My wife purchased this book, since we had both read and enjoyed Krimstein’s previous book, The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt. This book, like his previous one, is a graphic nonfiction book. Essentially, the author/artist employs the graphic novel format to tell the stories of six Yiddish teenagers living in Lithuania prior to the onset of WWII. The stories are based upon essays that were submitted as a part of a contest. When the Nazis invaded Lithuania, the documents were hidden to prevent their destruction. They were eventually lost, and then rediscovered not long ago.
In the introduction, Krimstein describes how YIVO (the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut) came up with the idea to gather anonymous essays from Yiddish youth to get a better understanding of the Jewish experience.
The plan? An ethnographic study in the guise of a meagerly funded autobiography contest. The grand prize: 150 zlotys (roughly a thousand U.S. dollars in 2021 money) for the best entry. Meaning the most TRUTHFUL entry. (Because what good would the autobiographies be if in the stories the “youth” submitted, they didn’t spill the beans on what was going on—not just the truth, but even more to the point, their unvarnished version of the truth as they lived it?)
Because the submissions needed to be anonymous, the youth were able to express themselves honestly, without fear. The result is a collection of compelling, insightful tales which resonate with truth.
In the Afterward section of the book (which I strongly urge you to read but will leave out the spoiler), Krimstein describes his impression upon first examining the memoirs.
In some sense, these were ordinary student notebooks. But each had details that made it seem to come alive. One, with delicate pages and tiny, precise letters in green between black, faux-leather covers. Another, with sloppy pencil scrawling outside the lines of a baby blue notebook, a map of Poland circa 1936 on its cover. Another, tight black lettering and intricate drawings, almost a graphic memoir.
And then I got it. What I was seeing and feeling weren’t notebooks at all. They were voices, garments, smiles, tears, laughter—each one a distinct individual, a survivor rescued (in a sense) by his or her own words from the lost nation of Yiddishuania, a person.
This is a really fascinating and quick read. I highly recommend it to all readers. I personally enjoyed it immensely.
This is a short arc of four issues. I decided to wait until all four were published so I could read them all in a single sitting. I’m glad I did, because it was nice to read the entire tale from beginning to end.
As is often the case with Stranger Things, this arc incorporates themes of friendship, adventure, and nerdiness. In fact, there is a bit of dialog in the first issue that about being a nerd that I want to share.
“Have no fear, my man! We too will shine in our time!”
“Yeah, we’re nerds… the older we get, the cooler we get.”
I really agree with this. Growing up, I felt I was an outcast because my interests were just not cool, and try as I did to fit in, I was just faking and always felt like an outsider. But as I got older, I started meeting people who shared my interests and passions, and they became my lifelong friends. I can get on the phone with people and talk about art and music and books and mysticism. I can get together with friends and play board games. All the things I loved growing up that made me feel like I didn’t quite fit in are now the things that serve as bonds with my closest friends. I suppose that is why I am so much happier now than I was in my younger years.
Anyway, not a whole lot else to talk about regarding these comics. They were fun to read, and sometimes I just want to read something light and fun and happy. This falls into that category.
I missed this issue when it came out a couple years ago, but on a recent excursion to the comic store, I saw it on the shelf and picked it up. I always enjoy the Hellboy Winter Specials because I love the more mysterious folklore associated with the holidays, as well as winter ghost stories. These are the usual inspirations for the annual release.
This issue contains three short tales:
The Miser’s Gift
The Longest Night
The Beast of Ingleheim
I enjoyed all the tales, but if I had to pick a favorite, I would choose “The Miser’s Gift.” It is a ghost story about a young man who encounters the spirit of a miser, struggling to drag along his sack of money. The young man assists the restless spirit, who in response gives the person a gold coin. The young man then seeks to return the coin to the spirit, claiming:
“You don’t have to pay me. I was doing you a favor. I want to give this back.”
The act of kindness and charity has a healing effect on the spirit, and while the fate of the spirit is left open for the reader to interpret, the implication is that the selfless act of the young man resulted in the tormented soul finally finding peace.
