Book Review | Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Once I got rolling on the book reviews, I’m having trouble stopping. Forgive me.

9780375714573I picked up Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis recently on the recommendation of various graphic novelists whom I admire. I knew nothing of the plot previous to my reading, so I was once again pleasantly thrust into an unknown world. The world of Persepolis is our own, albeit part of the world where my ignorance reigns supreme.

Set in and among the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, we join the author on an autobiographical journey of her childhood. By reading Satrapi’s tale, I have discovered that the Iran of today is far removed from the Iran of yesteryear, which bore more resemblance to America’s hippie years than anything else. Yet today, the Iran of the current affairs and news stories is one marked by nuclear scandals and Islamic terrorist threats. How could such drastic change happen within one lifetime?

Satrapi brings sensitivity and even humor into the darkest places as she recounts her family’s struggles and heartaches in Iran. She helped me understand America’s role in the Islamic Revolution, how in many ways, we are responsible for the threats we now face.

Persepolis is a quick read, but one that stays with you long after the reading. And I would encourage anyone who wishes to be more conversant with the events of the Middle East to pick up a copy and learn from it.

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Jot IV – Mark Your Calendars

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My writers group, The Weaklings, met recently to discuss the next Jot Writers Mini-Conference. I thought I’d tell you what we know so far.

Jot IV or Jot 4 (which one do you like better?) will take place on Friday, September 12th at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI from 7pm – 11pm. The price, as it has always been, will be nothing. The value will be considerably more (hopefully).

At the moment, only a few of our speakers have been confirmed. We’ll have veteran Jot speaker and editor at Discovery House Publishers, Andrew Rogers, and we just signed on blogger and Houzz.com writer, Alison Hodgson. We have two more speakers that we’re still bullying into agreements, so stay tuned for those.

For past attendees, we’re excited to announce that Baker Book House has agreed to expand the stage area of the store to accommodate our ever-growing audience. We’re still trying to figure out what to do with parking. I know that a few people couldn’t find spots at Jot 3 so they turned around. Maybe it would be good for a few of you to carpool. Make a writing friend and come together.

Last, we are excited to announce that we are expanding our workshops. Matthew Landrum, poetry editor for Structo Magazine, will again lead a workshop on poetry. I’ll be leading a blogging workshop. And we have a third workshop that I’ll announce at a later date. All the workshops will run simultaneously after the main presentations.

If you’ve never been to a Jot Mini-Conference before, here’s what you need to know. We’ve tried to condense the writers conference experience into one night. We make it short because we know that writers have full-time jobs and families and that time is a limited resource. And we make it free because we know how expensive most writers conferences are. And if those things aren’t unique enough, we also incorporate some writing time into the evening so you can practice what you’ve learned right away.

The goals of Jot and the motto are the same: Meet. Write. Learn.

Mark your calendars now and we’ll see you on September 12th!

PS – I’ve decided that the Jot logo is in sore need of an update. Would you like a chance to vote on designs or submit your own? Tell me in the comments below.

I am a Character.

I was in most of the plays and musicals during my junior and senior years of high school. So, in case I wasn’t nerdy enough by being in every band class we had, there’s always that.

Anyway, after the final performance of each stage production, we always had a cast party. One of the fun bits at the cast party was doing improvisational acting games. “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was popular on television back then and we stole a lot of ideas from there.

the-cw-resurrects-whose-line-is-it-anywayIn one of those games, contestants pulled a character from a hat and the moderator gave them a situation to act out. The goal was to act in such a way that others could guess who or what your character was. The character suggestions were mostly made up of famous people (like Elvis or Michael Jackson or President Bill Clinton) or specific vocations (Garbage Collector or Mechanic or a Mischievous Gargoyle at the Top of Notre Dame Cathedral Who Keeps Coming Alive to Cause Trouble).

And then there was me. Someone had written my name as one of the characters to be acted out.

And the person who pulled my name, the person who had to act out “Josh Mosey” had their character guessed within thirty seconds of acting. I had no idea that I was so idiosyncratic.

I still don’t know whether I should be honored or offended that I was a character. I also wonder whether time has smoothed my edges and made me more like the rest of society or whether I would still be a recognizable character for someone to pull out of a hat. And if I am still a character, would the actions that a person would do to imitate me be good ones or annoying ones?

Have you ever wanted someone to act like you? How would they act? What would they say?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

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Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. The French buy a lot of books. Real books. Vive la France!
  2. Have ever built a Lego tower and wondered how high you could make it before it buckled under its own weight? Here’s the answer.
  3. Jenny Lawson wrote a book that made me laugh out loud. Her blog does the same thing. Here’s a tidbit for writers and the folks married to them (also, everyone else).
  4. Monty Python fans, harken to me! A while back, a 14-year-old boy wanted to know if John Cleese had a fan club. This was his reply.
  5. Another writing link (sorry other people!), here are 7 reasons not to write a book (and 1 reason to write one).

Enjoy!

Book Review | Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

9781416578758It is worthy of mention that according to my blog, this is the 666th post. Also, “Perdition” is another name for Hell. Okay, spooky mysticism over.

