Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Recommended Reading: On Fiction

1. Strange Reading

One of the best uses of the blogosphere is for extended discussions of serious issues among many people. Doesn't happen as often as it should perhaps: but it happens a lot. The discussion about Off Center which I recommended in my previous post is one example; here's another, this time on a book I have read.


One of my favorite novels from the past few years is Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's a superb book, one I'd recommend pretty much to anyone who likes to read fiction. Well, the good folks at Crooked Timber have done a seminar on it, where a number of posters have put up fascinating discussions of various aspects of the book. And they got Ms. Clarke herself to reply. The discussion isn't one that will mean much to those who haven't read the book, I don't think, but if you've read it, check it out. (If not, read the book! And then go read the seminar.)

2. Even Stranger Reading

Geoff Klock wrote a bizarre, fascinating book called How to Read Superhero Comics and Why. As the title might indicate, it is a Harold Bloom-ian reading of recent superhero comics, starting with The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen and ending with Planetary. I'm not sure I agree with Klock's central thesis but it's still a fascinating book, highly recommended for those interested in literary theory or comics or both (although his language may be a bit theory-drenched for some tastes). Strangely, I think his book is least interesting on Watchmen, which is probably the single best comic he discusses. But the book as a whole is very interesting.

How to Read Superher#62A2A8

Anyway, Klock has now published his first new writing since that book (that I've seen or can find, anyway), an essay entitled "X-Men, Emerson, Gnosticism". In it he reads (again in a highly Harold Bloom-influenced way) two recent runs on the X-Men, Grant Morrison's New X-Men and Mark Millar's run on Ultimate X-Men. I had actually read most of the former and all of the latter, so I can't tell how accessible the essay will be to those who haven't read them -- which doesn't mean it won't be accessible, it just means I don't know. But give it a try, because it's fascinating (it actually made me want to reread Millar's run, something of an accomplishment given that I previously had no interest in doing so (Millar's X-Men is fun but quite disposable)); and if you have read either comic, then do make a point of reading it. Kock's book, incidentally, is definitely accessible to those who haven't read all of the comics he talks about -- I read most of them because of Klock's book rather than the other way around.

3. Extraordinary Reading

Jess Nevins did an amazing series of annotations of Alan Moore's comics series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. These are on the web (here and here), but have also been published as two books, Heroes and Monsters and A Blazing World. The former included a brief, fascinating essay on the history of the notion of literary crossovers, from ancient Greece to, well, Alan Moore. The essay was not online for a long time -- but now he's posted it. Whether or not you've read Moore's comics (and they're terrific, highly recommended) the essay is wonderful, so take a look.


1 comment: said...

I bow to no man in my admiration for Alan Moore and all his works, but I have to take exception to the implication that Watchmen is superior to The Dark Knight Returns. Better to call them equals.