Sunday, April 24, 2011

Black Hole by Charles Burns

Black Hole is a weird grapic novel about teenage angst and alienation. We are in Seattle in the 1970's and high school kids do whatever it is highschool kids has always done and probably always will do: fall in and out of love, argue with their parents, drink, party, experiment with drugs and sex, skip school etc etc. There is a catch though, because some AIDS-like sexually transmitted disease is spreading among those kids. You do not die from it, but you mutate in different ways. Some mutate so much, that they have to hide from view and flee to the woods where they set up a camp, while others only develop certain things like a tail (!) or an extra mouth; things that can be hidden beneath clothes.

There are many layers in this horrorlike story, and I asked myself if those mutated kids had to flee because their parents could not be allowed to see that they had caught the disease, thus letting the parents know that they had had sex? Or was it something else that made them flee? Humiliation? A mix? Because no one seems very happy in this dark graphic novel, which also has some humor running beneath all the horrors though. Some of the mutated kids fall in love with each other, but even out in the woods away from people staring at them and pointing fingers, they are not safe at all, and there might be a killer among them.

They never really talk about the disease or where it came from, it is just something which is there and something that some catch to a greater or a milder degree. Very weird. We follow a handful of different people in this odd love story of sorts, and I was quite taken with the whole thing, although some of it was very nasty to read. But a very good graphic novel!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

Somewhere in the hilly country of East Tennessee, you can meet Lester Ballard, the main character in Cormac McCarthy's Child of God. And he is not a likeable type at all. He has been released from jail only to find that his place has been sold, and now he is homeless. This does not sit well with him, and frustration and hatred and rotten thoughts burn through him. Soon he finds a place in the woods, some abandoned shack where he holes up, lives his sorry and solitary life and falls more and more to pieces. Dirt, trash, violence, hatred, depravation flows through Lester's life,  and this is definitely not a comfortable read, although it is written in a poetic kind of prose, which I must say that I adored. The book is only 185 pages long, but it sat with me for a long time afterwards. Not as good as The Road, though, but definitely understandable that McCarthy is one of the most important American writers.

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

I do have a thing for Joshilyn Jackson's books. Or rather, it seems like I have a thing for every second book she writes. I loved her first one, Gods in Alabama, I did not really care for the second one Between Georgia, but when I read The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, her third book, I really liked her again. Now I have finished her fourth and newest one (published in 2010) Backseat Saints, and now I am back to not being too thrilled again.

Main chararcter in Backseat Saints is a minor character in Gods in Alabama, but since it was years ago I read that one, I didn't really remember her at all. She is Rose Mae Lolley of pure Alabama trash, complete with a missing mother and drunk ass daddy, but when we meet her she is Ro Grandee, married to Texan football hunk Thom Grandee. Book begins with Ro going into the woods to hide and kill her husband, shooting him on his daily run with her granddaddys little gun. A psychic has told her that she has to kill him or he will kill her. Because as pretty and sexy as Ro is, Thom has loose fists, and he beats her up, nearly killing her on several occasions.

But her husband's loose fists and the threat he poses to her isn't all that is bad in Ro's life. She can't stop thinking about her high school sweetheart, who went missing, and she can't get the psychic she met out of her head. And through some very twisted ways, Ro must face both her past, her present and her future on a long trip, bringing her from Texas to Alabama and California.

Joshilyn Jackson writes in a formidable style, the words flow easily and the characters are believable. She takes good care not to make Ro just a victim of other people's crimes and bad behaviour, and there is a good and chilling pace through the book, and you just want to shout out loud sometimes and hand out advice to Ro, making her take the right decisions, which she seems unable to do. Her quest to make her life whole is interesting, but there was still something that kept annoying me about this book, and I am not completely sure what it was. Perhaps I just didn't like Ro that much, but on the other hand I am not sure that liking her is one of Jackson's aims at all. I don't know. I can eaily recommend this one, but this was not her best. Looking forward to the next one though, which is bound to be good!