Featured Post

Now Available: The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 6!

Brutal Blade Vol. 6 is live and on the air! With this book, we reach the midpoint of the Bruno the Bandit archives, and also reach a turni...

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reading the Unreadable #3 - The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer


I remember reading The Canterbury Tales for a 2nd year English Literature class when completing my university degree.  I mean, I don't actually REMEMBER any of the book, aside from the first couplet, but I do remember the ACT of reading the book.  So I...suppose?...I'm coming to this one with a little more grounding than the previous books.

Not that that made it any easier.

Chaucer in its original Middle English is literature for those readers who find Shakespeare's language too easy.  It's got just as much romance, drama and fart jokes as any classic English work of literature, but you've got to work a little harder to pick the sense out of it.  Spelling is inconsistent at best, and pronunciation and meter are often sacrificed rather bloodily for the sake of completing a rhyme.  There's time when I'm sure Chaucer (much like his literary successor Shakespeare) just said "To Hell with it!" and made up words out of whole cloth.
As in Shakespeare's work, there is also the same gathering of story sources and inspirations to make the work an accumulation of the archetypes for centuries of stories to follow.  I imagine that this cultural aggregation into one source material goes a long way to explain the longevity of this work.  That, and the fart jokes.

The interesting thing about The Canterbury Tales is that it's actually less than half of a completed work.  Apparently the plan was to make this much longer by having more stories from other characters, and then to have at least a second story from each pilgrim on their way back from their pilgrimage.  However, in a move that, as a creator, I can completely identify with, Chaucer did not plan his time well and envisioned a work beyond the scope of the time available to him.  In the ultimate show of artistic laziness, he had the temerity to go and die before finishing the book.
So we never do get to find out who won that free meal, but we do get some good stories along the way.

I'm not sure how much the order of the stories was invented by later compilers of Chaucer's work, but in the version that I read, I get a growing sense of literary moralizing as the book progresses.  In the early stages Chaucer, like any good author, hooks his readers in with tales revolving around lust, licentiousness, the aforementioned fart jokes, and generally bad behavior.  However, later stories lean more heavily on morally instructive content, ending up with the sermon/screed that is The Parson's Tale.  Without knowing more about his motives for writing, I can't help but wonder if his intent was to create a work that would appeal to a general audience yet be religious instruction in disguise.  Sort of like inserting PSA's into an episode of Benny Hill.

Regardless, it's an amusing book, and in the end not that difficult to read.  Of course, I'm cheating a bit, having read Beowulf in Old English.  Your mileage may vary.

Up next is a novel I have actually been looking forward to, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude".  I've been wanting to dive into this book since learning of its influence on Los Bros. Hernandez's "Love and Rockets", and now I've got a good excuse to do so.

Don't forget to follow along on Twitter as I comment on my reading progress on a more or less daily basis.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Reading the Unreadable - #2: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner


For anyone who doesn't know, or might possibly care, the list I'm using for my reading of the most unreadable books is this one published a few years ago by Buzzfeed.  Technically, by their criteria, these books are not necessarily unreadable, just difficult to get through.
I'm not sure why "The Sound and the Fury" by Faulkner made it onto that list, let alone to the #2 spot.  About the book, they say:
"The style is stream of consciousness with three different narrators and one third-person section. The first narrator is mentally disabled to the extent that he cannot process linear time and jumps between past and present mid-sentence."
Perhaps I'm just in a better mindset for it after just coming off Finnegan's Wake, but not only did I find this one relatively easy to get through, but I actually enjoyed it.  I didn't understand all of it, but I got enough of the story to enjoy Faulkner's deep dive into his characters.

Reading this book is like hearing events told through several characters internal monologue, sort of a Southern Gothic take on Rashomon.    The story of a Southern family in what appears to be a rapid decline, it is told through the perspective of a mentally challenged adult, an anguished college student, the conniving elder male of the family and through an omniscient view of the African-American maid Dilsey.  With such a diverse range of characters, each with their own idiolect and idiosyncracies, the reader is given an exploration of character and setting that is in-depth and personal in a way that no other narrative choices could deliver.

Although the unique nature of each character's inner voice makes the actual story hard to follow at times, it doesn't take a terribly in-depth understanding to figure out the main points of what is happening, and how the family is reacting to it.  As an outsider to Faulkner's work, I may be an outlier in thinking this, but it seems to me that this book is not so much about the story as it is about the characters; about the different viewpoints that can surround a set of events.  If there's any takeaway from this novel, it seems to me that it is the subjectivity of consciousness and experience.
 
It helps, too, that Faulkner's language is at times beautiful.  With sentences like, "Two tears slid down her fallen cheeks, in and out of the myriad coruscations of immolation and abnegation and time," used to describe Dilsey, this book can be pure joy to read, even if full comprehension is lacking.  It's a trip that's not about the destination, but it's definitely worth the journey.

