Antoine Wilson’s Panorama City: Book Review

When one grows up insulated and with not much world experience, you would assume that the world will both be an oyster and possibly swallow that person whole at the same time.

I personally can’t say that is something I’ll ever get to experience. Seeing the world for the first time as an adult, since my parents starts making me my own man at a young age, I learned the appreciation at a young age as well. The not knowing what you have till it’s gone or once having it realizing it wasn’t what you wanted. That all came to me young, long before I ever had to consider it or worry about it. Not to say I faltered here or there, but luckily I’m also quite smart. Not to try and sound egotistical even, I have a good brain. I catch on quick, I know what’s happening, I’m aware of my surrounding.

Unlike some classic fictional characters who have been both locked in their own world and not very smart till the world hits them head on. The most notable of these of course would be Winston Groom’s Forrest Gump, but to completely use him as a reference to discuss Antoine Wilson‘s PANORAMA CITY would give its protagonist disservice.

Oppen Porter is definitely not the smartest guy in the world, he’s quite naive indeed and it takes him awhile to process things, but he’s not completely a lucky clueless fool. In a shirt time he experiences what to some would be years of experiences. Love, heartbreak, religious awakening, spirtual founding, job promotion, switching careers, oppression, new friends, old friends, losing friends, death. All in less than two months, two tumultuous exciting months that he relays to his unborn child through tapes.

This device of first person narrative through what could be conceived as transcripts is a clever way to get pulled into Oppen’s viewpoint while also feeling like a listener who knows that it is only one viewpoint. This is a theme of everything Oppen tells his future son though, varying viewpoints and how no one way is right or wrong, they just are.

Life in many ways always seems to work in circles, but not perfect circles. Circles with spikes and protraction. I was reminded of this throughout PANORAMA CITY and yet it also gave me a feeling of hope. Antoine Wilson’s wordplay and semblance of sentiment and wonderment through Oppen causes one to see the world with new, more open (slight pun intended) eyes and a desire to live life to its fullest whatever that means for ones self.

The book also really made me want a bicycle more than ever.

Here’s an original drawing of a bike by the author Antoine Wilson.

The preceding review was based off an advanced galley.
PANORAMA CITY by Antoine Wilson is scheduled to come out September 25, 2012 from Houghton Miflin Harcourt.

Teen Boat has launched and out to sea!

A couple weeks back I was happy to attend a Launch Party for the collected edition of TEEN BOAT by Dave Roman and John Green. I’ve been reading and enjoying their work separately and together since way with their book Quicken Forbidden and following through with their work in the FLIGHT anthologies, various mini comics, Agnes Quill, and much more. The party featured books, a boat, food, musical performances and fun. I filmed some of it and made a video.

The Unkillable Charlie Hardie

Car chases, attempted murder, mansions on the hill, underground prisons, psychopaths, agents, directors, actors, cops, criminals, lawyers, big whigs, buxom babes, nudity, sex, drugs, death, destruction… sounds like a regular day in Hollywood doesn’t it? At least the Hollywood of the movies, but for Charlie Hardie it’s the most atypical day in usually decidedly chosen humdrum life.
Excitement was the norm for him, till one day and for the last few years he’s done everything in his power to have the most basic, boring life possible. Life doesn’t ever go the way one plans, especially when the man running your life is writer Duane Swiercynski.

This isn’t how the Charlie Hardie trilogy of FUN & GAMES (June 2011), HELL & GONE(October 2011) and POINT & SHOOT (scheduled for 2013) begins, but that’s the crux of the matter. I became a real fan of Duane’s through his work on CABLE Vol.2 , in which Nate Summers and an unnamed child travel through a crazy future. I had been marginally introduced to him prior through his book The Blonde, but it was with Fun & Games that his brand of high octane, high adventure, crazy twists and wilder turns really grabbed me and have turned me into an always and future fan.

As with some of the best of crime noir fiction, the Charlie Hardie series is very visual. As you go through each passage, there is no way to not envision how this book would be translated on to the big screen with any of the current aging action stars of the 80s who are still kicking ass and taking names at the helm. Personally I see Val Kilmer or Russell Crowe when I close my eyes and/or pour through the pages, but I’m not a movie executive or a financier or even someone with the money to buy the rights to take the energy on a script adaptation, no, here I’m just a fan who thinks you should be as well.

