Books I read this month (June 2021)

Hyena – Jude Angelini
How to Murdert Your Life – Cat Marnell
Swamp Thing ( Book One) – Alan Moore
The Spirit Vol. 20 – Will Eisner
The Evolution of Consciousness – Robert Ornstein
Stuck Rubber Baby – Howard Cruse
Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud
Batman & Robin Adventures Vol. 2 – Paul Dini et al.
Sandman (Books One and Two) – Neil Caiman
Ender’s Game – Christopher Yost et al.

Summer reading is always light reading. For the last two months my reading habit’s consisted of comic books, old favorites, and one hard science book of evolutionary biology.

”Hyena” and ”How to Murder Your Life” are two of my favorite books from two of my favorite writers for some years now. Cat Marnell used to write beauty advice for young tweaker girls, and dedicates her memoir ”for all the party girls” and that’s what it’s about. She’s an adderall addicted fashion writer living in NYC who parties with graffiti artists, smokes sherm on tenement rooftops, goes to rehab multiple times, and then comes to grapple and live with her addiction without going off the rails. It’s different from most addiction memoirs in that, while she does clean up at the end, she still admits to still using adderall, but responsibly (I.e. as prescribed). You can kinda tell, too; she writes in long run-on sentences with interspersed parantheticals in the dialect of a privileged white girl speaking gangsta parlance.

Speaking of white-gangsta-talk-speakers, Jude Angelini is a Shade 45 shock jock, who sounds black on air, having grown up as minority among minorities in Detroit (specifically, Pontiac). I love his writing style, which mimics the way he talks, and the short short story format, cobbled together nonlinearly. He goes from fucking a midget porn star, doing ”science drugs” like 5-Meo-DALT and 2ce and party drugs like ketamine and ghb. (he actually inspired me to start doing g…) The setting vacillates between Michigan and LA, sometimes veering off to Poland or South America. I’ve heard him explain in interviews that the title comes from ” doing/seeing a lot of fucked up shit, while laughing thru it,” which sums up this collection of stories. Some are dark–one reminiscence of the fallout from his dad raping his mom–others hilarious and self- deprecating and degenerate all at once. In ”Epiphany” he outlines his lifelong relationship to Jews. He went from never knowing them to resenting their seeming nepotistic club in management becomes across in his career. One such encounter leaves him so frustrated that he resorts to relief via whip its and masturbating. When this book first came out, I was enrolled in a Jewish/ Yiddish lit class and tried to arrange for a public reading by the writer. Once I filled the prof in all the details, he just looked at me sideways, like I was retarded (or, as an English major might say, ‘ brusque’). 

”Swamp Thing” is the modern comics retelling of Frankenstein, basically. It’s where one of the giants of modern comics, Alan Moore, made his name. 

”Stuck Rubber Baby” is the gay man version of Alison Bechdel. IRS a coming of age graphic novel about a closeted Southerner in the Jim Crow South and the fight for civil rights. 

”Sandman” (Book 2) is a continuation of the legendary Neil Gaiman comic, which was the first graphic novel I ever read. There’s a reason it’s on the Time’s 100 Best Modern Novels.

Vol. 19 and 20 of the Spirit is where Will Eisner really hit his stride in the series. Storylines continue from one week to the next. Paul Dini is one of the writers behind the awesome Batman animated cartoon series from the 90s, and it carries over to the comics version. Reading this volume highlighted the big difference between Marvel and DC comics. While adults can enjoy the writing in DC comics, Marvel stories are too tame from anyone whose sprouted their first pube.

”Understanding Comics” is an essential book that lives up to its name, breaking down the art of comics. Comics aren’t jus a ‘picture book’ but a story told thru a combo of words and pictures working in tandem, making the reader work to interpret the actions that occurs between panels.

”Evolution of Consciousness” is a hard science book delineating how consciousness–that is, ‘being aware of being aware’–evolved. Ornstein speculates on the exact conditions the caused such mutations and breaks down the conflicts consciousness has in adapting to our rapidly changing world. In sum, pure mind reached its present state to adapt to the world as it was 30,000 years ago. Since our environment evolves faster than our brain ever could, this split explains the plethora of mental illness and unease today.

Ornstein describes our mind as a whole slew of apearate personalities, the ‘simple idiots’ who evolves for a particular function, such as eating, sleeping, and fucking. The key, Ornstein insists, to evolving into the future without killing ourselves or the planet is to direct our own evolution by practicing self-observation. Try to view yourself in the 3rd person and you’ll see how you act and then explain yourself afterwards. But in time, you’ll start to recognize when one of those ‘simple idiots’ goes off and running. When enough of us start doing this, we’ll be able to choose our path forward.

1 Comment

  1. Jasrameshen says:

    It’s really fantastic and inspiring

    Liked by 1 person

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