While I called Pt. 1 my recent adventures in fiction, most of this post is about non fiction. In fact, I read most of it for academic reasons.

Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection, Scott McCloud

  • Okay, well, Zot! is fiction and I did read for fun. Best known for his Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics books, all of which I’ve read, Zot! is a comic series that McCloud wrote before he wrote those books. Set in both the America of the late 1980s/early 1990s and “‘the far-flung future of 1965,’ a utopian Earth of world peace, robot butlers, and flying cars,” Zot! is the story of the interaction of two teenagers, one from each of the two alternate realities. The complete collection includes commentary by McCloud, which includes discussions of his struggles writing a comic series and how they lead to his writing Understanding Comics. Well worth reading.

Comics and Sequential Art and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, Will Eisner

  • The first two of Will Eisner’s trilogy of “how to” books—the third is Expressive Anatomy for Comics and Narrative—these two I did read for academic purposes. Since McCloud’s books, especially Understanding Comics, have become required reading for visual rhetoric, I thought I’d take a look books he builds up from. In going through these, I’m looking more for student readings than theory, and for my purposes, they provide a bit of both, especially Comics and Sequential Art. I also hope to teach a comics/graphic novel course some day, and as when I teach science fiction and fantasy courses, I want to include theory to help foreground how the genre differs from the fiction they’ve been taught to read throughout most of their schooling. Obviously, these are essential books from that perspective.
  • While good, I found them less accessible than Scott McCloud’s books, maybe because these are “textbooks” that emerged from Eisner’s teaching at New York’s School of Visual Arts. They’re full of examples from Eisner’s own comics and graphic novels, mainly A Contract with God, The Spirit, and Life on another Planet. For the casual reader or those interested in getting started in comics theory, I’d suggest McCloud’s Understanding Comics first.
  • And no, I’m not looking to break into comics. I am, however, working on learning how to draw and cartoon so that I can create graphic syllabi and outcomes maps. (Think concept maps and mind mapping applied to representing the organization, schedule of topics, and learning outcomes of a course.” If accepted, I’ll discuss my use of these in terms of rhetorical memory and delivery at next year’s CCCC. In addition to creating a graphic syllabus and outcomes map for the course, I’m planning on creating an outcomes map for each of the major writing projects in the first-year comp classes I teach next year.)

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, James Martin

  • Another read for academic purposes, I picked this up to better understand Jesuit spirituality and the Ignatian Way, partly to better understand its influence on Walter Ong’s scholarship; partly to better understand the Spiritual Exercises, an ongoing living tradition that is rooted in monastic rhetoric; and partly to better understand how to fulfill my role as a professor at a Jesuit University. (( I discuss a bit of this back in August 2008 when I talk about writing the “Statement of Understanding of the interrelated Missions of the University and College of Arts and Sciences” as part of my application/interview process with Creighton.
  • It’s an excellent book. Funny, accessible, and informative, and not written just for Catholics or Christians.

The Android’s Dream, John Scalzi

  • Another fiction book, and an enjoyable one at that. I briefly mentioned it earlier this year. Scalzi calls it his “‘popcorn movie’ book: No particularly deep themes, just lots of action and adventure and fun.” While not as philosophical as Philip K. Dick’s Do Andriod’s Dream of Electric Sheep, it does, as I note in that earlier post, as (in part) a homage to that book, it does touch on some of the same themes and issues. As Scalzi says, it’s full of action, adventure, and fun.
  • Hmmm, you want a synopsis of the plot, do you? Okay. It’s about a low-level diplomat in Earth’s State Department—a guy who specializes in delivering bad news—who has to save the day after a high-level diplomat murders his alien counterpart, a representative of a far more advanced civilization that wouldn’t mind taking over earth.