42. A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
Really, really liked it. I think contemporary fiction can run into trouble when the writer tries a big formalist experiment, when the cleverness of whatever’s going on with the structure or point of view can overwhelm any emotion in the piece. And that emphatically wasn’t the cae here. Egan’s floating point of view and drifting timeline added atmosphere without taking away from the human connection to the characters she’d created. Awesome.
As part of my “make English Majeure less of a sausage party” initiative, I felt kind of obliged to do a strip based on Goon Squad. So I did, but I don’t know that it’s one of my favorites.
43. 1969, Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill
I enjoy the post-Black Dossier League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books, but they do kind of veer back and forth between fascinating, impressive creations and exhausting exercises in spot-the-reference. More the former than the latter, but still…
Also, even though I ultimately understand why he went with a Stones analogue, I do think it’s a little weird that, in a story involving an Aleister Crowley stand-in and a late-60s rock figure, Moore used a thinly-veiled Mick Jagger instead of a thinly-veiled Jimmy Page. Because come on.
Also also, Kevin O’Neill is the fucking bomb. Dude can draw.
44. The Ask, Sam Lipsyte
Expected to like it, but didn’t think much of it at all. My original capsule review.
45. Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, Stephen Davis
For some weird reason related to her trashy book club, my wife wound up with a copy of this. I’d read it to tatters in high school, and thought it’d be fun to blast through it again. And it was. It’s pretty hilarious how hard Davis works to make Zeppelin sound like the coolest motherfuckers on the planet, just kind of breathlessly relating every rumor he’s ever heard while slapping the faintest possible veneer of disapproval on when the rowdiness gets a little extreme.
It never got past the early art stages, but I actually had a pretty weird strip planned for Hammer of the Gods, involving the contrasting reputations of Led Zeppelin and R.E.M. Probably best I didn’t finish it.
46. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
Settling into Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books was a case of bowing to a ton of pressure that had been building slowly for a long time; I’m glad I finally succumbed to peer pressure. Loved this book. It’s been discussed so widely this year that I don’t really have much to add. Except that I liked the strip that I got from it.
47. Life, Keith Richards
Pretty good, but honestly I enjoyed my subsequent Stones-listening orgy more than I actually enjoyed the book. As far as that goes, I think I like Bill Wyman (not that Bill Wyman)’s response to Life writing in character as Mick Jagger more than I do Life.
My strip for Life really sums up my biggest reaction.
48. A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
49. A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
50. A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
So, yeah. Enjoyed the series (and I do agree with the thesis that AGoT and ASoS are the two best individual books). This is the point at which I realized that I could recognize a bunch of chunks that were kind of Richard III in a different light.
51. Bill Mauldin’s Army, Bill Mauldin
Bill Mauldin’s another of my favorite cartoonists; his slice-of-life depiction of day-to-day life in World War II is pretty much catnip to someone with my set of interests.
52. The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S., Jaime Hernandez
After years of trying to get them, I finally found a Love and Rockets connection that clicked for me (I think I’d previously run into the twin problems of the early books being really rough and Gilbert’s work not really being for me). I honestly think that, if I could have been reading this when it came out (I was in high school), it would have changed my life. Exposure to great comics, an earlier introduction to punk rock, and more than anything else an introduction to the idea that Mexican punks in LA led lives that were very relatable to a small-town Nebraska kid; it would have opened some horizons that really could have used some opening.
53. X-Force: Exit Wounds, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred
One of my favorite things to ever come out of Marvel. Actually, I can’t believe Marvel let them get away with most of that book.
54. Formerly Known as the Justice League, Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire
I guess this was the stretch of the year when I read beautifully-drawn, subversive superhero books.
55. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
Burgess’ achievement in creating a fake slang that sounds real is fucking amazing; this is the sort of thing that most people fail very badly at when they attempt it. And I love the feeling about 10 pages in when you realize that somehow your brain has started parsing all of the Nadsat lingo. Brains are awesome, is what I’m saying.
My Clockwork Orange strip is OK, although it’s kind of a case of low-hanging fruit.
56. A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
And with that, I join the legion of people waiting for the next one.
57. The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides
Liked it a bunch, but, then I always like Eugenides. I feel a little bad that my strip talked about the same thing everyone else was talking bout with this book, but hey: sometimes there’s an elephant standing in the room.
58. Maggie the Mechanic, Jaime Hernandez
Pretty good after you get about halfway in and Jaime’s figured out his craft, but it’s a little dire early on.
59. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace
Dusted off after I finally saw Lynch’s Lost Highway; in trying to figure out what the fuck I’d just seen, I thought it’d be good to reread Wallace’s essay about the movie. The essay, and the rest of the book, remain pretty good.
60. House of Holes, Nicholson Baker
For this one, the strip– which I love– says it all.
61. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
Again, the strip pretty much covers my thoughts. Might be worth mentioning that I liked The Name of the Rose much, much more than Foucalt’s Pendulum.
62. The Leftovers, Tom Perrotta
Very good, even though it was a monumental bummer. I do think that The Leftovers makes the most sense as a direct response to Fred “Slacktivist” Clark’s devastating critique of the Left Behind books, particularly how badly they fumble what a post-Rapture book would be like.
63. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
64. The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle
The Name of the Rose left me in the mood for some Holmes, is what I’m saying.
65. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
I liked it, although I did find it a little cold and “look at my formalist cleverness!” in spots. The interesting thing to me is that everyone who likes Cloud Atlas seems to agree that chunks of it drag, but no one can agree which chunks. For my money, the most affecting parts of the book were the two middle science-fiction sections, but really I liked everything except the 70s mystery.
66. Harlot’s Ghost, Norman Mailer
Finishing the year going to back to a favorite old brick. Luckily, I know for a fact it’s better than some of Mailer’s other late work.