BookBin2011: CSI Graphic Novels

No, that isn’t a mistake, denizens. This will be the final book entry for my 2011 reading endeavors. Even though I was in the process of reading several other books (my attention span seemed to shrink significantly toward the end of last year), I decided I wanted to end the year on a fluffy note. Therefore, the stack of CSI graphic novels that I picked up from Amazon Marketplace a while ago seemed like a great place to go. Besides, as I mentioned in my last post, there was road-tripping to be done this past weekend, and since I wasn’t driving, I chose to entertain myself with reading.

Okay, so here’s the deal: After reading the first CSI graphic novel, Serial, I decided that—true to my obsessive nature—I wanted to read more CSI graphic novels to see if they improved upon what I considered to be a relatively sturdy foundation. I purchased the next four novels. There are more graphic novels beyond five; however, these are the only ones illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. I mentioned in my review of Serial that at some point the artwork for these CSI novels turns quite mucky. However, Rodriguez’s artwork in the first novel was impressive enough to assuage my fears that he might be the tainted artist.

In all honesty, it’s Rodriguez’s art and coloring that compelled me to continue reading these comics. His grasp of illustrating our favorite band of Vegas criminalists continued to improve throughout each of these three novels. The disproportionate appearances that I noted in my review of Serial continued through Bad Rap and Demon House, but definitely began to diminish.

[Loba Tangent: If the cover art for Demon House looks a little familiar to regulars here at the lair, it’s because I used it as the inspiration for my CSI: Bajor spoof cover, Blood Prophecy. You’re welcome.]

By the time I started Dominos (yes, I know the title is misspelled; yes, it did irritate the hell out of me), I was noticing a definite balance in proportions. Also, the likenesses became even more refined with each effort (with the continuing exception of Greg Sanders…I don’t know what it is about our favorite Lab Rat, but Rodriguez simply cannot get him right!). In fact, the only nitpick I can come up with is a minor one and really only something that would bother me: In all three novels, Rodriguez gave Sara Sidle long, sharp fingernails with a dark red polish.

Er, no.

Seriously, find me three instances on the show of Sara Sidle wearing any kind of nail polish and I will send you cookies.

The real beauty of each of these novels, however, is in the coloring. I think Rodriguez did the coloring, but I might be wrong. Fran Gamboa is listed as being responsible for colors in Bad Rap, but that’s the only time someone else is listed. Regardless, whoever did the coloring for these graphic novels did an amazing job. The attention to shadows and lighting gave the panels a gorgeous dimensionality that often is missing from mass-produced comics. The lighting closely mimics the lighting as seen in the television show, which adds a nice connection between the printed and televised worlds.

The flashback and speculation scenes for all three novels were still done in a different, more abstract style than the primary artwork. Ashley Wood continued to do these watercolor renderings for Bad Rap and Demon House. Steven Perkins took over for Dominos. I appreciated Perkins’s abstract style to Woods’s work. Woods’s take on these scenes seemed to degenerate throughout each story, becoming more abstract and less interesting with each offering. Toward the end of Demon House, it seemed as though the abstract artwork became nothing more than scratched-out stick people over a sickly mottling of drab olives and browns. Perkins brought back a more refined level of artistry with his take on the flashbacks, keeping them stylistically different from the rest of the story while imbuing them with an appealing sense of sophistication.

As for the writing, Max Allan Collins stuck around after his first crack at graphic novel storytelling to write the stories for Bad Rap and Demon House. They were acceptable stories, but nothing that would push the boundaries already established by the show. One thing that I’ve always liked about the Trek universe’s forays into comics and novels is the fact that the stories there tend to stray from the canonical path. With few exceptions, nothing shown in either written world is ever viewed as “truth” to the filmed Trek universe. I guess that’s not the case with the CSI universe, because not a whole lot new is revealed in these graphic novels.