Swiercynski takes the choice of an almost fourth person approach here, jumping from the perspective of various characters, including the peripheral. This style is kept up through both books and while jarring at first, it allows a really inventive way of revealing bits and pieces of a much larger whole. As much as this is Charlie’s adventure, there is so much more going on and each clue, hint, tid bit and revelation into this huge architecture Duane has built just expands in such ways that you can pretty much completely understand why he’s taking his time with the third book. Originally this trilogy was going to come hard and fast, June and October of 2011 and then March of 2012. After finishing Hell & Gone and then reading the first openings of Point & Shoot at the end of it, I was salivating at the bit for the final chapter, wondering how after how large, crazy and thrilling the second book was, it could be topped. That’s the idea with a trilogy right? To keep building and building. Not that there’s many trilogy to compare to. In its own way Charlie Hardie’s story and Duane’s concept to do it as three self-contained but completely interconnected books is truly quite original. The only real trilogies I can even think of in literature that may have begun as being conceptually the same is the work of Robertson Davis, all other trilogies have such different histories and origins.

One of the most fascinating things from this fourth person style of different perspectives is you gain an appreciation and interest for everyone involved, even the people who die or the people who just seem like they’re pure evil. It is one of the most amazing aspects of the writing that would definitely get lost in transition from page to screen.

I must say I enjoyed HELL & GONE much more than FUN & GAMES. There’s just so much intrigue, character development and the type of nail biting I personally love. FUN & GAMES for most the most part is escaping the horror, not stopping for one moment to explore, while HELL & GONE is the locked chamber, with no where to run, so you better figure out how to just survive till you can escape. I can only guess that the final book is the insanity where you try to decide to go into the lion’s den.

FUN & GAMES and HELL & GONE were published by Mulholland Books and are availabile at all fine book retailers and in all e-book formats.

She Went to Hell and took us with her

Hello, Chuck Palahniuck, it’s me Reid Harris Cooper. I just wanted to let you know that your newest book is compelling and successfully fills many of the holes it creates along the way, creating interesting characters and a vivid image of a designed hell I can see well animated by John Kricfalusi. On the other hand it is at times quite pretentious, overly wordy and particularly annoying. While you can easily blame this on your protagonist and the first person speech, it did not have to be this way. Certain choices were made in terms of structure, repeated style use and pushed upon ideas that at times I almost tossed the book across the room in frustration. It is almost a sign that the book got accidentally water damaged making it look mangled, but not unreadable.


DAMNED is the newest upcoming book from the acclaimed writer of Fight Club, Survivor, Choke, Lullaby, Haunted, Rant and a few more. Many are thinking of it as possibly a return to form that he seems to have possibly lost, but I see it as more experimentation from a writer who refuses to be locked down into any type of style or particular voice other than that of unreliable narrators and reveals that flips he story late into the book, sometimes too late to make a dent, other times perfectly sculpting pure genius. In many ways, DAMNED does both.

Chuck seems to have definitely done his research here and while it is admirable and adds to the scenery, at times it almost feels like he is trying to boast more than even educate through his various characters that he can talk about Hell because he went and read all the various books, scriptures, theologian essays and more. I applaud his effort, while also rolling my eyes at it. I almost feel it’d been more interesting for him to create his entirely own vision of Hell than the cobbled together version in this book. There are some really hilarious, fantastically brilliant ideas here and some of them are fully formed, while others just get touched upon making you desire more. This could be to the possibility of an upcoming sequel. If said sequel doesn’t exist though they’re just nuggets that will lay there untouched; Very cute, interesting nuggets that will only percolate in the readers mind, but never to be fully fleshed out and formed.

As an entire package the book tells a full and complete tale that is both visually entertaining and mentally stimulating, yet falters from expansive sections which could’ve easily been in fast forward and at times The major plot “twist” can be easily telegraphed from an early sequence as well that is just really longer and weirder than it needed to be. I feel like I’m spitting more venom than sprinkles here for a book I actually cared enough to finish, especially since books that start to piss me off usually get tossed on the ground and given a beat down, but the fact is that I really saw a lot of potential in this story and I feel at least a sequel could save it, but as it stands I can only recommend it to the the most stalwart fan of Chuck’s or those who really love contemporary visions of Hell via the dialogue of a young girl who finds empowerment through Death and Dismemberment.

DAMNED currently has a release date of October 18, 2011 in America and is published by Doubleday. It will be a hardcover with a retail price of $24.95, but obviously cheaper through sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Authors I Enjoy, and if there was more than one of me

I thought I’d take a better look at the schedule for Brooklyn Book Festival 2011 taking place Sunday, May 18th at Columbus Park in Brooklyn, New York. I will be focusing on the non comics selections this time. So please keep the previous post in mind if you head to this wonderful event.

