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A novelty, for me at least: in 2010 I will be reading more than 3 comic books or graphic novels for certain! How do I know? Because I’ve joined the Graphic Novels Challenge as an Intermediate! 3-10 books must be doable, since I have just finished reading The Best of Mutts and Persepolis 1 & 2 are already waiting on the shelf; all three books I bought especially for the purpose of a varied diet in last October’s 24 hour read-a-thon. That’s when I read my first graphic novel btw: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. It felt really good to crawl out of my usual book nook.
It’s a good opportunity to check out Art Spiegelman’s In The Shadow of No Towers, which I’ve been meaning to do ever since it was published. You all know Spiegelman from his famous autobiographical comics Maus I & II, right? I’ve mentioned him before in my post about Coraline.
Now I know I said I wouldn’t join any more reading challenges… Well, bad habits are hard to break :\ And don’t you think this is a different story? Besides, I’ve just finished wrapping up my 2009 Classics Challenge, so there’s room for something new! ;)
Not to mention this month’s irresistable mini-mission: the classics in graphics, for which you need to read 1 classic of literature that has been made into a graphic novel. Interesting, right?! So you’ll be glad to hear that you don’t even have to join the actual GN Challenge to participate in this mini-challenge that Teresa is hosting! What’s keeping you?
A week of plenty. I received two acclaimed books (& other great goodies) from my Secret Santa Valentina in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. And I started looking ahead to 2010 by making some reading plans, joining the Women Unbound reading challenge and What’s in a Name #3.
In the meantime I’m slowly progressing in volume 2 of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki, for the Japanese Literature Read-along (deadline next Tuesday). That might sound as if it’s a heavy task but I’m actually enjoying part two even more than the first. JLit Host tanabata created a ‘wave’ to talk about Japanese literature, which got me to finally check out Google Wave… Well, I haven’t really figured it all out yet ;) I guess I need to look for a GW for Dummies book ;)
But I shouldn’t spend any more money on readables right now because The Book Depository was mean kind enough to have a 10% holiday discount — and to tweet about it. Of course I couldn’t resist :\ So I’m awaiting four (!) new books that I’ll have to find reading time for :) You’ll hear about them once they’ve arrived!
Yesterday around 10PM I could no longer stand the pressure and I tore open my two still-wrapped presents from my unveiled Santa.
I have to admit Santa had me a wee bit worried by mentioning in her letter that she thought there should be A RULE to make adults read children’s books… Yeah, Santa would say a thing like that, right? But this is a genre usually not to be seen on my nightstand. Of course the first of her 3 arguments was immediately incontestable:
Because they’re brilliant.
Rightio. Clever Santa! She’s brilliant herself, ’cause you know what she got me?
It’s been only a few weeks since I said:
Now that I’ve crawled out of my familiar reading nook I might also try one of Gaiman’s actual fantasy books — next year.
Santa has been listening closely! ;) Getting me Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (I feel envy coming towards me now ;) What a nice surprise! And she goes even further in getting me to try new things, by also giving me a Terry Pratchett! I know plenty Pratchett enthusiasts, so I’m indeed excited to find out what I’ll think of The Wee Free Men living on Discworld. Whatdoyaknow, maybe you’ll get to meet a new addict here in the new year ;) I already found out that these books are interlinked by the fact that Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett have done some project together…
BTW Note how the gift wrappings are in tone with their respective book covers? Isn’t that marvelous? (Yes, I’m still going on about how great these presents looked ;) This Santa obviously cares about details :)
It was my first time participating in the Book Bloggers Holiday Swap. I figured I would like to pick a present for some reader on the globe, but I hadn’t expected this wonderful feeling because someone who absolutely didn’t know me took such care in finding me a special present as well. Wow.
Thank you so much Santa Valentina!
