Review by Bill SvobodaYet another "3.5 stars". "Cloud Atlas" is not as good as David Mitchell's later novel "Bone Clocks"-or really any of the best modern/postmodern novels, sci-fi or otherwise. Arguably, the most valid reason for having "Cloud Atlas" is that it was made into a very fine big budget film - a rare case where I thought the movie was better than the book. Lest I sound like I'm being too harsh-and to give you an idea of how high my bar is for "Exceptional" - check out Robert Stone's "A Flag For Sunrise" and "Damascus Gate" Hari Kunzru's "Gods Without Men" or (especially-since it covers very similar ground) Kim Stanly Robinson's "Years Of Rice And Salt". It is NOT that David Mitchell is unlikeable and/or bad as a writer ("Bone Clocks", for instance has some amazing and memorable chapters)-it's that (so far) he has problems (structural and otherwise) with his novels-and ends up with a finished product that is less (as opposed to greater) than the sum of it's parts (and yes, that happens to be one of my main criteria in judging the quality of a book's contents-fictional or otherwise.)
Review by Ryan SchaferHellboy is my latest addiction. Chalk full of zany reinterpretations of obscure folklore, european mythos, and history, it's brilliant and imaginative and original. This series has more in common with the Sandman, Preacher, and Swamp Thing than with superhero franchises like Daredevil or Batman. I devoured the first 9 volumes and then discovered that we did not have the 10th! Hope you all will give the series a try and consider the merit of adding the rest to our collection ;)
Review by Future ManArcana: Musicians on Music is an incredible collection of essays by many great modern composers and improvisers of the American avant-garde. Edited and including a preface by John Zorn, this collection includes a sprawling array of writings, including a piece by Marc Ribot disparaging the technical short-fallings of the guitar, an essay on silence by pianist Anthony Coleman, who was featured in the recent installation of our Future Jazz series, and an essay and set of notated exercises by Bill Frisell, which are as minimal yet profound as his guitar playing.
Review by Bill Svoboda"Hippie", and to a lesser extent, "Modernist" are both pejorative terms- moreover, they are somewhat mutually exclusive- but I guess this contradiction is part of the appeal of this particular "brand". Not being an expert in either brands , graphic arts or museum curation/art world politics, this book was puzzling to me. But apparently this brand has some real economic value in that it has already been picked up by the world of high fashion, as well as causing a nice buzz in art circles. It just seems foreign and rather arbitrary -a catchy and certifiably saleable idea which lacks cohesion and probably makes a lot more sense to a graphic designer than to someone trying to radically restructure our dysfunctional society. I found some interesting things in this hodge-podge , but to me, (a "hippie utopianist") the whole was less than the sum of the parts.
Review by Future ManThe End is a quiet moment in existential questioning following the death of a loved one. The improvisational and direct style of the writing and drawing carries with it the fresh impact of the moment a feeling surfaces, and makes this a powerful work which elegantly translates the feeling of loss and the subsequent journey to acceptance.
Review by Bill SvobodaIf you're running an industrial kitchen to make cannabis edibles-with a regular source of twigs, trimmings and other commercial growing by-products -featuring a number of different strains (and it's all organically grown)-then this cookbook makes a certain amount of sense. Each and every recipe calls for the use of overprocessed, homogenized oil and/or butter infusions. Treating your very own primo buds this way is wasteful, expensive and unnecessarily time consuming-as well as a desecration on the order of boiling vegetables for hours and then slathering them with 1000 island dressing, or pouring ketchup on a very well done steak. There is shockingly little useful information here- HOW COULD THEY COMPLETELY FORGET TO MENTION DOUBLE BOILERS?!? This alone is an inexcusable example of Bad Kitchen Technique. They show little knowledge of/respect for the unique tastes and effects of various strains. There is very little context and zero amount of humor-instead you get Terribly Earnest & Thoughtful self congratulatory screeds alongside glossy, yummy food porn photos (the best thing about this piece of New Age Arriviste coffee table trash).
Review by Bill SvobodaThis book is a classic. If you are at all interested in food self sufficiency you will want to check this one out. If you are really serious, you'll probably want to get a copy for yourself- and/or as a gift to someone else. Highly recommended.
Review by Future ManThe Perineum Technique is a cleverly drawn realist fiction exploring the disturbing way that technology is so frequently used in sexual courtships and the ways that intimacy develops in a world of hyper-connectivity. Told in the same casually dark style characteristic of their other work, this is a great addition to the English translations of French comics duo, Florent Ruppert and Jérôme Mulot.
