Faith, Venice and theater and more: books read

FAITH: Superstar by Jody Houser and multiple other contributors is fun but not up to the first two collections. It includes a pre-election special in which Faith meets Hilary Clinton, an encounter with an anime-style magical girl and then Faith getting haunted by ghosts of those she’s failed (or … is she?). I think it’s the third arc that keeps this from being as good as its predecessors — it’s a stock premise and doesn’t work as well with Faith’s nerdiness as usual (it’s the kind of trick she should have recognized). However the ever-optimistic, ever-nerdy Faith remains charming throughout.

VENICE: THE LION CITY: The Religion of Empire by Gary Wills is a curate’s egg of a book (i.e., parts of it are very good). Wills looks at the worldview that made Venice and its empire different from similar power players (though he finds it has a lot in common with ancient Athens) such as its heavy reliance on oceanic power to make up for its lack of land, the belief that St. Mark and the Blessed Virgin regarded the city as a special favorite (St. Mark’s basilica, above, was one of many symbols of the saint), its commitment to commerce (Venice largely ignored Papal bans on books rather than squelch the profits the city saw from the book trade) and the efforts they went to to ensure the rulers would put the city ahead of themselves (the doge had to show a lifetime of public service, and the election process makes our electoral college look sensible). However Wills couples all this with an in-depth look at the city’s art to show how it reflects the worldview and this didn’t interest me anywhere near as much. I’m not sure if it’s just that I didn’t pick this up looking for art history or that Wills doesn’t explain it well; certainly better illustrations would have helped.

THEATER by Jacques Burdick was one of my mother’s old books (given to her by the cast of a show she directed), a survey of stage productions styles and game-changers running from ancient Greece through Strindberg, Stanislavsky and Rodgers and Hammerstein with side trips to cover No, Kabuki, and theater in India and China. I enjoyed this, but as Burdick concedes it’s a survey and can’t go deep on any one topic.

STAIRWAY Volume One by Matt Hawkins and Raffaele Ienco was a graphic novel with a good premise but mediocre execution. Billionaire Gregory Hopkins discovers a mysterious message in our junk DNA that enables him to secretly assemble a mysterious cube (secret because it has 666 components and he knows how some people will react) he believes will enable him to save humanity. And if that mission requires enslaving children, kidnapping people or destroying lives, well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs right? This builds well, but it peters off into cliches; also I found Hopkins so loathsome a creature I really wanted him to face worse penalties than he does here.

#SFWAPro. Photo by Nino Barbieri, via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

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