THREE SQUARES: The Invention of the American Meal by Abigail Carroll looks at how we evolved to an eating schedule that includes light breakfast, light lunch, big dinner and lots of stacking in-between, in contrast to a colonial diet of light breakfast, light dinner and huge mid-day meal. Carroll shows how the needs of business and schooling made big mid-day meals impractical, which led to dinner becoming not only the big dog of the day but also a time for family bonding and social elegance. She also covers the development of what we actually ate, influenced by business, advertising, technology, social standards and of course the money to spend on it. Good as history, stock in analyzing where we are now (obesity! Diabetes! Too much food!) and some space devoted to people who can’t afford to share in the abundance would have been good.
Following Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique, I reread
THE CITY OF THE SINGING FLAME, a collection of shorts from various Smith series (Hyperborea, Zothique, Averoigne) and a couple of non-series entries. His present-day and Averoigne stories (Averoigne being a fictitious kingdom in medieval France) are less ornate in style and more Lovecraftian than the tales of Zothique were, though still good; I won’t be keeping the book, though, as I realized I have every story in it in one of my other collections.
MODERNISM: The Lure of Heresy From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond by Peter Gay argues the driving forces behind the avant-garde in the arts are a desire to overthrow established standards (even if they were established by previous generations of modernists) and a desire to turn inwards, whether by painters bringing their subjective perceptions into art or novelists exploring characters’ inner landscapes. While this was good, it wasn’t what I usually expected from Gay, focusing on the careers of the various artists where his other works devote much more attention to the society around them. And I’m not sure I’d agree with his selection of modernists in the movies, which is the only medium I know enough about to disagree with. As an overview of the modernist impulse (which after all is what he’s writing) it’s good, even if it’s not what I wanted.
DAREDEVIL: Season One by Antony Johnson and Wellington Alves is one of the best of Marvel’s recent origin retellings (I still prefer Hulk Season One, following Matt Murdock through his first six issues or so, watching him deal with a life that suddenly includes costumed criminals, romance and thrills. I liked it quite a bit, though Daredevil’s struggle to be a more intimidating vigilante felt like a knock-off of Batman: Year One.
XMEN: Season One by Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie was nowhere near as good. It’s told from the POV of Jean Gray (who was the last X-Man to join the original team) and unfortunately the authors seem to assume that with a teenage girl at center, obviously the really big issue is who she’s going to date. Not that the original series didn’t deal with romance, but it’s 50 years later and I’d have expected better.
Written and drawn by Neal Adams BATMAN: Odyssey brings back many of the characters he was famous for back when he was a regular DC artist, including Deadman, the Sensei, R’as al Ghul and of course, Batman and Robin. The art is amazing, whether Adams is capturing Batman in motion or showing him chatting with Clark Kent in a T-shirt; the story, however, is a muddled mess involving R’as with a secret world inside the Earth. I did like Bruce’s ruminations on whether he could ever kill, but they could have been done better too. So basically it comes down to how much you like looking at Adams’ art.

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One response to “Books

  1. Pingback: A bit of venting about a super-team I love (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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