Posts Tagged ‘elaborate’

Are You My Mother?

October 24, 2012

Cover of Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

Author: Alison Bechdel

Title: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Geographical Setting: Mostly Pennsylvania and Vermont

Time Period: Present day with flashbacks

Series: Follow-up to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006)

Plot Summary: Are You My Mother? is a densely-layered and thought-provoking exploration in graphic memoir form of author Bechdel’s complex, flawed relationship with her mother. Bechdel’s father, the subject of her earlier work, Fun Home, was a closeted bisexual who ultimately committed suicide, and her mother a frustrated poet and actress who sublimated her desires to those of her husband, submitting to the role of primary caregiver to their three children. Are You My Mother? depicts Bechdel, some five years after the publication of her critically-acclaimed book about her father, setting out to write a new book about her mother. Bechdel chronicles her process as an artist and writer, undergoing therapy and looking for analogies to her own life found in the works of favorite authors Virginia Woolf and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, as she attempts to shape a narrative that identifies the moments that wounded her mother and crippled the formation of a healthy mother-daughter bond. The artwork in Are You My Mother? is pen and brush with delicate grey and red washes, offering  a deceptively comic-strip-like simplicity that lightens the densely-written and sophisticated subject matter.

Subject Headings: Motherhood; Mothers and daughters; Teenage daughters—coming out; Parent and child; Suicide; Feminism; Psychoanalysis; Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941; Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971; Artists

Appeal: Detailed, dramatic, eccentric, intriguing secondary characters, introspective, well developed, character centered, complex, domestic, episodic, layered, literary references, sexually explicit, thought-provoking, contemporary, detailed setting, details of psychoanalytic theory, elaborate, metaphorical, sophisticated, unusual

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: introspective, layered, thought-provoking

Similar Authors and Works:

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Projections: Comics and the History of Twenty-First-Century Storytelling (2012) by Jared Gardner

Readers who admire the scope and depth of Bechdel’s graphic storytelling will find much to explore in Gardner’s recent lively, yet somewhat academic, tome. Gardner offers an interpretation of comics as an art form which encourages interactivity in deciphering its contents and a model for contemporary modes of communication. There are multiple passages on Bechdel’s work which contextualize her place in the comics field.

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland (2012) by Harvey Pekar

Bechdel works in the form known in graphic novel circles as autobiographical comics. Those who want to read more of this type of story may wish to acquaint themselves with Harvey Pekar, one of the seminal figures in this genre who helped define its contours. Where Are You My Mother? uses literary reference and psychoanalysis as a context for Bechdel’s self-exploration, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in rich detail describes the deep impact that place and history have in shaping identity. Cartoonish but heavily-rendered pen and ink drawings highlight both the grit and charm of urban Cleveland.

Donald Winnicott Today (2012) edited by Jan Abram

The work and life of child psychoanalyst and theorist Winnicott are front and center in the narrative of Are You My Mother?  Bechdel comes to terms with life-long insecurities and decodes her troubled relationship with her mother, relying heavily on Winnicott’s models of mother-child dynamics. Readers who want to explore Winnicott’s work further will find this an accessible and thoughtfully assembled overview of his contributions to the field of Psychoanalysis.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

To the Lighthouse (1927; various editions) by Virginia Woolf

Bechdel’s work is heavily influenced by the English writer Virginia Woolf. Although many of her books are discussed in Are You My Mother?, Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse receives particular attention for its story of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past, which mirrors Bechdel’s emotional journey. Believed to be the most autobiographical of all Woolf’s psychological fiction, To the Lighthouse, with its lyrical style and reflective tone, will surely appeal to readers intrigued by the glimpses of the novel found in Are You My Mother?

Stuck Rubber Baby (New Edition; 2010) by Howard Cruse

Newcomers to comics featuring LGBT protagonists and themes who wish to explore further will find an incredibly rich and varied tradition awaiting them. One of the first widely critically-acclaimed graphic novels dealing with gay themes to receive national attention was Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby, first published in 1995. Moving and reflective, and with a strong sense of place, the story follows the exploits of a young man named Toland Polk discovering his sexuality against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s.

Wandering Son, Book 1 (2011) by Shimura Takako

Are You My Mother? explores the thematic territory of gender identity and coming of age as does the moving and character-driven manga Wandering Son.  Two fifth graders on the cusp of puberty share a secret: Shuichi is a boy who wishes he were a girl and Yoshino a girl who wishes she were a boy. Shimura’s spare and evocative art will likely appeal to fans of Bechdel’s stylized and emotionally expressive drawings.

