Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bibliophile: Wait, We're Still Doing These?

"Books are for mooks." --Timon the Meerkat

This is Bibliophile.

It's been a long time since I've done Bibliophile, a look at the new books available at a randomly chosen Canadian university library. In part, that's because the blogging bug in general no longer creates the itch in me it once did (note to self: come up with better metaphor), but also because, even in the compromised, 12 books per post version, it was still regularly taking over 3 hours to compose. So we'll play around with the format a bit, and see if we can't come up with something still useful, but less time-consuming. After the break, then, six new books from the University of Calgary. As always, a bolded H marks a book also held by the University of Waterloo.

(In other news, my computer reset on me, meaning I lost all unsaved work. Normally that wouldn't be a problem, but I actually was working at the time for once, and lost five pages of the dissertation. Yes, I should have saved more frequently. I am aware of this fact. Believe me, I am aware of this fact. The level of my awareness could not currently be overstated. If the sounds of my curses could have been harnessed, the winter heating bill would be a thing of the past.)

Daily news, eternal stories : the mythological role of journalism / Jack Lule (2001)
 I like the idea of this subject, that we tend to treat the news as something sacred, or at least have an idealized notion of how it functions. This concept's seen a lot of change in recent years, thanks to things like the proliferation of online information, growing corporate control, and the general erosion of public trust that we call network news, but the idea is still there. See also: Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom. It turns out, though, that this sort of myth isn't quite what Lule's talking about. Rather, it's the way the news takes the facade of current events, and writes well known tropes over top of them, such as the innocent victim, the good mother, the trickster. In other words, it's less the myth of journalism, and more the way journalism  uses myth. Hmmm. Could still be good, I suppose.  245 pages, The Guildfoor Press, $47.50 hardcover, $25.64 paperback. H.

Faster than a speeding bullet: The Rise of the graphic novel / Stephen Weiner (2012)
I'm much more an amateur than a professional when it comes to comic book studies, but I know enough to know even the term "graphic novel" is contentious in some circles. The book seems to take a largely historical approach in its outline, starting with a fairly familiar narrative set: the early history, the 1950s and McCarthyism, the 1960s and the rise of Marvel. There's chapters devoted specifically to Maus, The Sandman,m and Understanding Comics, all of which seems like a good idea. One thing I didn't realize going in was just how brief the book is. The chapters are almost always under ten pages. And five pages, no matter how detailed, is probably not a good length to really get into the nuts and bolts of Maus. I guess this is more a student handbook sort of thing.Well, the size explains the price. 80 pages, NBM Publishing, second edition. Kindle $7.26, Hardcover $11.14. (H, but first edition only.)

The Intermedial Experience of Horror: Suspended Failures / Jarkko Toikkanen (2013)
I am slowly--very slowly--working my way through Noel Carroll's The Philosophy of Horror, which seems to be one of the benchmarks in theorizing horror. As such, I'm a little more aware of such accounts at the moment. Most theories of horror, Toikkanen claims, are based on genre or looking at horror as collective cultural trauma; he's taking a more phenomenological approach, where horror is brought about by the break between the media of words and images. And given that my dissertation is on words and images in a particular medium, my interest level has just risen considerably. In written horror, then, he argues, the experience of horror comes not from the break in images (since there generally aren't any) but through the failure of the imagination. Hmmm. Probably too late for the dissertation (unless I cram it into the phantom five pages), but definitely hitting enough buttons that I want to check it out. Kind of pricey though: $52.02 for the kindle, $73.96 for the hardcover. 184 pages, Palgrave MacMillan. H.

Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury: Spectral journeys / William F. Touponce (2013)
That's a hell of a trio to put together. But I can see it. Dunsany fills an odd spot in the history of fantasy, somewhere between the collected set of fairy tales and Tolkien's definite work in the genre, in a time where the boundaries of fantasy were still undefined; as such, his work tends to have a dreamlike, haunting focus to it you don't get much in modern fantasy. That 's got some overlap with Lovecraft, who specialized in the "horror that destroys men's minds through its contemplation" kind of fantasy. And while Bradbury is probably best known for his science-fiction now-- Farenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, "The Veldt"--he's also pretty apt at dabbling in the more numinous aspects of childhood, which gives him with the other two. But enough speculating; let's see what the actual book is about. Bulding on Lovecrat's idea that storytelling is a journey into the spectral, Touponce argues how supernatural literature is tied to stages of capitalism, and attempt--in these three authors, at least--to create something beyond its grasp. I like the idea; it fits with my conception of Lovecraft in particular, and it's a nice meld of reading the literature in terms of its historical context. Kindle $43.21, Hardcover $69.48. 166 pages, Scarecrow Press. H.

