Saturday, April 28, 2007

Persepolis and City of Bones

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi

I've been meaning to read this for a while, and it is really lovely. An autobiographical graphic novel about being a little girl (and then a young woman) in a progressive Iranian family during the Islamic Revolution.

I learned a lot about the history of Iran and about the Islamic Revolution reading this, but the author never skimps on the personal story, which is equally fascinating and funny and terrifying. What a thing to live through. The story itself doesn't really hang together until about halfway through, when it suddenly picks up steam and grabs you hard and doesn't let you go until you reach the final, heartbreaking page. The art is wonderful, too: simple and expressive, in stark black and white. I highly recommend it.

Has anyone read the sequel? I've heard it's disappointing.

City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare

Don't get me wrong -- the book has its entertaining elements, even a couple of arguably original moments. And, AND: (this is important) it is not worse than A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY or TWILIGHT. There's a lot of mediocre YA fiction out there that does very very well in the marketplace for one reason or another, and CITY OF BONES is squarely and justly in company with a whole slew of clumsy, shamelessly derivative, inconsistent, shallow YA fantasy novels of the last few years.

But I still feel crankier about Clare than I did about Bray or Meyer, and that's because I've read a little about her history. It does make a person feel a little sour about the publishing business to see poor behavior rewarded with a book deal, even if the two arguably have nothing to do with each other.

And indeed, I don't believe she got the book deal on the strength of her internet notoriety. Clare has advantages other than her fannish infamy. She has a solid and attentive agent. In addition, the last few years have generally been very good for writers of YA fantasy trilogies (everyone's buying them) and Clare's brand of overwrought, over-plotted, morally and emotionally simplistic, paint-by-numbers, highly derivative urban fantasy is a comfortable genre for unadventurous publishers.

I will admit, I secretly hoped CITY OF BONES would be excellent. It would have been nice to see Clare redeem herself by getting something terrific published. As it is, the fact that the series is so solidly mediocre just makes me feel vaguely embarrassed for everyone involved -- including me, the reader.


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