This is such an important message. The spiritual value of unconditional kindness cannot be measured. One seemingly small act can have a rippling effect, which is something I try to keep in mind with all my dealings with others.
I hope this fable has inspired you as much as it did me. May you and your loved ones be blessed. Thanks for stopping by.
For me, what made the “Stranger Things” series on Netflix so engaging was the sense of nostalgia that it evoked. This comic, based on the series, does the same thing for me.
The premise of the story is that Eleven is celebrating her first Christmas with the gang. Since she is unaware of the customs and traditions associated with the holiday season, the boys suggest watching holiday specials which they had recorded on VCR tapes. Each one describes his favorite show in a way that is truly endearing. For example, Dustin begins his explanation of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as follows:
There’s this kid, and he’s always kind of sad and a little lonely, even though he’s got lots of friends around him all the time. But his best friend is really his pet dog, who walks around like he’s people. Anyway, all the kids at school are going to put on a Christmas pageant…like a kind of play…and this guy’s job is to go pick out a Christmas tree for it. But the tree that he brings back is just, like, a stick. It’s completely hilarious.
When asked how her first Christmas was, Eleven replies: “Being together. With family, and friends? That’s the meaning.”
That succinct reply really sums it up for me. The holidays are about connecting with those you care about, sharing joy, and looking forward to a better tomorrow. While it is easy to get caught up in the negative hype that media outlets love to bombard us with, I genuinely feel that there is a lot of love and good which is getting overlooked. Personally, I am going to focus my attention on the things that make me happy this season.
May you and your loved ones be blessed with happiness.
This is a “new” graphic horror magazine. I put “new” in quotations marks because actually, it used to beThe Creeps magazine, but it seems that there was some copyright infringement and they had to change the name. Anyway, this is the first issue and it adheres to the time-tested format of short, campy horror tales done in black-and-white. The writers, artists, and editors are all alumni from the early days of Warren publications, so there is definitely an authentic feel that fans of the old horror mags like Creepy and Eerie will appreciate.
The tales are curated by Old Aunt Shudder, who introduces herself on the inside of the front cover page.
Welcome! …to the first great collector’s edition of Shudder magazine! Your Old Aunt Shudder here, and I’ll be your host as you journey through these terror-filled pages! Inside, you will find all new work from the greatest horror comic artists and writers in the history of monster-dom! I’ve scoured the globe for the world’s top talent to bring you the kinds of terror tales that haven’t been seen for nearly fifty years! Presented in the classic style of the best black and white illustrated horror comic magazines of the 1960’s and 1970’s! Shudder is dedicated to preserving the style of horror comics that were being created at the height of the genre, when realism ruled and dark, moody illustrations brought the world of monsters, creatures and things that go bump in the night to “life!” Now! Enter my world… it’s guaranteed to make you… Shudder!
This is great stuff to read during the Halloween season, especially if, like me, you were raised on the classic horror magazines that Shudder emulates. I am definitely looking forward to future issues.
It has been four long years since the last issue of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina rolled off the press. So getting my hands on this new issue was a Halloween treat come early. The new issue picks up where Issue #8 left off, where Sabrina must balance the scales by sacrificing a human life to compensate for raising her boyfriend, Harvey Kinkle, from the dead (and there are other morbid twists here that I will intentionally leave out).
While there is so much for a horror fan to enjoy in this series (gore, cannibalism, demons, bestiality, just to name a few), and the artwork is eerily exquisite, for me, it is the quality of the writing that raises this comic above the realm of pulp and places it squarely into the category of artistic expression. To back up my claim, I need only quote from the opening pages of this issue.
We are entering the hours of the wolf. The hours between midnight and dawn… The hours when sleep is most profound, when nightmares are most real… The hours when the sleepless are haunted by their most profound fears… when ghosts and demons are at their most powerful… when the most unspeakable crimes are planned, when the darkest conspiracies are plotted… when the most terrible bargains are made; when witch-wishes are whispered aloud… Then comes the dawn. And with it, a clarity and sense of mission.
