Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran

Snow, Glass, Apples is a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. Gaiman wrote the story and words, and Doran was responsible for the adaptation and art. The book is a re-telling of the German fairy tale Snow White that was published by The Brothers Grimm.

The book tells the story of Snow White from the Queen’s perspective, and this time she’s the protagonist of the story. Her stepdaughter Snow White is a frightening vampire who at age six bites her and then attacks and sexually assaults her father, the King. The King dies, and the Queen describes how she got revenge on Snow White. She also shares how she would do it all differently if she could. The Queen’s men take Snow White to the forest, cut out her heart, and leave her for dead. They bring her heart back to the Queen who hangs it above her bed with a piece of twine. Snow White’s heart continues to pulse.

Later, the Queen uses her looking-glass and realizes that Snow White is still alive. She’s grown up and is preying and feeding on men in the forest. The Queen uses witchcraft to make three poison apples and disguise herself. She delivers them to Snow White who eats the apples and falls into a death-like sleep. Eventually, Prince Charming arrives at the palace. The Queen sleeps with him, but he’s into necrophilia, and she’s very much alive. The Prince ends up finding cold, pale Snow White in her glass and crystal coffin, and wakes her up. The necrophiliac and vampire are a perfect match. They marry, and burn the Queen in a kiln.

It's a creepy, gory re-telling of the fairy tale with sexual violence and adult imagery. The story is meant for adults, not children. Even though I know that fairy tales are often scary and gruesome, I was surprised by the explicit nature of the story.

The artwork by Colleen Doran was beautiful, and for me, it was the best part of the book. Doran was inspired by the Irish artist Harry Clarke, and I love his work too. At the end of the book, Doran shares some of her early sketches and provides information about her process in creating each piece of art by hand.

Related Review:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Purchase and read books by Neil Gaiman:

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks

And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks

And I Do Not Forgive You (2020) is a collection of stories, reflections, lists, and essays by Amber Sparks. It’s a thought-provoking and humorous read. The stories have fantastical, surprising, gruesome, and imaginative twists. Most of the stories feature unique female protagonists. Sparks is a Gen X writer with a strong feminist perspective, who describes herself as a "morbid weirdo" in her acknowledgments. I discovered her writing on Twitter where I often identify with her tweets, and I decided to read one of her books.

The collection contains the following 22 stories:

Mildly Unhappy, with Moments of Joy
You Won't Believe What Really Happened to the Sabine Women
A Place for Hiding Precious Things
Everyone's a Winner in Meadow Park
A Short and Slightly Speculative History of Lavoisier's Wife
We Destroy the Moon
In Which Athena Designs a Video Game with the Express Purpose of Trolling Her Father
Is the Future a Nice Place for Girls
Our Mutual (Theater) Friend
The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines
The Eyes of Saint Lucy
We Were a Storybook Back Then
Rabbit by Rabbit
Through the Looking-Glass
The Noises from the Neighbors Upstairs
Our Geographic History
Death Deserves All Caps
A Wholly New and Novel Act, with Monsters
When the Husband Grew Wings
The Language of the Stars
Mildly Joyful, with Moments of Extraordinary Unhappiness
Tour of the Cities We Have Lost

Some pieces of writing are quite lengthy, but most are short and succinct. My favorite stories included "Mildly Unhappy, with Moments of Joy," a painful recounting of a broken friendship where one party is ghosted by text message, and "A Place for Hiding Precious Things," which was a modern fairy tale about a princess whose fairy godmother helps her escape her lecherous father. I also enjoyed "A Short and Slightly Speculative History of Lavoisier's Wife" where Sparks recounts the contributions of Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier who has been minimized in history as her husband’s "helpmeet."

And I Do Not Forgive You is a great read, especially if you’re a Gen X, feminist, morbid weirdo, who loves history, ghost stories, and fairy tales.

Purchase and read books by Amber Sparks:

And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks The Unfinished World: And Other Stories by Amber Sparks

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022


I drew these sweet little buttercups over the weekend. I like how they turned out.

