Ephemera 04.23.07 (Books + Roll Tide).

faked by Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I read three books this weekend; two were spectacular and one gathered more eye-rolls than Ann Coulter at YearlyKos. Plus!! IS BAMA BACK, &tc.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is an utterly magnificent work of art; it is also, happily, a comic book. In one volume Ms. Bechdel weaves a tale of love (for her father; for literature; for herself), loss (her father; the image of family); and redemption (if the last page doens’t make you tear up, then you ain’t right). Mashed up with all this is Joyce, Icarus, Victorian home restoration, coming out, exquisite lettering (the dictionary entries! the letters!), wash (highlighting the dictionary entries! wallpaper!), and a flat-out ability to draw on a scale not often seen in modern sequential art (houses, furniture, maps, books—all are lovingly and accurately rendered). A triumph by any yardstick, made more noteworthy by being in the greatest storytelling form of all.

Much praise has been lavished upon the extremely complex and intelligent story, and rightfully so. Yet the calm dual tones of blue and black and Ms. Bechdel’s ability to nail complex emotions through faces are what captured my attention, and I regret coming to this book so late. I am often frustrated with the 4-color focus of Jackson’s three comic stores, where Maggie and Hopey and Herriman and McKay are as foreign as the Sea of Tranquility, and was delighted that Lemuria had a copy. In truth, they now have a growing comics section (anchored by Ware and such), although it’s hopelessly banished above a doorway in the back, above fiction. I adore the metaphor, hate the inability to browse.

I also am late to the table on Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, finally snagging a remaindered hardback for seven bucks Saturday. There’s nothing better than having a giant book chock full of fantastic new mythologies that you can lay in the bed with and waller around all day long. I spent all day (and night) on Sunday gleefully stomping about Europe 1805-1816 or so. And perhaps Susanna Clarke is the one British fiction writer alive who doesn’t make me want to jab my thumbs in my eyes over silly names. There are silly names, here, but they are attached to silly people (as it should be!). Cf. J.K. Rowling, where every damn body has a silly name fit only for an oaf or a scoundrel.

Also, Ms. Clarke makes me not hate the “other lands,” which only Neil Gaiman has been able to do before (and then only briefly; the loathesome Books of Magic, which he constulted upon, made me renounce an entire fictional race). Yet the best part is the clear joy in the writing and the wonderful new worlds that spin out of every tossed-off phrase, obscure book reference, and footnote.

The footnotes! The fictional bibiolographies contained within them thrill me as much as the anachronisms peppered through the book: headach, conexion, Buonoparte. Yet the beauty of the writing made me think this were the real spellings, not throw-backs, and that I’ve just been doing it wrong all along.

With You Shall Know Our Velocity!, I no longer read work by Dave Eggers unless it is in the form of the short story or, perhaps, a novella. But Gorjus, one might say, you are a total hypocrite. Aren’t you all about sincerity and the sometimes teeth-gritting anti-irony that comes from loving the world, loving your friends, and loving life? Indeed! But you still gotta have a story, baby, and if you’re going to play travel writer, you gotta do a whole lot better. For Velocity done right, go read Dame Millay’s “Recuerdo“—you get all of the feeling, without any of the preciousness or utter crap.


My dad and I planned to hit the A-Day game this year in Tuscaloosa. We might have been turned away, because there were ninety-two thousand people there. In April. For a scrimmage. My step-mom kept asking who they were playing. Listen, this is more folks than get to come during a regular game, because there were no visitor tickets blocked off, no band seating!! AWESOME. Bama fans, read this Sporting News article about Coach Saban, chocked full with quotes from former Bama coaches. Something I’d never heard before: Franchione (rhymes with SUCK-O-NEE) left because of a venomous non-compete clause insisted upon by the administration.

While Cud’n Finebaum was throwing out a 7-5 projection—which I think is utterly realistic and I’d be happy with—some folks are hoping for eight or more. I’m nervous, but not as nervous as I am for State having to open in Starkville against LSU. Jamarcus or no Jamarcus (possibly going number 1 this week), they’re going to be tough.

And I don’t even want to talk about playing Gardner-Webb.

More recent stuff read at the 2007 bucket over to yr right.

23 Responses to “Ephemera 04.23.07 (Books + Roll Tide).”

  1. TLG says:

    Looks interesting. I’ll have to give the book a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

    Jonathan Strange.
    Try three months. It took me that long to get through the book because I had so much else going on at that same time. You will love the book.