I suspect that the rest of the books on this list won't be quite so easy to read, however.  Up next will be Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" in it's original English.  This one could prove an uphill battle.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Now Available: Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 7!!!

Available at last!  Volume 7 of The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit, collecting more great stories from the archives of Ian McDonald's popular webcomic. 

BRING ON THE LADIES! The women of Rothland take center stage in this latest volume, and they’re all ready to show Bruno who’s boss! Whether it’s former fame vampire Ella, Bruno’s cuter-than-cute daughter Delorus, the amorous Xantippa, or feisty sidekick Fiona, they all put Bruno in his place in “Bruno’s Queen”. Later, there’s the distant chimes of wedding bells as some of our “Couples” set themselves up to get hitched! Meanwhile, Bruno’s parents take a trip down a convoluted memory lane. Finally, the Mother Confuser helps Bruno find out whether Ricardo Aisa really is the good kind in “The Good Guy”. To top it all off, you get a peek behind the creative process in “Rough Strips”. Settle in for another wild ride as the women show the men how it’s done, and once again, some of the best comics on the web become some of the funniest comics in self-publishing.

Brutal Blade Vol. 7 is now available in print on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca, and in digital at DriveThru Comics.  Get it now!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Reading the Unreadable - #1: Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce



When I committed myself to reading the most unreadable books, I didn't foresee that I would be sorely challenged from the very outset to make it to the end of one of these things.  Never has a book filled me with the desire to give up out of such utter frustration as has "Finnegan's Wake".  However, I am nothing if not stubborn, and although it feels like it took half my life, I made it to the end.  Although I'm sure this stream of consciousness writing will resonate with me for quite some time.
I'm not going to say that I understand even a tenth of Finnegan's Wake; I don't have the nerve or the energy to support that kind of lie.
But then, I don't think understanding is what Finnegan's Wake is meant for.  This is not a story in the traditional sense, whatever else it may be.
For me, reading Finnegan's Wake was something of a Zen experience.  Koan-like, I was only able to make any kind of progress when I stopped looking for meaning.  The secret to this book is to treat it as an utterly numinous experience, read it at a normal reading pace in spite of its lack of coherence and appreciate the form, rhythm, and - at times- the sheer ludicrousness of the book.
Joyce's style famously combines stream of consciousness with a Shakespeare-like facility for inventing words and all manner of puns, spoonerisms and malapropisms into a work that seems, ultimately, to be an exercise in form.  It defies meaning while maintaining a structure that implies and promises that very meaning.  In so doing, it causes the reader to question how it is that meaning is taken from anything.  Just as a reading of Freud or Barthe can force a psychological or symbolic interpretation of nearly anything, so does Joyce's work here cause a metaphysical analysis of literary form, literature and ultimately language itself.  Like the old trick of repeating a common word until it loses all meaning, this book deconstructs the meaning of all its words in order to examine the meaning behind all words. 
Finnegan's Wake is considered a great novel, in spite of so few people having actually read it. It would be glib to say that people consider it great because they don't understand it, but in truth, it is that lack of understanding in spite of the reading that makes the novel great.
That and the fact that James Joyce took 17 years of his life to create a work of utter nonsense, of course.

Disagree with me?  I'd be happy to hear about it.  Leave a comment and tell me why I'm wrong.
Also, be sure to check out the AIM Comics Twitter feed; I've been posting thoughts on this book as I read it, and will continue to do so for the rest of the books in this series.
See you next time when I attempt Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury".  Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Worst Possible Meme...

That moment when you open the working file for the new Bruno book and realize that the file has become corrupted, all your images are missing, and just when you thought you had finished, you've got to start the whole thing from scratch.


EDIT: The problem is mostly fixed.  For reasons known to no one, Scribus decided not to recognize all the linked images in the book.  It kept the layout for all the pages, but just showed empty frames where the images were supposed to appear.  I was able to restore most of it with a couple of hours work, so I can pick back up from there to get the book finished.
I don't get how this happened though.  I don't recall having moving any directories around, and shouldn't these links be absolute anyway? 
Oh well...live and learn!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Reading the Unreadable


I have several concurrent problems that gelled together in an odd way for me.