LAWRENCE BLOCK and SUSAN ISAACS, two highly entertaining writers in the crime drama genre are part of a moderated panel at 5 PM in The Borough Hall Courtroom. While my familiarity with them is not as heavy as it should be, as I aware that their books are the kind of work I tend to truly enjoy. It amazes me that only one film has ever come from Block’s works as well, as I see the few Matthew Scudder books I’ve read to be perfect for film. Issac’s though has a little bit of film work, which she actually wrote but again not since the 90’s. This is no indication of the quality of their work, as both are best selling and highly respected writers and in the current trend of Crime Fiction, their views are invaluable.

DJ SPOOKY, whom I only know as a musician, seems to have written a few books and will joining a photographer for a speak on the environment and sustainable change on the Main Stage at 2 PM.

PETE HAMILL, one of the greatest journalists ever and with a slew of fictional works becoming one of the best traditional fiction writers will part of a talk at 3 PM on the Main Stage.

JULES FEIFFER, a living legend cartoonist will be joined by Norton Juster to talk the 5oth Anniversary of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH at 12 PM in The St. Francis Auditorium.

At 1 in The St. Francis Auditorium two of the greatest living writers of all time in my opinion shall be reading. JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER and the truly compelling and captivating JOYCE CAROL OATES will be presenting and speaking.

The 12 o’clock session in the St. Francis Reading Room features three quality writers on subjects that are of high interest to me, so I shall just copy&paste the official description here:
Crashing Genres. Join authors whose work defies classification: crashing the genre borders of science fiction/ fantasy and the supernatural. CORY DOCTOROW (For The Win, Little Brother), KELLY LINK, author of cult favorite stories in Pretty Monsters and Magic for Beginners, and best-selling author JEWELL PARKER RHODES, winner of the American Book Award, uses magical realism to examine race and memory in her New Orleans vampire trilogy Seasons,Moon, and Hurricane. Moderated by Stephanie Anderson.

Controversial and very popular Critics J. HOBERMAN (The Village Voice) and JASON ZINOMAN (NY Times) will be joined by Foreign Film Expert and a professor at the United Nations, ROBERTA SERET in a discussion on film moderated by film historian and critic ED HALTER at 5 PM in the St. Francis Screening Room.

EOIN COLFER and WALTER MOSELY talk crime drama with Los Angeles Times book critic DAVID L. ULIN 3 PM at ST. ANN AND THE HOLY TRINITY CHURCH.

Right after that at 4 PM same location, actor, playwright and essayist WALLACE SHAWN will joined on stage by partner and fellow actor and essayist DEBORAH EISENBERG and colleague FRAN LIEBOWITZ in a discussion modern by the executive director of the National Book Association HAROLD AUGENBRAUM.

At 2 PM on the North Stage is a very exciting presentation based upon the television program JEOPARDY it features two big winners JUSTIN BERNBACH and celebrated author ARTHUR PHILLIPS and journalist and former Businessweek Editor STEPHEN BAKER who wrote a book abiout the development of IBM’s Jeopardy computer Watson. Moderated by SPIN Magazine’s Greg Milner.

I want to remind folks that there are planned signing schedules for many of these authors as well, so pay close close close attention to the free guidebook being handed out at Book Festival. It will be an invaluable device to have a full and fulfilling day!

It’s All About Hair Transplants

Novel: PLUGGED

Author: Eoin Colfer

Publication Date: September 1, 2011 in the US (already out in the UK)

Best known for the crazy and wild antics of boy genius ARTEMIS FOWL, as well as what is concidered the sixth book in Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, …AND ANOTHER THING, Eoin Colfer’s first tackle at crime noir drama is painstakingly brutal, humorous and nail biting.

Before I approach my scattered, possibly altered thoughts on the awesome PLUGGED I want to address the concept of ...AND ANOTHER THING being titled the SIXTH book. In essence this is untrue and discounts Doug’s unfinished, but still published posthumously SALMON OF DOUBT. Originally constructed to be the third book in the Dirky Gently series and indeed pretty much published as such, it is fairly known that Adams intended for it to become the “final” chapter in Hitchhiker’s. While …AND ANOTHER THING is a cleverly written book in which Eoin proves his stellar writing abilities, it really should be titled NOT REALLY, BUT KIND THE SOXTH BOOK, NOT THAT ANYONE”S COUNTING PER SE (or something akin to that).

