It’s dark, it’s violent—it’s a narco-corrido 
100 Bullets: Brother Lono by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo, 16.99).
The 100 Bullets anthology series tends to be very dark and very violent—but that’s a given, with a title like 100 Bullets. It’s pulpy and full of people who really deserve to get one of those bullets—but it also calls into question any easy moralizing about violence to which we might be prey.
And, in the case of this particular installment, it also calls into question the very possibility of redemption. Can bad people—or even desperate people who have committed bad acts—be saved? The priest, Father Manny, who runs a church-sponsored orphanage to care for the children left behind in the trail of Mexico’s narco-violence, definitely believes so, and that’s why he’s been working with Brother Lono, an only-recently-reformed and thoroughly tortured soul. 
Meanwhile, a drug gang run by a pair of merciless and never-seen twins wields its violence on the area, but—so far, at least—they’ve done nothing more than donate to Father Manny’s orphanage. It’s been off-limits.
But with the arrival of a new nun and rumors of a DEA informant, that’s all about to change. Ultimately, Father Manny’s knowledge of what Brother Lono is capable of—gleaned in the confessional—will win out over his hope for redemption for the big man—but perhaps violence is necessary, like fire, to cauterize particular brands of evil.
Or at least this graphic novel might lead us to believe. It is pulpy noir in the fullest sense of the word, extremely violent, and—like most of the entries in 100 Bullets—not inclined to optimism about the human condition. All that is balanced by some extremely well-paced story-telling and art that ups the adrenaline at just the right moment. It’s not for the squeamish, but it is packed full of thrills.

It’s dark, it’s violent—it’s a narco-corrido 

100 Bullets: Brother Lono by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Vertigo, 16.99).

The 100 Bullets anthology series tends to be very dark and very violent—but that’s a given, with a title like 100 Bullets. It’s pulpy and full of people who really deserve to get one of those bullets—but it also calls into question any easy moralizing about violence to which we might be prey.

And, in the case of this particular installment, it also calls into question the very possibility of redemption. Can bad people—or even desperate people who have committed bad acts—be saved? The priest, Father Manny, who runs a church-sponsored orphanage to care for the children left behind in the trail of Mexico’s narco-violence, definitely believes so, and that’s why he’s been working with Brother Lono, an only-recently-reformed and thoroughly tortured soul. 

Meanwhile, a drug gang run by a pair of merciless and never-seen twins wields its violence on the area, but—so far, at least—they’ve done nothing more than donate to Father Manny’s orphanage. It’s been off-limits.

But with the arrival of a new nun and rumors of a DEA informant, that’s all about to change. Ultimately, Father Manny’s knowledge of what Brother Lono is capable of—gleaned in the confessional—will win out over his hope for redemption for the big man—but perhaps violence is necessary, like fire, to cauterize particular brands of evil.

Or at least this graphic novel might lead us to believe. It is pulpy noir in the fullest sense of the word, extremely violent, and—like most of the entries in 100 Bullets—not inclined to optimism about the human condition. All that is balanced by some extremely well-paced story-telling and art that ups the adrenaline at just the right moment. It’s not for the squeamish, but it is packed full of thrills.

Friday Flashback: Woman on a camel
Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson (Open Road Media, $14.99 e-book).
A smash hit Down Under—and with adventure and travel readers all over—Robyn Davidson’s 1980 memoir of her 1977 camel-ride across the Australian desert has just been made into a film starring Mia Wasikowska. 
And while the movie may be good, the book is fan-freaking-tastic. Long before Elizabeth Gilbert went off to find herself in food, spiritual seeking and new romance, Davidson went from Alice Springs to the Western Coast just, uh, because.
In short, she went for precisely the same reason that any man ever set off on an adventure: She wanted to do it. That she ended up writing about it for National Geographic, as well as this book, was rather incidental.
She off she went with her camels—she loves them, you can tell, though she doesn’t short her accounts of their disgusting, slimy camel spit. She had great fun in a stark and appealing landscape that few get the opportunity to appreciate, as well as cross-cultural encounters with the Aborigines—who probably understood her walkabout much better than most.
And she had more than a few bad turns: loneliness and self-doubt, a hip injury, a dog that she had to put down herself after it was poisoned. 
Through it all, her writing is honest, compassionate, and most importantly of all, interesting. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

Friday Flashback: Woman on a camel

Tracks: One Woman’s Journey Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson (Open Road Media, $14.99 e-book).

A smash hit Down Under—and with adventure and travel readers all over—Robyn Davidson’s 1980 memoir of her 1977 camel-ride across the Australian desert has just been made into a film starring Mia Wasikowska. 

And while the movie may be good, the book is fan-freaking-tastic. Long before Elizabeth Gilbert went off to find herself in food, spiritual seeking and new romance, Davidson went from Alice Springs to the Western Coast just, uh, because.

