Friday, September 01, 2006

Ex Libris: More than Meets the Eye

I was supposed to pick up a copy of Graham Joyce’s Requiem at my favorite bookstore, Booktopia, last night but Robert wasn’t in. Next time, I suppose.Normally, I don’t like getting multiple copies but this was one time that I thought I’d break my rule. This book was actually my first entry to Joyce’s writing and I figured getting the shop’s copy-- which had Joyce’s autograph-- was a good way to celebrate his writing. It also helped that my earlier copy was a UK-edition with a lousy cover.
Strangely enough, one thing I like about Joyce’s books is that I can never know what to expect when I read them. For example, Requiem is the story of a husband grief-ridden with the loss of his wife. Deciding to get away from it all, he visits an old friend in Jerusalem and—in the course of discovering what may be a number of never-before-seen Dead Sea scrolls—finds himself haunted by ghosts of his past as well as the city’s. But this doesn’t truly describe what Requiem is all about (which fits most of Joyce’s books I’ve read).

Moreover, I read this while lounging on a beach in Puerto Galera, sitting in an Italian restaurant with sand sifting through my toes and listening to Mediterranean music wailing in the background. Suffice to say, I felt like I was sitting in a Middle-eastern café and the Wailing Wall was just a block away.

Another thing I found while reading Requiem was that it didn’t feel like it outright fantasy; rather this was my first introduction to ‘interstitial.’

This was evident in the next book I read, Smoking Poppy, which I thought was a paean to fathers and their children. In this book, a working-class stiff finds out his daughter has gone missing in Thailand and goes in search for her together with his estranged son (who had gone religious) and his obnoxious drinking buddy. This book with rather sympathetic characters reminded me of a kind of mystical Apocalypse Now.

Likewise, this was one book that touched me so much that I felt like crying afterwards. Later on, I gave a copy to my dad as a birthday gift. Given how it was my dad who introduced me to the joys of reading, that says quite a lot.
Indigo, on the other hand, was even an odder duck of a story. A young man discovers a father he never knew has died. He also finds out about his old man's research into the properties of the color indigo—and the road that ultimately leads to madness. Suffice to say, I thought once again how one must never expect when reading a Joycean novel.
On the other hand, I suffered a misimpression with The Facts of Life: I thought it was centered on a character, a child born out of wedlock to a fey girl. Instead,it's really a British family trying to live their lives during and in the aftermath of World War 2. Fortunately, Joyce had an excellent handle on the characters and his story was exceptionally poignant without being maudlin. The fact that it had ghosts also helped.

Unfortunately, my honeymoon with Joyce came crashing down with the last book I read, his YA book TWOC (a carjacking term meaning to “take without consent”). Though the concept and the opening was interesting (about a boy whose brother had earlier died in a car crash and how he appeared to him), I found the story rather formulaic and managed to predict the ending.

Despite this misstep, I love Joyce's books and consider him one of my favorite authors. I've already mentioned his hard-to-peg stories, his empathic characters, and his strong characterizations. However, Joyce also writes excellent prose to help the story along, embedding in the story and the work-a-day writing a turn of a phrase that would knock you out for a loop.

As another fantasist, Jonathan Carroll, once opined, "Graham Joyce writes the kind of novels we keep hoping to find, but rarely do."

I quite agree.

P.S. This wasn't in the wild but if anyone's interested, I saw Fully-Booked Rockwell has a copy again of M.J. Harrison's Anima (which collects Signs of Life and Course of the Heart).



skinnyblackcladdink said...

ha. for a moment there, i thought you were about to post something about the upcoming Michael Bay Transformers movie.

read a bit of the amazon excerpt. will have to more thoroughly check Joyce's stuff out one of these days.

Der Fuhrer said...

Requiem seems like a really good book.

Plus points for the name! Have you seen Requiem for a Dream?

banzai cat said...

skinny: Hehe sorry 'bout that. Though what's there to be said? The movie's like Snakes on the Plane: the title says it all.

fuhrer: Yes it is. And nup, haven't seen that movie. Is it good?

Eldritch00 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eldritch00 said...

Thanks for posting this and again for the books. It's certainly a wonderfully written piece that only makes me want to seek out more of Joyce's work.

Eldritch00 said...

Oh, I've been meaning to ask. The next time you go to Booktopia, can you please find out more information (size, costs, etc.) about the book covers they're selling? Are those Brodart covers? Thank you!

skinnyblackcladdink said...

bc: a bunch of us round these parts have been keeping track of the Michael Bayization due out next year, and, yeah, actually, there's a lot more to be said than just the title.

whatever anyone says, it can't be denied, the show was iconic, and Michael Bay may very well be playing with fire...

i for one will be in for the ride-value of it.

see also Ain't It Cool News.

banzai cat said...

eldritch: You're welcome. :-)

As for Booktopia, will ask. Why, are you sensitive about your book covers?

skinny: Am also a fan of the comic book/toys. Hell, I bought the movie soundtrack as well as copied the movie itself. Hopefully, it won't be so bad, right?