Kris Oprisko took over the writing from Collins for Dominos. Again, nothing too different, although Oprisko enjoyed invoking a darkness in his tale that Collins very seldom embraced. Dominos had a much more brutal feel, which inspired equally brutal imagery from Rodriguez and Perkins. It was in these aspects that I felt the graphic novel finally started to reach beyond the boundaries of the show…although that’s not really the case anymore. Ever since CSI switched to a later time slot, they’ve definitely been exploring the reduced level of restriction in what sort of gore they can show their audience.

All that being said, if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll enjoy these dalliances. Are they worth purchasing? Again, if you love CSI, then they’re worth owning if only for the enjoyable artwork. That reminds me: Here’s a more objective nitpick, not necessarily about the artwork but more about the skimping the publishers did to the artwork. Whereas Serial was printed in what has become a “standard” size for many graphic novels, these three were printed in what IDW Publishing called the “New Format.” Reduced size, which means: A) The artwork was skimped the way comic strips get skimped in newspapers; and B) these books now look ridiculous on my graphic novel shelf. All the other books there are a relatively standard size. Even the fifth CSI novel, Secret Identity, went back to the standard size. Guess they realized their mistake and corrected it.

Oh, and if you’re interested, I’m nearly finished with Secret Identity. I promise my comments on that one won’t be nearly as long as these comments.

Final Verdict: I’m keeping these three for now. I like my obsession-related collections. Prophets know I have plenty of Trek-related books. While my CSI collection will never grow to that level of insanity, I’m having a fun time collecting for a new obsession…at least until the Buffy collecting bug kicks in…

BookBin2011: Blankets

I suppose it would be a bit naive of me to think that I can have an objective opinion of Craig Thompson’s illustrated novel (his rather concise term) Blankets. Even though I knew nothing about the novel when I hefted it from the library shelf and added it to my pile, it ended up being one of the most surprisingly accessible books I’ve picked up in a very long time.

Thompson, born one year before me, is a contemporary not only in age and pop culture references (his affinity for the grunge music scene is particularly well defined through mostly wordless background references that might slip past you if you’re not paying attention), but also in religious experiences. His autobiographical protagonist goes through many of the same ordeals that I went through as a student at a Christian high school. His questions, fears, conundrums, and ultimately, his deliverance from these spiritual quandaries are more often than not identical to my own experiences.

And there I’ve gone and given away the ending. But only if you know me well…

Thompson’s journey through his religious and familial morasses is much darker, much more complex than mine ever was, which adds a newness to a slightly recognizable story and provides greater opportunity to develop a sense of empathy for our hero. His experiences with the ostracizing impact of adolescence and fumbling attempts at first love ultimately make him more fallible and more endearing with each page. Also, Thompson’s artistic skills are enviable. Blankets is a perfect example of why the graphic medium is such a powerful contributor to the literary world. In fluid lines and simple shadowing, Thompson is able to convey the complexities of emotion and beauty that often defy description. His artwork is elegant, observational, reverent, and beguiling.

Final Verdict: Alas, I must return this copy to our library where, hopefully, many others will discover its subtle beauty and depth. I would love to have a copy of this book in my library. Dear Amazon.com Marketplace, make me an offer I can’t refuse…

BookBin2011: La Perdida

This was a last-minute impulse grab from the graphic novel section as I was trying to leave the library during my last visit. I’d already pulled a stack of books from this section (most of which I’ve already finished and written up here), but there was something so very…forsaken about this novel. It sat, separate from the other novels, missing its dust jacket, its hardback cover showing its title and author only on the spine. I don’t know why, but I have a bit of a soft spot for hardback books that have lost their jackets.

And thus I ended up adding Jessica Abel’s La Perdida to my stack of selections. Translated as “The Lost,” La Perdida leads us through a year-long look at life in Mexico City, as experienced by the novel’s protagonist, Carla Olivares. Born to an American mother and Mexican father, Carla spends most of her early life trying to distance herself from the Mexican half of her heritage. However, as she grows more disillusioned with her urbanal existence as a 20-something Chicagoan, she decides to leave everything behind to drop in on her ex-boyfriend Harry, a rather stereotypical “wealthy WASP” who has chosen to live in Mexico City because his literary hero, William S. Burroughs, lived there for a brief time (he fled to Mexico City to escape possible jail time in Louisiana only to end up in a Mexican jail after killing his wife during a drunken game of William Tell.)