Pen and Ink Drawing of Buttercups by Ingrid Lobo

Here's a early drawing before I started using my pen:

Pencil Drawing of Buttercups by Ingrid Lobo

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Reading the Signs

I love reading the signs in various forms of artwork when I'm walking around Portland, Oregon.

Here's the beautiful "Troubled Hearts Can Heal" mural by Adam Brock Ciresi.

Troubled Hearts Can Heal mural by Adam Brock Ciresi, Portland, Oregon

Another piece of art I like a lot is this neon sign with the message, "There's so much beauty it could make you cry," inside Tender Loving Empire.

There's so much beauty it could make you cry, Tender Loving Empire neon art sign Portland, Oregon

The signs at WILDFANG change often. I like this message about euphoria that was up this past weekend.

Euphoria will not be reserved for those who fit the norm, sign at WILDFANG, Portland, Oregon.

I like this thoughtful quote by Angela Davis at the Blackfish Gallery: "I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change...I'm changing the things I cannot accept." When I pass it, I always pause and reflect on it.

I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change...I'm changing the things I cannot accept - Angela Davis, quote at Blackfish Gallery, Portland, Oregon

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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Musk Mallow

It was a mellow, musk mallow weekend.

Pen and Ink Drawing of Musk Mallow Flowers by Ingrid Lobo

Here's a process pic:

Pencil Drawing of Musk Mallow Flowers by Ingrid Lobo

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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Wildfire Skies

A haiku.

A poem and photograph of a smoky sky by Ingrid Lobo.

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Saturday, September 3, 2022

Mosses and Trees at the Olympic National Park

I was inspired by this one word tweet by @OlympicNP to share a few photos I took at the Olympic National Park last year in July. The park is incredibly beautiful, and I had such fun there with my husband exploring the mossy forests.

Photo of a huge tree at the Olympic National Park

Photo of moss and trees at the Olympic National Park

Photo of moss and trees at the Olympic National Park

Photo of moss and trees at the Olympic National Park

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Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom (2020) by Yaa Gyasi is the story of 28-year-old Gifty, a graduate student at Stanford working towards her Ph.D. in neuroscience. The story flits back and forth in time from the present day to memories of Gifty’s childhood and college days.

Gifty grew up in Alabama with her mother, father, and older brother Nana. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Ghana when Nana was young. Gifty’s father faces racism in the US and struggles to find work, and eventually he abandons his family to return to Ghana. Gifty’s mother works long hours as a caregiver and is a devoted member of her church.

Gifty is a quiet, studious young girl who wants to be good and writes to God in her diary. Her brother Nana is popular, outgoing, and good at sports. In high school, Nana becomes a star basketball player. Sadly, Nana’s basketball successes end when he injures his ankle and is prescribed OxyContin. Nana becomes addicted and dies of a heroin overdose. Gifty is 11 years old at the time. Her mother sinks into a deep depression and attempts suicide. During her mother’s recovery, Gifty is sent to Ghana to spend a summer with her aunt. Later, Gifty attends Harvard where she studies molecular biology. Before she heads to Cambridge, Gifty decides to reinvent herself and leave her past behind her.

In the present, Gifty is researching addiction and reward-seeking behavior in mice. She grows attached to an injured lab mouse with a limp. While Gifty denies that her life experiences led her to study the neuroscience of addiction, she’s not being honest with herself. It seems to me that she’s attached to the mouse because its injury is like her brother’s. The mouse also displays signs of addiction in Gifty’s experiments. When Gifty’s mother suffers from another depressive episode, Gifty’s family pastor calls her. She asks the pastor to fly her mother to California where Gifty will care for her.

In the past, Gifty has had trouble with relationships. She purposely destroyed a meaningful relationship with Anne in college when Anne tried to learn more about Gifty’s family. Gifty quite cruelly cut Anne out of her life entirely. Later, Gifty is involved with Raymond during her first years of grad school, and when he tried to get more serious and talked about meeting her family, Gifty sabotaged their relationship.

