, following World War First, a new government called Weimar Republic is established ; this new parliamentary republic has to face many problems: economic, extremism on the left and right political parties. Weimar Republic ends with the beginning of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Back to Berlin: City of Stones, the drawings of this graphic novel are very impressive, black and white shows and tells brilliantly the History of these years.

A last thought / question: Is Kurt Severing the double of Walter Benjamin (without mustache)?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf

The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf
John W. Carter
Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc. (2006), Paperback, 70 pages

‘One morning at daybreak his warriors were all around our village. He said to my father, I want all the furs and yellow stones you have I claim this land for Spain. Everything you have now belongs to Spain.
My father said, this land belongs to the Great Spirit. We only live in it. ‘ (p. 16)

John W. Carter was born in 1932 in Tennessee.

The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf tells four decades of the life of an Irish immigrant to the new world in 1563 when he was a teenager.
Kit is the main character and narrator of the book. After escaping from the ship during harboring in the new world, he lives alone for a while befriending a wolf. When is captured by a native tribe he’s called Kit Long Wolf. Trusted for his wisdom he becomes Medicine Man of the tribe.

Dorrance Publishing has published two books linked to each other: Mayflower Maid by Raleigh Bruce Barlowe and The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf by John W. Carter. These books are linked by the settlement in the new world between 15th and 16th century. The events are narrated from different points of view: Mayflower Maid tells the view of the English settlers while in Kit Long Wolf is narrated the point of view of the first nation. So is very interesting to read both books and learn something more about the first years in this new world.

Carter is a good writer although in Kit Long Wolf, only 70 pages, many events are narrated quickly and superficially.


I received a complimentary copy of (The Life and Adventures of Kit Long Wolf) as a
member of the Dorrance Publishing Book Review Team. Visit
to learn how you can become a member of the Book Review Team.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Review: Mushishi, Volume 2

Mushishi, Volume 2
Yuki Urushibara
Del Rey (2007), Paperback, 240 pages

The Mountain Sleeps or The Sleeping Mountain
In this first novel of volume 2, an old Mushishi tells to Ginko the story how he became the guardian of the mountain.
The mushi is called Mugura and ‘are like the nervous system of the mountain.’ (p. 13) The old Mushishi cannot leave the mountain because of the dangerous mushi, and Ginko cannot help him.

The Sea of Brushstrokes or A Sea of Writing
A curse afflicts a family for generations: a birthmark the color of an ink stain means a new writer of mushi’s stories.
‘In the future ... we animal and plant life must live in concert with the mushi.’ (p. 59) In the past after a great calamity mushi’s separated from the other animal and plant, so started the curse of the ink birthmark.

They That Breathe Ephemeral Life or Those who Inhale the Dew
Mushi in called Biku and live in Akoya’s sinus cavity because she inhaled it from a flower. Akoya in a girl revered as a god and a boy asks to Ginko to investigate the case.
‘Once again today, the sun rises and sets again. The flowers that bloomed this morning begin to bow their heads.
Once again today, the sun will set and rise again. And when the sun hits it, the flower blooms, but it is a different flower from yesterday’s.’ (p. 93)

Rain Comes and a Rainbow Is Born or Raindrops and Rainbows
The fourth novel is the best of this second volume.
A boy travels looking for rainbows: ‘I’ve heard that treasures are buried at the ends of rainbows, but ...’ (p. 147)
Mushi is called Koda and means rainbow and snake. ‘The Koda ... are light ... and rain that has some Koki in it. ... (the Koki are) the stuff that is the basis of a mushi’s life force. ... they may have sources that cause them to start. But they have no goal. They live only to flow. They don’t let anything interfere.’ (p. 178)
Like Ginko’s travelling is without goal so Koda is not dangerous, they live only to show themselves.
‘In an area to the west where there’s a river famous for its flooding ... word is spread about a bridge that can withstand the floods.
When the river rises, they remove certain planks ... and they let the water flow as it well.
When the water level falls, they return it to normal.’ (p. 181)

The Veil Spore or Cotton Changeling
Ginko helps a family with strange children.
Mushi is called Watahaki: ‘they have the form of green cotton that floats on the air.’ (p. 195) Watahaki give birth baby with a short life span. Ginko has to burn the house with these mushi/children, but he keeps one for himself. ‘You are an inscrutable being.’ (p. 226)

Review: Martian Time-Slip

Five novels of the 1960s & 70s - Martian Time-Slip
Philip K. Dick
New York : Library of America : Distributed to the trade in the U.S. by Penguin Putnam, c2008.

Arnie Kott: ‘... we got the future, and where else do you think things happen except in the future?’ (p. 115)

Martian Time-Slip refers to living in different times instead of present, also past or future.

