Comic-A-Week 16-22 – Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Finally. This is why I’m doing this, guys. Not so I can read a mediocre comic a week, but so I can read an awesome comic a week. Castle Waiting did that for me. I loved every page of this comic.

Castle Waiting begins as a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but that ends once the princess is woken by the prince. Feeling lost, confused, and just a little betrayed by their princess, her handmaidens decide to stay at the castle after the princess leaves with her new love. The castle becomes known as Castle Waiting, a mythical home for the weary who need a place to take them in. So we meet our young protagonist, pregnant and without a home. Her father once told her of the magical Castle Waiting and so she finds her way there and immediately falls in love with all who live there.

Castle Waiting is wonderful. Broken up into vignettes, we are told various stories about the inhabitants of Castle Waiting, though there are still quite a bit of mysteries that I hope are cleared up in the second volume. The bulk of the book is taken up by a story about a bearded lady’s convent. Yes, bearded ladies. Oh, it is wonderful. The art is whimsical and perfect for the story.

I loved Medley’s humor, her characters and her art. Which I believe makes the perfect combination for a delightful comic!

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Rebecca Reads, Stella Matutina, The Shady Glade, Book Nut, things mean a lot, A Striped Armchair, The Written World,  A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, Biblioklepts and Olduvai Reads all have posts about Castle Waiting. Do you? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add your blog post to this list.


Poetry Wednesday (on Thursday) – Holly Iglesias

I have a penchant for poetry that incorporates the title as a line in the poem, both for reading it and for writing it, so I was immediately drawn to this poem by Holly Iglesias.

I Can Afford Neither the Rain
by Holly Iglesias

Nor the strip of light between the slats, the window
itself blind with grief. Nor the bench where the last
mourner lingers, the others on to the next thing,
leaning into the bar, toasting the sweethearts, gone
and gone, their passion and ire softening now into the
earth. Nor the bluff above the Mississippi where
centuries of war dead rest, where the stone stands
bearing their names, the wind of romance hard against it.

Unprotected Texts by Jennifer Wright Knust

I admit it, I was seduced by a book title. When asked if I wanted to review Unprotected Texts by Jennifer Wright Knust I almost couldn’t pass up a book with such a clever title. This book, subtitled The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire, Unprotected Texts looks at just that, the ways in which the Bible and the writers of the books of the Bible are frequently contradictory in terms of sex and sexual morality.

Once I read the introduction, I was sure I was going to love this book. Part of the inspiration for this book came from the fact that she was repeatedly called a slut in middle school, even though the people calling her that didn’t know what her sexual activities were. Jennifer was not a “slut” as society defines the term, but anyway, was being a “slut” really so bad? So Knust decides to analyze what the Bible actually says about sex.

Two things are keeping me from giving this book a good review and neither of them are really Knust’s fault. First, this book ended up not being anything like I imagined and second I am not the targeted audience for this book. So let’s deal with the first problem. I thought that this book was more a social commentary informed by what the Bible actually says, rather than an in depth analysis of Biblical passages. Unfortunately, there was little social commentary in this book at all. Knust does sometimes address major political figures, like Jerry Falwell, but only talks vaguely about more common problems within evangelical Christian sects when it comes to sex, virginity, marriage and gender inequality.

Second, I’m really not the targeted audience for this book. While I’m very interested in Christian history and the Bible as literature, I’m not exactly interested in it as a moral guideline. Though I grew up in the Christian/Catholic tradition, I am nonpracticing and am not what you would call a believer. I don’t think that Knust’s book is necessarily only for believers, but I am just not as interested in the amount of biblical detail that Knust provided. I want more commentary rather than analysis of the specific Biblical passages. How is what Knust finds going to influence society? Is it going to change anything?

