What I’m Reading: FABLES, Cornell Woolrich, GOON, JLA, ESSEX COUNTY, KRIGSTEIN

Well currently have a bunch of books either in rotation, either just finished, on their way to being finished or about to start.

Among them:

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES by Cornell Woolrich. I’m coming in on the home stretch of this one. I own just about everything Woolrich has written. Made a big dent in his short story collections, and now working my way into his various novels.

A prolific writer, getting through all his novels will probably require more leisure time than I have, but I’m giving it the good old college try. He is easily one of my top ten writers, possibly the top 5, I consider him, along with Chester Himes, one of the most important and influential American writers of the 20th century. He is as Francis Nevins Jr coined him… “A Master of Bleak Poetic Vision”.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES is not his best novel, (FRIGHT, THE BLACK PATH OF FEAR and RENDEVOUS IN BLACK, the three of his novels I’ve completed so far, are all better) but Woolrich in neutral is more compelling, addictive and just plain mesmerizing than just about any other writer at full speed.

More for how he says things than what he says.

He constructs, paints a picture unlike any other writer that I know of, living or dead. There’s a sense of discovery in his writing, he builds the world in fragments around you, sets the scene, like a picture slowly developing itself, so when finally his description coalesces into something familiar, he has given you this rare gift of seeing something known, be for a while… magical and unknown.

“And so- every night he walked along the river, going home. Every night about one, a little after.

Anything you keep doing like that, if you keep doing it long enough, suddenly one time something happens. Something that counts, something that matters, something that changes the whole rest of your life. And you forget all the other times that went before it, and just remember that once.”

And that ability is in effect in NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES, about a man trying to save a woman, from the irresistable pull of stars. However, I recommend newbies to the world of Woolrich to start with the novels I previously named, or with his short stories. Go to my page on recommended Short Stories (in the column to your right)and you’ll see some recommendations.

****

B.KRIGSTEIN is an oversized, very hefty tome by Greg Sadowski on the artist Bernard Krigstein. Perhaps most well known by those reading this, for his work on EC comics in the 50s. But Krigstien went on to have a more commercial career, followed by a fine arts career. I just browsed this one and didn’t quite captivate me, no sleight against Krigstein I’m perhaps not the audience for his art. So worth a look if you’re a Krigstein fan, others may want to give it a pass.

****


THE COLLECTED ESSEX COUNTY- By Jeff Lemire, this was spoken of with quite a bit of acclaim, so picked it up from my local library. It’s a very thick and nicely designed trade by the publishers, TOP SHELF PRODUCTIONS. A wonderfully evocative graphic novel, collecting three distinct but intermingled stories. With an eye toward minimalism, Lemire with cartoony but deft lines, unfolds tales of a small Canadian town and the lives that grow up and out of it. I’ve read the first two stories, and it’s good, though it doesn’t for me live up to the hefty accolades. But it is impressive story telling, and a heartfelt tale of common lives, that are never really common. I think if you can get the collected edition for a good price, it’s something, in line with Matt Kindts’ THREE STORY, both forlorn memoirs, that you’re going to want on your bookshelf, to browse through from time to time. A recommended buy. Grade B.

DARK HORSE BOOK OF THE DEAD- Yet the latest in this Dark Horse series of Anthologies, each covering a specific topic in Horror. This zombie one being the weakest and least satisfying of the reads so far. None of the stories leaving much of an impression. Worth a look if its in front you, but not worth hunting down.

JLA AMERICAN DREAMS- Not enjoyable Howard Porter Art, and not interesting Grant Morrison stories.

FABLES # 1-5, This is my second time trying to give this heartily praised series by Bill Willingham a try. Like anyone will tell you the first trade, not particularly interesting. Trades 2 and 3 are better, I would call them good. Trade #4 is the first one that I would go so far as to say I really liked. mainly for the opening story, which was great. But Trade #5 descends back into just feeling like spinning wheels, I’m slogging my way just to get through it. So by the end of trade #5 you’re talking 33 issues, over 3 years of story. So clearly fables isn’t my cup of tea. 33 issues and I really find none of the extensive cast particularly interesting, likeable or compelling. I even have trades 6 thru 9 sitting here, but just can’t work up any interest in reading them). So I think I’ll call it a day on this series, as I have tons of other things to read. I’m just glad I got to read these trades for free at the library rather than purchasing them. Your mileage may vary, but for me and this series it’s game over.

****

GOON- Now a series that is working for me, and is living up to the hype is Eric Powell’s loony and lunatic THE GOON. I’ve read three trades back to back, VOL 2 MY MURDEROUS CHILDHOOD, VOL 3 HEAPS OF RUINATION, and CHINATOWN AND THE MYSTERY MR. WICKER. I’ll avoid the play by play, except to say they are fantastic. Fun, frenetic, with every crazy assortment of monstrosity and menace, and at the heart of it, a life hardened palooka, who in the best YOUNG GUNS tradition, understands the meaning of pals. Best praise I can give this series is after reading these trades for free I’m going to buy a nice collected hardcover of them. Nuff said.

All for this installment. Check back later for more.

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