I know this guy has been popular for quite a while but this is the first thing I ever read by him. Like six years ago somebody made me borrow JESUS' SON, and I think I remember a truck driver doing drugs on the first page, and I definitely remember being bored and annoyed. TRAIN DREAMS is really good though. It's short! There are weird parts and not-weird parts. It seems like this would be a good book to read in October. I'll probably read it again next year; you should read it now.
CROW WITH NO MOUTH
Ikkyu trans. Stephen Berg
Angsty facebook status updates from six hundred years ago:
my gray cat jumped up just as I lifted this spoon
we're born we die
suddenly nothing but grief
so I put on my father's old ripped raincoat
I'm up here in the hills starving myself
but I'll come down for you
nobody knows I'm a storm I'm
dawn on the mountain twilight on the town.
Hardly anybody is better than Joe Sacco at going into confusing political and military situations and making them maybe slightly less confusing and definitely more human through conversations with normal people and close-ups of their faces. The stories here are good, but reading the whole book is like listening to NPR or the BBC for an hour. All the refugee camps and crowded apartments and people beating each other up blur together, and Palestine and Chechnya and Yugoslavia and Afghanistan end up being hard to tell apart. Usually Sacco has a couple hundred pages to put you in a place and let you sit next to people, but since these stories were originally published in magazines like Time and Harper's and The Guardian, they're mostly too short to provide any real understanding of the situation, or any sustained empathy beyond "aaaugh, this sucks". The last three stories about the Iraqi army, immigration in Malta, and Dalits in India are the longest and best.