December, the last month of the year has arrived! Only 25 days left to finish up all 2009 challenges… Got to hurry! Actually, I think I am going to stretch my personal 2008-2009 challenge into 2010 ;)
A more difficult problem to tackle will be reviewing the books I’ve read :\ At the end of this Sunday Salon you’ll find a list of all books I still need to post about…
But first: something wonderful happened this week! Natakiya from Bentoanarchy has given me the Kreativ Blogger Award! Unfortunately I am not too good at the memes which seem to accompany awards, nor very good at passing them along. So instead of really picking it up I will just announce my extreme gratitude here!
Book reviews written in November
- Coraline, ‘my first graphic novel‘. What do you consider to be a graphic novel?
- I Am a Cat (part 1) for the Japanese Literature Read-a-Long. I seem to be more interested in the cat part than the human satire.
Right now I am reading the second part of I Am a Cat. Waiting for me on the shelf is The Gargoyle, this month’s Boekgrrls read — and I’ve been looking forward to it for a year now!
Books read in November
- In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
- The Old Capital, by Yasunari Kawabata
- Persuasion (audio), by Jane Austen
Books waiting to be reviewed
In order of priority.
- The Old Capital ~ Yasunari Kawabata
Japanese Literature Book Group, JapLit Challenge, Classics Challenge
- In Cold Blood ~ Truman Capote
Classics Challenge, What’s in a Name Challenge, Boekgrrls
- The Grapes of Wrath ~ John Steinbeck
Classics Challenge, Bookcrossing book, personal 2008-2009 challenge
- Brideshead Revisited ~ Evelyn Waugh
Classics, What’s in a Name Challenge, Boekgrrls
- Revolutionary Road ~ Richard Yates
Classics Challenge, Boekgrrls
- The Remains of the Day ~ Kazuo Ishiguro
What’s in a Name Challenge, personal 2008-2009 challenge
- Be With You ~ Takuji Ichikawa
During Dewey’s 24 hour Read-a-Thon I read Neil Gaiman’s book Coraline as a graphic novel (adapted by P. Craig Russell). Technically it might not have been the first graphic novel I’ve read, but it certainly was the first one I bought myself, knowing it to be one!
About 15 years ago, shortly after I had met Mr Gnoe, I read the Pulitzer Prize winning work by Art Spiegelman: Maus, a Survivor’s Tale — an autobiographical story about Jews (depicted as mouses) surviving the World War II Holocaust. At that time I also got acquainted with the (just as grim) comic books of Tardi. Both I did not consider to be graphic novels at the time, because the term seems to be in in vogue only since the last few years.
So what is a graphic novel exactly? Well, there’s no real consensus about that :) Some consider it to be a posh term for all kinds of comic books provided they’re bound in a durable format like printed books, others believe there’s a distinction in artistic quality (which of course is a subjective matter).
Neil Gaiman himself — yes, I will get back to Coraline in a short while — considers it to be nothing more than a marketing term, a sales category.
[..] there’s no meaningful difference. For some reason the term “big thick collected or original comic published in book form” has never really caught on, while “Graphic Novel” did.
Myself, I am still in doubt whether or not to distinguish graphic novels from ‘ordinary’ comics. It just doesn’t feel right to call the collected Best of Mutts (Patrick McDonnell), that I bought along with Coraline, a graphic novel as well — even though it is a beautiful hardcover ‘coffee table book‘. I think I would like to hold on to the idea that a graphic novel is a story or collection of short stories in comic format (a balanced combination of narrative art and dialog or explanatory text), that holds something more than plain, popular entertainment. Like: could it be a novel without the image art? Does the story have some sustenance? I know I’m walking on thin ice here ;)
Do you have an opinion about graphic novels?
Back to Coraline now. It’s the fantasy/horror story of a girl moving with her family to a huge house that’s divided into four apartments. Exploring the house, Coraline finds a door into an ‘other world’, where her ‘other mother and father’ live. These parents tempt her with things that are all better than at her real home, because they want her to stay.
Doesn’t that immediately make you think of Alice in Wonderland? It does even more when you read about the neighbours persisting in mispronouncing Coraline’s name as Caroline in the first pages (think Lewis Caroll). It’s been too long since I read about Alice’s adventures (I must have been a child of about 9), but it would be fun to compare the stories.
