This installment: Switzerland to Africa, with suspense (f); graphic lesbian feminist Arabian Nights (f); graphic memoir with Jewish identity theme (f);a documentary about a song we love or hate (dvd); and a cache of journals rediscovered (nf).
Gloaming by Melanie Finn
What is Pilgrim doing in this African backwater anyway? She’s fleeing from horrible happenings back in Switzerland, the end of her marriage and an accident that resulted in the death of three children. There’s also evidence she’s being stalked which makes no sense (until it does). Surrealistic, atmospheric, often nightmarish, and utterly fascinating.
One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
A graphic novel which plays on the Arabian Nights theme with a lesbian-feminist twist. Familiar folktales are recast, as Cherry stalls a lecherous fellow night after night, helped by her “servant” and lover, the hero of the tale. The message: stories can save us from repression. You better believe it! Charming.
Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir by Amy Kurzweil
I love this form to convey multi-layered, complex subjects. Kurzweil anatomizes her ongoing struggle with identity. She was a hypochondriac “child of strange preoccupations,” raised by a single mother, a psychotherapist. She listens to her bubbe’s stories of the old country, explores her tenuous connection with her Jewish roots, goes through many phases (very familiar to me) of trying to figure out who she is and where she fits—if anywhere. Oy! Juicy and vivid.
Hava Nagila (the Movie)
I stumbled upon this documentary while looking for Regina Spektor’s latest album (she’s a favorite) and discovered she’s one of the many diverse and surprising participants in this lively, charming exploration of a song some love and some hate (because it has so much exposure). Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, Leonard Nimoy (!)—did you know that his iconic Star Trek gesture has a Jewish origin? Very tasty and entertaining.
A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters
I keep a journal faithfully so this was of special interest because it’s about a huge cache of diaries discovered in a skip (British for “dumpster”). Masters plowed his way through them, trying to figure out the source and coming upon fascinating clues along the way. It’s like watching a photograph develop over time. I don’t want to give away the revelations, but admit that the material is often painful, full of unrequited passions and the kind of naked thoughts that aren’t usually exposed to the light of day. Weird and fascinating.
Back next week.