Review by Danny CanhamThe softness of a watercolor art style belies the macabre in this short graphic novel by Grant Morrison. God is found dead and everyone is looking for the truth at the heart of the matter. Part allegory, part pataphor, Morrison blends philosophy and theology in a small town neo-noir setting to question reality itself. It was a fun, quick read, but unlike some of Morrison's longer works,, it feels like it's missing some of the depth it deserves to really explore the subject matter. Muth's art playfully weaves together the mystery play within the mystery and matches the darker tone of the story overall.
Review by Kristal McKinstryI haven't read it, but hearing an hour long interview of him speak on the subject suggests he has great insight from both mystic and pure scientific realms.
Review by Roar RAWWRRRCapacity is an excellent narrative of a metaphysical journey to access the many possibilities of imagination within one self without going crazy in the process. The not going crazy part is key. Interweaving biographical elements with delicious 4th wall breakdowns to include the reader in the story arc and, seasoned throughout with 7 compilations of short stories, Theo Ellsworth might just be looked back at in history as one of the greatest writers and illustrators of our time and this book is certainly one that can be used to establish him as such. Highly reccomend for anyone who enjoys graphic novels and the creative process to read thia.
Review by Nathaniel KiddCS Lewis's clear and soft-spoken presentation of the core doctrines of the historic Christian faith for a 20th C audience has rightly gained a reputation as a modern classic within Christian literature. Unfortunately for readers in our circle, Lewis's doctrine and memory has been appropriated primarily by the rather tasteless form of the Christian faith that easily and uncritically accommodates the Powers and Principalities of postwar capitalism, and that may taint the force and appeal of his argument. A partial remedy, perhaps, may lie in appreciating Lewis within his historical context. We should remember, after all, that Mere Christianity began as a series of radio broadcasts on the BBC during WWII, endorsed by the British government as a way of consolidating national morale in an especially dark and difficult time. In this view, I like to think of Lewis as resourcing a theology of resistance: hiding out in underground bunkers during Nazi air-raids to proclaim that there is a ground for hope, and that the resistance is not in vain. You won't get that from a superficial reading of MC, but it's there, just beneath the surface. That said, I think that our readers might better appreciate some of Lewis's other works: his fiction, in particular -- his Space Trilogy, for instance, and his famous, young reader oriented fantasy, the Narnia series. His retelling of an ancient myth in "Till We have Faces" is also extraordinary, although somewhat subtle. It is in these contexts where the scope and power of his imagination are more readily at play, although the theological engine articulated in MC and some of his other prose works is always present. It has become extremely unpopular in modernity and postmodernity to root one's social and artistic imagination in the historic, canonical orthodoxy of Judeo-Islamo-Christianity. In most circles, being a heretic is almost a prerequisite for being taken seriously -- it is, in effect, the new orthodoxy. But the ongoing interest in Lewis and his works stands as an icon of the enduring power and appeal of theology in its classical form -- as well as its continuing fecundity in underwriting imaginative alternatives to the oppressive and horrific systems of modernity. We are empirically justified in expecting, after all, that a story that proved capable of sustaining the human soul through the convulsive terrors of the first half of the 20th C, will likewise prove to be of value anticipating the apocalyptic terrors that await us in the first half of the 21st.
