This third volume of memoir reads like a chapter in an ongoing series, leading readers to anticipate what comes next.

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TURNING JAPANESE

The rite-of-passage chronicles of the artist at age 22, coming to terms with her ethnic heritage.

A virtuosic comic artist whose slapdash introspection is occasionally reminiscent of Lynda Barry, MariNaomi (Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0-22, 2011, etc.) tells a story here that is both singular and universal, sure to resonate most strongly with females facing similar challenges of young adulthood. It takes place in 1995, beginning and ending with the breakup of a relationship, while the pages in between detail a relationship that almost became a marriage. After leaving San Francisco for San Jose—“I needed to clear my head and reboot, so I chose to do so more than fifty miles away”—she quickly became involved with her co-worker Giuseppe after both had confided about their history of broken relationships. Though she says that the common bond was that they were “both sluts,” promiscuity didn’t seem to be an issue during their year together. Instead, they faced challenges from a number of low-paying jobs, the ethnic divide between his Italian culture and her Japanese-American one, and an extended visit to Japan, where they realized that their impulsive decision to become engaged was likely a mistake. The author’s pilgrimage toward cultural illumination began when she stumbled into a job as a hostess at a Japanese-American bar, where the young women competed for tips and at least one was a borderline prostitute. She wondered why her mother had never bothered to teach her Japanese, and she enlisted her fiance to accompany her to Tokyo, where a visitor’s visa would allow her to reunite with her extended family and immerse herself in their culture. By the time she returned, her perspective on her Japanese heritage had shifted: “The cultural divide was much deeper than I’d thought possible.”

This third volume of memoir reads like a chapter in an ongoing series, leading readers to anticipate what comes next.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937541-16-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: 2d Cloud

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL

Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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