Eh, what the heck. Smoke em if you got em, right?
Paul Bowles - The Sheltering Sky
This had some definite moments, most notably the part where the guy died of typhus (I've had fevers that sort of qualitatively resembled that, minus the threat to my life), but wow, the orientalist rape-a-palooza of that final section of the book can go to hell. (It was so unnecessary??? I think this would have been a favorable review if the book had just ended with Kit fleeing the city and nothing resolved.)
I can't remember what Max said when he loaned this to me, but we hung out a few weeks after I finished it and he filled in a bit of context about Bowles. The upshot is that this is a weird book written by a weird dude at a weird time, and it later had weird echoes through literary history (most notably having some kind of formative influence on the Beats).
Another fragment: Once I got my feet under me, I was reading this as a very very dark comedy. But thinking back, now I'm wondering whether that has anything to do with what Bowles' meant to write. Did Port read like a doomed clown in 1949? I... I think maybe he didn't?! But I really don't know. Lemme know if you have any insight.
Megan Whalen Turner - A Conspiracy of Kings
I didn't read this last year because Ruth packed all her books away for six months, but I remembered it right before a big backpacking trip and it was just what I wanted.
I mentioned before that these books are surprising. Have I mentioned yet how amazingly well constructed they are? The most appropriate word I can think of is "precise." Lots of little pieces in exactly the right spots.
They also have a very detailed world that's rendered with admirable restraint, which is an ethos I can always get down with in a tense sorta-fantasy novel. (Reminiscent of the economy and control of world-reveals in Sabriel.)
Brandon Graham - King City (comics)
This comic is completely outrageous. It is bananas. Graham is fusing '70s French SF comic bonkersness with '90s manga bonkersness, and the result is, like... basically any given page has something that can make you ask what the hell you're even looking at.
It has its flaws, most notably that the dudegaze quotient is higher than I usually prefer. And the characters are often a bit flat. But I still really enjoyed it. The art is a wonderfully satisfying combination of tossed-off panache and obsessive fiddly detail. The setting is, as I think I already said, utterly bananas. The dialogue is mostly serviceable but will sometimes surprise with an elegantly lazy kickflip. And the amount of visual imagination on display is just astounding. This is a very comicsy comic, in the best way.