[Loba Tangent: There is a part of me that was greatly amused by the serendipity of discovering so many references to Burroughs throughout this novel, considering my recent discovery and appreciation of Beat Generation literature.]

Harry soon tires of Carla’s presence and kicks her out. However, rather than return home, Carla chooses to remain in the country illegally, an expatriate desperate to not only experience “true Mexico” but to be accepted by a collection of locals with whom she has become friends since her arrival. These include Oscar, a winsome if somewhat witless drug dealer who dreams of one day touring the United States as a renowned DJ and with whom she falls into a rather indeterminate relationship; and Memo, a false prophet of ¡La Revolución! who hides his more unscrupulous activities behind a constant barrage of criticism and condemnation he lays upon Carla for her comfortable capitalistic American upbringing.

I won’t go into the events that transpire once Carla finds herself totally immersed in local life. I wish I could say it’s because it’s a fascinating story. It is somewhat intriguing, if not utterly predictable. Also, I can’t help but feel as though this tale is ultimately a negative stereotype, both of Americans and of Mexicans. If this story is to be believed as embedded in truth, we’re all reprehensibly spoiled and consequently naive in regard to the harshness of life outside of our insular capitalist existence (okay, one or both of those statements are admittedly true in more instances than they should be). And all Mexicans are manipulative, shiftless, and criminally inspired.

There are positive aspects to the novel. Abel, who lived in Mexico City for 2 years, captures the straightforward, simple beauty of the city and her characters through art that is equal parts restrained and elegant. Her black and white linework vacillates between comic caricatures and renderings of surprising realism. Also, the insider view of life in Mexico that does not directly relate to the main story is fascinating. Even though I understand that the ultimate point of La Perdida was to tell the story of Carla’s unfortunate adventure during her year abroad, I wished that the book had been more of an illustrated travel log of a less-titillating variety. More focus on the experience of adjusting to total immersion in a foreign culture and less focus on “Hey, how can we make everyone look awful by the end of this story?”

Final Verdict: This was an uneven yet somewhat intriguing graphic novel (as well as one of the wordiest illustrated stories I think I’ve ever read), and many of Abel’s illustrations are quite captivating. I don’t foresee adding it to my graphic novel collection, but I’m glad that I grabbed it from the shelf as I was leaving. It gave me a mildly informative glimpse of life as a temporary expat. It also taught me the phrase “Chinga tu madre.” That’s bound to come in use at some point…

BookBin2011: Escape from “Special”

I feel as though I am already turning against a newly acquired friend before our relationship has even had a chance to take root.

Oh well.

I very much wanted to like Miss Lasko-Gross’s graphic novel Escape from “Special.” I was instantly convinced to check it out from the library after reading the following line from the description:

Subjected to the whims of her bemused parents and, as the years pass, rejected by her peers, the opinionated Melissa copes by watching horror movies, psychosomatically vomiting to get out of temple, and making comics.

This is a girl to whom I can relate (minus the psychosomatic vomitting part…that’s kind of…no). Lasko-Gross offers readers a semi-autobiographical telling of protagonist Melissa’s development from off-center child to ostracized-and-unconcerned-about-it adolescent. She presents Melissa’s story through surrealistically drawn vignettes that lack any form of “prettification.” The artwork is rough and the writing is coarse. Then again, so is the subject matter. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There isn’t enough money in the world to convince me to relive my adolescence. It was awkward and uncomfortable and strange and, while I wouldn’t change any of it since it turned me into the Wonder Geek I am today, I definitely wouldn’t want to go through it again.

