The Ten-Cent Plague
by David Hajdu
2008 • 448 pages • Farrar, Straus and Giroux
I hate it when mediums and genres are conflated. It smacks of intellectual laziness to me to insist that cartoons are inherently for children, or, in an example more pertinent to today’s book, that comic books are synonymous with superhero comics. Percentage wise, that audience and that genre, respectively, dominate each medium, but they are not inherently better suited to that thing than any other medium. With the cultural ascendency of Marvel and (in my anecdotal experience) an increased interest in comics in general, it’s important to remember the medium’s roots—and the controversy it once engendered.
David Hajdu’s The Ten-Cent Plague starts at the dawn of comic books—which starts, naturally, with comic strips in newspapers—and follows the medium through a turbulent period in American history, when comic books were blamed for the supposed onslaught of juvenile delinquency, comic book burnings actually happened (barely a decade or two after World War II!), and comic book publishers were seen as unsavory at best and demonic at worst. And this is all long before Spider-Man took Marvel to the top in the sixties.
Hild by Nicola Griffith
While Nicola Griffith’s bibliography includes award-winning speculative fiction, it’s not a particular stretch to find her writing historical fiction. Historical fiction and speculative fiction—especially fantasy—often walk hand in hand. They share similar challenges, not the least of which is how to bring the world of the story to life. The only difference is how close you have to stick to your research: the speculative fiction author can follow or wander away from their research at a whim; the historical author’s goal is to stick to the historical script. This, of course, means that both genres are equally susceptible to Worldbuilder’s Disease. After all, you did do all that research… you wouldn’t want it to go to waste, right?
Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
I know, I know; there’s a reason “you should never judge a book by its cover” is one of the cliches. But I can’t help it! I’m a visual person, and when you’re galloping through NetGalley in a soon-to-be postgraduate panic, you only really stop to look at the shiny things. And so Cinnamon and Gunpowder caught my eye look before my brain registered the title or plot. It told me everything I needed to know to want to pick it up: it involved a lady pirate with clearly mad swagger and her chef captive. I haven’t seen Cutthroat Island, but the same part of my brain that demands I see it before I die was the same part that yelled at me to request it now. More often than not, this kind of poor impulse control doesn’t work out well for me. But sometimes, it does.
We Killed by Yael Kohen
I was disappointed with Bridesmaids. When I finally watched after hearing all the hype about how this was the film that proved female comedies could work, I was underwhelmed. It’s still an important milestone in that it proved to both studios and a wide audience that women could carry a Judd Apatow comedy, but I wished it had been proven with a earthshakingly hilarious film instead of this. But perhaps I should be more disappointed in a culture that had to have it proved that women could be funny (and in a way anointed by Apatow). I mean, I’m part of an all-lady MST3K-style comedy troupe that brings me to tears every Thursday night. As Yael Kohen says in the introduction to this book, “Women have always been funny. It’s just that every success is called an exception and every failure an example of the rule” (5).
Bitchfest edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler
I don’t remember the moment I became a feminist. Presumably, it occurred around the point my mother determined that I would not be raised in the Catholic Church and didn’t come up with an alternative, so I would have been negative a few months old. Of course, being an itty bitty ace feminist didn’t stop me from being alarmingly femmephobic throughout my adolescence, but I like to think that my feminism is in a constant state of evolution. Even so, my formerly impervious pop culture bubble didn’t particularly allow me access to magazines like Bitch or Bust, but there’s no time like the present to catch up, especially when they just go ahead and publish a greatest hits collection. Merci!
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
When The Marriage Plot dropped last year, I, as well as most of my campus, was eager to get at it. When I attended a panel on the Denver Publishing Institute, every head turned when a professor walked in with a fresh package from Amazon bearing the tome. I even took a picture of it, just for that extra hint of creepy. But I despaired of getting my own hands on a copy in a timely fashion, and let it simmer on a backburner for a while. So imagine my delight when I walked into my library at home and found not one, but two shiny copies on the New Fiction shelf. It’s part of the reason I was able to plow through A Feast for Crows in such a timely fashion…
The True Memoirs of Little K by Adrienne Sharp
Russian Winter and The True Memoirs of Little K are linked in my head, like most pairings I look at in my Literary Horizon posts. While they’re set at different times, both focus on aging Russian ballerinas looking back at their lives. Russian Winter was ultimately just okay, so I was hoping for The True Memoirs of Little K to be better or, at the very least, more entertaining. Sadly, however, it turned out to be worse than Russian Winter. Yeesh.
The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
After reading David Levithan’s contribution to Geektastic, “Quiz Bowl Antichrist”, I knew I had to read more of this man’s wonderful writing. Oddly enough, the universe agreed—I won a copy of his latest, The Lover’s Dictionary, on Twitter a few days after finishing that anthology. The Lover’s Dictionary began life as a Valentine’s Day story written for Levithan’s friends; accordingly, it was published on Valentine’s Day of this year. When I finally swung by the college post office to pick up my book, I took it back and read it in one setting. That’s both because of the fact that this book is so short—it’s a collection of dictionary entries—and because Levithan’s writing is so wonderful.