Another book Coraline reminded me of is the classic Japanese novel I was reading for the read-a-thon as well: I Am a Cat, by Natsume Sōseki (from 1905). It begins as follows:
“I am a cat. As yet I have no name.” (p.5)
And here’s when Coraline meets a cat at the new property (p.41):
And it explains to us on the same page:
“Now, you people have names because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”
Or, when Coraline first sees the cat on ‘the other side’ (p.39):
Cats naturally being wise, it has a theory about it on the next page (p.40):
“You people are spread all over the place. Cats on the other hand, keep ourselves together. If you see what I mean.”
Back to I Am a Cat:
“Cats are truly simple. If we want to eat, we eat; if we want to sleep, we sleep;” (p.26)
I guess the fact that Coraline reminded me of these classics helps in making it more of a reading experience than simple entertainment. Although it was also just plain fun to read Coraline ;)
Like Maus, the graphic adaptation of Coraline by Russell has won an important prize: the 2009 Eisner Award (an ‘Oscar’ for comics) in the category of Best Publication for T(w)eens. Er.. that’s not my age group! And since I’ve grown up I don’t really like reading YA or children’s books. But it didn’t bother me now ;) At least it’s obvious that a targeted audience of adults is not a condition for being called a graphic novel (as some argue).
Russell, who’s some sort of god in the graphic novel world, says about his adaptations:
“The appeal of an adaptation is in starting a piece secure that there’s literary worth in the source material. If it fails, I can’t blame it on that. I’ve always been fascinated by the challenge , the puzzle-solving challenge of taking a piece apart line by line and reassembling it into an entirely different art form.
[..] It’s the beautiful writing. It also helps that Neil has a huge following so I know all the effort I put into the work will actually be seen. I’ve done plenty of work that left me feeling I’d thrown it down a well. Doesn’t happen with Neil’s stories.”
I bought my comics for the read-a-thon following advice from veteran participants. Next to Coraline and The Best of Mutts I ended up with Persepolis and Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. But during my 24 hours of reading I only got to read Coraline! Which indeed made a nice change of palate. And as you notice I’ve come to learn some things about the graphic novel world at the same time ;)
Now that I’ve crawled out of my familiar reading nook I might also try one of Gaiman’s actual fantasy books — next year. For the rest of 2009 there’s something else to consider: with my other graphic books on Mt. TBR I might join the Graphic Novels Challenge… I would only need to decide on two more before December 31st to make the minor level of six books. Why not reread Maus volumes I & II?
I had a lot of fun, but it was much more difficult than I had expected. From the total of 24 hours I’ve slept six and a half — the rest was spent on the event (except for some eating and stuff). Because of that my totals seem a bit meager!
Hours spent on the read-a-thon: 17:30
Hours read: 6:24
Pages read: 319
Books read: 2
I couldn’t keep track of time spent behind my computer, but it didn’t feel as if I was cheering or blogging or twittering too much. So it was the community aspect of this read-a-thon that made it great, but also more difficult to read as much as I would have normally been able to. Time flies when you’re having fun! ;)
During the read-a-thon I took part in the following 8 mini-challenges. Unfortunately several times I’ve forgotten to admit my link to the challenge post; who knows what prizes I would have won otherwise! ;)
- Hour 1 read-a-thon meme from Dewey’s Read-a-thon
- Wordlily‘s Trending on Twitter challenge in hour 2
- Where in the world is the Readathon? from Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin’? (hour 3)
- Books Making Sense at Bart’s Bookshelf in hour 4 (and I didn’t cheat by recycling old ones!)
- The Feed Me Seymour! mini challenge at Linus’s Blanket (hour 9); my favourite!
- Dewey’s Read-a-Thon Mid-Event Survey in hour 13
- Posted pictures for the Take a Break mini challenge from Ticket to Anywhere in hour 21
- And of course the End of the Event Meme for Dewey’s Read-a-Thon
Other bookish stuff
Was there no other bookish stuff going on this week, you ask? Of course! I finished Be With You (Takuji Okigawa) just before the read-a-thon started. I absolutely loved it! I will be adding it to my Japanese Literature Challenge so you might look forward to a review.
