The Arrival, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Shortcomings

The Arrival, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Shortcomings

My picks from tomorrow’s Times’ Sunday Book Review with a bent for the other, miscellaneous and alternative. Hopefully this will be a recurring linkroll that I can keep up with each week. This week of November 11 (11/11!), I choose you, Pikachu! I mean, the Children’s Book section reviews of Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival” — graphic novel, a wordless, timeless meditation on “not an immigrant’s story, but the immigrant’s story,” and Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”, his first young-adult title. Also Adrian Tomine’s “Shortcomings,” another graphic novel, about 30-year-old “anti-hero” Ben Tanaka, dealing with his career-driven girlfriend that leaves Cali for NY, a lesbian Korean graduate friend, sprinkled with his penchant for blondes. “The Arrival” has also been picked as one of the Times’ ten Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2007. Link to slideshow gallery

And finally, despite all the other notable books written about in this weeks section including a Picasso biography, an elaborate Star Wars pop-up book, a new translation of Dante’s “Paradiso”… just for kicks… get ready for it… I would like to write about a book review I read today in the review section, of a book written about “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read”, and want you to keep in mind that I haven’t read the actual book, but rather only the book review. Translated from French, psychoanalyst and professor of lit Pierre Bayard gives reason and thought to why he “doesn’t blame us for fudging [about books we haven’t read], and he doesn’t want us to blame ourselves.” He apparently says it’s okay!

Just one more reason I think a recap on books we haven’t read yet could become a nice record and incentive to do just that — read more.

All right. Now, choice quotes from each of the above New York times reviews after the jump, plus pretty books covers for you to judge by(!) And just how to talk about that book you haven’t read.

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  • “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan“By placing photorealistic human figures in abstract, surreal environments, Tan evokes the intimacy of an individual immigrant experience without ever settling on a specific person, time or place. […] Inside [the book’s pages], borderless sepia panels are arranged in careful grids. Creases and unidentifiable splotches elegantly blemish many of the pages. […]
    The effect is mesmerizing. Reading “The Arrival” feels like paging through a family treasure newly discovered up in the attic.”
    – Gene Luen Yang, author of “American Born Chinese”
  • “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney “[…] is Alexie’s first foray into the young adult genre, and it took him only one book to master the form. Recently nominated for a National Book Award, this is a gem of a book. I keep flipping back to re-read the best scenes and linger over Ellen Forney’s cartoons. […] For 15 years now, Sherman Alexie has explored the struggle to survive between the grinding plates of the Indian and white worlds. He’s done it through various characters and genres, but [this] may be his best work yet. Working in the voice of a 14-year-old forces Alexie to strip everything down to action and emotion, so that reading becomes more like listening to your smart, funny best friend recount his day while waiting after school for a ride home.” – Bruce Barcott, contributing editor at Outside magazine
  • “Shortcomings” by Adrian Tomine“Ben is a fascinating, maddening character, […] Tomine takes voyeuristic delight in capturing every gruesome facial expression of a couple in midargument. The author is an expert at hooking the reader without tricks or obvious effort, and you’ll be tempted to buzz through “Shortcomings” in an hour. But you’ll want to slow down to take in the detailed black-and-white panels that casually document the way we live now. […] his latest investigation into matters of the heart has gently led him to the stuff of more obvious social relevance. In its mood and its analysis of how male sexuality is tied up with ethnicity and social status, “Shortcomings” finds itself somewhere between “Goodbye, Columbus” and “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Eventually, Tomine may have his “American Pastoral.” – Jim Windolf, contributing editor at Vanity Fair
  • “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” by Pierre Bayard, translated by Jeffery Mehlman“He proposes, and employs, a new set of scholarly abbreviations to go along with op. cit. and ibid.: UB: book unknown to me; SB: book I have skimmed; HB: book I have heard about; and FB: book I have forgotten. […] After anatomizing the different types of nonreading, Bayard addresses the social implications in a section called “Literary Confrontations.” I commend his advice for meeting an author and being forced to say something about his or her new book: “Praise it without going into detail.” […] Bayard finally reveals his diabolical intent: he claims that talking about books you haven’t read is “an authentic creative activity.” As a teacher of literature, he seems to believe that his ultimate goal is to encourage creativity. “All education,” he writes, “should strive to help those receiving it to gain enough freedom in relation to works of art to themselves become writers and artists.” – Jay McInerney, author of “A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine” and others

Tags: Adrian Tomine, manga, Shaun Tan, Sherman Alexie