In PLUGGED, Eoin brings us into a very bleak, troubled world, one that is cloistered, hidden, almost like a darkened stranglehold. It’s a place few would venture and even fewer would even consider. Yet it is also bitingly funny. There is an intense amount of dark humour (sic) in this book. It is mozzenfocking crazy I’m telling you. It is also pure modern noir and while reading it I could not help but envision it as a film. Although my cast isn’t completely not locked down. While it seems a perfect vehicle for say Vinnie Jones or Jason Statham, I also envision it being something Colin Farrell could bite his teeth into. Possibly Stuart Townsend, or maybe even Cillian Murphy. If it was 10-15 years ago it would easily be something Gabriel Byrne, Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson would be fighting each other for. While all those actors are very different, they all have a few things in common. They’re Irish, they can pull off being creepy badasses, and they have the acting talent to be a leading man who is serious, cynical, slightly crazy and amazingly charming all in one breath.

That is exactly what lead character in PLUGGED is. In my Unrevised and Unppublished edition I have for the use of this review his name is Dan McEvoy, but marketing on Amazon.com suggests this was changed Linc, which is short for Lincoln. I’m really hoping this is wrong, as Daniel just works way better. At least in my opinion.

On top of Daniel, the book is filled with amazing characters, all of them also larger than life, full of grit, and feeling all like they’ve stepped out of a 1930’s Dashiell Hammett novel, read a primer on the last 70 years of history and jumped right back into modern times. You got a wacky unlicensed doctor, a slimy sleazeball lawyer with mafia ties, a smalltime gangster who’s the big fish in a little pond, the crazy broad upstairs, the dyke like cop with sex appeal. Plus you have all the plot twists one would expect, conspiracy, murder, betrayal, coverups, drugs, smuggling, etc.

Is this starting to sound more like hype than a book review? That tends to happen when I really enjoyed something. I start overselling it. Maybe I want it to be mine and no one elses, but that wouldn’t be fair. People who enjoy a good detective mystery crime drama noir with messed jokes and crazy surrealism shouldn’t miss this one.

A French Soiree in NYC

On June 9th, 2011 I went out to Random House’s first “Blogger’s Night Out”” event in celebration of the upcoming book FRENCH LESSON by Ellen Sussman.

While I sadly left my camera inside my bag, I hope my words can paint enough a wonderful picture.

First let me state that the Bertelsman Random House building is insane.  The lobby is book porn heaven!  This is what a true book enthusiast with money to burn would do with their mansion.   One could stare at the set-up and the limited editions and everything forever, even with it under glass, lock and key.

The event was held in one of the conference rooms which are also covered in amazing book shelves displaying every kind of book Random House has published since 1925.

There was a wonderful spread with cheeses of all kind, plenty of wine, grapes, blackberries, strawberries, all very french, very apropos for  la fete.  There were also pitchers of a delicious sweet drink with black berries that I think I might’ve had at least 5 cups of, it was that good.

To celebrate the France aspect of everything , there were tables promoting RH’s Living Language series as well as a Fodor’s table with both their France and Paris books on display and available.

Ellen did a wonderful presentation detailing the background of the book, where the research came from, where the roots of the plot came from and how she included much of her real life into a fictional narrative she felt carried the tale stronger and much more compellingly than her sweet and happy life.  She sold the book very well and I look forward to reading it.

Meeting all the various publicity and marketing folks at RH was fabulous and all the book bloggers and guests were equally exciting.  I had some really great conversations with everyone about everything one could think of.

A fantastic night with an awesome gift bag as well containing the audiobook of French Lessons, and other books and magazines pertaining to France capped the evening perfectly.

Made for Each Other – Having a monster for a boyfriend

High School romances are a tricky practice. Telling quality stories about Highschool romance are an even trickier practice. They’re set-up to be hokey automatically. Looking at any of the best romantic comedy films movies about people in High School and falling in love, they have a penchant for cheesiness and ridiculous. The best of them seem to have a penchant for staying charming or endearing through their supporting characters and just something inherent.

Imagine if they tried to do that in a graphic novel, but also throw in a supernatural element. That addition could easily bring things over the top in silliness, but delicately balances that edge between sweet and ridiculous.

I was attracted to wanting to look at this after researching the online art of Eldon Cowgur. I was not familiar with him before this, but the cover pulled me in and when I saw his webcomic Astray3 I knew I had to see what he would do with a longer format comic.

 

 

While it was Eldon’s art that brought me in, he actually had a variety of flaws in art in such a larger format. Nothing super jarring, but if it wasn’t for Paul D. Storrie‘s script there was no way I’d finish this graphic novel. While the begginning starts off in a little bit too much of “You are joining us in a program that already in progresss” feel, it quickly catches up with itself and is smooth sailing from there. Discovering our female star, our male love interest and then our quirky and fun supporting cast comes with clever dialogue and what I have to assume concepts from Storrie which Eldon bring to life perfectly.