That’s kind of what it felt like at times when reading this graphic novel, which left me feeling decidedly displeased. At other times, it felt like I was witnessing something completely removed from anything my brain could properly process. Melissa’s attempt to create a protective second skin out of her own snot is one of the more outlandish moments. It was also one of the moments that left me rolling my eyes in such a cartoonish way that I’m sure they made clickety noises that others could hear.

The bottom line is that I think I’m well beyond the target age for this particular graphic novel. I think it’s something that someone closer to the age of the protagonist could better relate to; I’m old and clickety in places other than my rolling eyes. Would I recommend this as reading for a high schooler? I think it definitely has redeeming qualities for someone in that age bracket who was feeling marginalized by their peers and looking for someone to whom they could relate. So, yes. Yes, I would.

Would I recommend it for someone beyond the high school wasteland? Probably not. As I mentioned in my last review, there is definitely not a dearth of graphic novel memoirs out there to be enjoyed, so spending time on one like this when there are several other better ones to experience? No, I’d not choose this one over those others. Right off the top of my head, I’d name Alison Bechdel’s Fun House as a holistically superior coming-of-age tale.

Final Verdict: Add another graphic novel to the return pile.

BookBin2011: The Alcoholic

One of the most fascinating things that I have discovered about the graphic novel is how many depict writers’ attempts to plumb the depths of their (or their families’) souls in poignant and uncomfortable ways. Uncomfortable for them. Uncomfortable for us. Sometimes, the best literature is the kind that leaves us feeling unsettled afterward.

When it leaves you feeling somewhat apathetic, that’s either a sign that you haven’t done something correctly…or that your audience reads too many disturbing memoirs.

I think Jonathan Ames’s The Alcoholic falls mostly into this latter category. I’ve read several graphic novel memoirs of darkly revelatory natures. I’ve also read several regular memoirs that deal with similar issues and vices as those of Ames’s protagonist (admittedly, though, Ames is the first one to feature an “octogenarian dwarf” in his storyline). Ames falls somewhere in the middle of these previous reads. His story about his submersion into alcohol and drugs is compelling, his writing style is engaging, and the accompanying artwork by illustrator Dean Haspiel is clean and sometimes clever. However, I think the cover art is the most appealing design work from this book. I love the components of the bar scene used in such a tantalizing tableau.

I don’t mean to come across as so dismissive of Ames’s novel. If you aren’t like me and make a habit of picking up similar works on a regular basis, you might find this to be a provocative memoir. Ames is honest and oftentimes quite funny in that self-deprecating way mastered by the damaged. The ending is patently predictable, but that can be forgiven in light of a solidly and entertainingly told story preceding it.

Final Verdict: Again, it was an interesting diversion, but not something that I foresee purchasing for my library.

BookBin2011: A Sickness in the Family

Our beautiful library’s graphic novel section just keeps getting better and better each time I visit. It’s a ploy, denizens. They know what to do to foil my desperate attempts to read only books from my own library. If only I was strong enough to resist the clarion call of all those beautiful books, just waiting to be mine, if only for a little while…

During this recent trip, I tried to limit myself solely to the graphic novel section. These are always faster reads, which means that I can quickly get back to whatever non-pictorial literature I was reading before the latest graphic divergence. Also, I’ve really enjoyed the graphic novel discoveries that I have made this year. There’s something so uninhibited about this particular medium of storytelling. Plus, there’s the doubled delight when you discover a brilliant story depicted by an incomparable artist (see Blacksad, which remains one of my favorite BookBin2011 reads).

I ended up leaving with five books from this section (and two from the nearby short story section, but we’ll get to the them when the time is right). First to be cracked open? Vertigo Crime’s A Sickness in the Family.

Written by crime novelist Denise Mina, this is the tightly wound tale of a family that moves at Mach-5 speed from the realm of marginally dysfunctional to irrefutably broken. Of course, being a crime comic, the end result of this damaging downgrade is death of diabolical proportions.

The Usher family finds their numbers dwindling a notch at a time after the father opts to purchase the downstairs apartment so he can increase the size of the family home. Of course, the downstairs came to him for a song after its previous tenants killed each other in a gruesome holiday-fueled domestic disturbance.

