KLEZMER: TALES OF THE WILD EAST VOL. 1
I read a lot of comix this month, and this was one of my favorites. I already associated Joan Sfar with music and mysticism, and this story has both of those plus murder and romance and adventure. The panels felt crowded onto the page sometimes, and I wished the book had been printed in a larger format like THE RABBI'S CAT (an even more excellent comic by Sfar), but it's a good story and I hope the rest of the volumes will be translated into English soon.
At the end of the book, Sfar included an essay that he wrote about music, creativity, Jewishness, colonialism, personal and cultural and national identity, God, suffering, etc. - it's really good! "I believe God loves those moments in which we do without him. ... Good parents are glad to see their children become adults." Woah!
PAPER GIRLS VOL. 1
This was my other favorite comic this month. The night before I read it I watched the first two episodes of STRANGER THINGS with Paul and Nikki. If you like that show you'll probly like PAPER GIRLS too. They're both set in the 80s, they're both about monsters and middle schoolers on bikes, and they're both really good and really fun, but the story in PAPER GIRLS is even more nuts and the girls are more badass than the boys.
One day a few months ago while I was pursuing my own interests on wikipedia and the wider internet I came across something that mentioned ALAMUT and added it to a list of books in my brain to eventually read. The next day, while we were sitting in our office, Mehmet looked up from his computer and said "Do you know this book ALAMUT?" And the day after that, Huseyin saw a different book that I had just bought and said "You should read ALAMUT" and told how the last time his sister went home she had seen their grandpa reading Huseyin's old copy of ALAMUT. Everything was aligning to tell me to read this book, but I couldn't find it in English in Turkey so I asked my parents and brother to bring two copies with them when they came in May.
ALAMUT - like SAMARKAND - takes place in 11th century Iran. They have a few of the same characters, but this one is about Hassan al-Sabbah instead of Omar Khayyam. Hassan was the leader of a cult/military order and he trained a few of his followers to be fearless killers by convincing them that he had access to Paradise. These guys are sometimes called the first trained assassins, but the Sicarii were around hundreds of years earlier.
Another way this book is similar to SAMARKAND is that I wanted to love it but I only liked it. The first half builds and builds but then it plateaus too early and focuses too much on Hassan instead of the more interesting characters of Halima and ibn Tahir. Still, it's a good, relevant look at the way religion and hope and fear and sex are often used to manipulate people; I just think it could have been scarier and more effective if it was shorter and if instead of the guy with the elaborate power scheme it kept its eyes on the people whose lives he was controlling, since those are the people who most of us are more likely to meet and to be.
other books I read this month: