This is not a Karl Wolf song…regretfully

Apologies all around for taking far too long to feed the hungry blog-monster. I’ve been busy trying to figure out computational linguistics. And also designing my She-Ra, Princess of Power, costume for when I (fingers crossed) crash Comic-Con. It will happen. Oh yes, it will happen. For the honour of Greyskull!

Okay, so maybe I spent a little too much time on the latter, but computational linguistics is just a class; She-Ra is forever.

So what’s on the block today? It’s Habibi by Craig Thompson. (I know, another graphic novel, right? Shut up.) Brace yourself, it’s going to get mean.

Let’s get this out of the way. I hated this book…graphic novel…thing. No, seriously, I hated it. Hated it. HATED IT. Just talking about it is making me all agitated and smashy.

So what did I hate? Story-wise, everything. The non-place Islamic-y setting was not the abstract fairytale landscape the author was going for; instead, it made the story inaccessible and confusing. Tone-wise, the typical combination of whinging, grandiosity, and pretentious self-awareness that characterizes Thompson’s other works, Blankets and Carnet de Voyage (there’s another I haven’t read, and won’t). I didn’t hate the characters, but I found them to be both inconsistent and unrealistic.

And then shit got weird. Cough castration cough. Yeah, it was disturbing. What is the deal with this guy and sex? Craig, buddy, I know you had an effed up, religious upbringing, but dude, seriously. Get over it. Don’t you live in Portland now? Portland, where the dream of the ’90s lives, where everybody’s freak flag flies high and freaky. Put a bird on it. Chill out. It’s okay to like sex. Please don’t cut off your boules robotiques.  Crikee.

The whole sex-guilt thing got pretty boring, and the way Thompson lingered over it (and boy did he linger–this book is freaking massive, like two hundred pages longer than it should have been) felt veeery uncomfortable. Like someone was enjoying it all a little too much. Reveling in sexual violence, exploitation, and, ultimately, mutilation, while never managing to convey any discernible message condemning these practices (not even exploring them in a thoughtful way) made Habibi feel like very pretty torture porn.

Lots of other people have talked about the problems of appropriation and racism that are present in this book, so I won’t. I will say I found it too inert and, frankly, ridiculous, to be truly offensive. It was reductive, repetitive, unfocused, and sophomoric.

But damn, it was pretty. I have never admired the beauty of something I hated so much (oh wait, that’s a lie; several ex-boyfriends can be included in the god-I-hate-you-but-DAMN-you’re-pretty category). Check it:

Rating: Because of the art alone, I give this book/graphic novel: One out of five ‘deeply metaphorical’ (um, yeah, right) ruined boats in the desert.

I prefer this habibi. Yum. Screw you, Craig  – let’s all do some crazy sexy-dancing, librarian style. By belly-dancing and fake-flamencoing in a sexy style around our tiny kitchens and grim, shoebox apartments while hugging our irritated cats to our woefully single bosoms! WOOOO!

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Uh-oh. More poetry.

I know, so much poetry, right? You’re probably thinking, what the cuss is wrong with this fool? What, does she think she’s some spinster bluestocking governess mooning over her brooding and taciturn employer, wandering the moors with her book of poetry clasped to her bosom, sighing and occasionally spouting lines of Keats while discreetly trying not to sully her hem? (Okay, so maybe I’ve been reading a little too much of the Bronte sisters. And watching the films inspired by them. And lusting over Michael Fassbender. And Tom Hardy. Shut up.)

See, I was reading all of this poetry over the holidays, when reading poetry was a completely logical thing to do and not at all a depressing and very very stupid thing to do. But, as a great hobbit once said, I’ve put this off for far too long, so I’m just going to bite the bullet and keep it short. Here we go.

First up: Pablo Neruda, specifically, his first collection (published when he was only nineteen years old – nineteen!!!), by Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair) (1924).

I have absolutely nothing to say about this. If you’ve read this, you’ll know what I’m talking about; if you haven’t, you just have to read this. Please. Do yourself a favour. Trust me. You will thank me.

My favourite, and arguably the most famous of the collection: “Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche” (“Tonight I can write the saddest lines”). A brilliant, lovely, bittersweet meditation on past loves. Especially good for those of us anticipating a solitary February. (Stupid February. )

Lastly, the fascinating Anna Akhmatova. By some freakish chance or literary miracle, I stumbled across the complete works in my local public library (I know, right? Score!)

Perhaps not as well-known in the West as Neruda, Akhmatova is truly a poetic genius, and is considered one of the great Russian poets of the twentieth century. Her life story is incredible and tragic; her poetry is beautiful. (Forgive me if I start gushing like a crazed fan-girl. This is unavoidable when I talk about her.) Stark, direct, restrained – and yet, piercing and unsettling and affecting. A few lines can reduce me to the ugliest crying you can imagine (don’t try to imagine it, though, it’s really ugly). Much of her early poetry is melancholy; the speaker often seems brittle and tense, like a girl on the edge of shattering. Small details, like a glove placed on the wrong hand, a hand on a knee, or glowing candles, make each short piece vivid, like a single frame from a film we’ve all seen. I love her earlier work, especially the poems from Evening (1912) and Rosary (1914), but Akhmatova also wrote some incredible long poems during World War II, and kept writing until her death in 1966.

Akhmatova’s poetry is easy to find online, too, if you don’t have the library luck I had.

So that’s poetry done with for now. God, what a downer, right? Not funny at all, and hardly any links or anything. I’m off, aren’t I? Shut up, you try being me. Sorry, sorry. I’ve been in school too long, people. It’s starting to get to me. And then there’s the mounting terror at the prospect of life beyond school. I’ll let Ray explain:

Ah, Ray. So true.

Anyway. I promise, next week will be better. I’ve got some good stuff for you. You’ll see. You’ll all see. Mwa ha ha ha haaaaa. (What the what? I dunno… I’m tired. Robyn OUT.)

P.S. – I forgot to rate these masterpieces… What a maroon!

I’m pretty sure it goes without saying that it’s five out of five slices of fried gold for both Neruda and Akhmatova. Huzzahs all around!