Name: John Rimer

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

March 16, 2011

Find at Local Library

Author: Goonan, Kathleen Ann

Title: In War Times

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 348 p.

Geographical Setting: United States and various European countries

Time Period: 1941-1980

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: Soldier Sam Dance, who enlists during WWII, receives mysterious plans from his professor one night. The captivating nature of her disappearance and the plans she provides result in Sam’s attempt to build her secret device, right under the nose of the military. The effects of this produce intriguing and surprising results in this alternate-reality novel. The plot-centered story creates a sophisticated, richly-detailed setting combined with both historical references and a healthy dose of physics.

Subject Headings: Science fiction; Alternative histories (Fiction); Time travel, Fiction; World War II; The Forties (20th century); Saxophonists; Time travel (Future); Technology; Jazz music; Jazz musicians; Soldiers; Brothers — death; Technology and civilization; Futurism; Women physicists; Men/women relations.

Appeal: Bleak, chilling, complex, contemplative, deliberate, densely written, detailed, detailed setting, elaborate, engaging, historic details, intriguing, investigative, issue-oriented, layered, measured, political, resolved ending, sophisticated, thought-provoking, unhurried, well-developed.

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: Plot-centered, complex, unusual.

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

John Birmingham, After America, follows Iraq after an energy wave disrupts North America. Dystopian with military aspects as well, but more contemporary.

Dexter Palmer, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, provides a steampunk, alternate reality novel involving aircrafts and physics.

Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver, is set in the time of Isaac Newton and promises as much adventure as science and math.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon, provides a collection of tales revolving around the periodic table and scientific discoveries. The humorous tone of the book entices non-scientists as well.

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, follows the engrossing history of the HeLa gene, DNA that was stolen from her at death for the benefits of science.

Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten, examines the youth of Oliver Sacks and provides an unusual perspective of his “chemical” upbringing.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Carlen

More Information than You Require

April 14, 2010

Author:  John Hodgman

TitleMore Information than You Require

Genre:  Nonfiction; Audio book

Publication Date:  2009

Running Time:  12hrs., 45 min.

Geographical Setting: Hodgman’s mind

Time Period:  Current Day

Series:  Not officially, but a continuation of Hodgman’s first book, The Areas of My Expertise

Plot Summary:  What do you get when you cross a book of mostly-untrue facts, witty insights into family life, and the dry humor of a minor television personality (the “PC guy” from the Apple commercials)? This question sums up More Information than You Require. Hodgman’s newest book is a follow-up to the complete world knowledge found in his first book, The Areas of My Expertise. Because, as we all know, and as Hodgman tells us, complete world knowledge cannot be contained in one book; it is a living thing that must be consistently chronicled.

This irreverent book of knowledge is comprised of made-up facts, useless trivia, and insights into the mole-men who still live among us. Hodgman’s book does not tell a story; instead, it is more along the lines of a running satire of an almanac—as you follow along with Hodgman’s logic, you find yourself believing such silly facts, like Napoleon was the first man on the moon or that a certain United States president wore a necklace of skulls.  Tempered with vignettes about Hodgman’s actual life (which are often sweet and funnier than the made-up facts), More Information than You Require is a fun and funny book to enjoy when you need a light-hearted look at the world around us.

As an audio book: Reading the physical book and listening to the audio book are two completely different experiences for More Information than You Require. The physical book contains charts, graphs, pictures, and unique word styles to create the satirical almanac feel. However, the audio book experience is more like listening to a twelve-hour long podcast: Hodgman is reading, but also has friends come to play music, mix drinks, and generally have a good time. With an opening by Paul Rudd, musical talents of the “feral mountain man” (as Hodgman likes to call him) Jonathan Coulton (who, as all good YouTube watchers know, created such sensations as “Code Monkey”), Ricky Gervais, Ira Glass, Rachel Maddow, Sarah Vowell, and Zach Galifianakis. Hodgman’s NPR roots show with the audio book, as at times the listener feels like he/she is on an episode of Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, or in the variety show A Prairie Home Companion. Whether Rachel Maddow is making turn-of-the-century French cocktails (with Red Bull and absinthe, of course) or Coulton is creating jingles for dog food, this audio book is for the listener who needs a lot of different types of stimulation when experiencing a book.

Subject Headings:  Humor writing—general, American humor

Appeal: deliberate, easy, leisurely-paced, eccentric, engaging, quirky, character-centered, folksy, episodic, contemporary, edgy, flamboyant, humorous, playful, sarcastic, upbeat, chatty, conversational, elaborate, engaging, flamboyant, journalistic, sophisticated, unusual, vivid, witty

3 terms that best describe this book: satirical, witty, quirky

Similar Authors and Works:


The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell: What better way to learn about the history of the Puritans than through the witty, dry humor of Sarah Vowell? Readers who enjoy Hodgman’s tone and the historical aspects of his book will love Vowell’s thorough and insightful look into this aspect of the American past.