In short, she went for precisely the same reason that any man ever set off on an adventure: She wanted to do it. That she ended up writing about it for National Geographic, as well as this book, was rather incidental.

She off she went with her camels—she loves them, you can tell, though she doesn’t short her accounts of their disgusting, slimy camel spit. She had great fun in a stark and appealing landscape that few get the opportunity to appreciate, as well as cross-cultural encounters with the Aborigines—who probably understood her walkabout much better than most.

And she had more than a few bad turns: loneliness and self-doubt, a hip injury, a dog that she had to put down herself after it was poisoned. 

Through it all, her writing is honest, compassionate, and most importantly of all, interesting. Ultimately, that’s what counts.

Gabriel García Márquez, Literary Pioneer, Dies at 87

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

58 notes

The alien shares the bathroom
Alienated by Melissa Landers (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99).
The cute foreign exchange student in this YA novel is really foreign—as in, “from outside this solar system” foreign.
Of course, Cara’s family is hosting Aelyx (get it? Alex?), a really good-looking L’eihrian, and since human and L’eihr DNA isn’t all that different, who knows how things might turn out?
Then a wave of anti-alien paranoia breaks out, and Cara has to deal with prejudice. But Aelyx is keeping secrets, too, and she has to wonder if the paranoia about aliens might not be so crazy after all.
This actually seems like it’s written more for ‘tweens than young adults, and I would recommend it for that age group. The science fiction elements really play second-fiddle to the romance here, and frankly, it seems like a set-up for a Disney Channel show (which it may be).
It’s well-written and moves at a nice clip. Definitely a good choice for ‘tweens and younger teens; older teens and actual young adults will want more substance.

The alien shares the bathroom

Alienated by Melissa Landers (Disney-Hyperion, $16.99).

The cute foreign exchange student in this YA novel is really foreign—as in, “from outside this solar system” foreign.

Of course, Cara’s family is hosting Aelyx (get it? Alex?), a really good-looking L’eihrian, and since human and L’eihr DNA isn’t all that different, who knows how things might turn out?

Then a wave of anti-alien paranoia breaks out, and Cara has to deal with prejudice. But Aelyx is keeping secrets, too, and she has to wonder if the paranoia about aliens might not be so crazy after all.

This actually seems like it’s written more for ‘tweens than young adults, and I would recommend it for that age group. The science fiction elements really play second-fiddle to the romance here, and frankly, it seems like a set-up for a Disney Channel show (which it may be).

It’s well-written and moves at a nice clip. Definitely a good choice for ‘tweens and younger teens; older teens and actual young adults will want more substance.

Broken-hearted Christians
More Than Conquerors: A Memoir of Lost Arguments by Megan Hustad (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25).
For most American girls in the ’80s, life was all Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony.
For Megan Hustad, it was missionary life, first in the Caribbean, then in Holland, where her father work for the evangelical Trans World Radio—and the family rejected the consumerist, worldly trappings of American culture.
What’s remarkable about Hustad’s memoir is that, while it’s honest about the hardship and emotional toll of missionary work, it’s also not shot through with the bitterness common to most memoirs from people who grew up in the midst of fervent—and doctrinaire—religions.
It’s also not a simple story; don’t expect answers. Hustad reaches a point where she questions her faith, but she also questions the lack of faith and what she sees as another sort of faith: the American attachment to self-care and self-actualization. 
Some readers will no doubt be disappointed by Hustad’s lack of judgment about her upbringing, but her honesty and lack of resentment are refreshing. 

Broken-hearted Christians

More Than Conquerors: A Memoir of Lost Arguments by Megan Hustad (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25).

For most American girls in the ’80s, life was all Rainbow Brite and My Little Pony.

For Megan Hustad, it was missionary life, first in the Caribbean, then in Holland, where her father work for the evangelical Trans World Radio—and the family rejected the consumerist, worldly trappings of American culture.

What’s remarkable about Hustad’s memoir is that, while it’s honest about the hardship and emotional toll of missionary work, it’s also not shot through with the bitterness common to most memoirs from people who grew up in the midst of fervent—and doctrinaire—religions.

It’s also not a simple story; don’t expect answers. Hustad reaches a point where she questions her faith, but she also questions the lack of faith and what she sees as another sort of faith: the American attachment to self-care and self-actualization. 

Some readers will no doubt be disappointed by Hustad’s lack of judgment about her upbringing, but her honesty and lack of resentment are refreshing. 

