Years ago I read Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, his retelling of the short life of Chris McCandless. I missed this post when Krakauer first put it online, but it seems that he now has some new ideas about what caused McCandless's death.
You can hear Krakauer discuss his new theory in this interview with NPR.
I haven't linked to anything by Thomas Frank in a while. I see that these days he's writing for Salon.
Anyway, because I worked as an adjunct professor for ten years, I couldn't help being interested in this article in which he tells the class of 2014 how badly they've been served by their colleges and universities. The plight of adjuncts is a large part of his tale of woe.
I gave up my regular reading of conservative journalism several years ago, but I couldn't help noticing the recent brouhaha involving Cliven Bundy, by which I mean not so much the uproar over his racist remarks, but rather his ongoing battle with the federal government over grazing fees. Here's a serious conservative perspective on the whole sorry affair from The Weekly Standard.
In an earlier post I mentioned that I had started reading graphic novels, and that I had done so under the influence of I. N. J. Culbard. If you look at that earlier post, you'll see that most of his books, or at least most of the ones that I've read, were published by SelfMadeHero,
a British press that specializes in graphic novels. I browse their website from time to time, and so I've noticed that they publish, among other things, adaptations of classic works of literature.
What recently caught my eye was Rob Davis's graphic novel The Complete Don Quixote. I was already slightly familiar with Davis's work, since he adapted "The Dunwich Horror" in The Lovecraft Anthology, volume one, which was also published by SelfMadeHero. But his work as an illustrator was unknown to me. I figured that a graphic novel of Don Quixote would be a worthwhile read, and so I requested it through interlibrary loan at my local public library.
The book looks very nice, I think. Here are the cover and the title page:
Davis's visual style is simple and direct. Nothing fussy, nothing needlessly complicated.
Since almost everyone knows the story of Don Quixote and the windmills, I figured that I could include photos of it without spoiling anyone's fun. They'll give you a small taste of the book's visual delights.
Once again, simple and direct. Funny and charming too, in that sad way of so many of Don Quixote's adventures. The comic book sound effects help, don't they?
When I was in high school, I read an abridged edition of the original novel in my Spanish class; and when I was in college, I read an abridged English translation in a literature class. That means, unfortunately, that I've never read Cervantes' novel in its entirety in any language. My judgment of Davis's adaptation, based on what I have read and remember of the novel, is that it is a faithful one. He did a very fine job, I think, and so I highly recommend this book.
One mark of the success of any type of adaptation of a literary work is whether or not the adaptation leads us back to the original source material. After reading Davis's The Complete Don Quixote I find that I'd like read Don Quixote in its entirety.
So now I'm researching various English translations. (Is it my imagination, or are there dozens of them?) I'm even reviewing my Spanish for the first time in slightly over thirty years. I'll read the abridged Spanish edition published by Dover when my skill with the language is back up to speed, and I'll eventually read the entire novel in English. Since none of this was ever really an ambition of mine, I'd like to thank Mr. Davis for prompting me to take up Don Quixote again. I'm grateful for the inspiration.
A reader from Portugal recently contacted me to ask me about my book about Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment. It's been a while since I mentioned my current projects, and so I thought that I should take a few minutes to post an update.
The good news is that I've been working on the DoE book, but the bad news is that I've decided to put the project on hold for at least two years. Why? Well, I'm also working on another book, a new translation of Richard Wagner's Oper und Drama. I had hoped to write the DoE book while I translated the first part of the Wagner book. Unfortunately, the Wagner book has proved to be more difficult than I had thought it would be, and I had expected it to be extremely difficult to translate.
Wagner's German prose is very difficult to read, even for native speakers of German, and so it's even more difficult to translate into another language. It takes me a long time, usually six or seven hours, to translate a single page. I'm translating Wagner into modern, readable English, and so that makes my task that much more difficult. I could easily translate his prose into tangled, awkward English, but there's no point in doing that. I have to go slowly as I struggle to turn his German into readable English. So, in short, I'm making progress, but only at a brutally slow pace.
I decided to make significant progress on the Wagner book in order not to feel overwhelmed by the demands of the project. I could work on both of my books, but only very slowly. It seems to me that it's better to make steady progress on a single book rather than slow progress on two books. Working on two books, neither of which would be finished in the next couple of years, would just sit too heavily on my mind. So I decided to finish the Wagner book first. Then I can concentrate on the DoE book. That way, I won't feel weighed down by two difficult projects.
Naturally, I wish that I could work on both books simultaneously, but, unfortunately, I had to make a choice. The Wagner book is more important, and will do more for me financially, so I chose it over the DoE book. But I'm fully committed to writing the DoE book. It's just that it will take a little longer than I had hoped.
I'll keep posting progress reports on both of my book projects as they continue to develop.
I've been reading Lovecraft since I was a teenager, and so it was probably inevitable that I became a regular listener of The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast hosted by Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey.
When Fifer and Lackey discussed At the Mountains of Madness, they were joined by I. N. J. Culbard for a couple of episodes. I learned that Culbard had adapted and illustrated the story as a graphic novel. I was intrigued, even though at the time I wasn't a reader of graphic novels. Years ago I read Art Spiegelman's Maus, and, really, that was it. I didn't know much else about the medium. But I figured that it wouldn't hurt to try another one, and so I ordered a copy of Culbard's version of At the Mountains of Madness.
Well, that was my downfall. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, which led me to read more of Culbard's work. Here's what I've bought over the past few years.
The Lovecraft books in my two photos were published by a British press called SelfMadeHero. Culbard not only adapted and illustrated At the Mountains of Madness, he also did double duty on HPL's "The Shadow Out of Time" and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. He illustrated "The Dunwich Horror" in The Lovecraft Anthology, volume one, as well as Deadbeats, a Jazz Age Lovecraftian story dreamed up by Fifer and Lackey.
The one non-Lovecraftian book in my photos, The New Deadwardians, is from Vertigo, a DC imprint. It's an alternate history of an Edwardian England populated with large numbers of vampires and zombies. Mr. Culbard illustrated a story by Dan Abnett, whose work was new to me. The murdered corpse of an aristocratic vampire is found on the banks of the Thames. Chief Inspector George Suttle of Scotland Yard, himself a vampire, is sent to investigate, and the story goes from there. Along the way the reader learns many things, but the greatest mystery is the origin of the zombie plague. How this is handled is very clever. My only criticism of the book is that it could have easily been longer, for the setup is so rich that the story could have been spun out at greater length, but as it is the book is a great deal of fun. I recommend it as well.
Culbard also illustrated adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle's four Sherlock Holmes novels. I've read three of them, and they too were very entertaining. I have yet to read The Valley of Fear, but I'll get around to it eventually. My local library doesn't have it, so I'll have to get hold of it some other way, maybe through interlibrary loan.
So, you see, Culbard has piqued my interest in graphic novels. I tried to read a few of the DC New 52 books, but I have to admit that they didn't much interest me. I've nothing against superhero stories, but to my eye the artwork is overstuffed, whereas Culbard's visuals don't overwhelm the story and distract my attention from the tale being told. Call me an admirer, I guess.
Anyway, what inspired this post was Culbard's explanation of why he adapted H. P. Lovecraft into the medium of graphic novels. I can't say how this decision affected Culbard's life, but it certainly influenced my reading habits. I hope to read more of his work in the future.