Is the ill will that’s now befalling the Ushers the remnants of a curse that haunts the land on which their home is built? Or is something far less spectral…and far more sinister that is causing the Fall of the House of Usher?

Ah. I was waiting this whole time to squeeze that one in. Edgar Allan Poe, FTW.

Artwork by Antonio Fuso is clean and concise, but not really much to write home about. Fuso’s done a lot of illustration for G.I. Joe comics. Let that be whatever you wish it to be.

Final Verdict: Interesting side trip of a read, but not a book that I feel I need to add to my library any time soon.

BookBin2011: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

Sometimes, there’s a part of me that feels as though my alma mater failed me in certain indisputable ways regarding my studies. My concentration when I was in college was American literature. However, there are times when I realize that I have severe gaps in my exposure to some of the most important movements to transpire in this particular genre.

One of those glaring gaps is my exposure to the proliferate writings of the “Beat Generation.” In going through my memories of various syllabi from my years in college, I have come to the conclusion that I never had any professor introduce me to the literary likes of Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg…I don’t even remember any offered classes that focused, even briefly, on the likes of these writers. I believe the closest I might have come was one professor who thankfully introduced me to Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which included several essays, including the titular piece, on her experiences of being immersed within the 1960s Haight-Ashbury counterculture movement, which was inspired by and in many ways indebted to the bohemian non-conformist attitudes of the Beat Generation.

There was this massive push when I was in college to free students from the strangle-hold of the ubiquitous “White Male” on the literary canon. While I understand this desire to diversify the curriculum in this way, it came at what I deem to be an unacceptable price. Not only are these Beat Generation authors quintessential to the foundation of modern American literature, but Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” and Burroughs’ book Naked Lunch were both the focus of obscenity trials that helped to redefine the parameters of the publishing industry in this country. For these reasons alone, there should be a place at the literary table for the likes of these influential authors.

These are the types of things that I ruminate upon when I find myself in places such as San Francisco. Although the Beat movement began in New York City, in time it shifted to the City by the Bay where, some might argue it gained its greatest momentum and notoriety. It was here that a freshly relocated Ginsberg penned his Beat masterpiece, “Howl,” which was published by the now legendary City Lights Bookstore. I have now been to San Francisco three times. It was only on this recent trip that I finally gave in to my need to step through the doors of this sacred store.

Yes, I called it sacred. Bookstores are to me what churches are to the pious. And City Lights? City Lights is on par with the Vatican. This was the West Coast birthplace of ideas, desires, doubts, questions, intellectual revolution, the ripples of which continue to flow through our collective conscience. For better or for worse, the Beat Generation effectively shifted how we view ourselves and our roles in society…of how we view society in general. They brought under fire the established mindset and questioned the reality of what was deemed acceptable, preferred, right. And City Lights was right there in the center as the publisher of these revolutionary writings.

All this, of course, is build-up for the book that I recently finished. Needless to say, one of the reasons that I had been avoiding City Lights is because I knew I couldn’t go there without purchasing many, many books. I actually put back some of the books that I wanted (a difficult feat, I can assure you). However, I still ended up spending a great deal of time and money there. I left with several writings from Beat scions…not necessarily their most well-known contributions but instead lesser-known offerings that have received less attention throughout the years but still sounded provocative.

Among my purchases was a collaborative effort between Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, the earliest written offering by either author. Written in 1945, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks tells a fictional account of a true crime to which both Burroughs and Kerouac were made accessories by prime suspect and mutual friend, Lucien Carr. I won’t go into details since many of them made their way into this novel, and I would hate to give too much away here.

