Not much intrigues me in terms of bookstore releases for August 22. There are a few interesting finds.
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin is a retelling of the Monica Lewinsky saga (who says we don’t have our own mythology). It extends on Zevin’s previous work, Trainwreck, of which I’ve read a few excerpts (and seen the rather unfaithful screen adaptation starring Amy Schumer) that essentially provides a fairly strong overview of the “Madonna or the whore” characterization for women in modern society (if leaning more towards the latter demonization, since . . . well, society realized years ago that it only needs the salacious, and that contrast with alleged “superior” examples is entirely unnecessary to drive home the all out, blanket character destruction of American women). What intrigues me isn’t the philosophy of the book, since, to be honest, we’ve been re-living this tragic element of the American story since Hawthorne first exposed inherent gender hypocrisy in 1850 that we’ve done fairly little to improve things since. What piques my interest, instead, is the idea that these national stories, sensational as they may be, are the new American mythology. I remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal rather well. I was a pubescent adolescent, a sophomore in high school, so this story and the media blitz surrounding it are fairly well burned into my skull. Nonetheless, I feel that I’m on the younger end of those who had first hand awareness of this story and who could also parse out the political, social, and sexual details of the scandal with any degree of intellectual capacity. And really, I’m being generous there. It is definitely a phenomenon that nestles softly in the wheelhouse of hyperbolic nostalgia. As we’ve reached the end of history, our past history becomes our myth. There’s nothing necessarily groundbreaking in that occurrence. Early “history” had little metaphysical distance from mythology, and thus from entertainment. What makes it all particularly postmodern is the fact that this mythology is rooted not just in pop culture, a far cry from the heroic field of battle, but a pop culture scandal based around a blowjob.
Along similar lines, Sue Grafton releases the penultimate (assuming she doesn’t descend into numbers) Kinsey Millhone Alphabet murder series, Y is for Yesterday. I find this release intriguing because . . . wow, talk about sticking to a shtick. These books are literally as old as I am, and they’ve occupied a specifically tight niche of the pop fiction market. I used to buy these books for my mom, who could read a mystery novel in a night, and I’d purchase them from both the drug store and the book store. Grafton achieved a remarkable amount of success with these books, but she falls just shy of being the household name that many of her contemporaries became, mostly likely because her books never became movies, or television shows, or miniseries. I have to assume she was offered and chose not to – so good for her(?).
Mystery is the type of genre fiction that seems to attract more “serious readers” than others, and it has a tradition of being taken more seriously as literature than science fiction, fantasy, etc. It also seems that detective fiction is the subgenre most often aped by literary fiction, or perhaps that’s just because I read Pynchon, and he likes to do that. I’m not sure where Grafton falls, but I’m inclined to think it’s somewhere between detective fiction and pop fiction. Nonetheless, it’s a remarkable achievement, and one done at a pace that is far more respectable than many of her contemporaries. Kudos, Sue.
There isn’t much in the way of new music that intrigues me this week, but I’m definitely about a week behind on purchasing the new records by Guided By Voices, Rainer Maria, and Brand New. I will, however, be picking up, Filthy Friends’ full length debut, Invitation, that drops on August 25. I loved their contribution to the anti-Trump 30 Songs in 30 Days. It’s rare that we get supergroups in the world of indie rock. It’s even rarer that said group includes a member of King Crimson, but I think that’s even more of a reason to pick it up.
This is one of my “off weeks” for comics. I’m frankly torn about purchasing comics now because I’m running out of solid storage space. I’ve culled my collection over the years, and I still don’t have the room for it. I’ve gone through various periods of selling large runs of books (way too impatient to sell smaller sets) and I’ve at least mitigated the costs. I’m remarkably regretful though. I sold off my entire Morrison Batman run under the idea that I would buy the collected editions to re-read, and I haven’t done much of that yet. I was more thoughtful about my sale of Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run because I purchased each hardcover as it came out.
Nonetheless, I will definitely be picking up a few books, if not necessarily this week. DC looks to have another great week lined up, and I feel great about that recent trend. It’s been a little while since I’ve been this intrigued by week-to-week DC releases for the company as a whole, or at least in general. I’m frankly surprised how well DC has been able to manage the Rebirth transition given that (1) retconning/rebooting/relaunching is incredibly hard, (2) the New 52 was handled incredibly haphazardly*, and (3) DC has previously seemed a little too dedicated to its history to allow for the necessary degree of flexibility to prove attractive to new readers.
Hellblazer # 13 (Writer/Cover- Tim Seely, Art – Jesus Merino)
I haven’t invested in Constantine since the original series ended, but I’m a big fan of Tim Seely, and I think he’ll bring the necessary grit and cred to the character that will make this book a success. Seely has been quietly moving up through the ranks of DC Comics. He now has the keys to Hellblazer and Green Lanterns. I hope this run is long and epic in the grand tradition of the Vertigo Hellblazer series.
Black Hammer # 12 (Writer
I think Jeff Lemire is a genius. I don’t know too many people who work in comics who are as versatile or prolific. Lemire’s work ranges from comix** to mainstream superhero titles. Lemire bent form and genre along with Scott Snyder on “After Death,” composed the critically acclaimed post-apocalyptic epic “Sweet Tooth,” and wrote the all-too-short-lived-Pre New 52 Superboy series. He works as both a cartoonist and a scripter. Recently, he’s been plying his trade with creator-owned genre books such as the utterly remarkable Descender (along with the equally form-bending Dustin Nguyen). Black Hammer is up my alley 100% – weird superhero tales that recall the independent spirit of the 90s and the glory days of Vertigo. This book is a must for fans of off-the-wall “superhero” books like Madman or Doom Patrol.
Finally, a new tradition: “I’m not going to buy it, but I wish I would” – Bucky O’Hare Graphic Novel Coloring Book. In the wave of nostalgia, it’s hard to figure why Larry Hama’s creation hasn’t been revived more properly. I mean, just tap the goddamn zeitgeist already and cross the character over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Late Gen-X and early Millennial money will line the coffers for years.
*DC bit off more than they could chew with the New 52, and I’m still more than a little baffled about how it could have made it out of a pitch meeting. It seemed bizarre to put a finite timetable on the existence of heroes, both from a consistency and logistics standpoint. Popular books from pre-New 52 canon were almost left alone. We all expressed a degree of confusion about the amount of backstory that both Green Lantern and Batman were able to build upon in a mere five years, only to be told in the same tone that a fourth grader explains his missing homework that these characters had actually been around for longer than the existence of the rest of the heroes. Books were inconsistent across their “family” of titles. Morrison’s and Tomasi’s Batman seemed to line up, and Snyder’s and Tomasi’s did also, but it didn’t seem like Morrison’s and Snyder’s did . . . if that makes any sense. And nothing seemed to gel with Detective Comics, at least until the end of the run. Speaking of Morrison, I’m still not sure that Action Comics’ Superman was the same character featured in the eponymous title. And I’ve just rambled for a paragraph about the New 52 one plus years after its demise . . . so . . .
** Maybe? Right? Is it right to call Essex County or Underwalter Welder “comix?” I don’t know. They’re not quite underground, a word that tends to be the qualifier for all things “comix,” but they are certainly independent.