When Knust did talk about modern society in relation to the biblical, I was very impressed. I wish the whole book were like this quote:

Whatever I am teaching, however, I usually begin by asking participants what they wish the Bible said about the topic at hand. Do we wish that the Bible would reject war as a political strategy? Or perhaps we believe that the Bible should support defensive if not offensive wars. Do we wish that the Bible would confirm gay marriage, instead of rejecting it as so many Christians insist? Or perhaps our concern has to do with the role of women. Perhaps we wish that Paul had not told women to be silent and learn from their husbands at home, especially since talkative and independent women can be found throughout the Bible just as often as silent, obedient women. Whatever we wish for, I point out, probably can be found somewhere in the Bible, which is why it is so important to admit that we have wishes, whatever they may be. We are not passive recipients of what the Bible says, but active interpreters who make decisions about what we will believe and what we will affirm. Admitting that we have wishes, and that our wishes matter, is therefore the first step to developing an honest and faithful interpretation.

Once upon a time, the followers of Jesus knew that they were interpreting the Bible, not simply extracting truth from a set of divinely inspired texts. (241)

I think that Knust has a brave, important thesis: the Bible is so contradictory about sex and sexual morality that we cannot know or judge based on what we believe the Bible to say. Almost any opinion can be supported by a passage in the Bible. As such, those who are quoting the Bible to justify what they are doing, need to back up and think again. It’s very clear, from the length of the bibliography and notes alone (almost the same length as the actual text of the book) that she knows her stuff. She is a Biblical scholar, minister and professor at Boston University.

Unfortunately, I just don’t know that this book really has the power to change people’s opinion. I sincerely hope that it does get some people thinking and maybe even inspire the book I actually wanted to read.

Like I said, ultimately, none of this is really Knust’s fault, just the unfortunate experience of expectations unmet.

Proud Book Nerd also wrote a post about Unprotected Texts.  Did you? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add you to this list.

Special thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me this book to review. For more information about the tour, click here.

Comic-A-Week – Jan 9-15 – Mother, Come Home

After Thomas’s mother dies, his father suffers from survivor guilt and depression.  He is hospitalized and this comic tells that story from Thomas’s eyes as a child.  I’ve read a lot of comics like this lately and I haven’t reviewed any of them because I so often find myself at a loss of words to describe anything about them.  Not how they made me feel or if I enjoyed reading them.

Honestly, I sometimes feel myself close off to comics like this.  The structure was so strange, it never allowed me to get involved in the story.  I wanted to care about Thomas and his father’s story, but I couldn’t. Overall, I thought the art here suited the mood perfectly, but the story was sometimes confusing, perhaps intentionally to illustrate grief and depression.  And the ending?  The ending was just strange when you compared it to the rest of the book, to be honest.

Though I didn’t want to talk about this because it’s unfair to compare, it’s really hard to ignore Chris Ware’s influences on Mother,  Come Home.  I just like Ware’s work much more.  They are different beasts in terms of storytelling – Ware’s most famous graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Kid on Earth is huge and this is a slim book that covers a tenth of that space.  All the same, if you are interested in the art, I’d recommend Chris Ware over this one.

In any case, if you are an avid reader of comics, Mother, Come  Home should be on your list to read.  But be prepared, it’s a difficult one and one that doesn’t ultimately live up to its promises.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Jenny’s Books also has a post about Mother, Come Home. Do you?  Leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it to this list.

Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton

I was approached by TLC Book Tours to review Half In Love by Linda Gray Sexton because I write a lot of posts about poetry (thanks to Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit for recommending me).  Even so, I hadn’t read much poetry by Anne Sexton and my knowledge of the Sexton family history was minimal.  I went into this book knowing next to nothing except the title and I just have to tell you up front that this book floored me.  It has  done what all good books should – changed my perspective.

Linda Gray Sexton grew up watching her mother’s multiple suicide attempts until she finally succeeded when Linda was in college.  Linda makes a pact with her sister and she promises her own children later in life that she will never be like her mother.  But the legacy of suicide and her depression ends up being too much for Linda and she eventually tries to commit suicide three times before finally getting the help she needs.

Even though this is a memoir, Half in Love often reads like poetry. Linda Gray Sexton  writes beautifully and honestly. I don’t know that I’ve  ever encountered a more honest memoir. This is a book that not only served as a way to heal for Linda, but as a way to change the way people think about suicide and depression. This is a view from the inside out and it is remarkable.

Depression is a disease that affects everyone, not just the one who suffers from it, but everyone they are close to as well. Unfortunately, the most common reaction seems to be frustration and anger.   I have had those thoughts, I will admit it. But I never will again. Linda Gray Sexton has changed that for me. I can say now that I have a broader perspective on depression and suicide than I did before. Half in Love is beautifully written, heartbreakingly honest and an invaluable as a resource for everyone who has experienced depression or who knows someone who is suffering from depression.

