[I've been
« November, 2012 »
Sideshow: Ten Original Tales of Freaks, Illusionists and Other Matters Odd and Magical

A friend handed this to me as I was preparing to take a long train trip and I read it in fits and starts. It’s a YA collection of freak show fiction, stories specifically about sideshows and circuses and that sort of thing. A few of the stories have no circus on them at all but some other odd or mysterious event. A few of the stories are in illustrated graphic format. Many of them stick with you. It’s a book for teens so it’s not too freakish and is more of a sideshow-starter volume, but worth picking up if you thing Geek Love may be a little too mature for your freak-fascinated teen.

The Hobo Handbook: A Field Guide to Living by Your Own Rules

Got this form a friend who knows how much I like to travel. This is a neat little guide to how you can maybe drop out of the rat race. It’s got a scary quiz in the first few pages where you answer a few questions about your personality and your comfort level with various things and then Mack gives you advice on whether you’d be good at being a hobo [for me: no]. Which is fine, I guess, assuming hobo means riding the rails. And at some level this book is good at giving you various hobo options that aren’t just freight hopping but it seems to suffer from a lack of focus. The prime example sidebars of the “Did you know X was a hobo?” are all about drifters and freight hoppers and most of the book caters towards people riding the rails with some not-too-veiled snootiness towards people still stuck in “the rat race”

And yet, at the same time, I don’t get the feeling that Mack has actually done any of this. While I’m sure he’s traveled at times and stayed in hostels or with friends and maybe met other travelers, there is no first person commentary about any of the things he suggests [making stew from squirrels, avoiding the bulls in train yards] and so instead of a guide to doing this sort of thing for real, we get more of a well-researched “this is what I have learned form other people” approach without really even citing those people. All in all while I liked reading this book, I learned very little from it except that Mack is probably a good researcher and reads the same websites that I do. The graphic design which includes pages designed to look thumbed over and messy (and the occasional black on grey text) doesn’t really add much and in fact makes the book sometimes difficult to read. All in all an okay book for someone who knows nothing about hobo culture, I’d skip it otherwise.

Is This the Way to Fiction?

I’ve got a standing search to look for graphic novels that I haven’t already read when I am browsing paperbackswap and if I have any credits available I’ll try to get the things I haven’t read that aren’t manga. This was an interesting but uneven collection of Sassaman’s work. It was strongest during his childhood recollection pieces, about the Marx Brothers and about going to the Jersey Shore (particularly poignant this month) and least strong where he was just outlining slice of life stuff. He’s a good illustrator, but a better storyteller when there is a story to tell but it seemed like sometimes he’d make up a story if one wasn’t readily available. I’d like to pick up some of his other work to see if it gives off a different vibe.