And I bought another book (thinking I could read the novella during the read-a-thon, dôh): Silk, by Alessandro Baricco, in Dutch: Zijde. Unfortunately the book cover is not original but shows the movie poster… I don’t like it when publishers do that! I do not plan to see the film; here’s what Mee wrote about it.
And last but not least: our Bookcrossing Monopoly mission was ‘restaurant’, so De Boekenleggers released a Dutch copy of Como Agua Para Chocolate (Rode Rozen en Tortilla’s) at the moped of a Mexican Delivery Boy. Have you seen it crossing Utrecht city? We know it has been caught, but unfortunately there’s no journal entry yet!
This is my final readathon pile! The third book from above (Model Gliding by Marcel Möring in Dutch: Modelvliegen) I will actually not read on paper: I have the audiobook waiting on my iPod. With thanks to Elsje las!
Listening to the advise of oldtimers I’ve decided to start with a short book to get a feeling of accomplishment: The Pianoman (also in Dutch: De Pianoman), by Bernlef. It’s the boekenweekgeschenk from 2008: ‘book week present’. Each year in March there’s a week devoted to books and reading. If you spend 20 euro’s on Dutch literature, you’ll get that year’s gift written by a famous author. This started as early as 1930! In the beginning the public had to guess who the author was by reading the novella.
Oh my, I suddenly discover I forgot to put one book in the photograph… The China Lover! Well, I might even never get to it anyway ;)
I wonder what this readathon will do to my daily post statistics… LOL The hard part of coming 24 hours will be not to spend too much time behind my computer blogging and following other readathonners! Beneath you can see my starting position. Good luck to all! :)
This is very exciting: on Wednesday the Monopoly 2.0 release game got started! My teammate myranya and I are called De boekenleggers, which can be translated into bookmarks – but it is a better name in Dutch because it is literally ‘the book layers’ (people laying books). Our first assignment is to leave a book at an IKEA shop… This is my 2nd time playing Bookcrossing monopoly and it was great fun last year!
Speaking of Bookcrossing: I received no less than two RABCK’s this week! (Weekly Geeks made us improve our weblogs, so I’m referring you to my new glossary for the explanation of RABCK ;) First came Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections from Marsala. It is #1 on the list of Best Fiction of the Millenium (so far)! Marsala read the book during the September readathon. And yesterday my surprise gift for joining in that same monthly readathon arrived! I had joined in preparation of the 24 hour Read-a-Thon of October 24th. I am really excited that I already got my pile of books done! Here’s what I will be reading during those 24 hours (although I probably won’t manage all of the books/hours):
- short stories: Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro
- De pianoman (‘The Piano Man‘), by Bernlef
- audiobook: Modelvliegen (‘Model Gliding‘), by Marcel Möring
- [my current book of that moment]
- Dromen van China (The China Lover), by Ian Buruma
- graphic novel: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
- graphic novel: Persepolis & Persopolis 2, by Marjane Satrapi
- comic: The Best of Mutts, by Patrick McDonnell
There’s just one title I would like to add: Zijde (Silk), by Alessandro Baricco. So if anyone has got a copy available, in Dutch or English..?
Buying graphic novels for the upcoming read-a-thon was a first for me! I figured it would be great for variety. But the funny thing is I can hardly wait to start reading them now! I should keep myself from picking them up first thing on THE Day ;)
My mailbox really had to work overtime this week: I also received my three online Japanese book group reads yesterday!
- I Am a Cat (Wagahai wa Neko dearu 1905), by Natsume Sōseki — readalong, part 1 TBR before November 15th
- The Old Capital (Koto 1962), by Yasunari Kawabata — TBR before November 30th
- The Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase no aishi ta sūshiki 2003), by Yoko Ogawa — TBR before January 30th 2010
Next week I hope to have finished John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath… I’ll see you then!