Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mega Library III

By the time anyone reads this I'll have long forgotten what I said, writing on Leap Day as I am. Unless Lee swipes my post for earlier usage, of course. I live to serve.

So, the Baltimore County Public Library has provided another nice selection. This time I'm going through them in the order I read them.

First up, Howard Cruse's Stuck Rubber Baby. With that cover I thought the title had a Brer Rabbit connotation. You know, all those dark figures luck like the tar baby from the story. Of course, I was wrong. It's a prophylactic use of rubber. The protagonist in the story is Toland Polk, a young man coming of age in the segregated South. He hangs out with a free wheeling crowd of desgregationists, though he's actually rather ambivalent about the movement. Of far greater concern to him is that he's gay. He doesn't think he wants to be gay, so he convinces himself he loves a woman in the movement. Their apparently one and only sexual encounter results in a pregnancy, the birth of a baby, and giving up said baby for adoption. There's a lot more going on in the story, too, with a large, well developed cast of characters. It's a very interesting tale told by a middle aged Toland, with some assists from his significant other. The one thing I couldn't figure out is who they're telling the story. No one's shown to be present as an audience. I guess they're just speaking directly to the reader. I thought maybe it was the child given up for adoption, but there's nothing in the story to suggest that might be the case. Anyway, highly recommend as an engaging read, though Toland's not the most sympathetic of leads.

Next up, You Have Killed Me by Jamie S Rich and Joelle Jones. I really like Jones's art. It has some hints of anime, but really captures the noir feel of the story that's driving things.

I don't recall a single character's name, but they're not all that important. If you like The Big Sleep (the movie), you'll love this. Same kind of feel, only it makes sense. Our PI isn't some guy who started from the wrong side of the tracks, though. He's a former member of the high and mighty. A young woman who knew him when hires him to find her sister, who has disappeared right before her wedding. The client says her sister was in a locked room with no way out when she disappeared. After some forays into the seedier sides of the young and wealthy's tastes, it all comes crashing down in a big, violent finish with most of the suspects and the perpetrator dead, as well as a few relatively innocent bystanders and some genuinely criminal individuals. Lots of the requisite tension with the police, too. It's fun tale and works its genre well.

And then there's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill. I've nothing bad to say about O'Neill's art. It's straightforward and captures the action and story well. The problem is the writing. One of the great things in The Watchmen was the extras that Moore put in that fleshed out the story. The segments of story within a story as a young man read a horror magazine. The books characters within the story had written. All that sort of background thing not only added depth, it allowed Moore to inhabit the voices of his various characters. But those were additions to the main story. Here, the story is extremely flimsy. Agatha Harkness and Alan Quartermain steal The Black Dossier from Britain's intelligence service and flee north to a magical other universe that meets up with their own universe, where they can live out a libertine existence of sexual encounters with the perpetually young, including themselves. Rather than fleshing out the story, the Dossier serves as the story, including various writings by or about the members of the League over the course of some 80 years. Once again Moore inhabits characters to present their voice, but this time it feels like showing off. It's probably because there's so little story surrounding it, but in at least one instance the voice inhabited is by a beatnik sort of work called The Crazy Wide Forever that's a steam of consciousness ramble that was too painful to even read completely. And to cap it all, the last section when the duo has escaped to their refuge of sexual freedom, it's all in 3D. This is a library book. No glasses to be found. Ah, well. At least it had a lot of sex.

Finally, we have lucille by Ludovic Debeurme. Lee probably already knows this one. It was originally written in French. It's the story of Lucille and Arthur, both 17 years old and miserable. Arthur is a Polish fisherman's son. Lucille is a child of divorce, living with her mother in a remote cabin in the woods. She was a chubby child and is now anorexic. Arthur gets a job delivering pharmacy prescriptions on his motor scooter, which is how they meet. Debeurme puts a lot of time into developing each of them before they meet, though. Arthur poses as a devil worshipper among the other kids his age, convincing one kid he's gay even though the kid had no inkling before that. Arthur doesn't want to be a fisherman like his father but has to take on the roll of breadwinner when his father, blacklisted from any jobs fishing after a fight with an influential man, hangs himself. As is the family tradition, Arthur as the elder son takes his father's name, Vladimir, which wasn't his father's original name, either. Anyway, Lucille and Arthur run away to Italy together, where they end up in a big mess when a man attempts to rape Lucille and Arthur severely beats him. It's a spare art that tells a lot with only a few strokes. The story is also spare, low on exposition. After reading The League, with all its density for so little story, this was an unexpected relief and joy, though a much darker story.

All in all, a good selection of books. Lucille was definitely the best of the bunch.

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