I stayed up late and finished Charles Burns’ wonderfull graphic novel called Black Hole on Wednesday night. I may have been extremely drowsy yesterday, and yes, tired enough to act little weird Thursday evening, but it was totally worth it.

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(A cover from the Black Hole serials of which the graphic novel is composed of.)

Before I read most books, I check out some of the blurbs and customer reviews on amazon.com to get an idea of what the book is about. When I was looking at Black Hole, I caught this quote from Publishers Weekly:

The AIDS metaphor is obvious, but the bug also amplifies already existing teen emotions and the wrenching changes of puberty.

Amazon.com: Black Hole: Books: Charles Burns

Uh, what? Yes, Burns’ characters are carriers of an STD (that mutates their bodies), but outside of there being an STD and the lack of public understanding of its carriers, the “bug” in Black Hole bares little in common with AIDS or the HIV virus. The bug does not kill anyone, nor does it effect everyone the same. Some carriers suffer only mild mutations, while others begin to look much like monsters.

If you ask me, the “Bug” is more a metaphor for the pain, alienation and horror that comes with the being young and susceptible to feelings of love. I think for a lot of people, the experience of falling or feeling they might be in love so young can be an alienating experience. It is common with youth romance to feel like your parents and the adult community just don’t understand your feelings and behavior. The only way to really feel freedom is to escape with your love to a place alone or with your peers who are the only people who can really understand you. Along with this love often comes sex, which, for many people–as well as the characters in the book–results in a certain loss of innocence. Being a sexually active comes with a feeling of being in on what can be seen by youth as one of the biggest mysteries about adulthood. It is only when this, and another mystery I wont give away is solved that the characters are left to come into their own as adults faced with decisions about the future that only they can make.

I’m not really doing it a lot of justice here. This is really a great graphic novel, and I would recommend it to anyone who knows or wishes to remember (you old folks, you) what it is like to be young and in love.

Summer Reading List:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith

3. Black Hole by Charles Burns

4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Now I’ve caught up with my goal of a book for every two weeks. Now I just have to find some books to add to my list.

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Oh to be dressing in layers again.

It will probably be gone by the time I’m actually ready to shop for fall.

Since there has been a lot of dead time in the writing center, and because a discussion of the Great American Novel on Christopher Lydon’s Open Source peaked my interest on a number of books, I’ve decided that I shall read one book for every two weeks of summer break. So far I’m a little behind.

I started with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Like Fitzgerald’s short Babylon Revisited, it deals a lot with characters dealing with relationships in the past; Jay Gatsby is obsessed with recapturing his past relationship with Daisy, while Charlie Wales is concerned with making up for the way his relationship with his wife ended. Both pieces capture the Modernist movement’s concern with finding a new construct to replace the individualist construct that had flourished during the roaring twenties only to be dashed by the Depression. Many looked to develop something new, while others like Fitzgerald looked back to older traditional values.

Next I started David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Just as I was starting to get into the diary of the narrator stopped, and a new narrator was introduced. At about the same time I had been reading Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and it began to get interesting. It was about 4 weeks into the summer break, and I’d only finished one book, so I decided to stick with it.

Smith’s book has wonderfully charming characters. Some how she found a way to bring me to identify with each character, from the fifty-something mother of three to the twenty-something African American spoken word writer. I felt like I inhabited their bodies in a way that was exhilarating and enlightening. While allowing her readers these experiences, Smith uses our understanding of these characters points of view to explore opposing positions. No opposing points of view are explored so much as the beliefs of liberals and conservatives. Smith’s characters offer persuasive and insightful observations of both, the best of which comes when a liberal character offers their recognition of the strengths of conservatism to her even more liberal husband. I’m not sure what to make of the books exploration of infidelity. I’ll have to think on that. It pains me to read of long loving marriages being destroyed by indiscretion. I will have to check out Smith’s White Teeth some time soon.

So now I have to finish Cloud Atlas, and I also picked up Charles Burn’s graphic novel Black Hole. It’s about a sexually transmitted plague for teens that wreaks havoc on suburban Seattle during the mid-70s. It’s gotten a lot of critical praise, and so I’m excited to read it. I’m going to try and read it this week. If I finish it in time, this will be the sixth week and I will have read three books. I’ll be back on schedule.

Summer Reading List:

  1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  2. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  3. Black Hole by Charles Burns
  4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell