April 6th, 2010

reviews

reviews: the ladies of grace adieu; the fantastic mr. fox; amphigories; book of imaginary beasts (4)

The Ladies of Grace Adieu - My favorite books all involve slightly tweaked versions of reality (yes, even the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, but I'm not going to make my case for that here), and Susanna Clarke's magic- & faerie-steeped England ranks pretty high on the list, mostly because she handles it in such an off-hand, matter-of-fact way (and the footnotes, I must admit; I'm a sucker for good footnotes). Here she takes the marvelous world of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and by way of folktales fills in some wrinkles and odd little corners, and does so with a masterful handling of style and voice that only adds to the verisimilitude (which is an awesome word and deserves to be used more often).

The Fantastic Mr. Fox - movie, not book, which I haven't read, so I can't compare the two. I also can't decide what I think of the story that the movie tells, but the animation and voice-acting is all spot-on, so it's great eye-candy if nothing else.

Amphigorey Too & Amphigorey Also - I am ambivalent about these, I must admit. On the one hand, I love the surreality of many of Gorey's works, his sly (and often not-so-faintly macabre) humor, the style of his art--on the other hand, some of his original stuff is downright nasty. And the problem with these anthologies is that everything's just sort of mixed in together--meaning you can go from a kid-friendly illustrated alphabet to a story about serial killers (of kids!) in the turn of a page. I almost wish my copies of the books weren't in such good condition, so I could tear out the not-so-freaky stuff, bind it all together, and throw away the uber-freaky remnants without cringing during the process. If I ever have kids, I might wind up doing it anyway, just because I don't think I'd want them to accidentally come across certain stories.

imaginarybeasts just released volume 20: Heaven and Hell, which contained exactly one (1) story that I managed to get all the way through. Which isn't surprising given the subject matter, I suppose. Anyway, An Angel's Guide to Bureaucracy is hilarious, as long as you completely disregard the theology behind it, and well written enough that you can.

Volume 4 (Heat Wave) had quite a few more stories that were enjoyable: Bring Rain is simply brilliant, and I'll leave it at that. If you read only one story mentioned here, it should be this one.
The Secret Lives of Dead Turtles is enigmatic, and has some typos and weird formatting, but it also captures quite well the feeling of summer when you're a kid.
Summer in Arcadia kids, beach, magic--lots of fun.
June Mermaids (or: a letter of business concerning an ill-advised love affair): exactly what it says on the tin, and also lots of fun.
Exposure - this one is interesting, and feels sort of like a piece or fringe of something much bigger, and I really don't know what I think of it. If you read it, let me know what you think of it.