Although, honestly, the details of the crime are almost incidental to what I perceive as one of the cornerstones of the Beat mindset…and that is the ephemeral yet irresistible power of the now. There is an immediacy to how these characters behave that is in stark contrast to established parameters of acceptable behavior, especially that of 1940s-era America. They sleep when they are tired, they eat when they are hungry, they have sex when they are horny, they experiment when they are curious, they drink until their thirsts are quenched, regardless of time or place or responsibility. They respond to the primal rather than the proper. They act in the moment without considering later consequences. They are not shackled by societal pressures of conformity. They view possessions in communal rather than proprietary terms because they place more importance on ideas than on material things. Things are not to be coveted or kept but to be shared and used as needed, by whoever might need them.

There are so many ideas and behavior quirks embedded throughout this novel that came to identify the tenets of the Beat movement—all presented in its nascent years by two who would become linchpin contributors to its birth and growth. However, this novel remained unpublished throughout the lives of both its authors, not seeing the light of published day until 2008—63 years after it was first written.

Is it their best? I can’t say definitively one way or the other, but I can assume that it’s not either writer’s greatest offering. First books rarely are. Is it important? I think so. It is the beginning of Kerouac and Burroughs. Before On the Road. Before Naked Lunch. This was their joint birth, hidden from sight for more than six decades.

As to the strangeness of the title? That seems to be a bit of a hazy sticking point. Burroughs remembered hearing a newscaster state this line while reporting on a fire at the St. Louis Zoo. Kerouac remembered it as being in reference to a fire at a zoo in London. Still another thought is that it was in reference to a fire at a circus. Regardless, let us take a moment of silence for those poor hippos, wherever they might have been.

Final Verdict: You don’t give away a book like this. You give it pride of place with all those other seminal writings from other authors who helped shape and define the literary conscience at its various transformation points.

BookBin2011: The Girl Who Played With Fire

I do believe this is a first for my BookBin entries, denizens: This is the first book I’m refusing to finish.

I didn’t even refuse to finish Stranger in a Strange Land, even though Heinlein’s unapologetic misogyny and startling lack of enlightenment made me want to crotch punch him.

I didn’t even refuse to finish Twilight! And anyone who knows anything at all about me knows that I want someone to suffer for the scourge of the Twilight saga. Someone Mormon.

But I just can’t finish this one, denizens. I made it halfway through The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson’s sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and I reached yet another mention of the “impromptu” tattoo that Lisbeth Salander gave her advocate…and I realized, I just don’t want to know anymore about this world that these characters inhabit. It’s an ugly, brutal world and its primary targets are women.

You know what? I already know how dangerous the world is for women. In fact, I daresay there aren’t very many women out there who need to be reminded of all the potential dangers waiting out there for us. Therefore, I don’t need to have this fact hammered into my head (in oftentimes highly disturbing ways) by the likes of Larsson’s novels.

I already spoke my thoughts on his goals for his Millennium series in my review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. They remain strongly in place. Do I think that there are people out there who might not understand the truths that Larsson was trying to convey with his books? Yes. They’re called men.

I’m not trying to be sexist or flippant with that statement. I have found, however, that men often do not understand why women seem so paranoid or skittish when they are in certain situations. I’m reminded of one of the “death” openings from the series Six Feet Under (which I still think is one of the most brilliant things to come out of Hollywood in many moons).

Each episode began with someone’s death. This particular episode started with a young woman walking alone down a dark street when suddenly she finds herself being followed by a group of men. They start verbally harassing her and when she begins to walk away faster, they take chase. The woman breaks into a full run, heading straight into the middle of the street where she’s hit by a car and killed.

Turns out the guys who were chasing her were her friends. They thought they were being funny. They didn’t understand why what they were doing would in any way be frightening enough to cause their friend to run out into traffic just to get away from them. They weren’t being intentionally malicious. They were just sadly clueless.

Sorry for spoiling that opening for you, but that’s the first thing that came to mind when I was trying to understand why Larsson would feel so compelled to write these descriptively violent books. As obvious as the existence of these things are to women, they apparently remain a mystery to many men. Perhaps something good could come from these readers wrapping their brains around these stories.

Of course, the jaded, pessimistic side of me says that all these books will really be is titillation for explicitly dark-minded souls.