I am a voracious reader.  To say that I read a lot is like saying that Niagara Falls is bit damp.  Thanks to e-reading apps and services like Project Gutenberg, Kindle and Archive.org, I am never without a library of books on my person, and will whip out a book at the slightest provocation, regardless of context or company.
That's not the problem.  The problem is that lately I've found a lot of my reading is rather pointless.  I tend to stick to the same genres - horror, science fiction, true crime, with a smattering of fantasy - with a slight ratio of nonfiction so I don't feel like I'm completely wasting my time.  After a while, the titles, characters and plots all sort of run together so that none of it sticks, and very little of it stands out.  I can't help but think that something that takes so much of my attention should have a little more meaning - or at least direction - behind it.
 A related problem is that I have a long list of "someday" books that I've been meaning to get to - books that I know I should read but always pass over in favor of something much easier and much more disposable and forgettable.  I've no doubt that these books will prove enlightening in some way, but always seem to be less entertaining and more difficult to process.
Less related are the problems of social media and attempting to supply content for a website/blog.  I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr that hardly see any use, like I've shown up for the party but have decided to just stand in the corner all night, nursing an Aquafina and admiring the wall art.  Additionally, the AIM Comics blog hardly ever sees updates any more, due to the slow production cycle of just about anything I am not being directly paid for.

So, partly inspired by the great rereads I follow on Tor.com, partly by some comments about Gravity's Rainbow heard in a recent Marc Maron podcast, and by my own lack of literary intertia, I've decided to challenge myself to read the unreadable....to conquer the important bits of my "Someday" pile by reading the books that are considered to be the most challenging to even experienced readers.  The books that everybody talks about, but no one has read, or at least not finished.  I'm going to take a run at them, provide some direction to my reading habit and broaden my literary horizons in one fell swoop.

More than just that, I'm going to commit the possibly unforgivable crime of doing this in public (gasp!).  I plan to tweet about the books as I read them, and to write up commentaries about them here as I finish them.  The idea is that the process will give a little bit of accountability to this habit I'm trying to change, and hopefully provide some interesting reading for others at the same time.

If this goes well, I might be inspired to do some of the other heavy reads I've been planning, such as the complete works of Robert E. Howard and Isaac Asimov, just to name a couple.

So if you're interested in finding out what I think of Finnegan's Wake, or Gravity's Rainbow, or a host of other "unreadable" books, be sure to follow me in (more or less) real time on Twitter, check out my posts on this site, or follow me on Facebook.  Feel free to post comments to tell me how I've missed the point of each book (I never said I was going to UNDERSTAND these books!) or how I should go back to Little Golden Books, or (less likely) how the depth of my insight has opened your eyes to new vistas of literature and inspired you to shout James Joyce's name from the rooftops.

Speaking of James Joyce, I'll be starting with "Finnegan's Wake", so we've got that to look forward to.  There may or may not be whiskey involved in the reading process.  Follow along and see if I can manage to hold it together enough to get through this exercise.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Pulp and Not Pulp

One of my favorite...sites? ...feeds?  It's a Tumblr feed, so I guess either one applies.  In any case, one of my favorite sources of information right now is Not Pulp Covers, which bills itself as "Pin-up, Illustrations, Advertisements, and Other Things that are Not Pulp Covers".  It's a fantastic source for art and photography, classic and modern, that has a pulp or pin-up influence.  It's helped introduce me to classic illustrators whose work I've seen but never been able to name, and broadened my perspective on artists that I've known for a long time.
It's also helped me realize a few things about myself.  Mainly that I enjoy the movie poster art a lot more than I enjoy a lot of movies.  I enjoy book covers a lot more than I do many books.  I enjoy game concept art much more than I enjoy any actual gaming.  I appreciate a powerful single, visual image more than I do the work it illustrates.
Just for example, look at the image above, pulled from a recent post on NPC....there's more dramatic tension involved in that painted scene than I suspect inhabits the entirety of the movie, which can't help but look dated and dull in comparison.  I think it has a lot to do with the imagination that's engaged by a powerful image like this.  An interested viewer will create their own backstory for such an image, and do a quick bit of mental worldbuilding that explains how this moment came to be, and projects how it could possibly work out.  So much more happens, for me at least, in even a quick analysis of that one image than results from a viewing of the entire film, and like a Lovecraftian vision, it has greater scale and scope in the mind than can ever be shown in the screen.
I am a reader, and a cinemaphile...but definitely not a gamer in anything more than a casual sense.  But I am a visual artist, first and foremost, and I think I need to spend more time focusing on that aspect rather than trying to consume so many books and movies, and feeling guilty for not getting around to my growing game disc and Steam library collection.  It's a  somewhat liberating feeling to be able to recognize what it is that you love about a thing and be able to put aside the rest of it.  It certainly has the potential to free up a lot of time.

Related to this, by the way, is the companion site, Pulp Covers.  Run, as far as I can tell, by the same people, this one showcases the covers and some interior art from classic pulp magazines and trashy paperbacks.  The art is melodramatic and often cheesy, and much of it is blatantly sexist, but it also has a visual style that's fascinating to look at.  It's amazing to see the level of skill and sense of design that was brought to work that was essentially considered throwaway.  Except, of course, that thanks to sites like Pulp Covers and Not Pulp Covers, it's no longer throwaway, but it recontextualized as Art, and that's good to see.