Tuesday, August 6, 2013

reading: megacity books + eisner awards + a million stories

This blog post is inspired by the general joy of reading, the 7 continents reading challenge, megacities and a blog series. More, at the bottom of this post.

This week's reads lead from megacities to award-winning comic stories...  and onwards to a million stories. 

- that was the the theme of the feature i put togehter for the 7 continents reading challenge, and it was like a journey itself (here's the link: Megacity books, maps, walks, lists..)
There is so much that i didn’t know, for example: New York City was the very first megacity with more than 10 million citizens. I guess that’s why it is so iconic, the “prototype” of the huge modern city. Another learning: the largest megacity is Tokyo, with more than 30 million people. I looked for a book set in Tokyo, written by a Japanese author - and arrived here:

Haruki Murakami: "After Dark" 
The book pulls you into Toyko with the first lines already, arriving from an unusual perspective. Here are the first lines:
Eyes mark the shape of the city. Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature—or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding. (- from a blog on cities: TrashCanLullabies)
With "After Dark", Murakami created a book with several layers, one that sometimes reads like a tale. It includes the city with the day and night side. And like the city, the persons have 2 sides - in the night, conversations reach deeper. The story also plays with our states of being: awake at day and asleep at night, and the places we go in our dreams - mirrored again by real life nocturnal encounters.

The story is mainly set in the deep of night, in the time "when the trains of the busy city for once stop running". It was this image that brought me back to another book on megacities:

Christopher Ross: "Tunnel Visions - Journeys of an Underground Philosopher"

Christopher Ross wrote this book while working part-time for the London Subway after a longer time of journeys. Actually the book is a reflection on life, inspired by his encounters and observations in the "tunnels". The subtitle is: "Journeys of an Underground Philosopher". Really enjoyed to re-read this book. Here's a quote:
"My adventures Underground ... were a different kind of study. A real life class. ... Do we run on rails or are we free? This, for me, was an obsession. Am I a train? Who decided where the tracks lead? Can I get about under my own locomotion, my own steam?" 

And here's the official description:
Christopher Ross, philosopher and traveller, decided to cease his journeyings and go underground, quite literally. Seeking an antidote to incurable restlessness, he chose to work for a year as a Station Assistant at Oxford Circus Station. Tunnel Visions is a mixture of lived experience in the surreal world of London's Underground and the more elevated ideas, thoughts, and imaginings that experience provokes. Oxford Circus Station, complete with its weeping wall, its streakers, and buskers, is a Plato's Cave of reflection and human comedy.


Eisner Award Stories...

Another reading theme of the week were the Eisner Awards - the "Oscars" for comics, which were announced at Comic-Con in San Diego in July. One of the big winners that recieved awards in several categories was "Saga", an epic tale by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, a kind of modern Romeo+Julia story with a racial background (and an issue #1 that shows a woman breastfeeding: the things you can say in comics, because, well, it's all fantasy, right?) Here's the description: "Saga depicts two lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races, Alana and Marko, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their newborn daughter, Hazel, who occasionally narrates the series.".. and here's what autor Brian Vaughan says:
"This is an original fantasy book with no superheroes, two non-white leads and an opening chapter featuring graphic robot sex. I thought we might be cancelled by our third issue."
Another of the Eisner stories I read is "Bandette" - "The story of a young costumed “artful dodger”, leader of a group of urchins dedicated to serving justice, except when thieving proves to be a bit more fun. The story of Bandette treads a thin line between Tintin and Nancy Drew, with a few costumes thrown in. Bandette and her crew at turns join forces and cross swords with the mysterious master thief known only as Monsieur, and one B.D. Belgique, perhaps the most harassed police inspector of all time."

Interesting parallel: Like Saga, Bandette is created by a male / female team of author / artist, and both feature female main characters.  The first issue of Saga is available for free at Comixology: Saga #1, and Bandette #1 was free for a while, too, now it's $0.99: Bandette page --- and if you are interested in more comic stories, try the Comixology Recommended Free Sample Section.


Upcoming : "If on an winter's night" & A Million Stories

From city to story: Following the theme of megacities, i also revisited the book "Invisible Cities" by Italo Calvino.. (blog note Invisible Cities, Forgotten Highway), and then remembered he has a second book i wanted to read: "If on a Winter's Night a Traveler", "an experimental text that looks longingly back to the great age of narration-here's thh goodreads note", and of those books with more than 20.000 ratings: "If on a Winter's Night..."

A million stories
And the Million Story Award Editor Nomination List is online! It includes more than 70 online magazines, a great base to explore new magazines, new authors and new stories. Here's more: Story South Million Writers Award 

Browsing the list, I came across a story that won a Nebula Award for best short story last year, currently is included in the Hugo Award Voting 2013, and like Saga deals with the theme of identity in an interracial surrounding. It's a free online read, and has a goodreads entry with story link included: Immersion

more next week :)
have a great reading week!


Book Links, Previous Reads & Finding Books

Previous reading blog entries are collected here: bookshelf: currently  reading... there also is a visual bookshelf, just click it to get there.

Reading around the world - i really enjoy this literal discovery-tour of the world, and it now made me go and pull some useful links together in a blog post: Finding books by country: helpful links + resources

More monday reads from other bloggers: link list at book journey

And my own book... is Worl(d)s Apart. True.

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