    You Shall Know Our Velocity.
    Yeah, there’s pretentiousness, but I thought the story was stronger. I do want to try out What Is The What. It’s a finalist for best novel as awarded by the National Book Critics Circle.

    Unfortunately, State was forced to scramble for an opponent thanks to the Ohio Valley Conference’s scheduling snafu.

  2. herman rarebell says:

    here i am. rock you like a hurricane.

  3. Dammit, I’ve really got to read Fun Home. Thanks for the reminder.

    As a Baton Rougean, I am honor-bound to say something negative about Nick Saban, perhaps regarding the species of his preferred sexual partners. I’m coming up empty right now though.

  4. gorjus says:

    I think Velocity would have been a great short story; then the fun bits of it (ROCK YOU LIKE, the treasure map; the paperback’s “edited” digression/contestion of the facts) would have had more impact. I just felt like it dragged on and on, and the first page reveal coupled with the edited-in “review” coming about 2/3’s through made finishing it entirely too tedious. It just wasn’t fun enough. “A Brewster’s Millions for the post-Gen-X set” (my movie pitch) should sparkle, not drag.

    What is the What features amazing graphic design (I love that it’s a hardback with no slipcover), but I’m staying away. And uh, I finished Strange Sunday! I didn’t get to bed until twoish but that’s not so bad. And everybody’s gotta go read Fun Home!!

    I’m worried about State playing any DII teams. We’re already playing UAB and I just keep waking up, covered with sweat, thinking we’re in C-USA and Southern is in the SEC.

  5. Sally says:

    I call bullshit that you read JS&MN in a day. BULLSHIT I SAY!

  6. TLG says:

    You finished Jonathan Strange on Sunday??? I’m inclined to concur with Sally. You did read the footnotes, right?

  7. gorjus says:

    Yeah, those are some of my favorite parts!! I’ve also read the notes that Mr Strange & Mr Norrell wrote about her on her website! Which are awesome, if a little mean. I’m totally buying that other book this week. I was bundled up with it from the time I woke up until I went to sleep.

    It also inspired me to work on the “The July Fiction,” which is the story I’m writing about a team of literary commandos who go back in time to save Eudora Welty from dying. They do this by attempting to murder July 23, 2001, the day she died, using secret Xulk (the reverse-Klan) sorcery and science. The problem being that 204,000 people are born every day, and so they would all be retroactively killed by erasing one day, and &tc. &tc. But!! Now there will be lots of fake footnotes from fake books and newspapers! Also, real ones. But I loved the footnotes so much.

    And, uh, I guess I read the Saturday New York Times and read some comics and drew some pictures and stuff, too. But that’s about it. Would you feel better if I told you I read Velocity over Friday & Saturday and read Fun Home on Saturday along with a stack of magazines?

  8. Sally says:

    I say, sure, read Harry Potter in a day. Read Velocity and Fun Home and a stack of comics and a few Harpers in a day, ok. But if you read Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell in a day then you skimmed.

  9. TLG says:

    I like what you’ve been reading more than I have. I’ve been going over dissertations for a family friend. The dissertations are inducing as nearly as many headaches as did all the SACS documentation I had to read 1-2 years ago.

  10. Blak Thor says:

    Blak Thor ate you.

  11. ms. d says:

    129 days

  12. polly says:

    I gave La Federala a copy of Johnathan Strange as a gift. she really seemed to like it. did you get the one with the neat red cover? oooh!

    ..and yeah, you had to skim to read it in one day.

    As for beloved Miss. State…ugh, i don’t even REMEMBER the last time we beat LSU? do you? (ok, 3x since 1985: ‘90, ‘91, & ‘99).

  13. 5 comments after gorjus’ outline of “The July Fiction” and you people think there’s anything else worth talking about? GO TEAM XULK.

  14. Blak Thor says:

    Why would anyone EVER want to coach at Alabama? Only a cocksucker like Nick Saban would take that gig. It’s completely thankless, and, in case you haven’t noticed, they’ve been completely left behind by LSU, Florida, Georgia, and, yes, Auburn in their recent dicking around.

  15. gorjus says:

    HATERS OF ALL STRIPES, I DENY THEE!! No skimming here! And why coach at Alabama? I think seven national championships in thirty years—plus countless bowls and SEC championships—is one decent reason why . . . PLUS ALL THE AWEXXOMENESS

  16. TLG says:

    And the Rastafarians would oppose Team Xulk since it means no celebration of Haile Selassie’s birthday???

  17. Blak Thor says:

    Um, I’m talking about NOW. When was that last national championship? 1992? Let’s face it: Notre Dame, Alabama, Penn State…these storied programs, barring a fluke year, are behind in facilities and credibility with today’s kids. Players in high school today were babies when that happened. Saban’s a great coach and a great recruiter, but he’s about as reliable as Larry Brown and less likable. Florida, Texas, USC, Ohio State…these are your new dynasties.

  18. gorjus says:

    TEXAS? Are you kidding me? Okay, by that reasoning, though, Major Applewhite—famed Texas QB six years back & ‘Bama’s new offensive coordinator (and named for Major Ogilvie!!) is just the ticket. And I’m not going to pretend dynasties don’t fade; Sewanee was one of the original SEC powerhouses, and Georgia Tech was once a name to be feared.

    But things are cyclical, and one constant is that expanded facilities and stronger programs and staff—often because of money—can bring success. I’m not going to rehash Moneyball or cross-sport it too much, but the principles are exactly why the Yanks run baseball and, say, Mississippi State drags at the end of the SEC (with the lowest amount of funds allocated to their program).

    It’s going to be tough to come back, but it’s much, much easier for (the evil) Notre Dame (see: Jimmy Clausen, stretch Hummer or no, the guy might be awesome) or Alabama to come back precisely because of tradition. Contra, again, Mississippi State or Kentucky (going back even to the days of Coach Bryant and Adolphe Rupp), who don’t have a tradition to build upon and seemingly have no desire to pump the resources into creating one (because it does take a lot).

  19. Blak Thor says:

    Listen, I hate the Big 12 as much as the next indiepop band, but Alabama is a SMALL school, compared to the others. That means less alumni, less scholarship money, etc. Alabama’s got plenty of dough for its football program, but does it have 40,000 students like Florida or MORE for Texas and Ohio State and Michigan? Big Ten football is a joke, really, after the Big Two, of course, but I’m saying that Alabama—right now and this could change—is not a top 5 program in the SEC, much less on par with those programs. Now, if Auburn can do it, UA can, of course, but I wonder if it’s the desirable place to play that it once was. I don’t see Alabama winning a national championship soon, and I certainly don’t see Notre Dame doing it, regardless of the supposed genius of Charlie Weiss (particularly given their rigorous academic requirements).

  20. Blak Thor says:

    And why don’t you ever call a band back?

  21. hud says:

    Football talk is not really my forte (and I’d like to hear more about the attempt to kill July 23rd) but…

    I mostly agree with Black Thor about ‘bama’s current status as a team. However, I disagree with the how’s and why’s of it. Sure, bigger schools have a larger student body and therefore more alum but that doesn’t always mean something. While I was at Austin we couldn’t win a decent game to save our skins (State actually beat Texas back then). Long have I lamented the status of my various universities’ sports programs. Its isn’t the size of the school at all that matters (FSU is a good 10,000 students smaller than UF [USF is actually the second largest school in the state and,cold sweats aside, used to be in Conference USA]) but rather the focus that state puts on its teams and the exposure the school gets (the Alabama-Auburn rivalry is in the upper echelon of football rivalries). ‘bama may not be doing super right now but it is a name that will, for a long time to come, matter in the realm of football (the number of movies that still talk about Alabama football are impressive). Get a new coach who can recruit and within four years ‘bama can be competing again. I agree with Gorjus here, it really is all cyclical (Miami won 5 national championships in one decade and last year they didn’t even end up in the top 25).

  22. Blak Thor says:

    Good points, Chris! You are right about the exposure and TV and stuff making a big deal. But remember that FSU has had a number of mediocre seasons in a row, as has Miami. Florida—even under Zook—was sucking up some serious talent. I wouldnt say it’s cyclical always because some teams never cycle back.

  23. gorjus says:

    Double-agree. Although I do miss some of the classic match-ups (again, Bama v. Georgia Tech) the fun new ones that are emerging are always great. Bama and LSU always battled but this year it will be hate; Baton Rouge has a serious mad-on for Saban . . .