In the present day, Gifty is struggling to care for her mother while doing her final experiments and writing a paper. When her classmate Han notices her crying, they grow a little closer, and Gifty eventually tells him about her brother. She also begins to trust another colleague named Katherine, and Gifty tells Katherine about her mother. These small steps indicate some form of healing and newfound willingness to begin sharing her past with others.

Gifty’s final experiments are successfully. When Gifty alters the brain activity of the limping mouse, it restrains itself from seeking reward. At last, Gifty has an answer that she’s long been seeking. She reflects on her discovery in the passage below:

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, page 272

The end of the novel is abrupt. There’s a quick afterward to let the reader know that Gifty succeeds in life and that she has a prestigious job running a lab at Princeton and a happy relationship and home with Han. Her mother died in her own home. It was somewhat dissatisfying that there was such a gap in information about how this comes about in the arc of the Stanford narrative. Han and Gifty have planned to go out to dinner, but their early relationship is not well established for the reader. There’s also no explanation of how Gifty’s mother recovers to return home. The novel spends more time in the past than in the present day.

One of the strangest things in reading the novel for me was all the similarities I shared with Gifty. I too studied molecular biology, and I got my Ph.D. doing neuroscience research on addiction. I have an immigrant family. Long ago, my boyfriend-now-husband and I had a print and online magazine with the name “Transcendental Deliverance.” I made the same triangular move around the US as Gifty from the South to the Northeast to the West coast. Some of the minor anecdotes even rang true to me. Once, like Gifty, I avoided a man who was creeping me out by hiding in my campus library until I was sure he was gone. I found these similarities so curious and strange.

I was glad to read this story, and I really enjoyed Gifty’s voice and reflections.

Purchase and read books by Yaa Gyasi:

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Friday, September 2, 2022

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes is crime novel set in Los Angeles following World War II. The story centers on a serial rapist and murderer named Dix Steele. Dix was a fighter pilot in the war, and after his wartime successes, he finds his return to his regular life lacking. He lives in a friend’s apartment and depends on checks sent to him by his rich uncle. He has no interest in finding work. Dix spends his days sleeping and his nights riding buses with routes along isolated, foggy beaches looking for women to prey on and ideal places to get away with his crimes.

One night, Dix contacts his old Air Force friend Brub Nicolai, and he visits him and his wife Sylvia. Dix is stunned to learn that Brub is now working as a cop and trying to catch the strangler that’s been raping and murdering woman around the city. Brub tells Dix about the crimes, which have been occurring roughly once a month. At first, Dix is nervous that Brub and Sylvia will be suspicious of him, but then he grows audacious. Dix is convinced that he can outsmart Brub and the other cops by getting inside information from his old friend.

Here's an example of Dix's boldness in a conversation with Brub:

Conversation between Dix and Brub from In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes

Dix is an evil and twisted individual, a man who feels overly confident and entitled. He’s a misogynist who believes women have wronged him and that they deserve to be punished and humiliated. At the same time, he craves the company of a woman and begins dating Laurel Grey. She’s a complex woman, and Dix is convinced that they’re alike and meant to be together.

The reader sees the characters through Dix’s eyes, colored by his paranoia and rage as "the red knots tightened in his brain." Will those around Dix catch on that he’s the killer, or will he continue to get away with his crimes? In a Lonely Place is a fascinating and disturbing look into the mind of a murderer. It's noir at its finest.

Related Reviews:
The Scarlet Imperial by Dorothy B. Hughes

External Link:
I loved this wonderful essay on In a Lonely Place called "The Gimlet Eye of Dorothy B. Hughes" by Megan Abbott at Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s. Abbott also wrote an outstanding afterword to the novel for the NYRB Classics reprinting of the book.

Purchase and read books by Dorothy B. Hughes:

In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes The Expendable Man by Dorothy B. Hughes

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