Of course, there's always those perverted Transformers-robot monster thingies. Ewww...

banzai cat said...

My point being:

Scroll down a bit. It's called Transformers Hentai. Sheesh.

Eldritch00 said...

I hate the very thought that I'll be watching The Transformers, knowing that it'll turn out to be a crummy film. I hate being put into a position where I go into purist mode, but yeesh, I've seen little about the film that seems good.

That aside, BC, thanks in advance. I've always wanted an option for a more costly (but better) way to wrap my books, especially the paltry few limited editions I own.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

bad idea to go purist with 'movie versions'...especially with Michael Bay on the helm. my mentality is, if they're making a movie out of it, particularly with a big budget, they're bound to f*ck it up in terms of translation, so just go see it for the fun of it. 'sides, Michael Bay, if nothing else, makes great mindless-stuff-blowing-up-fun flicks.

that very mentality got me through Constantine. hell, i even liked that flick enough to get me the double-disc dvd.

speaking of which, this will either excite you, worry you, or both:

Eldritch00 said...


bad idea to go purist with 'movie versions'

I actually agree with you, and this is why I dislike going purist. I have a friend who's a diehard Marvel Comics fan, and he's never been able to enjoy any of the recent film adaptations without one or two things nibbling at his appreciation.

And I don't like the automatic assumption that the book must always be better than the film.

Funny that you mention Constantine, by the way, which was a film that placed me in a similar position as my current one on The Transformers. Fortunately, I did end up enjoying it, and yes, I also have that DVD.

I'm worried about I Am Legend, but I haven't followed it as much as I have The Transformers--at least not yet--so I'm not as affected, even if I hold Matheson closer to my heart than I do The Transformers.

banzai cat said...

Hehe here's another movie that had purists foaming at the mouth: LXG! ;-) Stupid movie but it had its moments. Same way I felt with Constantine. (Btw, I could never get over the way people would pronounce it as "kon-stan-tin" instead of "kon-stan-tyn"?)

On the other hand, I think may go purist with Matheson's I am Legend-- or at least keep the original concept alive (instead of going the Omega Man route).

Eldritch00 said...

My big problem with LXG was that it was so poorly-directed. My head still reels at how badly shot the fight scenes were.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

two cents on LXG: i hated everything about it, the worst of it being the inclusion of a frickin' american, so ridiculously making him the 'hero' of the flick. i couldn't even enjoy it for the 'ride' factor.

bc: i actually prefer the sound of 'kon-stan-teen;' Jamie Delano, however, pronounces it, predictably, the British way, and i imagine Alan Moore would say it the same way.

either way, technically, is correct, and it's really an artificial difference owing mainly to accents and dialects of the english language; although it would be nice to find out how John himself might say his name. (probably the Brit way, yeah, but you never know.)

eld & bc: still haven't read I am Legend, so i can't really comment on the adaptation angle. however, one might hope from the fact that they actually used the book's title (rather than Vincent Price's Last Man on Earth or The Omega Man) that this will be a 'definitive' and more faithful adaptation.

Will Smith in the starring role, however, suggests otherwise (remember I, Robot?).

banzai cat said...

eldritch: Yeah but at least's it's no Spawn. Now that one gave me headache.

skinny: Oy, that's another movie that surprised me. I've been seeing snippets of I, Robot on cable and it actually looks interesting. But then again, I heard it was an Alex Proyas movie with an Isaac Asimov facade so mebbe I shouldn't have been so harsh on the movie.

skinnyblackcladdink said...

eld: it completely slipped my mind, but mentioning Constantine was more than just coincidence. Francis Lawrence who directed that flick is also directing I am Legend

skinnyblackcladdink said...

bc: the movie I, Robot was nowhere near the Asimov story, by all accounts, though i've yet to read the short.

still, i'm a fan of Proyas, and i enjoyed the movie immensely, despite it's overt cinematic logic (which tends to be at odds with anything based on reality).

one last addendum re:the new I am Legend movie. from the evidence on the net, it looks to be a re-make of the movie series based on the book, rather than an adaptation of the book itself. given that it's Lawrence at the helm, it looks to be another complete 're-imagining' of the concept, so purists will almost definitely have something to bitch about when it comes out.

Der Fuhrer said...

Is Requiem available at FB?

skinnyblackcladdink said...

df: yup. last saw a copy at FB rockwell