Neil Gaiman‘s oeuvre contains graphic novels, short stories, children’s books, novels, a movie, and most recently, a video game. Each of his worlds is unique and complete. Regardless of how fantastical his stories become and how impossible his worlds are, what always exists are strong, empathetic characters with reason and accountability. That is what holds his creations together, a sense of understanding who the characters are before Gaiman takes us into unknown worlds with fantasy creatures that cannot be fully imagined in one’s head. His language is magnificent, effortless, and efficient. The dialogue is perfection: he had a lot of practice creating concise communication to fit into those panels and word balloons.
Sanyika Shakur‘s, aka Monster Kody Scott, Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member, was published in 1993. Featuring literary tropes, the style flows, everything is explained easily for the reader, and yet the book is hard to read. It’s difficulty lay not in the writing but in the content and the emotions they evoke. Without glamorizing gang life, Sharkur describes his rise through the ranks of the Crips gang. After brutally disfiguring someone, Kody is nicknamed Monster, and redefines himself by his new moniker. By the time Kody is 16, he has been shot on two separate occasions, with a total of 7 bullets entering his body.
Your book collection is a reflection of yourself, your tastes, your intellectual pursuits, your career, and your circumstances. Your books themselves can be unintentional markers of where you were or what you were doing at certain points in your life. And the items you use as placeholders instead of bookmarks can reveal another level of who you were or are. I started a new project, going through all of my books and photographing what was left in each book. I went through all the books in my apartment but have yet to go through the books in storage at my folks’ house. I started because I found two safety pins in a book. I can’t recall the book (I wish it was something appropriate like Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me but it wasn’t). Regardless, I began to wonder what else I would find in my books.
There were too many items to include in this single entry. I still have more books to add for future blog posts. It’s fun to see who I was and what I was doing when I was reading these books. It’s interesting that many of the placeholders indicate an active social life while I’m sitting at home or on the bus reading a book. I have spent so much time out and about because if I don’t get out of my room, I’ll read or worse, watch tv all night. These placeholders reveal so much more than I remember about myself. Forgotten people, phone numbers. But they also remind me of how long I’ve known some friends, and how many states we have known each other. Whether that be physical states and mental states. They also reiterate the people that I’ve been friends with for many, many years. The ones that have seen me through going to shows like the Toiletboys and going to clubs ten years ago. And the ones that accepted my being a book nerd in the midst of a raging social scene.
When I was 22 I went on a pilgrimage to Lowell, Massachusetts to visit Jack Kerouac‘s home. It was ill planned, we were walking in the snow, there were no signs, and what was worse, no one had even heard of him! I would have given anything for a map with directions of where to go and what to do. Well, The Beat Museum and The Contemporary Museum (CJM) did just that. They partnered together to create a walking tour based around the history of the Beat Generation in North Beach, San Francisco, in honor of Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg at the CJM. More than fifty years after On the Road and Howl were published, a large group of people gathered to listen to their stories and to see their historical geography.