A while back, I was searching for some good background music by which to write. Film soundtracks work well for this, as they aren’t usually too wordy and they are designed to create certain moods. I happened upon the soundtrack for the film, “Road to Perdition” and have been writing along with it ever since.

I remember seeing the film a long time ago and certain parts of it have stuck with me over the years. I’m a BIG Tom Hanks fan (there’s a hidden joke there for other Tom Hanks fans) and I enjoyed his portrayal as a mob enforcer/family man. And I loved the scene where Hanks and his son are sitting in a dinner after pulling off a series of bank heists and the kid asks how much of the money is his. Hanks asks how much he wants and the kids says $200. Hanks agrees and the kids asks if he could have had more. “You’ll never know,” is the reply.

Genius.

But until I rediscovered the film (by way of the soundtrack) and did a little research on IMDB.com, I had no idea that the film had been based on a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins. I immediately requested it from the library.

There are a few things that stand out to me about Road to Perdition, the graphic novel:

  • As much as I enjoyed Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Michael O’Sullivan in the film, I would not have imagined him as the lead character based on the graphic novel. Hanks lends a certain likeable family man quality to every role he plays. The Michael O’Sullivan from the book is gritty and not overly affectionate. There is a reason the book gives him the nickname “The Angel of Death” and the movie does not do likewise.
  • Collins prior work as writer for the Dick Tracy series lends itself well to a crime drama such as Road to Perdition. This isn’t a mystery, but an exploration into the person who commits criminal acts. Why does O’Sullivan kill? How does he deal with being a father (creator of life) and a killer (taker of life)? What kind of example is he?
  • The film makes a neat end of the plot, but the book is quite messy. Though there’s a good overlap between the events that are represented, the film takes certain liberties to preserve the idea of innocence in a world of violence. The book does not have such a rosy outlook.

It is always interesting to read the work that gets turned into a film. Road to Perdition was no exception. Best yet, I still enjoy both projects for their own merits, and I’d encourage you to give Collin’s graphic novel a try.

Book Review | Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

9780763660406Kate DiCamillo is the award-winning author behind The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I recently borrowed her book, Flora & Ulysses, from my sister-in-law who is a teacher and shaper of young minds. I can see why my sister-in-law had it on her shelf at school.

The main character, Flora Buckman, is a self-professed cynic, but she doesn’t seem to be very good at it. After all, a lot of hopeful things happen to Flora. There’s the new neighbor, a boy her age who is temporarily blind. There’s her dad who is a lover of comic book heroes and introducing himself. And there’s a squirrel that gains superpowers (and poetry-writing abilities) after a run-in with a vacuum cleaner.

The illustrations provided by K. G. Campbell, an award-winner in his own right, provide the book with a touch of whimsy while introducing an element of comic-bookishness (it’s a real word, just go with it) into a tale where comic book heroes abound.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that Flora & Ulysses changed my life, but it was a delightful read that I think my daughters would enjoy in a few years. There are elements of adventure mixed in with themes of forgiveness and wonder. Overall, this book was quite likeable. And with her track record of writing stories that adapt well to the silver screen, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this book finds its way to theaters soon.

Book Review | Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

The date is January 26, 1999. It is a Tuesday. The group of friends to which I belong have collectively decided to see “Patch Adams” starring Robin Williams at the cheap theater in the next town over. Then, one by one, my friends call up cancelling. All except me and one of the prettiest girls in the school.

So we went to the movie together.

The set up was so much like some kind of 90’s romantic comedy that I had convinced myself that God was giving me a sign. I, Josh Mosey, average in most ways and peculiar (as opposed to impressive) in others, was about to get the popular girl. After spending a delightful afternoon with me at a movie, she would realize that what she wanted wasn’t someone athletic or good-looking, but the friendly, funny guy who had been there all along.

On the drive home, I told her that I really enjoyed myself and that I’d love to go see a movie with her again sometime. So smooth!

She kindly said, “Oh. Was this a date?”

“Um,” I said. “Not if you didn’t want it to be. I mean, we’re just friends, right? Besides, today is Australia Day, so this was more of an Australia Day film festival thing, right?”

Where did Australia Day come from? And why couldn’t I just stop talking?

“Sure,” she said. “So, not a date.”

“Nope,” I said. “I guess not.”

Fortunately, we were almost to her house so the awkward tension wouldn’t have to suffocate either of us for long.

9781596436572Reading Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim brought back vivid memories of my emotional state during and after the Australia Day film festival debacle. Kim captures the essence of what it means to be an awkward teenager, as well as the growth process that results from a few years’ perspective.

In some ways, we will always be the teenagers we once were. But we needn’t live in the regrets of stupid things we said or did. At least, that’s what I got out of it.

Also, Same Difference won a bunch of graphic novel awards (The Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz Awards) and it would be a good thing to read, whether you were an awkward teenager at some point in your life or not. But let’s be honest, you were. You were.

PS – That girl I watched Patch Adams with ended up marrying one of the other guys in my group of friends, another friendly, funny guy who had been there all along, just not me. I ended up marrying well outside my group of friends and I’m glad because it meant that my future wife could see me as cool (I wasn’t, and if she had known me in high school, she would have known that about me).