Monday, September 14, 2015

Book Bingo, Second Card, Black Out!

These are the final three categories on my second Books on the Nightstand Book Bingo card. The project, which started on the May long weekend and ended on Labour Day, was created by Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness and promoted on their delightful weekly BOTNS podcast. Links to all of my book bingo posts are here.
A BANNED BOOK: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.

This multiple award-winning memoir has received much acclaim since it was first published in 2006. It has also been adapted into a Broadway musical that won five Tony awards in 2015. It's the story of a complex relationship between a closeted gay or bisexual father and his lesbian daughter. The main ingredients that have made it a target for censorship are its queer content and comics format, plus its wide popularity. That makes me sad. I love this book so much!

I've read it multiple times and each time I notice new things. This time, one of the scenes that caught my attention was related to the current adult colouring book craze. When Bechdel was a child, she had a "huge oversize colouring book of E.H. Shepard's illustrations for The Wind in the Willows."

"Dad had read me bits of the story from the real book. In one scene, the charming sociopath Mr. Toad purchases a gypsy caravan. I was filling this in one day with my favourite colour, midnight blue."
Alison's father says, "What are you doing? That's the canary-coloured caravan! Here. I'll do the rest in yellow, and your blue side will be in shadow. Look, by adding thin layers of goldenrod and yellow-orange, I get a richer colour." Alison, meanwhile, has wandered off. "It was a crayonic tour de force."

LAST BOOK OF AN AUTHOR BEFORE HE/SHE DIED: Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff.

This is Canadian gay humourist David Rakoff's only novel and it was published after he died. I reviewed it in 2013, and re-read it this year for the July meeting of the Jasper Place Library book club. Rakoff's skill as a wordsmith was widely praised. The format of the book provided us with almost as much to talk about as the content. There was near unanimous agreement in the contention that it was not a novel at all, but rather a collection of interlinked short stories. I was in the minority, finding that the short stories - told in rhyming couplets! - interlink individual lives over the course of the twentieth century and encompass a larger social commentary. That makes it a novel, as far as I can tell.

At the same meeting, the reasons people have for attending the library book club came up, including the broadening of one's reading horizons. This title is a good example, because participants said they never would have picked it up otherwise, yet were surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Stretching my book horizons is also the reason that I enjoy playing Book Bingo.
MANGA: Library Wars, vol. 1. Love and War. Story and art by Kiiro Yumi, original concept by Hiro Arikawa, translation by Kinami Watabe.

I read a lot of western-style graphic novels, but not many Japanese-style comics. Links to some of my earlier manga reviews are here.

The premise of Library Wars is pretty cool. In near future Japan, under the Media Betterment Act, the federal government creates a Media Betterment Committee that "seeks to exercise censorship over all media, including restricting offensive books." Armed units have been set up under local governments to fight censorship under the Library Freedom Act. "Working for the Library Defense Force is considered even more dangerous than being a police officer or in the army."

In the first volume of Library Wars, we meet a young Defense Force recruit, Iku Kasahara, whose parents think she is studying to be a librarian. Iku and her drill instructor, Atsushi Dojo, are obviously attracted to each other but they act like they can't stand each other. Their relationship drove me nuts.

What I did not take into account when I picked this up is that it's shojo manga. The target audience for shojo is teenage girls and there tends to be too much romance in the storylines for my taste. I won't be continuing with the series, even though the art is pretty and I've heard that the pace picks up after the first volume.

The English edition of Library Wars preserves the traditional right-to-left layout. Volume 14 is due to be published by Simon Schuster in October 2015. The full story is serialized over 15 parts in Japan, according to Wikipedia.

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