Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Favourite Books of the 1990's

....not MY favourite books of the 90's, mind you, but rather Kyle's. I'm pretty sure our two blogs will one day merge like those two planes at the beginning of Dr. Strangelove. Anyway, for such a lengthy and in-depth post about literature, I wouldn't limit myself to a mere comment. It required an all-out post-length response.

a) 'The Death of Superman' is, for my money, probably the best large-scale comics story in recent years, arguably of all time. I loved, LOVED the editorial set-up of the Superman comics in the late 80's/early 90's....basically, all four titles were interconnected, with the separate writers free to do their own thing in individual issues, but it all tied together in larger story arcs. The writers, artists and DC editorial team got together every year to basically plan out the next 12 months' worth of comics. This is so simple, so creatively engaging and yet still with such an eye towards keeping the Superman mythos into actual mythos that it couldn't be done in modern comics, which have basically devolved into each series becoming a series of mini-series with a different creative team coming in roughly every two years. Could more have been done with the 'Death'? Yeah, probably, though obviously DC didn't want Superman to be 'dead' for too long. Was it a bit over-extended? Possibly, but not until the very end of the story, i.e. Superman, Superboy and Steel attacking the Cyborg's Coast City fortress....and even then, that was maybe too long by, say, an issue. The storyline had so many elements to it that the greater length was actually necessary, unlike most modern comic storylines that stretch three issues of story into nine issues just to justify a collected release. (Note: Mark's upcoming novel, 'Why Modern Comics Suck' will be in stores on November 31.)

b) I read 'A Good Walk Spoiled' not in one or two sittings, or even in sittings at all. I read it chapter-by-chapter in my old golf club's pro shop over the span of maybe a year. After a round I would go into the shop, read a chapter, put it back on the shelf and then rejoin my parents and brother for a bite in the grill room. I'm not sure why I didn't just break down and buy the book, or at least find it in a library. The experience prepared me for my current habit of hanging out at Chapters.

c) To be honest, John Irving should've stopped writing AWFOY after the first third. That opening segment is arguably the best thing he's ever written and would've been a perfectly satisfactory 240-odd page novella. The rest of the novel is good, but after the fantastic opening, feels sort of tacked on. Imagine going to a Pearl Jam concert where the first 14 songs were (insert your favourite PJ tracks here), and then the next 14 songs were the entire Riot Act album. Never actually saw Door In The Floor, though apparently the great Jeff Bridges turned in a performance that got some mild Oscar buzz. Is there a more underrated actor over the last 30, hell, 40 years than Jeff Bridges?

d) Say what you will about Michael Crichton, but the man does his homework. Nobody writes more convincing-sounding (if not necessarily convincing) technobabble than he does. The original JP novel is absolutely fantastic, and miles better than the movie, though the film still holds up fairly well today. Crichton is pretty hit-and-miss, but the hits are tremendous. Airframe and Sphere were great novels. I remember devouring Disclosure during a single bus ride to Pontiac for a Packers-Lions game in 1997....I should probably note that I'm a semi-speed reader, and that this bus ride was close to four hours long thanks to stops and border delays. Timeline, which you loved, wasn't high on my list.

e) I've somehow never read any Tom Wolfe. The only thing I know about the man is his penchant for dressing like Colonel Sanders, and the fact that he and John Irving openly despise each other. Apparently this is the American literary equivalent of the feud between 50 Cent and the Game.

f) The only time I've ever spent five hours on the toilet was last Boxing Day, when a chicken dinner at Bernie's in Byron and several glasses of water and orange juice at the pub afterwards left me sick for two full days. It was not a winner-winner chicken dinner. Okay, it wasn't five consecutive hours, since that would be just weird, but it had to have been pretty close to that over the 48-hour span. Then again, I was delirious, so my recollection isn't the best. There sure was a lot of vomit, though. Anyway, I probably could've spent this time reading The Fifties.

g) Geez, my Facebook message was your first alert to Wallace's death? Yikes, I apologize. It was more of a condolence, if anything, I didn't mean to send a shock through your system. It was still better than my alternate idea, which was "Argh, the 49ers upset the Seahawks! I'm out of my NFL suicide pool! Fortunately, in my American author suicide pool...."

Wow, that was tasteless, even for me. Um....calm yourself with the delightfully droll fact that I started the 'g' entry with the word 'geez.' They sound alike!


Kyle Wasko said...

(a) it's not that I disliked Reign of the Superman (though I could see how you could get that from my comments, which, upon re-reading, were fairly uncharitable)--I just wanted it to be a bit better (and less drawn out).

You should check out those Animal Man issues. Top-notch. And Sandman (I honestly can't remember if you've read them or not).

(d) wanted to put Sphere on the list, but it turns out it came out 21 (!) years ago--who knew? You can be sure it'll have a prominent place on my Best Books of the 80s list (target release date: June 2014). Disclosure was pretty great (though I maintain that the idea of the Corridor--"it's a virtual reality...filing cabinet"--is one of the five worst in history (fiction or non-), and I really, really liked Airframe (should be a movie, too--and I definitely should've put it down as an Honourable Mention pick), but I didn't want to cram in too many MC titles.

(e) I think you'd like Wolfe. Full, Bonfire, and The Right Stuff are all definitely worth reading.

(f) Bernie's? Really?? Are you sure it wasn't the Adelaide one? I think you should write Terrence a strongly-worded letter (I don't care if he doesn't work there anymore).

(g) [really evil laugh] Damn you. And, for the 50th time, I'll recommend that you check out more of DFW's stuff. Do you remember the two things I referenced from BIWHM?

3:52 A.M.?? Good Lord!

Chad Nevett said...

The actual death of Superman storyline doesn't read that well, but everything after it (World Without a Superman and Reign of the Supermen) is great. Although, the Reign of the Supermen is one of those "loss of innocence" moments in my childhood as DC promised that one of the four replacements was the real Superman and then totally just revealed them all to be imposters. Okay, two of them obviously were (Steel and Superboy), but the other two were viable. I still think the Last Son of Krypton (the Eradicator) was the best candidate since he was colder and obviously suffering aftereffects from being dead, which could lead to a really good series of stories as he works to regain his lost humanity. But, I still don't trust comic book companies as a result--I refuse to believe hype of any kind.