This is a memoir, not a scientific non-fiction book. Linda Gray Sexton does not include many facts about depression or suicide, but instead focuses solely on her own experiences.  She documents how this disease was and is for her. Reading this memoir made me eager to learn more about the more scientific and medical/psychological facts about depression. Memoirs like this, and like Losing My Mind by Thomas DeBaggio are so important because it’s so difficult for someone who has not experienced a psychological disease to understand what it is like to be under the power of one. How many times did I get frustrated and angry with my great-grandmother for her Alzheimer’s instead of being understanding? Too many.

Favorite quotes:

“Unconsciously, my mother had bequeathed to me two entirely unique legacies, and they were inextricably and mysteriously entwined: the compulsion to create with words, as well as the compulsion to stare down into the abyss of suicide. Both compulsions have been with me for as long as I can remember.” (23)

“Just as [my mother] interlaced fragile words of poetry among the sweet and spicy, so did she weave stories into the very texture of our lives. A story here, an image there: she built her tales out of daily ordinary events to which she gave no less weight than the tale of a daughter’s maturation, or an elegy for her parents, or a villanelle cooked up in Robert Lowell’s class. These were often the topics that her poetry introduced to the reading public […].

As a child I had watched the way she made her illness into a career. The love and the attention her disease brought to her were plain to see. Once depression became subject matter, she began to write about it more and more openly in her poetry. It even won her praise and respect and to me that somehow felt unfair. The aspect of public acclamation confused me. Though I hated her insanity, she was coining this shameful aspect of the illness and eventually she would be able to support herself financially upon it. Sadly, I realized that I wanted to be able to rise up someday and spin the straw of my own misery into gold, just the way my mother did. Sadly, I also realized I wanted none of it.” (47)

“I’d thought I could pick the sort of mother I would be, as simply as I might pluck events or holidays from a river of experience. I’d thought I could consciously choose the foundation on which I would build the style of my mothering. I’d thought that decisiveness and self-control were the ways we shaped our futures; if those futures were handed down from generation to generation, then to succeed at changing them was still within reach with the application of a little bit of effort. It didn’t occur to me then that there was some secret code in both learned behavior and genetic, biological expression that was embedded within us. I could not see that these two factors might actually govern what I did, and what kind of mother I would be, regardless of how I strove to aim at a particular vision of myself in this role. I began to discover, slowly, that it was not a question of pure willpower.” (67)

“The belief that love can conquer immense pain in the life of the ordinary person is another way in which the legacy of suicide continues to be handed down generation to generation, damaging all family members.  This misperception traumatizes those who experience the loss of someone close (certain that if they had only been more worthy, their friend or family member would have loved them enough to bear the suffering), and it also becomes an obstacle for those who survive the attempt to end their own lives. I would guess that even now my father and my sister must still suppress some rage at this idea in a private, silent way: they are angry that my mother did not care enough to put them and their feelings first. It became an issue of love, when really, it should have been seen as a barometer of pain. Despite my former fantasies about dedication and worthiness, I now believe that by committing suicide, my mother simply bowed out from under the hurt in her life.” (216)

This memoir is important, it’s beautiful, but it is often difficult to read because it can be so upsetting. I hope that won’t deter many people from reading this important memoir.

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review.

Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

This is my favorite kind of book to tell you about! I found this book randomly by browsing the shelves at my library. What this tells me is that I should do this more often, because this book was amazing.

Even though I always say that I like short stories, I didn’t read any short story collections last year. I was wary of this collection, but it ended up reminding me how wonderful the short form can be. If you don’t like a story (which only happened once with this collection), it is short! You can move on! On the other side of that, though, is that you often find yourself leaving a character before you are ready. Lapcharoensap walks this line expertly. The stories always ended just when I thought they should.

All the stories in the collection Sightseeing take place in Thailand, but each story follows a very different sort of person. Most of the stories are about families, about the joys and pain that families bring into our lives. Though I have read books that take place in Thailand, I have never read a book by a Thai author (Lapcharoensap was actually born in the US, but grew up in Bangkok and came back to the US for college). It was an excellent experience and gave me the idea to read books by authors from every country in the world (eventually). It’s such a different, important perspective and one of the greatest powers of literature that allows us to travel the world this way.