Whatever they may be to others, they are no more for me.

Final Verdict: Library book, so it goes back tomorrow. As much as I do still like the character of Lisbeth Salander, I just don’t want to read anymore from this series. Also, I am now no longer “unsure” about the future of my copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I have already moved it to the donation box.

BookBin2011: It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me

Behold the wonder of teh Interwebz, denizens. Earlier this year, one of my amazing British ImagiFriendsTM suggested that I might like It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me, a collection of journalist Ariel Leve’s essays that appeared in her Sunday Times’ column, “Cassandra.”

I’ve trusted his recommendation before (for a book that has already appeared in my BookBin adventures), so I happily added Leve’s book to my wishlist…where my lovely friend Z saw it and selected it as a birthday present for me this year.

Oh, the awesome power of teh Interwebz!

So let me show you the lines that made me fall madly in love with this book and know with all certainty that I was going to keep it:

I can’t imagine a life without coffee. The way some people can’t imagine a life without children.

This is the kind of line that only a deliciously warped person could write. Leve fits this description perfectly. Of course, I already suspected that she would; anyone who would name her column after (I’m assuming) the tragic figure Cassandra of Greek mythology, she who could predict the future with unflinching accuracy, but who was cursed by Apollo himself so that no one would ever believe her…well, she’s going to be my cup of tea, indeed.

I will say this: The book is a bit much to consume in one sitting (which I practically did while flying cross-country last week to San Francisco [more to come on that]). There’s a certain degree of repetitiveness as well as an overwhelming pessimism when you read all these essays in one massive chunk. They definitely have more appeal in smaller, weekly doses.

That, however, simply means that this is the perfect book to pull off the shelf and peruse on those dark days when you just feel like staying on the couch in your jammies (I believe Leve would call those moments “days that end in y”). Actually, though, I suspect that Leve uses her journalistic endeavors, such as “Cassandra,” as her own personal Portrait of Dorian Gray-esque venting outlets. I bet she’s quite upbeat and lively in real life. Maybe?

Final Verdict: Definitely a keeper. I’m delighted to have a literary-minded ImagiFriendTM who knows me so well as to recommend such a perfectly suited collection for me. Of course, it does worry me that Leve’s rather pessimistic outlook reminded him of me…

BookBin2011: Reach for the Summit

See? I did warn you in my last review that I’d finally gotten my hands on a copy of Coach Summitt’s first book, didn’t I? Okay then.

Reach for the Summit is pretty much equal parts business-minded motivational pep talkery, behind-the-scenes glimpses of Summitt’s coaching style, the extensive work and research that goes into each Lady Vol basketball season, and autobiographical side trips along the way. I think I liked the autobiographical tangents the most. Summitt is extraordinarily interesting, not just as a coach but as a person (although I suppose one could argue that one feeds into the other feeds into the other). I think, however, that this might be the closest thing we will ever get from her to an actual autobiography. She doesn’t strike me as the type of person who would willingly participate in just talking about herself.

However, for the purposes of this book, she was willing to allow readers in to see those private sides of herself as a means of understanding the “Definite Dozen System” that she uses with her players and staff and that she and co-writer Sally Jenkins outline as a course of action for those looking to be motivated and inspired in whatever they are doing in life.

I’m not really a touchy-feely, motivational speaker, “Just Hang In There” poster kind of girl. Luckily, neither is Summitt. She is fierce. But with the most successful record of any NCAA coach? She also obviously knows what she’s doing and what she’s talking about. And what she’s defining through this book isn’t some miracle elixir program. She outlines hard work, focus, practice, preparation, and a willingness to change and to also admit when you’re wrong.

But never to readily admit defeat. I don’t really think that’s a word that gets much use in her vocabulary.

I’m not going to tell you what the “Definite Dozen System” includes, because I actually think that this book is worth the read. I even found it to be (gasp!) motivational. And, seriously, denizens, I hate motivational books.

Final Verdict:
Keeper. Right next to my copy of Raise the Roof. Woots.