This is by far not the most perfect book. The full page reveal of the MAIN monster of this tale is not as TA-DOW as possible. While it is a great drawing into itself, in context, the dude is just not ugly enough. That’s really not a deal breaker to the enjoyment of this one and I say check it out if you like comics and romance.

I believe it was designed to reach out to kind of reader who doesn’t read and would rather read a comic, but it is pretty heavy in its comic book story-telling devices and it is not something someone who isn’t already reading comics to check it out, but what do I know?

This review was derived from a digital galley from Net Galley.  Special thanks to them and to publisher Capstone Books.

Up, Up and Chocolate Covered Banana!

I’ve been a fan of Art Balzatar since some of his earliest work in “The Cray Baby Adventures” and have been happy to follow him through the years with his self published “Patrick the Wolf Boy” (co-created with Franco) and his Disney Adventures’ serial “Gorilla, Gorilla”.

When “TINY TITANS” debuted in 2008, I was super excited to see Art, alongside Franco working on an out of continuity super cute easy to read and enjoy superhero comic that could feature your favorite superhero at any time. For over thirty issues, the brand of humor combined with simple, clever eye-popping cartoon visuals, the book has continually delivered.

Last year I first heard of Art getting a new gig as the illustrator to a series of children’s books based on the adventures of The Super-Pets. I was excited to see what his super cute art style could bring to adorable animals with super powers.

Luckily I have finally been able to appreciate one of these books through NetGalley and publisher Capstone Books.

That book is “Midway Monkey Madness” and it is absolutely charming. I’m not familiar with writer Sarah Hines Stephens but her writing is fast paced, jovial and fun, which perfectly suits Art’s strengths as an illustrator as well as being perfect for young readers as designed.

While the star of the book is Beepo, the Super Monkey and boy does Art draw a cute monkey I must exclaim I loved that The Wonder Twins show up with their monkey Gleek. The Wonder Twins are silly, kind of dorky, but something about them are endearing and when used right are just fun-loving and awesome. This is one of those time.

These picture books combine the excellence of good young children’s books with the awesomeness of a comic book with sound effects, usage of well known and established characters and lots of action. I highly recommend this and sight unseen the rest of the Super Pets series to parents who want a fun read for their kids and comic fans who can’t get enough of Art Balzatar’s art.

wondertwinsbyartbalzatar

Dogs ala Steadman

bookofdogs

One of the world’s greatest cartoonists, painters and humorists Ralph Steadman has done many types of books. Fiction, children’s stories, guides to wine country, a biography of Sigmund Freud, versions of Alice in Wonderland and of course the seminal work Fear and Loathing.

His latest book focuses on dogs. It is not his first book about dogs, but the first with the obvious title of The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs. Full of images spanning 1996-2010 it is a truly fun romp. Almost all of Steadman’s style are here. His gonzo style of sketches with text, his abstract painting, his blots alongside extremely realistic depictions.

There seems to be an attempt at a humorous guide to raising dogs within the 90+ page volume. I find Steadman’s artistic, but sloppy gonzo pen quite difficult to read perfectly, but I admire it from a conceptual sense. The images are very hit or miss, which has been my experience with Steadman on the usual. Some of his caricatures are just shockingly ingenious, while others are head scratching perplexing and not in the good way. I will stare at an image and be completely lost in what he was trying to convey and yet then the next image will be like a bulls-eye shot. Nail on the head perfection of what illustration can provide and offer.

This book I feel definitely fits a much more Steadman niche market than previous endeavors. Dogs are not as universal as wine. Drawings of dogs are not going to be a lot of people’s cup of tea. Especially when most people can not agree on how tea should be served or which are the best kind of leaves. Besides the point, fans of Steadman probably do not agree on what is better; his intrinsic abstract color work or his awkward or his sensible black and white sketch work. I like the pieces that combine all his conceptualizations, techniques and styles into one cohesive image.

The Book of Dogs doesn’t have many of those, but it has plenty that a Steadman fan should appreciate. It is not the greatest choice as an introduction to Ralph though, as it doesn’t truly show off what his delicate mad mind has the ability to create. If you are a fan of Steadman, it is definitely one to add to your collection, if not, go become a fan, so you want to add it.

The US Edition of The Ralph Steadman Book of Dogs is scheduled to come out May 4, 2011 from Houghton-Mifflin Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  This review is based off an Internet Galley.