I must again emphasize that this is a very dark and very mature comic. If you are expecting a wholesome Archie comic like you remember from your younger days, you will be in for a real shock if you read this. But if you like reading dark, creepy, edgy stories during the Halloween season, then this is a must-read.
This book, part of Marvel’s Epic Collection, contains reprints of the earliest Doctor Strange comics. The book contains the tales published between July 1963 and July 1966.
So without sounding too nerdy, I have to say that I really love Doctor Strange. I find the material fascinating: parallel universes, astral projection, mysticism, these are all things that are near and dear to me. But the real beauty of the early Doctor Strange is the artwork. Steve Ditko’s psychedelic representations of other realms and interdimensional struggles are nothing short of mind-blowing. It should come as no surprise that Pink Floyd included an image of Doctor Strange on the cover of their second album, “A Saucerful of Secrets.”
In one of the tales, Doctor Strange is ensnared in a mind-trap. The text, representing Strange’s thoughts, and the accompanying illustrations, capture the sensation of becoming overwhelmed as a result of an hallucinatory experience.
It has encircled me again! But this is a new mental weapon – – with a different power! It is the most dangerous one of all – – for it feeds the brain hallucinations! I cannot tell what is real, or what is imaginary! Unless I can shatter this web of wonderment, all is lost! My mission will be forgotten – – I will be doomed to a life of aimless imagery!
Next year, Marvel is supposed to release the second Doctor Strange film. It is amazing that a comic created nearly 60 years ago can still feel relevant today, and can still inspire generations. I for one am looking forward to “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” currently scheduled to hit the theaters on March 25, 2022.
While reading this installment of the Monstress series, I came across a snippet of dialog that resonated with me.
“Life is very strange, isn’t it?”
“… Stranger … than I … could have dreamed …”
Life is truly strange, and it keeps getting stranger. Thirty years ago, I could not have imagined an existence like the one we have today. What was it Hunter S. Thompson said: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”? I guess that can be applied to our strange lives.
Anyway, hope you are safely navigating these strange waters. Thanks for stopping by.
I discovered that posting quotes regularly did not really take that much less time; in fact, I think I spent even more time, since I felt compelled to post more often.
My daughter was all excited because she Googled something by Umberto Eco and one of my blog posts was the top Google search result.
Anyway, I figure I will write when I can, and not sweat it if I get too busy to write. That said, my thoughts on this book.
I came across this at a community center where there was a table of free books (a dangerous thing for a bibliophile). Most of the books were of no interest to me, but this one immediately caught my attention. While in college, I had read Hannah Arendt’s masterpiece of political theory, The Origins of Totalitarianism. The book was one of those that left a strong and lasting impact on me. I cannot tell you how many times I have observed the behaviors of political leaders and listened to their words, then thought back to Arendt’s book. Essentially, she wrote the book on totalitarianism. The term did not exist until she coined it.
The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt is a biographical graphic novel. It provides a witty overview of Arendt’s life, how she fled Europe during World War II, established herself as a political theorist and philosopher, and eventually went on to become the first woman to be appointed full professor at Princeton University.
While most of the book tells the story of Ms. Arendt’s life, it does briefly summarize some of her political ideas.
As fire lives on oxygen, the oxygen of totalitarianism is untruth. Before totalitarian leaders can fit reality to their lies, their message is an unreeling contempt for facts. They live by the belief that fact depends entirely on the power of the man who makes it up.
The graphic novel quotes Arendt as saying, “Whatever I do, I am simply unable to avert my eyes from the reality of the world around me.” (p. 126) I feel the same way. It is impossible to ignore what I see going on in the world. And if you ever read The Origins of Totalitarianism, you will also not be able to look at the behaviors of political leaders the same way again.
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share in my musings. I hope you find these posts interesting. If so, please let me know. As long as there is interest, I will do my best to keep writing.
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