Star Trek and history / edited by Nancy R. Reagin (2013)
Sometimes, I'm vaguely sad that Star Trek's heyday being in the last century means that it missed a lot of the scholarly attention that popular culture enjoys nowadays. Well, good on Reagin then, for giving it that attention anyway. 
(Although I see she's edited a similar book, Harry Potter and History,and another, Twilight and History,  which dampens my enthusiasm.) You can also tell that the book was written with a broader audience than just academics in mind, as the first sentence of the Amazon description--"just in time for the next JJ Abrams Star Trek movie"--demonstrates, as does its price: $9.39 for the Kindle, $14.52 for the paperback. You can always tell when a book is marketed to actual people instead of library budgets. While the book is a little light on overt references to literary theory, the topics are still weighty, or so a description of its sections suggest. The book is composed of four parts. The first part is on backstories and characters, a dfeatures George's essay on Kirk as Wild West Hero; Weitekamp's essay on Lt. Uhura and Civil Rights; Gardenour's essay on Bones and Spock and country doctor vs. cold-blooded science; and Kistler's enigmatic "Who Is Q?".. Part Two is Kirk and Spock and Earth History. It consists of Maguire and Klingon history and American  History; Franklin on Star Trek and Vietnam; Lewis on Cause and effect; Sturgis on natives in the final frontier; Putman on Stark Trek and terrorism, and Waltonen on the more general issue of Star Trek and timelines.  Part Three is Future Culture, with Hardy's essay on Shakepeare in Klingon, McDonald on Star Trek information technology versus what we actually have; SChulzke on history in the holodeck; Mingus on "How The Borg Mapped/Changed Everything," and Jorgensen on Species extinction and environmentalism in Star Trek. The last section is on history and other races, with Robles' essay on Vulcan logic, Dupree's essay on women in Star Trek, Domenig on Klingons, Carney on the Cardassians and Nazis, and Worland on the legacy of Star Trek and its fans. The original Star Trek honestly does not interest me much, but the rest of the essays all sound worth a look. It's kind of book I'd leaf through in my idle time. 384 pages, the Wiley Pop Culture and History series. 

The Superhero Reader. Edited by Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, Kent Worcester., and Will Brooker (2013)
Now this is more what I think of when I envision comic book studies. Hatfield's name is also vaguely familiar--I'm sure I've read something he's done before. Again, the prices suggest they actually want people to read this book; the hardcover is $65.72, but the paperback is $27.00, and the Kindle is $16.39. It's also an anthology proper, which means collecting essays on related topics that were originally written elsewhere. The mandate is to look at how superheroes connect with larger cultural contexts, which leaves things pretty open. Let the list of essays begin! The book is divided into three sections. First is historical considerations. It consists of Peter Coogan's "Comics Predecessors," Gerard Jones' "Men of Tomorrow," Philip Wylie's "Gladiator," Jules Feiffer's "The Great Comic Book Heroes," Wlater Ong's "The Comics and the Super State," Fredric Wertham's "The Superman Conceit," Trina Robbins' "The Great Women Superheroes," and Will Brooker's "Fandom and Authorship." Section II is Theory and Genre. It includes John G. Cawalti's "Literary Formulas," Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence's "Crowds of Superheroes,"  "Roger B. Rollin's "The Epic Hero and Pop Culture,"  Richard Reynolds' "Masked Heroes," Geoff Klock's "The Revisionary Superhero Narrative," Charles Hatfield's "Jack Kirby and the Marvel Aesthetic," Karin Kukkoken's "Navigating Infinite Earths," and Scott Bukatman's "A Song of the Urban Superhero." Section II is culture and identity. It contains essays such as "Wonder Woman" by Gloria Steinem, "Invisible Girl" by Lillian Robinson, "Love Will Bring You to Your Gift" by Jennifer Stuller, "Batman, Deviance and Camp" by Andy Medhurst, "Color Them Black" by Adilfu Nama, :Comic Book Masculinity" bu Jeffrey Brown, "The Punisher as Revisionist Superhero Western: by Lorrie Palmer, and "Death Defying-Heroes" by Mr. Pop Culture Scholar, Henry Jenkins. Actually, I think the Punisher essay might be the most interesting to me. 368 pages, University Press of Mississipi.

Better Dead / J. M. Barrie (1891)
Is this a Peter Pan/zombie crossover? No, no it is not. Apparently, it is a story of Andrew Riach, who went to Londo nwith the intention to become a private secretary to a member of the Cabinet, or maybe write for the press.  Riach is a little vague on his life goals. And the minister's daughter Clarrie is involved. "The love-light was in her eyes, but Andrew did not open the door for her, for he was a Scotch graduate." I'm not sure where the "Better Dead" part comes in; presumably, either Riach's exciting career stalls, or the love-light goes out; probably both I imagine. 145 pages H.

See, even six books take about an hour and a half. The things I do for posts no one reads.

Later Days.

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