Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Category: impressions

That Other Return of the King Movie

We’ve talked about Rankin and Bass’s version of The Hobbit, and you can’t talk about The Hobbit without also talking about The Lord of the Rings. Yeah, I know, it’s been three years since that earlier post, but I don’t like to be rushed. So, today we’re going to talk about about Rankin/Bass’s follow-up, The Return of the King.

“Now hold on,” you may be thinking. “That’s the third Lord of the Rings volume. What happened to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers?” Well, I assume there were some rights issues involved, or perhaps they just didn’t want to retread the ground already covered by Ralph Bakshi’s unfortunate foray into Middle Earth, which was an animated and rotoscoped adaptation of Fellowship and about half of Two Towers and which had come out just two years earlier. To give you the timeline, R/B’s Hobbit was 1977, Bakshi’s LotR was 1978, and R/B’s LotR was 1980. I won’t go in to why things worked out that way; I don’t know and ultimately what matters is the film as we have it.

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Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game

Last year, we talked about the happy game of mahjong, focusing on how I got into the game and recommending a few resources for others wanting to get started. Today, though, let’s look at the art of the game, that is, the art of the tiles themselves. When people first encounter mahjong, the tiles are, naturally, the first thing they notice and as with Western playing cards there have been many lovely designs over the years by many artists. So, let’s check out the book Mah Jongg: The Art of the Game, by Ann M. Israel and Gregg Swain, with photography by Michael Arnaud.

Israel and Swain begin with some brief introductory material and a history of mahjong (though they use the American-style spelling “mah jongg”). These are simply to orient the reader and are an appetiser to the main course, but they deserve credit for not promoting the old marketing hype about the ancient origins of mahjong; as they point out, its origins lie in the mid-19th Century. Most of the rest of the book is divided by tile material, paper, bamboo and wood, bakelite and catalin, pyralin and French ivory, Chinese bakelite, common metals, bone and bamboo, and precious materials. It ends with box art and a chapter on miscellany such as ephemera and photos of people playing mahjong.

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2019 in Bibliophilia

It’s the end of the year, and now that the reminiscing and navel-gazing is over it’s time for the most important year-end festivity, looking at how many books I read. In 2018 I read thirty-six, compared to 2017’s forty-two. This year, I have twenty-nine books recorded in LibraryThing, but this excludes eight volumes of Toriyama Akira’s DragonballZ because they’re part of a box set and so, from LibraryThing’s perspective, are only one book. There’s also The Bowl of Tears and Solace, which isn’t in their catalogue at all last I checked. That brings us up to a more typical thirty-eight, two more than last year.

Since I’ve already mentioned DBZ, that, Ito Juni’s Frankenstein, and the second omnibus volume of Go Nagai’s Devilman make up all nine graphic novels I read this year.

I only read three books of poetry, all by Dante: RimeLa Vita Nuova (my second time reading this one), and a collection called Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’. Of those, La Vita Nuova is the best and I can recommend Mark Musa’s translation, but Dante’s Lyric Poetry is nice because it includes ample commentary. Speaking of Dante, I also read Marco Santagata’s fine biography Dante: The Story of his Life and Dante’s prose work on vernacular poetry, De Vulgari Eloquentia, which was more tedious and less interesting, and less focused on poetry, than I’d hoped. Another great poet, Homer, was represented in The Printed Homer: A 3,000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Philip Young. One last work of serious literature worth mentioning was Fables françaises du Moyen-Age.

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Frankenstein (Actually, it’s Ito Junji’s Monster)

When I pick up a story by prolific horror artist Ito Junji, there are two things I expect: It’s gonna be good, and it’s gonna be gross. There are a few exceptions at least to the latter point, but his adaptation of Frankenstein delivers on both fronts. If you’re looking for a manga to read for Halloween but want something more classic than Uzumaki or Gyo, this will be a solid choice.

Since comics are a visual medium let’s start with the art. Every panel is filled with detail, and the heavy linework and monochrome colour make the whole story feel appropriately dark and uneasy. Panel layouts are effective throughout the work, and the design of the monster is excellent. Perhaps this sentiment comes from reading it so recently, but thinking through other designs for Frankenstein’s monster, like the 1931 film or Hammer’s movie series among many others, this may be my favourite. He looks appropriately terrifying and obviously stitched-together, but also strong and agile as he is in the novel. I was less excited by the human characters, who all look good but not particularly special. I suppose that’s fine, though, since Frankenstein is best kept relatively realistic to aid suspension of disbelief, so wild character designs aside from the monster may call too much attention to themselves.

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