America (The Book), by Jon Stewart: Another take on American history, Stewart creates a “textbook” of sorts to provide witty and sarcastic insight into the more ridiculous aspects of our past. Readers who enjoy the unique format and tone of Hodgman’s book will find Stewart’s work in the same tradition.

Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris: Cheeky insights into American life coupled with witty writing makes Sedaris a good companion to Hodgman’s work. The short story format will satisfy the less focused readers, and the sarcastic humor will keep the reader engaged.


Postcards from the Edge, by Carrie Fisher: The frank and sarcastic tone that Fisher takes with her novel compliments the tone created by Hodgman. Although dealing with far deeper issues, Fisher’s witty insights into life behind the rehab walls keeps this pseudo-memoir from becoming morose and instead creates a world where we can all laugh and cry at our own addictions.

A Model World and Other Stories, by Michael Chabon: The short story format along with the ironic and humorous tone makes Chabon an excellent compliment to Hodgman. Readers who want something a little more understated with the same type of tone will enjoy Chabon’s collection.

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby: The readers who enjoy the pop culture aspect of Hodgman’s work will enjoy Hornby’s humorous tale of the owner of a failing record store.

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009 by Christine Edison

Author: Naomi Novik

Title: His Majesty’s Dragon

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 264

Geographical Setting: Great Britain

Time Period: 19th Century, Napoleonic Wars

Series: Temeraire

Plot summary: Captain Lawrence and his crew capture a French frigate carrying a precious cargo: a dragon’s egg. Before they can bring it to land, it hatches, and the dragon chooses to bond with Lawrence as his master. (Lawrence names him Temeraire after a British warship.) Lawrence must therefore leave the Navy and become an aviator, which ruffles the feathers of his admiral, his family, and the Royal Flying Corps – but he is a man of honor and soldiers through. Lawrence and Temeraire travel to Scotland for battle training and are eventually sent to Dover to defend the English Channel against French invaders. He also begins a casual romantic relationship with one of the female pilots in the Corps.

Appeal: densely written, engrossing, authentic, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Subject headings:

Novik, Naomi
Science Fiction – Alternative History

Alternative histories (Fiction)
Fiction / Fantasy / HistoricalFantasy – Epic

Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
Ship captains
Fantasy romance

3 terms that best describe the book: Historical details, evocative, sophisticated

Three relevant nonfiction authors and similar works:

Patrick O’Brian’s Navy by Richard Neill gives a vivid picture of what life was like for British sailors of different ranks serving on tall ships during the Napoleonic Wars. This compendium is a companion to the Aubrey-Maturin series listed below, which is based on a British Naval officer serving during this time period.

Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era by George F. Nafziger is a review of political, military and popular historical figures, as well as artistic movements, cultural and theological events during the Napoleonic Era, 1789-1815. Novik refers to historical events at times in the Temeraire series, particularly in regards to Napoleon and what was happening elsewhere in Europe, and this book could help fill in gaps for readers eager to learn more about the period.

The Dragon in China and Japan by Marinus Willem de Visser explores numerous stories of dragons in Chinese and Japanese culture in this revised text with a new introduction by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Temeraire the dragon’s background in China is discussed in His Majesty’s Dragon (with more to follow in the second book, Throne of Jade), and the dragon receives a book of stories about Asian dragons during the course of the story, which he asks Captain Lawrence to read to him again and again.

Three Fiction Titles:

The Hornblower saga by C.S. Forester, The Ramage series by Dudley Pope, and The Aubrey Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian are all well-known action-adventure series set on the high seas in British tall ships during the Napoleonic era. The Temeraire series features battle scenes as well as shipboard life scenes much like those seen in these books.

Persuasion by Jane Austen includes many discussions of the British Navy and shows the women’s side of life at this time. Naval officers are featured as characters, and there are discussions as to what a woman’s proper place is when he husband is to go to sea, a theme taken up in the Temeraire series, where women are part of the Air Corps.

The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey features humans riding fire-breathing dragons to burn away threads that would otherwise kill off all life on the planet of Pern. Scenes of humans tending their dragon charges and bonding with them are much like what happens in His Majesty’s Dragon.

Annotation By: Christine Edison

Tags: densely written, engrossing, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Posted in Fantasy