Monday, April 30, 2007

Zine roundup

Yay zines! I've been reading tons, and I just don't have the energy to blog them all individually, so here are a few quick and dirty zine reviews.

The Secret Files of Captain Sissy, No. 5
Kind of a journal-y storytelling zine written by a guy who:
1. Got a real bad concussion when he crashed on his skateboard (sexy)
2. Did an internship with the United Steelworkers (righteous)
3. Traveled with a mobile zine exhibit (kewl)
4. Witnessed the Great West Philadelphia Food Co-op Strike of 2002 (my homie!)
5. Suggested changing the Flaming Hot Cheetos mascot to a flaming hot queer boy (delicious)

Camp Mania
Hilarious recollections from a summer-camp counselor. Occasionally creepy, as summer camp should be. The typos only make it funnier.

Go Fuck Yourself : a mini-zine devoted to D.I.Y. sex toys and gender-bending devices
I only flipped through this one. Like a cookbook, it's not the kind of the thing you read cover to cover. Lots of great ideas if you're crafty and horny.

28 Pages Lovingly Bound with Twine #13
Another journal-y zine with stories about getting a new hybrid car and peeing on campfires after drinking lots and lots of Reed's Extra Ginger Brew. Very well put together — they're not kidding about the "lovingly."

Pictures of '70s-era graduate students with phrases culled from their faculty evaluations. Who knew professors were so cruel? And yet it's funny... funny like when people fall down.

Sugar Needle #29
Amusing reviews of strange candies from around the world, reminiscent of McSweeney's Reviews of New Food. Ooh, and the cover is hand-colored!

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Tale of Love and Darkness

by Amos Oz

Here's a book I read a few years ago that came to mind recently when I found out the author is on the shortlist for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize. I must have a read a review in the NYT Book Review, because I read it at a time when I wasn't doing much nonfiction; it's actually one of the books that got me interested in reading more nonfiction.

Oz is known for his controversial views on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and this memoir recounts his childhood and young-adulthood before, during, and after the creation of the Israeli state and the many wars and skirmishes (military, political, and otherwise) that entailed. While the backdrop is certainly interesting, the author isn't taking sides, expressing opinions, or directly confronting any of those issues. What's really compelling is the author's personal emotional and intellectual journey. It's damn well written (and translated), very moving (I got a little verklempt), and definitely one for posterity (for literary merit and historical value).

I'm not quite ready to put this in my Top 10, but if I had a Top 100 it'd be a shoe-in.

Monday, April 09, 2007

All of the Above

by Shelley Pearsall

Yet another based-on-a-true-story tale of inner-city kids overcoming adversity with the help of an inspiring teacher — but I don't mean that in a bad way. The concept has been over-used in movies, but the author, a former teacher herself, makes it work on a kid-friendly level in this cute, heartwarming book. (We're talking upper end of the J-fiction age range.) The kids form a sort of math club to try and build the world's largest tetrahedron, but the story is all about the kids and doesn't dwell on the math long enough to become nerdy.

Rotating chapters through different characters' points of view is risky in a book of this length, but it's pulled off fairly well. From the junior thug with a heart of gold to the frustrated white math teacher, most of the characters display a basic goodness, but not without flaws. The range of characters ensures most young readers will find one with whom to identify. (All the characters are black except the teacher.) The ending is positive and upbeat without being overly triumphant; it's realistic because you can see the kids' problems aren't all magically fixed by this one success story.

I would definitely recommend this book for average middle-school readers and younger kids reading above grade level. Although the story and the characters would probably appeal to a reluctant or struggling readers, the length might be an obstacle for them.

[Note to readers: I promise I'll do some grown-up stuff soon.]

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Left Hand Dreams of Him

(Only the Ring Finger Knows, vol. 2)

by Satoru Kannagi

I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH. I was giddy most of the time I was reading it — picture this: me, on the bus, reading a lavender book with pretty boys and flowers on the cover, giggling every few minutes. If you know me, you know I'm just about impossible to embarrass, but this nearly did the trick.

First, the plot: "Passion builds and tempers flare in The Left Hand Dreams of Him. Wataru and Yuichi may think the biggest challenges of their new love are far behind them, but no one said they'd be left alone for good! Even a private vacation getaway is full of meddling intruders who seem to have their sights on disrupting the careful lovers. Their matching rings unite them in heart and spirit ... will the men trust in this special bond enough to weather the storms of controversy?"

Wataru, the younger half of this couple, starts off as his usual wimpy self, but with the mentorship of a new friend — who at first has the ominous aura of a dangerous liaison — he finds an unexpected inner strength. Yuichi, who's always been Wataru's rock, stumbles when confronted with a formidable familial foe. (Sorry for the alliteration; I couldn't help it.) It's not a complete role reversal, but it's an interesting new dynamic that has me excited to read the third book. (But I'm also a little scared, because volume 3's title is The Ring Finger Falls Silentaieee!)

This second installment in the series also turns up the heat between the sheets, if you know what I mean. There's nothing explicit; this isn't erotica or porn, it's Harlequin-style romance. But there are a number of stirring scenes, like this one: "While sweetly biting his earlobe, Yuichi spoke in a thrillingly romantic voice. Wataru reflexively stiffened his body, but his lips were accustomed enough to this to patiently melt that away. Each time Yuichi moved his kisses bit by bit from earlobe to neck, then to left and right collarbones, a light giddiness attacked Wataru. In the afternoon sun-filled room, only the sense of rubbing skin and the timbre of kisses stretched out just like an ephemeral ripple." I'm not sure what "the timbre of kisses" is, but I want some!

See also The Lonely Ring Finger.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A note to readers

Blame my moon in Virgo, but I'm going to be re-publishing some more stuff today that isn't really new but just has tweaked formatting and/or labels. Apologies for the annoyance.