Thursday, June 12, 2003

Reading List for the Keith Pille Seminar

While trapped in a gawdawful 2-hour lecture/meeting today, I put together a list of books that I would tell people to read if they wanted to see how my worldview came to be, more or less. I don't mean this to be a list of book recommendations, or my picks for best books ever (I mean, some are great, but some are quite crappy but still had an influence). The list skews pretty heavily towards stuff I was reading 10-12 years ago, which I suppose doesn't say anything good about me as far as personal growth goes....

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
2. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, Thompson
3. The Proud Highway, Thompson
4. The Once and Future King, T. H. White
5. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
6. Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut
7. Mother Night, Vonnegut
8. Hocus Pocus, Vonnegut
9. Skinny Legs and All, Tom Robbins
10. Another Roadside Attraction, Robbins
11. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Robbins
12. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (sigh)
13. Atlas Shrugged, Rand
14. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien
15. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
16. The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway
17. Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
18. Freedom in Exile, the Dalai Lama
19. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
20. Ghost World, Dan Clowes
21. Twentieth Century Eightball, Clowes
22. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace

OK, class, after you make your way through the reading list, please write a 10,000-word essay on nearly being thirty and not knowing if you've accidentally stumbled into a career or not.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

And it looks like Robson was right about the prospects for a Terrell Brandon trade.
Today's suggested comics: (coming out today according to Comiclist)

DC
Superman Red Son #2 (Of 3), $5.95 (Pick o' the day. Coolest concept out there. If you can get yer hands on #1, do so immediately)

Marvel
Marvel Universe The End #6 (Of 6), $2.99 (actually not that great, but I bought the previous 5, might as well see how it ends)
Ultimate X-Men #34, $2.25 (new writer, we'll see where this goes. Under Millar, this was a pretty good book)
Britt Robson can be counted on for pretty insightful NBA commentary. And his Timberwolves coverage is easily the best in the Twin Cities, when he gets around to writing it. He's also good at finding other Wolves news/analysis. His blog entry on the Terrell Brandon situation actually gives me a little bit of hope for the Wolves...
All right. So now the actual posting begins.

I had this idea that I was going to be a big, tough guy and actually read Gravity's Rainbow- it's important, it's the foundation of postmodern literature , and all that. Never mind the fact that absolutely no one I know has been able to wade through the bastard- they're not me.

So, um, yeah. After about 120 pages of giant, sentient adenoids and German orgies, I sort of gave up. And as a complete reversal, I've picked up The Essential Fantastic Four. And it sort of kicks ass.

A couple of things about the Fantastic Four... They don't get a lot of love right now, but I think you can say that the modern comic industry wouldn't exist without them. After all of the congressional BS of the mid-fifties, DC comics was scared of its own shadow and was flooding the market with bland, inoffensive versions of all their usual lineup- a squeaky-clean Batman, Superman with a stick up his ass, and so on. And then Marvel changed everything with Fantastic Four #1. The FF are still pretty squeaky clean (it takes about 3 pages in FF#1 for them to put their hands together and swear to fight evil), but they're remarkably different from the DC characters in that they're emotionally human. They fight. They don't always feel like doing what's right. They're... I dunno, interesting in a way that DC's musclebound asskickers weren't at that point.

Suddenly, Marvel was selling tons of comics (Spider-Man appeared at about the same time, and also met with wild success, for the same reasons), and over time grew into the dominant publisher. Spidey has stayed popular, more or less, but the FF have faded from the public eye.

I didn't mean to go off on such a tangent about the history of the comic industry, so let's leave it at that for now. The other thing I wanted to get to is that, while reading all of these old comics (most of the stuff in Essential FF dates back to like 1961), I finally get all of the Jack Kirby hype. I'd previously only seen his work on the early X-Men series, and, um, that was all pretty crappy. It's pretty clear that he was devoting all of his time to the Fantastic Four back then... the action panels are crisp and much easier to read than a lot of modern stuff, and all of his diagrams and designs for Reed Richards' high-tech equipment has this gorgeous future-as-of-1961 design aesthetic. Good stuff.