Archive for August, 2009

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a riot. Unfortunately John Kennedy Toole did not live to see it published or receive the highest honor a writer can be awarded. A Confederacy of Dunces is a mixture of high and low comedy mostly from the viewpoint of a very troubled man in his late twenties (or maybe early thirties). Dunces takes place in New Orleans, both on Bourbon Street and in the residential areas. The protagonist, Ignatius, is an overweight PhD graduate (and virgin) who has no desire to work a real job, has a gastrointestinal valve problem, likes to write,  and has a very peculiar pessimistic world view. Nothing is ever good enough for Ignatius.

Toole is a master of finding and maintaining character voice. He digs into the mind and heart of Ignatius and never misses a beat. The story itself is a selection of adventures and mishaps, but there is a sense that Dunces only gives us a sliver of Ignatius’ life. The novel lacks character growth, there is no epiphany, it begins and ends and the reader is left assured that Ignatius misadventures are far from over. Normally when I read a novel I want some sort of conclusion, I want to see the character experience a change, but Dunces was written so perfectly that I find the ending to be more than satisfactory.

Wikipedia on John Kennedy Toole: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kennedy_Toole

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I purchased this non-fiction graphic novel the day after it’s release at a charming NOLA bookstore, Maple Street Bookstore. Although I had marked the release of A.D. New Orleans on my calendar, it sat on my desk for two days before I cracked the cover. But the minute I started reading I was transported into the eye of the storm and turned the final page just an hour later having been oblivious and unaware of the exterior world.

A.D. New Orleans explores the true experiences of seven different people before, during, and after hurricane Katrina changed their lives forever. Each person’s story is factual, and scrupulously researched for accuracy of depiction. Neufeld, constrained by the word limit of a graphic novel, captures the minute details in emotional reactions, dialect and setting of each story.

The structure of A.D. New Orleans differs in form from other graphic novels in that the stories are told from different character’s viewpoints and these characters never meet. The novel moves through time and stacks the varied choices of each character on top of each other, which gives a deep impression of seven people’s cathartic experiences that represent the experiences of thousands other individuals. The graphic novel is not colored in detail, but instead in shades for each character. This effect does not detract from the novel, but instead puts more weight on the words and drawings rather than distracting the reader. A.D. New Orleans gives an honest, straight forward account of the largest natural disaster ever in the United States.

I thoroughly enjoyed A.D. New Orleans: After the Deluge, and look forward to reading it again to see what details I missed, or discover drawings that appear with more clarity.

Josh Neufeld’s website: http://joshn.home.mindspring.com/

Having spent only a few weeks in N’awlins, these stories spoke to me with an unmistakable southern accent. The places feel real for good reason–they clearly resemble their namesakes. But the best thing about these stories is the people, the characters. Horack inflates them with life, and not a life from behind the confines of a white picket fence. Horack’s characters have a raw intensity that will captivate the reader. I had to pace myself to keep from reading the entire selection in one sitting; I wanted to savor these stories. No doubt my eyes will graze these pages again and discover even more than I already have.

These stories are told from spring through summer, fall, and winter. They explore life, youth, love, passion, disappointment, and death. The southern reader will find an alarmingly authentic glimpse into their neighbor’s lives, and the rest of us will get a taste of a world often misunderstood and mislabeled. Skip Horack is a writer who will forever be on my must read list–I look forward to reading many fine stories from him in the future.

Skip Horack’s Website: http://skiphorack.com/home

The name of this book says it all. Not only does Angel offer sound advice for all types of piercings, but she gives cultural history, pre and post care instructions, information about body type and compatible piercings, health risks and management, sex and piercings, and information about traveling through airports or visiting the doctor with piercings that cannot easily be removed. She even offers advice to the frustrated parent. These are only a few of the many topics Angel covers in this 300 page Piercing Bible–there’s even an index for keyword searches.

I purchased this book on a whim, even though I rarely ever do more than flip through a non fiction book, but I sat down to read a couple of chapters and discovered that four hours had passed and I had read most of the book cover to cover. Angel’s writing is thorough and informative, and it has broadened my opinions and clarified the misconceptions that I had of many body piercings. If you have been toying with the idea of getting a piercing, or have had many, or if you are a piercer yourself–this book will provide you with two decades of expertise.