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« July, 2012 »
Opium Fiend

Enjoyed this. Got it from a friend who knows the author so I read it before I’d read much about it. I enjoy reading about drugs and expat stories are often interesting and this book was a good combination of the two. This is Martin’s own story basically about how he became an opium addict, went through detox and .... maybe still smokes a little now and then, hard to say. The book is more about his fascination with being a collector of things, in this case both opium paraphernalia and lore, and how that frenzy toward collecting drove the rest of his decision-making.

It’s tough to tell by reading just this one account if Martin’s claims about himself are true. He’s very insistent that he is one of the most knowledgeable people on the history of opium and particularly the tools of opium smoking in the entire world and maybe that’s true. He has a high opinion of himself and his observations which makes this book an interesting read but also makes me want to read more about the topic generally to get other opinions. As he slides into opium dependence, he writes well about what it’s like to not really notice that you are getting trapped by a thing until you’re already too far gone. There is also a lot of space in the middle of the book where, describing his opium smoking with other people, he reaches a level of detail that is probably fascinating if you are high, and less so if you are not. This is a familiar thing to people who are recreational drug users. The sheer amount of factual detail (plus a great bibliography) makes this book really worth a looksee. For someone who talks so much about himself, Martin does not have much of a presence online besides what can be found via his Opium Museum website.

Moving Target

Another one of those great mystery books about a book. This one is heavy on the romance and a little less heavy on the bibliophilia, but Lowell does an admirable job predicting (when this book was written in 2002) what sorts of technologies people in the high class rarities business would be using that still rings true in 2012. This is the first book of Lowell’s that I’ve read and from the Amazon reviews it seems that people don’t think it measures up to her better work. I liked this book just fine but I like even more that there are better books by her yet to read.

Low Moon

A weird and interesting spare graphic novel by a Norwegian cartoonist who usually goes by the pen name Jason. I found this at the library and it was one of the thicker graphic novels that I hadn’t yet read. It’s a collection of four sort of weird stories all of which feature vaguely animal-like characters in more or less human situations. There’s a bleakness and a strangeness to their interactions that I found pretty interesting.

The Murder Room

This was a really well put together book about the three principal figures of the Vidocq Society, a group of people with an interest in crime-solving and forensics who get together at fancy events and try to solve cold cases. They had come to my attention when one of the top members, Frank Bender a known artist and criminalist who was great at recreating faces from skulls, passed away and had a glowing obit in the New York Times. Someone suggested this book and I really enjoyed it. It goes into specific cases and how different people from different backgrounds [more standard detective, forensic psychologist and profiler, Bender the artist] approach things and how they work better often when they are together. It’s a great book for people who enjoy true crime stories but find a lot of true crime novels a bit too over the top sensationalist. This has a lot more of the seemingly boring cop work behind the scenes and makes a much more interesting read.

Beanworld Book 1: Wahoolazuma!

Read these all in a row. Reviewed all together.

Beanworld Volume 2: A Gift Comes!

Read these all in a row. Reviewed all together.

Beanworld Book 3: Remember Here When You Are There!

Loved all three of these books. Two of them are an old set of stories repackaged and sold with the newer third volume, all put out by Dark Horse. This is one of those graphic novels that you read and enjoy so much you wonder why you have never heard of it before. It’s a very black and white, 2D internally consistent world with a few major and minor players and almost a Mister Rogers type vibe where people are more or less happy if slightly naive and the days have a peaceful repetitive quality to them. Marder’s drawings are simple and yet very full of expression. The story lines are simple and yet open to a lot of interpretation. The characters are archetypes yet also complicated. Folks may also know Marder as the president of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a really important organization that helps fight censorship. Marder also has a website which helps keep you up on what he is doing as well as BeanWeb which is a fun [and dormant] fan site.

Cracker Ingenuity

This was a Possum Living type book with a more humorous slant loosely about how to do more with less in a particularly Southern/Redneck style. Hard to tell from just reading it how much of this advice is tongue-in-cheek and/or ironic and how much of it is worth paying attention to, but the book’s design and layout are interesting and keep you thumbing through it and I learned some things I hadn’t known before.

The Surrogate Thief

Another enjoyable cop-type procedural by Mayor. Liked this one especially because it ventured into Massachusetts where my sister works at the crime lab as well as into Waterbury to Vermont’s crime lab, so I got to see some places I recognized. Fun and interesting book, great ending. Classic Mayor.

The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

A collection of short essays from Thomas Lynch a Catholic poet and small-town undertaker who talks about his job and other related topics. I didn’t always agree with his perspective but it was always interesting to read.

The Extinction Club

Picked it up on a bargain rack thinking “This looks interesting, why haven’t I read it?” and then realized through reading it: because it is terrible. The author is so into his own head and his own story (about his wife who is having a baby, about the narrative devices he creates out of whole cloth, about his own musings about what he thinks is funny or interesting about this story) that he basically fails to tell you most of the story. This might be okay if you liked the guy and the way his mind worked. I didn’t.