Tuesday, April 28, 2009

27. In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. This is, I believe, the first travel book I've read. I picked it up for something like a quarter at the library because I recognized the name of the author. It was an interesting read with lots of pithy factoids Bryson tossed out while chronicling his travels through Australia. I'd like to read Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. One thing I will not be doing is going to Australia and killed by one of the seemingly millions of deadly creatures there, and if Bryson's purpose was to make his readers WANT to go there, well I guess he failed. But come on, he was working with Australia. The book also lacked a real arc. It just kind of stopped. As I said, I haven't read many (any?) travel books. Maybe they all exhibit the same flawed structure. I'd read this sort of thing on a plane or something like that. Of course, if I was on a plane, I'd be traveling, and why read about traveling when I could just look out the window and do it myself? Still, it was enjoyable. I could see reading Bryson again.

28. JTHM (Johnny the Homicidal Maniac): Director's Cut, a graphic novel by Jhonen Vasquez. This is a collection of the 7 issues and a couple odds and ends in the JTHM series. Vasquez culled the best work from the series into this collection, hence the subtitle. This is something I heard about years ago and was unable to find. Recently, I found it and succumbed to nostalgia and read the thing. Brief description: Johnny (Nny, to his friends) has a problem: something is trying to break through his wall from...somewhere else, another dimension, perhaps. Unfortunately, the only way to keep it from breaking through is to keep the wall coated with blood. Luckily, Nny is surrounded by assholes he is more than happy to relieve of their blood. Part social commentary, part bloodbath, JTHM is a strange little comic I would've loved maybe a decade ago (when it came out...). Vasquez went on to do "Invader Zim," a cartoon I really tried to like for more than a few minutes at a time. JTHM had a similar affect for me--parts of it I enjoyed, but it felt dated. But I haven't described it well enough to do it justice. Imagine Hostel as a comic strip drawn by Bill Waterson. That's coming closer. Mostly, the issues were compilations, so there's a bit of an overarching storyline, but mostly, the book consists of 1-2 page shorts. Some of these feature torture or murder scenes, almost always with ironic twists. Some shorts are basically monologues in which Johnny pontificates about...whatever. Vasquez has an interesting style and includes lots of little jokes (hidden text, that sort of thing). Whatever flaws it might have, though, I admire Vasquez's effort. I haven't read anything like this.

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