This novel by Philip K. Dick is set in a colony on Mars and tells the story of Manfred Steiner, an autistic boy who can help other people to live in the past or in the future.
Arnie Kott, leader of the water worker’s union, becomes interested in Manfred because he wants to use Manfred’s skill to predict future in his business ventures.

Martian Time-Slip is a speculative science-fiction novel because Dick doesn’t tell about space ships or other futuristic electronic devices; so who remembers Blade Runner (or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) is crowded out by reading this novel.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Review: Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Volume 1
Alan Moore
DC Comics, Inc. (1987), Edition: 1st, Paperback, 176 pages

‘You shouldn’t have come here.’ (from the back cover)

The first four chapters are the best of this volume; the last three tell events improved in the next volumes of the saga of Swamp Thing.

‘He isn’t Alec Holland. He never will be Alec Holland. He never was Alec Holland. He’s just a ghost. A ghost dressed in weeds.’ (p. 33)
The Swamp Thing becomes aware of his nature: in a previous life he was an human being called Alec Holland, now in this new form he is only weeds and mud.
‘Woodrue ... he took ... my humanity ... away from me ... caused so much agony ... and when I thought the agony was ... over, that I found ... peace ... he tainted that as well ... Woodrue.’ (p. 72)
The Swamp Thing refuses to live as half man / half tree and he / it rooted in the swamp, becoming a vegetable.

Jason Woodrue becomes part of the swamp, and grows like a plant. Woodrue: ‘I am come to announce the Green Millennium.’ (p. 79) But this Green Millennium means destruction, so the Swamp Thing wake up to put order, aware that he is not anymore Alec Holland.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: The Book of Human Skin

The Book of Human Skin
Michelle Lovric
Bloomsbury Publishing (2010), Hardcover, 512 pages

‘Hic Liber Cute Compactus Est’ (p. 143)

‘Why are we all doing our best to become angels? It is perhaps because we shall always have something shadowy in our consciences ...’ ( p. 459)

Books with the cover made of human skin, and behind this Gothic library there is Minguillo Fasan. Against this project of books of human skin there is an obstacle: Marcella, Minguillo’s sister.

The Book of Human Skin is narrated from five main characters’ points of view: Minguillo and his sister Marcella Fasan (a noble family of Venice), Gianni delle Boccole (House Fasan’s butler), Sor Loreta (nun in Arequipa’s convent, Peru`), and Doctor Santo Aldobrandini.
Although this book could be categorized as historical fiction, we can find other genres: horror, romance, and especially Gothic fiction.
In the background Michelle Lovric’s passion for Venice: ‘marbled water cradled in the shadow of a bridge, a palazzo seeming to sway in a web of fretwork, ...’ (p. 181) or ‘ the play of water reflections under bridges and the cries of seagulls at dawn.’ (p. 438)
And from this Venetian’s water reflections towards the old wet brick’s walls in the calle (an alley of water) the destiny follows a path of magic; so when Minguillo’s father writes to his wife about the insanity of their son, Minguillo intercepts the letter and ‘I (Minguillo) had barely finished scanning it (the letter) when a fictitious gust of wind carried it out of the window and away down the Grand Canal before any inquisitive monkey might count his toes.’ (p. 78) Randomness and magic change everything and give birth to a new story.

Minguillo Fasan talking about his books: ‘When I say I loved books, I mean that I loved not just the souls of my books but their bodies.’ (p. 39) or ‘Late at night, did Minguillo books of human leather talk among themselves?’ (p. 285) Minguillo a sadistic man remind the first pages of Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de LautrĂ©amont: ‘One should let one’s fingernails grow for fifteen days. etc etc’ His dreams are collecting books of human skin and living for ever in Palazzo Espagnol.

Marcella Fasan is a patient sister whose Kafkian life goes from a tormented cohabitation in Palazzo Espagnol in Venice, to the hospital for lunatics, and finally in a convent in Peru`. She waits until her enemy (her brother) collapses; and again the human skin intervenes to correct imperfections: the small pox.

Gianni delle Boccole is depicted speaking a Celinian argot; an example: ‘so as not to draw saucespishon (= suspicion)’ (p. 393) He is the butler in Palazzo Espagnol and loves Marcella like a father.

Doctor Santo Aldobrandini explains why the human skin is so important: ‘Perhaps this is why I have always loved the skin: because it is both the story and the storyteller.’ (p. 21)

Sor Loreta hates her skin and body. She thinks to reach sainthood because of her behavior: drinking only vinegar and fighting every way of life outside the strict monastic rules. This character is surprising for her frankness and seemingly funny logical thinking.

A final note / quote: ‘Dio ha manda` l’om per (par) castigar l’om’; in my opinion a better translation could be: God created man to torment man. instead of God created man to shame man. (last page)