book reports
October 2012


Tania James
The first story in this book is about two professional wrestlers, Gama the Great and his brother Imam, hanging out in London in 1910. I liked it a lot. It made me want to train to be an Indian wrestler. I've started eating lots of almonds and sometimes doing squats and push-ups, but feeling cooler about myself because I think of them as bethaks and dands. So my pehlwani training has been very slightly more rigorous than the time I briefly got excited about William Faulkner's Canadian Air Force regimen but then never attempted it even once. Anyway, the first story is good. The second one is a little bit like RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, except I cried three times during that movie and this story didn't make me cry at all, I just felt mildly despondent at the end. The rest of the stories in here are inoffensive and mostly unmemorable.


David B & Jean-Pierre Filiu
David B is a little bit famous for EPILEPTIC, which is about growing up with a brother who has severe epilepsy, and less famous for THE ARMED GARDEN, a collection of Persian legends that I thought was better than EPILEPTIC. Now he's teamed up with some guy named Jean-Pierre to try to teach us about the U.S. and the Middle East, and it's not very good. I guess I learned a couple of facts, but the most interesting stories in here are given so little context that I had no idea what actually happened or why. That aint good history. The constant conflation of Americans/Christianity/capitalism and Arabs/Islam/violence seems lazy and boring, and the retelling of the Gilgamesh epic (in which all dialogue is replaced with quotes from Bush & Cheney??) is stupid, baffling, and meaningless. Sorry that I'm so mad about this, it's just because I want things to be good, and this could have been like really useful if it was good, but instead it sucks. I'll probably read the second volume if it ever gets made, but I sort of hope it doesn't.


Tom Scioli
This is about a muscle dude with red white and blue hair who fights an undead pharoah named Two-Tank Omen whose feet are tanks. It's willfully stupid and badass, but it didn't feel ironic or like a joke, it just seemed like Scioli wanted to have fun drawing a bunch of insane stuff. I liked it but I don't know who else would. Probably no one. THE EYES OF THE CAT and BLUE are two better comics that I read this month. GET JIRO and I'M NOT A PLASTIC BAG and the first volume of ANT-MAN are worse ones.


Eqbal Ahmad w/ David Barsamian
When I was reading CULTURE AND RESISTANCE, which is a bunch of Edward Said interviews, Said kept quoting and telling stories about Eqbal Ahmad, who I don't remember having heard of before. So I found this book, where Ahmad is interviewed by the same guy who interviewed Said, and started reading it in a Taco Bueno in North Kansas City. When I walked in there the girl behind the counter said "Welcome to our Bueno!!" with great enthusiasm, maybe because I was their only customer all day. It was silent the rest of the time I was in there and I felt insane and happy to be reading this book. I dog-eared lots of pages, and sometimes had the problem where I wanted to dog-ear both sides of the same page. I learned a lot about global politics. These interviews were conducted in the mid 90s, and Ahmad had some pretty prescient things to say about the United States' financial and military support of the Taliban and various dictatorships in the Middle East. He's interested in the ways that leaders and governments abuse and exploit religion, language, and nationalism, but more than most people who write about these things, it's obvious that what he's really interested in is people. Whether he's talking about the partition of India, Urdu poetry, the endless injustices committed against Palestinians, or his friendship with other journalists and activists, he's clearly driven more by his affection for people than by abstract academic or political causes. Everybody oughtta pay attention.

other stuff I read:
THE EYES OF THE CAT - Moebius & Alexandro Jodorowsky
I'M NOT A PLASTIC BAG - Rachel Hope Allison
ANT-MAN SEASON ONE - Tom Defalco & Horacio Domingues
CULTURE AND RESISTANCE - Edward Said w/ David Barsamian
BLUE - Pat Grant
GET JIRO - Anthony Bourdain etc