Mosher covers too much familiar territory to make this a really memorable debut, but it contains enough good things to whet...

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THE LAST BUFFALO HUNTER

Predictable but often moving first novel about a boy's coming-of-age summer in Montana.

Kyle Richards has been in love with the Big Sky country for most of his 14 years. His father was born and grew up in Montana; Cole Richards, his grandfather, still lives there. From books, atlases, films, and every other source he can lay hands on, Kyle has fashioned a larger-than-life idea of the state that makes his own native New York seem drab and overdomesticated. Kyle yearns to go West, so as a birthday present his parents give him a bus ticket and permission to spend the summer with Grandfather Cole. It doesn't take long for reality to put a damper on romanticism. Kyle arrives late at night to find no one waiting to meet him in the bleak and deserted bus terminal. Tired and a bit scared, the boy is temporarily stranded. Grandfather Cole was supposed to be there, but he had other things on his mind—namely, booze and women. Kyle quickly learns this is standard operating procedure for his grandfather, who soon hauls him off to the Six Point Saloon to meet an array of unsettling types. Among them are Darla and Dell Fishtrapper, lively, hefty, morally untrammeled Sioux maidens, both entranced with Grandfather Cole. In the succeeding weeks, Kyle is shaken and sobered by a series of hard knocks: a near-drowning, a beating at the hands of a mean-spirited bully, and a violently hormonal response to a local beauty. Most of all, however, he experiences Cole Richards, last of the real Montana men, from whom he learns a variety of lessons. Some are beneficial, some are not; none are easy.

Mosher covers too much familiar territory to make this a really memorable debut, but it contains enough good things to whet the appetite for his next.

Pub Date: April 30, 2001

ISBN: 1-56792-146-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

BERLIN

BOOK ONE

This black-and-white historical narrative, written and illustrated by Lutes, collects eight volumes of his ongoing comic book set in Berlin during the late ’20s. It’s a multilayered tale of love and politics at the beginning of the Nazi era, as Lutes follows the stories of three characters: a 20ish art student from the provinces, a textile worker, and a young Jewish radical. Their lives intersect in only the subtlest way—Lutes depicts them crossing paths at some great public events, such as the Mayday march that closes this part of his book. And Lutes plays with perspective in a visual sense as well, jumping from point-of-view frames to overhead angles, including one from a dirigible flying above in honor of the Kaiser. At street level, Lutes integrates his historical research smoothly, and cleverly evokes the sounds and smells of a city alive with public debate and private turmoil. The competing political factions include communists, socialists, democrats, nationalists, and fascists, and all of Lutes’s characters get swept up by events. Marthe, the beautiful art student, settles in with Kurt, the cynical and detached journalist; Gudrun, the factory worker, loses her job, and her nasty husband (to the Nazi party), then joins a communist cooperative with her young daughters; Schwartz, a teenager enamored with the memory of Rosa Luxembourg, balances his incipient politics with his religion at home and his passion for Houdini. The lesser figures seem fully realized as well, from the despotic art instructor to the reluctant street policeman. Cosmopolitan Berlin on the brink of disaster: Lutes captures the time and place with a historian’s precision and a cinematographer’s skill. His shifts from close-ups to fades work perfectly in his thin-line style, a crossbreed of dense-scene European comics and more simple comics styles on this side of the Atlantic.

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-896597-29-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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