Graphic novels spell nerdy, right? Wrong. Although I did take some flak for devouring the Fables series (albeit from a lvl-70 WoW player, who was very much the pot in this pot and kettle situation), it wasn't really something I could stop once I started. And now that I've just finished The Good Prince, I'm already dying for #11. Too bad they haven't written that one yet.

To put it briefly: Bill Willingham is a genius.

To elaborate: he's created a world of fable characters (yes, all of them) that live in an enclave in New York City after fleeing their respective homelands (they don't all live in Happily Ever After, after all) as they were taken over by an unknown conqueror. The non-human fables (i.e. the Three Little Pigs) can't live unnoticed in the city (I'd question that concept, as there are some pretty strange characters around here that do look like they walked out of a fable) live on a farm upstate.

Each new character in the books is a chance to place that name to the story it has come from. Some are obvious (Snow White and Prince Charming, for example), some slightly trickier (Bigby Wolf) and some I still haven't placed (Baba Yaga, anyone?). Willingham cleverly twists the very nature of fables to his own use; the invincibility of a fable, for example, is directly related to the popularity of his or her story. The more popular the story, the harder it is to kill its characters. He also answers some questions that I'm sure have bothered many a questioning child. How could Prince Charming be in so many stories? What does "happily ever after" really mean? Prince Charming has three ex-wives and Beauty and the Beast are still married but sick of each other—does that help answer your question?

Willingham takes his characters throughout centuries of world history: Bigby Wolf was a Special Ops leader in World War II, Jack Horner fought on both sides of the Civil War, Hansel led the crusade against witches in Salem. Clearly, these fables have been living here with us for quite some time, and, when necessary, or when they feel like it, they have intervened in the lives of us mundane humans. But they also have their own battles to fight...

I'll leave it at that lest I spoil any more. Thanks to Jay for lending me the books all summer. You can preview the first part of the first book here.

The One Good Thing That's Come From Palin

Ok, the title clearly states my bias. I hate this woman. Everything about her. She is absolutely one of the most terrifying things that has ever happened in my political life (which, it should be noted, is all of 2 years long. Longer, I suppose, that I have been aware of politics, but I've only been a legal participant in the government for 2 years.).

Just today, I came across this blog posting from Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief of Publisher's Weekly (which ties with TONY for the be-all end-all of my weekly reading). The post is a week old now, but unlike most news stories rotating around this election, it still holds a valid point.

The list of books that Palin supposedly banned (which, as Dad pointed out, turned out to be a fake) wasn't only interesting because it pointed out (yet another) fault in this unlikely VP-candidate. Instead, it was the persistence with which the list was circulated that is truly fascinating. Why latch onto books? Why not the issues of abortions, birth control, etc? Sure, books are a safer argument. As Nelson points out, no one on either side of the party line likes the idea of censorship (at least not openly, anyhow). But I have to agree with Nelson that the one little gem of hope that we can derive from this fabricated list is the implied importance of books, and their availability, that was forwarded around with it.

The Witch of Portobello

I found myself in the West Village a week ago and accidentally meandered past Biography Bookshop, on the corner of Bleecker and 11th. Those of you who have ever been in a bookstore with me know by now that I am incapable of entering without getting lost for way too many hours and buying books I absolutely cannot afford. This is a flaw (or gift, depending on who you ask) that I inherited from my father (thanks, Dad!). But this time, I promise, it wasn't my fault. I was innocently walking by when the bookstore actually ATE me and forced me to pay him $50, but was at least nice enough to give me some good books to take home as souvenirs. Yep, that's exactly what happened.

One of the books I left with (and the only one I've finished to date) was Paul Coelho's The Witch of Portobello, the story of a woman searching to fill what she calls "the blank spaces" -- ultimately, her search is something like the search for self meeting the search for the meaning of life. Given the weighty subject, and the author, it isn't surprising that it can be a bit didactic, but Coelho saves himself from himself with the multi-voice construction he has chosen to use to tell her tale. In addition to giving the reader (read: me) a new "preacher" every few pages, it also fills in necessary plot and character points that no one character could have known, save for the witch herself. And here is the most interesting part about the construction, I thought: the witch is never interviewed. The introduction makes it clear that some one person is interviewing (there is an "I"), but leaves no doubt that the speaker is not, and never will be, the witch herself.

In truth, I couldn't tell you exactly how Coelho preaches finding yourself and the meaning of life. Maybe that isn't even what he is preaching here. Maybe I'm too traditional to understand some of what he was talking about, or maybe he just talks about too much in the span of one book, but despite the shortcomings of his ultimate message, the little messages are enough to make the book worth picking up, in my book. Or on my blog, take your pick.

In the beginning...

I had dinner the other day with two friends of long ago (as long ago as it can be when I'm only 20, of course), and got to talking about books, blogs, Publisher's Weekly (yes, I'm that much of a nerd), and I promised upon leaving to send them both an email with links to all the books I had recommended in the course of that evening, as well as the blogs I had mentioned and instructions for signing up for Publisher's Weekly daily email. That was two weeks ago -- I haven't sent the emails yet. Not because I don't want to, but just because I keep forgetting. Then I thought to myself, "I've now told at least 10 people about this one literary blog I really like, and hyped Mark Helprin (my latest favorite author) to anyone who will listen. Why not put it all in one place?"

And just like that, this half-assed attempt at a blog was created. Maybe I'll remember to send them both that email, or maybe I'll just send them the link to this blog. We'll have to see.* In the meantime, I figured I'd start off with an overall approach:


In my stumblings (these were stumblings of my own design, although adding the Stumble application to my laptop may have been at once one of the most fascinating, mind-expanding and yet dangerous things I've ever done) through the internet world of books the other day, I came across this list of the top 100 books of all time. Generally, these lists do one of the following things to me:

a) Make me feel inadequate, like all of my ventures into the literary world for the last 20 years have been nothing but a waste of time and breath and probably eyesight.
b) Make me depressed, because there is no way I will ever read the 1,001 books I must read before I die.
c) Make me gloat, because I've read everything on the list of books to read before I'm 30 by the tender age of 20.

But this one stuck out in that it was a multi-faceted effort, an amalgamation of various lists compiled in various ways -- by popularity, by literary critics, by sales, etc. You can see the list of books, and how NeilB compiled the list, here:


Of the top 100, I've read 28. Not too shabby, I'd say, but I have to go back and reread at least 10 of those because I read them either too quickly, too early, or too long ago. My dad's got an impressive 53, giving him an average of 1 per year. So, what's your number?

*Jackie and Sheri, if I've sent you this link, it's because I clearly haven't sent you your email yet. It will come, eventually, I promise.