What I Read in July
|September 23, 2014||Posted by Jess under Books, Comics|
Week Twenty-Seven (July 6-12): While We Run by Karen Healey. In the excellent When We Wake, Australian teenager Tegan Oglietti is cryogenically frozen and wakes 100 years later to find herself the center of a conspiracy in a complicated, perilous future. While We Run continues the story from the point of view of her love interest Abdi Taalib, a gifted young musician and activist, as they – as the title would suggest – flee the various forces that are trying to silence and/or manipulate them. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but I will say that While We Run fascinated me because of how much it engages with the boom in YA dystopias we’re experiencing right now, grappling really explicitly with what it means to be the symbol of a rebellion as well as – or perhaps instead of – a person, and not shying away from the hard compromises that need to be made when the world is jacked up enough to be, well, a dystopia. It’s dark and chilling and really, really smart.
Week Twenty-Eight (July 13-19): Sweet 16 to Life (Langdon Prep #3) by Kimberly Reid. Okay, I’m going through these like popcorn. This time one of Chanti’s friend MJ’s old gang members is trying to frame both Chanti and MJ. Can Chanti find the real culprit? Of course she can! She’s Chanti Evans!
Week Twenty-Nine (July 20-26): Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero by Larry Tye. I’ve had this on my To Read pile for ages but I’m doing some intense Super-research for an Exciting New Project, so I finally got into it. I…didn’t love it. There’s a ton of basic info and as this is the first Superman “bio” I’ve read I’m not in a position to contest the factual content, but Tye brought a lot of assumptions that I was uncomfortable with or were flat-out wrong. For example, there’s his assertion that the generation of an age to watch Smallville had never heard of Superman before – you know, the generation that grew up on Superman: The Animated Series (which he devotes a mere paragraph to while failing to mention Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Tim Daly, Batman: The Animated Series, or Justice League), Lois and Clark, and frantic news coverage of The Death of Superman – while admitting that when he started to write the book, he had never heard of Smallville! He spends more time on passing mentions of Superman on Seinfeld than any animated version after Super Friends. His chronology is weird – he describes the Byrne reboot in detail, then goes back and explains Crisis on Infinite Earths (which is mostly a confusing explanation of Barry Allen and Jay Garrick and doesn’t mention the death of Supergirl or anything about Superman-2 or Superboy-Prime, so…why bother saying anything besides “Superman was revamped in 1986?”). He seems weirdly opposed to the Weisinger, Schwartz, and Byrne eras, claiming they’re not “true” to Siegel’s vision, which…that’s covering an awful lot of Super-ground, there. It doesn’t really leave a lot that is “true.”
Most offensive to me was his treatment of women – he’s really attached to the narrative of Superman being created by men who lost their fathers at an early age, JUST LIKE SUPERMAN, and simply ignores the many, many people involved in Superman’s history who didn’t have that experience – or the fact that Superman has two mothers as well as two fathers. (I mean, I guess giving Lara and Martha short shrift is a Super-tradition, but it pisses me off every time I see it.) In fact, he repeatedly paints mothers as Oedipal-ly clingy shrews, especially Siegel’s and George Reeves’, and describes all the women in Reeves’ life as “unhinged,” implicitly suggesting that any one of them could have murdered him. He doesn’t seem to care for Lois either, consistently framing her as an object for Superman to “get” and thus live out an adolescent male fantasy – there’s no exploration of her personality, motivations, or development as a three-dimensional character right alongside Superman, just offhand mentions that Byrne made her badass and Hatcher made her sexy. He even frames her top billing in Lois & Clark as somehow being an insult to Superman. The whole thing was just really frustrating.
Week Thirty (July 27-August 2): Superman: The Unauthorized Biography by Glen Weldon. Another Superman bio, this one approaches the subject more from an angle of showing how Superman has changed in response to the cultural needs of the time, from New Deal radical to Eisenhower patriarch to unfortunate hair choices in the 90s. I liked this one a lot better but I wish there had been more focus on that theme and less simple description of the history of the character; however, I realize most people don’t read this book immediately after reading another Superman bio and are, in fact, looking for a history of the character. Anyway, the section on Smallville alone is hilarious and totally worth the price of admission.