A glass of bourbon to remember and forget
Cementville: A Novel by Paulette Livers (Counterpoint, $25)
A small Kentucky town relies economically on a fading cement plant and a prominent bourbon distillery, and in 1969, neither are doing well. 
It’s cliché to call a first novel a “stunning debut,” but no other words will suffice for Paulette Livers’ first book: When seven young men—who’d tried to avoid Vietnam by entering the National Guard—are killed in a single day’s fighting, the entire town reels with grief, which brings older, simmering conflicts to a boil. 
The day of the funeral for the group, a former P.O.W. returns, damaged in unimaginable ways; also back is a young man honorably discharged but still under a cloud, and the body of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, killed on the same day as the respectable families’ sons, is also returned for burial.
Decades of conflicts and a fully-realized—and massive—cast of characters illuminates both the steaming guts of the town (there are two women murdered shortly after the funerals), its guilty conscience (racism, class bias, dysfunctional families), and its true, strong heart. 
Livers writes with compassion and honesty about life in strained circumstances, about rising above our beginnings and falling below our families’ modest hopes. But despite the grim failures, the depression, the disappointments, still some of us manage to treat each other with a tiny bit of dignity—and that’s what really makes this novel work.

A glass of bourbon to remember and forget

Cementville: A Novel by Paulette Livers (Counterpoint, $25)

A small Kentucky town relies economically on a fading cement plant and a prominent bourbon distillery, and in 1969, neither are doing well.

It’s cliché to call a first novel a “stunning debut,” but no other words will suffice for Paulette Livers’ first book: When seven young men—who’d tried to avoid Vietnam by entering the National Guard—are killed in a single day’s fighting, the entire town reels with grief, which brings older, simmering conflicts to a boil.

The day of the funeral for the group, a former P.O.W. returns, damaged in unimaginable ways; also back is a young man honorably discharged but still under a cloud, and the body of a young man from the wrong side of the tracks, killed on the same day as the respectable families’ sons, is also returned for burial.

Decades of conflicts and a fully-realized—and massive—cast of characters illuminates both the steaming guts of the town (there are two women murdered shortly after the funerals), its guilty conscience (racism, class bias, dysfunctional families), and its true, strong heart. 

Livers writes with compassion and honesty about life in strained circumstances, about rising above our beginnings and falling below our families’ modest hopes. But despite the grim failures, the depression, the disappointments, still some of us manage to treat each other with a tiny bit of dignity—and that’s what really makes this novel work.

A Möbius strip of prejudice and terrorism

The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani (Verso, $26.95)
NYU professor Arun Kundnani looks at the fallout from the “war on terror” in terms of the development of a “global jihad.” 
Young Muslims in the U.S. and the U.K. now find their ability to assimilate stunted or destroyed altogether by the rising fear of Islam and the use of anti-terror tactics pioneered by the Bush and Blair administrations, but still in use. Even though—like most second- and third-generation immigrants—young immigrants from Muslim nations want to fit into and become fully part of their countries, fear of terrorism and general Islamophobia is making this difficult, if not impossible.
Muslim communities’ justified anger at being treated with suspicion by both their government and their non-Muslim neighbors may in fact be leading more young Muslims to the process of radicalization toward terrorism. Arguing that this state of suspicion and fear actually causes some disaffected Muslim American and British youth to become terrorists—Kundnani breaks down the process as preradicalization, identification, indoctrination, and action—the West is creating the very thing no one wants. 
He offers a reasonable alternative to continuing to treat our Muslim citizens as an “ideal enemy,” one which separates crime from ideology. Basically, treat terrorist crimes as crimes, regardless of the ideological motivation, and thereby make radicalization about as attractive as becoming a stick-up artist.
This is a very smart book about a very real problem, and unless we’d like to create a forever war, it’s one to which we should pay attention.

 

Möbius strip of prejudice and terrorism

The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani (Verso, $26.95)

NYU professor Arun Kundnani looks at the fallout from the “war on terror” in terms of the development of a “global jihad.”

Young Muslims in the U.S. and the U.K. now find their ability to assimilate stunted or destroyed altogether by the rising fear of Islam and the use of anti-terror tactics pioneered by the Bush and Blair administrations, but still in use. Even though—like most second- and third-generation immigrants—young immigrants from Muslim nations want to fit into and become fully part of their countries, fear of terrorism and general Islamophobia is making this difficult, if not impossible.

Muslim communities’ justified anger at being treated with suspicion by both their government and their non-Muslim neighbors may in fact be leading more young Muslims to the process of radicalization toward terrorism. Arguing that this state of suspicion and fear actually causes some disaffected Muslim American and British youth to become terrorists—Kundnani breaks down the process as preradicalization, identification, indoctrination, and action—the West is creating the very thing no one wants.

He offers a reasonable alternative to continuing to treat our Muslim citizens as an “ideal enemy,” one which separates crime from ideology. Basically, treat terrorist crimes as crimes, regardless of the ideological motivation, and thereby make radicalization about as attractive as becoming a stick-up artist.

This is a very smart book about a very real problem, and unless we’d like to create a forever war, it’s one to which we should pay attention.