July 20th, 2005

last unicorn

Long-Overdue Book Post

I have fallen terribly behind in my book blogging. This is my attempt to catch up!

20) Geek Love (Katherine Dunn)
This books is captivating and disturbing all at once. It's very well-written, and evokes plenty of sympathy for the characters, even when their actions are profoundly unsettling. In some ways, there's a train wreck going on: you want to cheer for the narrator and see her overcome the past and move on, but at the same time it seems impossible that she'll ever be able to do that.****

21) Re-Orienting Western Feminisms (Chilla Bulbeck)
This book is an example of an academic trying too hard, biting off more than she can chew. Her intentions are good -- she sets out to question some of the unthinking assumptions that middle-class white western feminists have often made about what feminism is and what its immediate goals should be. Unfortunately, her methodology largely consists of throwing counterexamples and conjecture at the issues, from a too-wide variety of "other" viewpoints. Too often, the discussion degenerates into 'western feminists typically say this, while women from x culture might look at it this way and women from y culture might prefer to focus on this other thing'. The book certainly does question assumptions, but it provides no answers and makes no serious attempt to chart a way forward, having acknowledged that there are other ways to look at feminist issues. ***

22, 23, 24) Planetary (vols. 1, 2, 3) (Warren Ellis et al)
I'm counting these together, because I pretty much read them back to back while sitting about the house one weekend. This is a very good comic series, and perhaps the first case I can remember where the individual issues stand more-or-less on their own, rather than being part of an overarching story arc. These are collections of short stories, rather than graphic novels, although there is certainly one large, slowly-building storyline connecting them all together. The stories themselves are good, quirky takes on common tropes of comics/sf/adventure fiction, and the characters are sympathetic, if rather lightly sketched in terms of personality. My one major complaint is that sometimes it becomes a little too "meta" -- too busy commenting on comics at large. There are moments that, while they certainly appeal to the comics geek, are more distracting than anything else. There are too many appearances by characters who are obviously "supposed to be" analogues to DC or Marvel universe characters (with just enough differences to say 'don't sue me!'), when it could just as well have been an entirely independent creation. I suspect, though, that the mainstream comics analogues are part of the 'point' of this series. It's a shame, as it puts up a 'block' for readers not versed in the history of traditional comics. Fortunately, it's not front-and-centre in the majority of the stories, and thus far, they have mostly (though not entirely) been capable of standing on their own. ****

25) Women, Gender, Religion: A Reader (ed. Elizabeth A. Castelli and Rosamond C. Rodman)
An anthology of essays on the title topics. Like most anthologies, some inclusions are very interesting and valuable, and some are rather less so. This one succeeds in being heavier on the first kind than the second. I am still not smart enough to read anything Donna Haraway writes. ****

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