Review by Nathaniel KiddI've learned a lot from late ancient gnostic texts about the milieu of traditions from which the contemporary Abrahamic faiths emerged. I find the gnostic traditions fascinating and delightful, opening up lines of speculation and inquiry about the shape of culture and religion in a world lost in time. Unfortunately, however, I received none of these customary delights from "The Laughing Jesus." Although ostensibly about "gnostic wisdom," authors Freke and Gandy in fact subject us to a bombastic parade of their own sophmoric religious opinions, the better part of which are devoted to either ridiculing the views of the "Literalists" (whom they consider hopelessly benighted), or delighting in the self-styled sophistication of their own tailor-made "gnostic" system (which, by my evaluation, in fact has very little to do with historic gnosticism, and very much to do with late modern post-Christian spiritualism). Indeed, they fall into the trap of many American and modern new religious philosophies, which proclaim as "perennial" something that is in fact very peculiar and particular to the religious sensibilities of the liberal, urbane, postmodern sophisticate -- a person all but completely unmoored to the traditional coherence of a historic community of faith. Freke and Gandy at least want to identify something worth saving from the religion of old: the whole book is structured around an attempt to distinguish between the proverbial "baby" of gnostic spirituality and the "bathwater" of literalist religion. This is a legitimate heuristic for persons at a particular stage of spiritual development: for those responding to the trauma of dysfunctional religious communities, wherein abuse was justified and perpetuated with appeal to religious symbols, such differentiation can be an important step. As a globalizing interpretation of religion as a whole, however, I fail to see how this kind of dichotomy is helpful, and doesn't in fact end up collapse into a hypocrisy of the worst kind. Among their many charges against "Literalist religion," for instance, Freke and Gandy say that it locks us into an "us" versus "them" mindset. Yet is this not to commit the same evil just condemned? -- now the "us" are a sophisticated spiritual elite who -- being spiritually "awakened" -- don't take our faiths-of-origin too seriously; the "them" the "unwashed" masses of people "trapped" within a literalistic religious framework. The dichotomy is all the more pernicious for being utterly incapable of processing the fact that for many people, "literalistic" religion is a profound source of life and joy that should be celebrated within the diversity of human experience, not demeaned and destroyed. While tools are needed for diagnosing and treating malignant forms of religiosity, they need to be much more carefully constructive. "The Laughing Jesus" can commend itself to our collection in that it is certainly an "alternative view" of the Abrahamic metanarrative; and although I myself take it to be an especially poorly conceived and poorly constructed alternative, it may be the alternative someone is looking for, and right for them within a particular stage of their spiritual journey. All faults notwithstanding, Freke and Gandy are actually not that far behind the curve of scholarship when it comes to the mildly iconoclastic "pop-gnosticism" of scholars like Elaine Pagels and Karen King, but depart from them chiefly in being even more bald and unrestrained in lambasting traditional orthodoxy. I should like such lambasting to be more thoughtful and more effective, but it is certainly permitted, even in its less articulate form -- especially within the nimbus of "alternativity".
Review by Meg DukeTo say it's grand in scope is an understatement. A book some believe to be "channeled," it follows the perspective of a soul from earth swept away to scour the universe in all its various forms on a myriad of alien planets for the greater meaning of life -- for the Star Maker...
Review by Kyle VenookerTemperance is a strange, winsome, complex tale that interweaves a handful of stories -- that of Pa, of Peggy, of Minerva, of Lester, and of Temperance -- into a narrative that explores themes of legacy, of truth, of control and dominance, and, unexpectedly, of hope.
Review by Bill SvobodaCarl N. Degler was a noted leftist (and feminist!) historian. Unlike many leftists, he had no problem discussing, arguing and thinking about human behavioral traits which are- or might be -innate. This is actually "four and half stars" simply because it was published 28 years ago, but the writing is good and the history is still very relevant (as is the reluctance of leftists such as Noam Chomsky to address the issue of innate, inherited "human nature".)
Review by Bill SvobodaHighly readable. A perfect companion to "Testosterone Files" would be "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus". Kudos to Max Wolf Valerio for writing this- and Seal Press for publishing it. A book worthy of re-reads, discussions and arguments-this is a 5 star if you remember to take all that testosterone with a grain of salt.
Review by Bill SvobodaThis well made hardback (about an often sad and/or horrific subject), paradoxically represents small press excellence. This was my introduction to the Hayward Gallery Press, the Hayward Museum, and artist Ann-Sofi Sidon- lots of cool,wonderful & amazing work by all of them! Concerning a different type of work -sex for money, it is more "business as usual" than ever in the Czech Republic, while human trafficing has spread throughout the world (Orlando Florida!) This book prompted a great deal of online research on my part-as a result of which I'm confident in disagreeing with the socio-politico-economic narrative Ann-Sofi Sidon seems to believe-namely, that as a result of the collapse of a "Socialist" country (and the subsequent slashing of the social safety net), many women are forced into prostitution. Actually, in the Czech Republic both education and medical care are free- and the quality of both healthcare and education have improved since the days of the Soviet backed regime. The extreme repressiveness of the state (in the name of "Socialism") was one of the main reasons prostitution was far less common under State Socialism than it is today- I could go on and on- but Sidon's political beliefs are in the background, and don't detract from most of Warte Mal! -which, again is quite well done-(Studs Terkel would have been impressed by her interviewing prowess!) This is yet another book filled with complexities which I would love to discuss in greater detail-meanwhile "Warte Mal" has gotten scrambled to "Wal Mart" in my head.
Review by Bill SvobodaI found the woo to be immeasurable, although I did see some nuggets of genuine science. Pile it Higher and Deeper!
Review by Meg DukeFlew through the first five but slowed slightly with six... Ananda's story is wild..!