FROM MOONGIRL TO BOOMERBUTT: MINI-REVIEWS OF FIVE GRAPHIC NOVELS

One thing I realised last year: I’m reading a lot of graphic novels these days. I always have, but for reasons of digestibility, time, and interest, I’m smashing through them over the last year or two. Sixteen days into 2020, I’ve read six, so I thought it might be fun to post a paragraph or two each time I get through another five.

Naturally, to start with, I’m going to do six. Because that’s how I roll. Badly.

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REVIEW: ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE OF LIFE, by ERIC IDLE

First book of 2020 finished.

 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A SortabiographyAlways Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Entertaining but superficial glossing over of a celebrity life that eschews self-reflection and insight in favour of name dropping and shaggy dog stories. It’s fun, and occasionally funny, but if you’re of the opinion that Idle’s career has been running off nostalgia and cannibalisation of his Pythonic roots for a long while now, this will not be the book to change your mind.

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REVIEW: TRACE- WHO KILLED MARIA JAMES?

Trace: who killed Maria James?Trace: who killed Maria James? by Rachael Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely jaw-dropping, compelling reading. I felt like I needed to have a shower after I’d finished. Having not been aware of the podcast, it was all new to me, and I was utterly gobsmacked. The pacing is perfect, the revelations astounding, the writing a pitch-perfect combination of the journalistic and the personal. This is the best true crime book, and the best book about becoming involved in the investigation of a crime, that I have read in a long time. A superb achievement.

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REVIEW; THE VIOLATED, BY BILL PRONZINI

The ViolatedThe Violated by Bill Pronzini

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellently constructed, multi-level narrative utilising a wide range of points of view and narrative strands. A simple crime builds in complexity and consequence, and the red herrings that constitute the secondary narrative are perfectly weighted and timed to create suspense and confusion. A slightly weak ending and reveal do not diminish the satisfaction.

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REVIEW: MR. MIKE- THE LIFE AND WORK OF MICHAEL O’DONOGHUE

Mr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O'DonoghueMr. Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue by Dennis Perrin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining, but on reflection superficial, examination of an author who was a major influence in the establishment of both National Lampoon and Saturday Night Live. There were obviously worms underneath the psyche of O’Donoghue, but as portrayed by Perrin, he comes across as a massively talented adolescent with the emotional control of an angry toddler. There’s a frustrating lack of depth or analysis. The acknowledgements page betrays a possible reason– despite O’Donoghue’s life touching a cast of thousands across both the Lampoon and SNL, as well as the rest of his varied career, only O’Donoghue’s wife Cheryl Hardwicke stands out, as well as Tony Hendra, Matty Simmons and Lorne Michaels for glimpses of their own works about the man. While the likes of Chevy Chase and Anne Beats discuss him in passing, the opportunity to really dig through the memories of those who knew him best seems to be shied away from.

The book is an entertaining read, and it skims across the major points of a complex and driven artistic soul, but it’s hard not to feel that the opportunity for a major examination of O’Donoghue’s influence on his contemporaries and industry has been missed, here. In all probability, this was the only chance, and it’s now been missed. Try as he might, Perrin never gets beyond the image of O’Donoghue as a tortured enfant terrible, leaving us with only glimpses of what might exist beyond that role.

It’s a book to treasure for those of us who were, and remain, fans, but it’s a bittersweet fandom: we never really get to know the man, just the image.

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REVIEW: THE LIFE OF GRAHAM GREENE VOL. 3– 1955-1991

The Life of Graham Greene Volume Three: 1955 - 1991: 1955-1991 Vol 3The Life of Graham Greene Volume Three: 1955 – 1991: 1955-1991 Vol 3 by Norman Sherry

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The first two volumes of Sherry’s biography of Greene skirted hero worship by dint of sheer volume of reportage– Greene’s life was filled with momentous happenings, and simply relating them kept Sherry’s over-ripe familiarity mostly at bay. Here, unfortunately, as the subject’s life begins to wind down, there are no such brakes– what has been, until now, a mildly cringing sycophancy devolves into full blown toadying. Anyone who is apposite to Greene is portrayed as deluded, jealous, or outright wrong. Greene himself is a warrior for truth, a noble of unsurpassable grandeur, Sherry’s personal hero. The author even begins to insert himself into the narrative in an effort to tie himself to his famous subject. This is the weakest, and most tedious, volume in the series, deeply flawed and worthwhile only for a sense of completism, because Sherry has committed the cardinal sin of the biographer: he has fallen in love with his subject.

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