- Lizard in a Zoot Suit by Marco Finnegan
- Samurai Cat in the Real World by Mark E. Rogers
- Jack Vance’s The Face (Demon Princes, Book 4)
- Jack Vance’s The Book of Dreams (Demon Princes, Book 5)
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 1, by Various Artists
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 2, by Various Artists
- Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses and The Anti-Racist Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia Rose Chavez
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 3, by Various Artists
- Wanderhome, by Jay Dragon
- Elements of Fiction, by Walter Mosley
- Hidden Folk, by Eleanor Arnason
- The Wages of Whiteness (Revised Edition) by David R. Roediger
- The Katurran Odyssey by David Michael Wieger, illustrated by Terryl Whitlatch
- Dragons (Time Life Enchanted World)
- May We Borrow Your Husband? and Other Comedies of the Sexual Life by Graham Greene
- Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada by Anna Brownell Jameson
- The Cursed Chateau by James Maliszewski, illustrated by Jez Gordon
- Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
- Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time by James Gurney
- Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave And Other Tales by David Petersen… and a song!
- Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Caregiver and Other Tales by David Petersen
- Thieves’ World edited by Robert Lynn Asprin
- My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
- Fish F*ckers by Kelvin Green
- Saga Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Scourge of the Scornlords: Meatlandia Book III by Ahimsa Kerp and Wind Lothamer
- Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas
- Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall
- The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
- Sirenswail by Dave Mitchell
- Roman Britain by David Shotter
- Saga, Volume 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Menace Under Marswood by Sterling Lanier
- The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
- Muse Sick: a music manifesto in fifty-nine notes by Ian Brennan
- Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure& Folk Magic From Appalachia by Jake Richards
- Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavić, translated by Christina Pribićević-Zorić
- Modern Jazz Voicings: Arranging for Small and Medium Ensembles by Ted Pease and Ken Pullig
- Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason
- The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer by Ron Pattison
- The Planetbreaker’s Son by Nick Mamatas
- The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems by Michael Ondaatje
- Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
- The Sword of Samurai Cat by Mark E. Rogers
- Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- Vermilion by Molly Tanzer
- The Punch Line by Zzarchov Kowolski
- Embassytown by China Miéville
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
- Gyo (Deluxe Edition) by Junji Ito
- Saga, Vols. 2–3, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur
- Smashed and Tomie by Junji Ito
- Uzumaki by Junji Ito
- The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
- Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito
As with other posts in this series, these #booksread2022 posts get published with some lag. I’m trying to be more punctual, though, and this one’s very recent.
This post includes a few horrifying images of body horror, death, and… other disturbing things from a horror comic. I actually went looking for a decent plugin I could use to blur images so people could avoid seeing them, but couldn’t find one I trusted enoough to install. So, well, I guess you’ve been warned.
I should say at the start that, despite the fact I’m reading more comics now—getting an iPad helped with that, and so did discovering that the local branch of the National Library had a bunch of things available—I’m sort of new to narrative comics. Aside from Mad and Cracked magazine in the 1980s, most of Asterix & Obelix that was published before 1990, and Garfield, they were not really available to me when I was at the age kids get into comic books, I’ve read some, and did read a few as a kid, but not much. I did read some books by Scott McCloud on the art form, but I’m not steeped in it, but I still deep like I have a pretty weak grounding in the artform, and you can probably tell from how I respond to graphic novels even now. For me, it still always feels a bit like reading literature from a culture I know only by reputation, or something. I’m always unsure how far to trust my own interpretation of things. This is doubly true for comics from actual other cultures!
With all of that said, I’ll add that until recently, all I knew of Junji Ito was the occasional image used in a meme online or verbal reference by a friend. However, after a discussion a while back, I got curious, and I recently discovered that the local branch of the National Library has English translations of number of his comics.
Anyway, Gyo is just as messed-up as I expected from the memes—or maybe a little more. It’s the chronicle of a surreal invasion by… well, terrible things.
My acquaintance with Japanese speculative fiction is quite shallow, so as my mind cast about for models to frame my reading, I found myself thinking about the few narratives I am familiar with, and wondering how a Japanese reader would respond to that. The themes that run through the story—unforeseen consequences of military experimentation out at sea, a horrific invasion springing from Imperial Japanese history, a struggle with survivor’s guilt, the ravaging of a modern urban Japanese landscape—all called to mind the most famous Japanese export, the Godzilla franchise.
Then again, I wonder if that’s an outlandishly simplistic connection to someone better versed in Japanese horror and SF? Something akin to someone who’s read almost no SF drawing strained parallels between H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and a more recent, and very different, time-travel film like Primer? (They’re both time travel narratives, but I wouldn’t place them side by side in terms of building a context for reading Primer.) For all I know, this might be a common narrative frame today, something that barely warrants comment.
In any case, for me the power of Gyo isn’t so much the story. The dialog is relatively simple (at least in translation), the narrative structure relatively straightforward and obvious… but then there’s the the imagery. That just gets under your skin as things go wrong…
… and then go horribly wrong:
The book feels less like a realist horror narrative than a nightmare brought to life and made inescapable. There’s a note of hope near the end, but there’s so much awful imagery and so many absurdly terrible events that unfold in rapid succession that by that point, it feels almost like cruelty instead of lightness. Many of these events seem not just absurdly terrible, but—by the logic of a waking mind—straight-up absurd, and yet when you’re enmeshed in the nightmare logic, it manages to hang together well and get under your skin. Or it did mine, anyway. Yet somehow I found myself devouring it.
At the end of the volume, I was happily surprised to find a narrative I’d actually been retold recently—because someone mentioned a meme drawn from it, and I didn’t understand it. “The Enigma at Amigara Fault” is a short tale that manages to pack a lot of creepiness and into a very few pages, in large part by what it implies and what it refuses to depict. Its quieter tone overall makes the cosmic horror that it implies that much more unsettling.
I pretty much devoured this book, and am happy to note there are several other works by Junji Ito available in English where I borrowed it. I picked borrowed most of them (except the one that was already on loan) yesterday:
… so I’ll be posting about his work again soon, I guess, even most of what I have to say is just my personal reaction.