This was a great way to start 2011. There was only one story that I didn’t particularly like, but it was still a good story. I just didn’t connect to the narrator as much as I did the rest of the time. This is a short book and each story, except for an almost novella-length story at the end, is short as well. I can’t recommend this collection enough.

Favorite quotes:

“One night I caught Ma staring at the bedroom mirror with an astonished look on her face, as if she no longer recognized her own sallow reflection.  It seemed Pa’s death had made our mother a curious spectator of her own life, though when I think of her now I wonder if she was simply waiting for us to notice her grief.  But we were just children, Anek and I, and when children learn to acknowledge the gravity of their loved ones’ sorrows they’re no longer children.” (31)

“Jack leads Tida to the dance floor. They’re the only people out there. It seems the whole place is watching them. Everybody looks up to watch my son – this tall, foreign man – dancing with his Thai wife. It’s a slow Thai song and another couple, both Thai, join them on the floor, the lights from the mirror ball sweeping back and forth. Jack’s holding his wife close. They’re smiling at each other like there’s so much love between them they don’t know what to do with it. I’m a little embarrassed; I don’t really want to look, though I can’t take my eyes off them. I’m sucking on my beer, thinking how you never get used to seeing your child’s romantic side, when I look around and see some of the men under the tent snickering in Jack’s direction. I notice, too, that the women are talking to one another sternly, peering at Jack and his wife. I can tell by the way they look at her that t hey think Tida’s some kind of prostitute and suddenly I’m proud of them both for being out there dancing,  proud of my boy Jack for holding his wife so close, because their love suddenly seems for the first time like something courageous and worthwhile, and I’m thinking: There he is, Alice. There’s your boy. There’s our little man.” (152)

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Lotus Reads has also published a post about Sightseeing.  Have you? Link to the post in the comments and I’ll add it to this list.

Comic-a-Week – Jan 2-8 – The Night Bookmobile

You’ve seen a lot of reviews of this one the past week and I’m not exactly sure why all of us decided to read this one at the same time.  I picked mine up from the library on a whim, after hearing a couple of bloggers express how much they loved it.

I love Audrey Niffenegger.  Like many people, Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite books.  Beyond the fact that it is a lovely book, it is also one of the first books that my boyfriend recommended to me.  It marks the beginning of our relationship and will forever hold a special place in my heart.  While Her Fearful Symmetry left me somewhat disappointed and conflicted, I enjoyed reading it and I absolutely loved parts of it.  I’ve also read The Three Incestuous Sisters, Niffenegger’s other comic, and I enjoyed that one as well, though I didn’t really have a strong reaction to it either way.  The Night Bookmobile produced a reaction in me similar to Her Fearful Symmetry – there were parts that I loved, but others that left me feeling somewhat cold toward the book.

For one, the concept behind this comic is perfect.  The idea that each person has their own library with each book they have read and started to read  stored in a vehicle of sorts.  Alexandra, after fighting with her boyfriend and walking alone at night to clear her head, encounters her library and quickly becomes obsessed with it.  Secondly, the art is lovely and adds to the mystery and fantasy of the story.  It was short and sweet, with a memorable conclusion.

But a significant part of that conclusion really upset me, not because of what happened, but because of how abrupt it was.  Of course, I do not want to spoil anything, so I’m being purposefully vague.  It is a shocking turn of events that I honestly found difficult to understand.  I really wanted to love this book unreservedly, because the idea is so bookish and wonderful, but I just couldn’t.

I don’t necessarily want to deter anyone from reading this comic.  It really is wonderful for most of the time.  Apparently it is a part of a series that Niffenegger will be continuing in the future and I sincerely hope that as a whole the series is as lovely as the majority of The Night Bookmobile was.

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

1330V, Bart’s Bookshelves, The Written World, nomadreader, Reader’s Corner, Words and Peace and Stuff As Dreams Are Made On all feature posts about The Night Bookmobile.  Did you?  Leave a link in the comments and I’ll include it in this list.