Stuff read in The First Two Weeks

Lady Snowblood vol 1-4, Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura – I started reading this on December 31st, at Delhi airport, and finished them sometime in the middle of Jan 1st. The movie is a cleaned-up version of the books, with minor changes to the way the revenge saga plays out. How I wish it were Goseki Kojima illustrating the books, instead of Kamimura.

Mahabharata volume 1 and 2, Ramesh Menon – Easily the best version of the Mahabharata I’ve read so far ( counting the Point-of-view tales, like Yagnaseni and Samraj, this is the twelfth). Ample quantities of sex and violence, goosepimply moments and a splendid attention to detail, that brings together all the short tales one associates with the Mahabharata. And all this, of course, without any of the Wankery of the recent Ramayana-rewwritten-as-fantasy series. I shudder to think that Ashok Banker is actually writing a version of this. And people will actually read it. Gah! I am at the last stage of the Ashwamedha Parva, which will end with Krishna’s death and Dwaraka’s destruction. The whole post-War phase of the Mahabharata is extremely depressing. I have set it aside for sometime.

Siva – The Siva Purana retold, Ramesh Menon – Because the Mahabharata was so good, and because I could not carry the thick volumes with me on my trip to Bangalore and Calcutta, I ended up buying this relatively-thin hardcover, also by Ramesh Menon, from Bookworm. Retells mostly familiar stories from the Indian tradition, but suffers from a lack of cohesive storytelling. The different-narrators-telling-stories-to-saints format of chapters does not work, and the first person narrative of the Siva-Parvati love story made me cringe. Ample amounts of sex and violence here too, one chapter being dedicated entirely to Siva and Sati’s lovemaking on their first night. ( Need I tell you how much a day and a night of Siva measures up to normal Kali Yuga time?) The problem with trying to narrate the Siva Purana, or any of the other Puranas is two-fold – one, you are trying to narrate different versions of the same story, based on different sources ( for instance, the birth and subsequent elephant-headization of Ganesha), and two, you are effectively saying that your god is the best, and is the supreme manifestation and all the other gods are minor players in the storyline, which effectively negates all other mythological tales other than yours.

But inspite of all those gripes, I still had fun reading the Siva Purana, so there.

Princess Diaries 7: Seventh Heaven: Bought this one in Delhi on December 31st, and nearly got into a fight with a teenage girl at the store, when both of us noticed a copy of Volume 8 on the shelves ( called Princess Diaries: After Eight, and as it turned out later was released on December 26th). But then I noticed the price (399, goddarnit), and magnanimously asked her to buy it. Her mother refused to pay so much for the book, poor thing, and she left it where it originally was. Well, I didn’t buy it either, so there! But the seventh book rocked, as always. This series will forever be one of my ‘crack’ pleasures – a quick read, and a euphoric feeling after completing every volume.

Junji Ito’s Museum of Horror Volumes 1 and 2 – Read volume 2 first. Found volume 1 at Blossom on Saturday, and read it that very night. Exceptional!

Curt Swan: A Life in Comics, a book I picked up by chance at MR Book stall and finished the same day. Did I tell you how much I love Curt Swan? He used to be The Definitive Superman artist for me for quite some time, until John Byrne took over. I like Byrne’s version a lot, mostly because of the positive changes it brought in. The book features a ton of artwork from various Curt Swan works, mostly Superman and Legion of Superheroes, and interviews with almost everybody who had worked with him. Alan Moore’s interview was fascinating because he brings out both the positive and negative points about Mr Swan’s work. The most interesting is the one with Jim Shooter, who started writing for DC comics when he was just 13 years old, and used to send in his submissions as stick figures, instead of a script – and those figures would be translated to actual artwork by Curt Swan.

Pride of Baghdad, Brian K Vaughn and Niko Henrichon. Chandru got this for me from Landmark, Chennai. One of the first reads this year. Bloody brilliant!

Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall, Bill Willingham and tonnes of artists. Also courtesy Chandru. Loved the framing sequence, though the last line was a little unnecessary, methinks. All of the individual stories were extremely well-told. James Jean’s Flycatcher story was the best of all. James Jean! James Jean!!! Squeeeeeeee!

Ancestral Vices, Tom Sharpe – My first Sharpe in quite sometime. Not as hilarious as Indecent Exposure or the Wilt books were, but I’m getting into the groove. Yeah, baby!

Usagi Yojimbo volumes 8-17, Stan Sakai. Finished this lot in a night and half a day. These were far, far better than I thought they would be. Stan Sakai brings Japanese history to life using anthropomorphic rabbits, dogs, moles, bats and cats ( neko ninja! komura ninja! mogura ninja! ). The artwork is black and white, a lot of Sergio Aragones influences prevail, especially in the fight scenes – Sakai was the letterer for Aragones’ Groo, after all. The best thing about this book is the way it manages to be all-ages inspite of telling stories with primarily adult sensibilities.

And yesterday, I got The Complete Conan Chronicles by Robert E Howard in the mail. 925 pages of mindblowing coolness. I know what I am going to read the next couple of days.