Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Pale Of Settlement by Margot Singer (GRADE: A)

I just finished The Pale Of Settlement by Margot Singer.  The Pale of Settlement was the 2006 winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, a very prestigious award.  I grade this collection of short stories an A.

The Pale of Settlement is a collection of 9 short stories about a family of Jewish people, some American Jews and some Israeli Jews.  The stories can be read independently but in another way, all the stories are like puzzle pieces that make up a whole picture of this family.  In this way, it reminded me of the Joy Luck Club (which I also liked very much, see previous entry).

The writing is probably some of the best I've ever read.  In fact, at times, I felt really stupid reading this book.  Frequently, as I read the book, I would get the feeling that I was reading something symbolic or that the story itself is a metaphor or that there are mirrors and juxtapositions but I couldn't wrap my non-literature mind around it.  The writing was a mix between poetry and prose; it was truly beautiful.

As a Korean-American, I could very much relate to the feeling of displacement that Susan, one of the characters in the family in the Pale of Settlement, felt; she neither felt fully American nor fully Jewish.  She was both and neither at the same time and in the same way.  A contradiction.  But a contradiction that every foreign born american feels (I'm guessing).

The stories were very much character driven.  At times, plot helps in driving the story but this collection of short stories was more about diving deep into the characters and not so much about defeating an enemy or overcoming an obstacle.  The resolutions were subtle as was pretty much everything in this book.

Overall, this book was great!  At times it was a little difficult to read--she doesn't stick with conventional prose writing but I assure you, that it is worth the time and effort.  I grade this an A.  It would have been an A+ if I were smarter but I felt like I missed a lot of the things the author tried to do.  At the end of this book, I was very tempted to flip the book around and begin reading it again.  Good times.

ANGEL, After the Fall, Volume 1 by Joss Whedon (GRADE: B+)

I just finished ANGEL, After the Fall, Volume 1 by Joss Whedon.  I would grade this a B+.

ANGEL, After the Fall is essentially season 6 (FOX had canceled Angel after 5 seasons).  After the Fall picks up where Season 5 leaves off, well, almost.  There are some things that are revealed during this graphic novel that communicate what happens in the interim between S5 and S6.

Overall, I thought the story was engaging.  I liked the faster pace of the graphic novel.  I thought the art was outstanding.  And the flavor of the comic was the same as the TV show which I liked.  I grade this a B+.  Fun to read but it was not profound or provocative, just fun.  Good times. 

ROBOTECH, Doomsday by Jack McKinney (GRADE: B+)

I just finished ROBOTECH Doomsday by Jack McKinney.  Doomsday is parts 4, 5, and 6 of a SIX part series based on the ROBOTECH animated series, which was aired in the United States in 1985.  OVERALL, I thought Doomsday was a fun read and I would grade it a B+.

There are SIX books that chronicle the MACROSS series, the first 36 episodes, describing the first ROBOTECH war.  The first three books were compiled in the book compilation called BATTLECRY (see previous entry), including the books (1) Genesis, (2) Battlecry, and (3) Homecoming.  DOOMSDAY is a compilation of (4) Battlehymn, (5) Force of Arms and (6) Doomsday.  DOOMSDAY picks up where BATTLECRY leaves off.  The SDF-1 has made it back to earth but earth does not want the SDF-1 to remain, the military wants the SDF-1 to leave earth in hopes that the Zentraedi will follow the SDF-1 and leave earth alone.

The tone of the books, all the books, is a little campy at times and very serious at other times.

The pacing of the book is good.  The writer doesn't stay in one particular scene for very long and things that don't translate well from the animated series to the book, the author quickly mentions it in the book and then moves on.

The character development is uneven: some of the characters are well developed while others are not.  Some of the changes in the characters are very sudden and a little jarring.

The love triangle between Minmei, Rick and Lisa is a major element of the drama in the series.  Some of it is very well done and some of the resolutions are jarring.

I thought that Jack McKinney's version of the ROBOTECH MACROSS series was better than the animated series itself.  McKinney attempts to explain in the text the things that were sudden (and some things that were silly).  I liked McKinney vision of Robotech.  I grade this book a B+.  It was a fun, light read.  It was a little too campy at time but the campy-ness was definitely redeemed by the cool dogfights and action in the book.  Plus, McKinney adds scenes in the book that are helpful in understanding the story and, in places where the animated series simply doesn't make much sense, McKinney changes it in the book to something that is more plausible and sometimes clever.

Overall, I thought it was a fun read.  I grade this book a B+.  It wasn't high literature but I don't think it was meant to be.  Good times.  :)