Sunday, November 29, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: November 22nd to 28th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by making my dog pose with every book I read, barring (most of) the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: last week was mostly about continuing in-progress things and finishing a few of them at long last.

Like, K.J. Parker's MEMORY is now gone from la TBR, so now I can move along to something else of his. Hurray!

I also finished FRUITS BASKET. Now I want to read up on Japanese notions of gender, because I'm not entirely sure how I feel about some of the stuff with Akito. To be sorta spoilerish under my "representation isn't a spoiler" policy, I want to read Akito as a genderfluid abuse survivor who lashes out in horrific ways explained but not condoned by the past, but I also see how s/he could be read as an Evil Trans Person Warped By Transness. I probably need a second reading to crystallize some things.

On the whole, though, I loved the ending. It's full of forgiveness and unification and people becoming their best selves, and I always appreciate that sort of thing.

Finally, I listened to another episode of TREMONTAINE. The plot's really starting to kick in now, and I'm pretty durned excited to listen on.

And here's a cool thing: Ellen Kushner's assistant contacted me to see if they could use my picture of Murchie plus TREMONTAINE on the Pets of Riverside page. It's up there now!

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, lays in a dog bed with fuzzy, raised sides. He wears a pink hoodie with white trim. In front of him, overlapping the dog bed, is a massive hardcover copy of Absolute Planetary Volume Two. The cover features a puzzle of a white-haired white man dressed in a white three-piece suit. He brandishes a puzzle piece that fits a blank space in the middle of his chest.

I'd never heard of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's PLANETARY until I started GREAT POWER AND GREAT RESPONSIBILITY: THE PHILOSOPHICAL POLITICS OF COMICS. Douglas Mann devotes a chapter to the series, so I figured I should at least try to familiarize myself with the text before I read anything critical about it. Alas, my library only had the second volume of ABSOLUTE PLANETARY, but comics being what they are I figured I was safe to start there.

Now I hope I can get my hands on the rest of the series someday, because this was awesome. It's all layered and nonchronological, with plenty of fascinating detail sprinkled throughout. I'm sure some of these single issues pack a huge punch if you've been waiting for their answers since #1, but even without the prior issues in hand there's plenty of interesting stuff.

Like, Ellis and Cassaday reference about a million comics and the wider science fictional tradition. I spotted scads of Marvel callbacks plus a bunch of Silver Age and pulp fiction allusions, and I wish I knew more about DC so I could've picked up on what I'm sure are an equal number of references to their canon.

I'm fascinated, too, with the sheer weight of Cassaday's visuals. So many of these pages are text-free; something that also struck me about MOON KNIGHT, the only other Warren Ellis-scripted series I've read. I do love it when the art carries a great deal of the story.

Murchie lays on a fuzzy white pillow. His head is twisted slightly to the left so he appears in profile. In front of him is a white Kobo with the cover of Saga #26/Volume Five on its screen. The blue-toned cover features a cloaked black woman using a spear to prop open a monster's mouth while a smaller person tumbles out of it. A hairless blue cat looms behind the monster.

Then I quit being chickenshit and finally reread (and caught up on) SAGA.

SAGA; my favourite western comic; author of my greatest delight and my bitterest sorrow.

I mean, I'm pretty sure Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are trying to kill the entire comics-reading world. (It seems a bit egotistical to assume they're trying to kill me, personally, even though it feels a hell of a lot like that's what they're up to.) It's totally rude of them and I hope they never, ever stop.

This was my fourth time through the first two volumes, my third through Volume Three, my second through Volume Four, and my first experience with Volume Five. I can't even start talking about it. If I do, I will never, ever shut up and y'all will just scroll right on over it as you ask yourselves why you even bother coming here if I'm just gonna bombard you with overlong screeds about every little thing I so much as try to read.

If you've always wished I'd tl;dr about SAGA, though, you're in luck! I wrote a massive thing about it after I finished Volume Four back in January. I should note that in my distress, I misinterpreted who was holding the bag of groceries in That Scene, and the review reflects this. I knew it was bad, but it's worse than I thought it was.

But Volume Five made me feel a little bit better about it, just as Jenny promised it would. Jenny is the best at giving comforting not-really-spoilers.

Murchie curls into a tight ball between a red tapestry comforter and a fuzzy white blanket. Only half his face and part of his haunch is visible. Behind him is a paperback copy of Passage, featuring a series of pale stone arches that open onto the sea. A woman of indeterminate race stands in  the final arch. She wears a white Edwardian dress and a large white hat that obscures her face.

Murchie would very much like to spend the rest of the winter in this exact position. Why do I keep making him get up and do things? I'm such a drag.

I thought Connie Willis's PASSAGE might make a good in-between book, what with it being nearly 800 pages, but it's proven both gripping and readable so I'm gonna keep it as my primary unless something changes. It's just so nice to read something that's substantial and relatively quick, you know? It'll still take me a few days (see: 800 pages), but not nearly as many as it would if I had to deal with less readable prose.

The book is about two scientists studying near death experiences, so I expect it to get really fucking creepy before long, especially now I'm at the part where Joanna has figured out what she's seeing during each of her NDEs. Exciting times!

Next week: a new audiobook. More comics I need to return to the library. At least one new novel.


  1. Oh, HOORAY. I'm so glad Passage is good! It's been on my shelf for ages, but I was very worried it wouldn't live up to Doomsday or To Say Nothing for me. I am now 100% thrilled to read it.

    Also, I am really excited for the influx of photos of Murchie in holiday sweaters.

    1. He has FOUR holiday sweaters: one t-shirt, two hoodies, and a little hooded Fair Isle coat. I intend to rotate between them on a regular basis throughout December, assuming I can figure out where the t-shirt got to.

  2. I would read ten thousand pages of Saga writing. Just saying. Don't hold back. Of course it's easy to say that but I can't even pull it together to say anything more than *mashes keyboard and dies in ecstacy*

    Passage sounds like something I should try. I have been having iffy Willis experiences, but I adored Bellwether, and I want to find more Willis to adore.

    1. It took me ages and ages to write anything about SAGA because I was like, "HOW DO I EVEN ENCOMPASS MY RESPONSE TO THIS PERFECTION?"

      If Willis's time travel books were the ones that gave you trouble, you'll probably enjoy PASSAGE more. It's got a similarly frantic approach to plot, but the tone is rather different.

  3. Oh I am super glad you agreed with me about the later issues and how they'd make you feel about That One Scene. I'd have felt terrible if I'd led you wrong. SAGA.

    1. You led me so right, friend! And now I can be distressed about ENTIRELY NEW things, like time jumps.

  4. I should grab Passage because I've been having Willis withdrawals lately.