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What I’m reading – The Master and Margarita; Back Issue #38

Who has time to read? We all do, right?

01-25-2010 11;11;55AM 01-25-2010 11;14;29AM

A few years ago, I read an unusual “biography” of Pontius Pilate that went into how literature has viewed him, and the author referred quite often to Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which sounded interesting. So I went out and got it, and now I’m reading it! I’m only about 70 pages in (Woland has just thrown Styopa out of the evil apartment, in case you’re familiar with the book), and it’s quite good. Bulgakov wrote it in the 1930s but it wasn’t published until years later because of the censorship in the Soviet Union. It’s about the devil coming to Moscow, which causes some problems among the people, who were, of course, supposed to be atheists. It’s a quietly humorous book, full of rather biting commentary about the state of Russia at the time (it’s not surprising it was suppressed), and I’m looking forward to continuing with it. I’ve only read one chapter dealing with Pilate, but Bulgakov’s portrayal of Jesus is very interesting – he’s definitely mystical, but he’s also a bit of a jerk.

I also started digging through Back Issue magazine, which is always a good, dense read. This issue is about “family” in comics, and there’s a very, very long article about John Byrne’s Fantastic Four, a piece on Ultron, an interview about Power Pack, and if you’ve been wondering what June Brigman has been up to, you can find out in this issue! (And you totally were wondering, weren’t you?) There’s even something about the Wonder Twins. Oh yes. I dig Back Issue quite a lot, as it is packed with cool stuff about all sorts of comics. It’s only seven bucks, and it’s totally worth it. And you can get them digitally even cheaper, if you’re all new-fangled!

What’s keeping you away from the television this week? Don’t be shy!

24 Comments

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 25, 2010 at 1:20 pm

That translation of the novel is what I based by undergrad thesis on lo those many years ago; the portrayal of Yeshua isn’t all that mystical, though, being as much a genuine effort to present a strictly realist Jesus as anything. (Some people read those segments as extracts of Ivan Bezdomny’s novel being discussed in the opening pages, in fact.)

I’m curious as to what strikes you as mystical and/or jerk-y about Yeshua, honestly; if anything, I always felt the novel took pains to demystify him and that he was less a jerk than simply an ordinary man.

Over the weekend, reread JLA: New Maps of Hell by Ellis and Guice, Superman: For Tomorrow by Azzarello and Lee, and The Programme by Milligan and Smith for various purposes.

Currently reading Vineland by Pynchon. I’m around halfway through and find it enjoyable.

I’m reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Comic wise, I re-read both Seaguy minis. Not sure what to hit up next.

Omar: Again, I’ve only read the one chapter with Jesus. Does he show up more often? He seems mystical because he knows so much about Pilate and what’s going on in his head (he could just read people really well) and a jerk because of his reaction to Matthew following him around. Granted, it’s understandable that he’s a bit peeved by that, so I agree that it definitely humanizes him, but that’s why he’s kind of a jerk – humans can be jerks occasionally!

I love Back Issue as well. I don’t get every issue–just the ones that look interesting to me. I have ordered this one from Discount Comic Book Services, so I look forward to reading it in about a week.

I had never heard of The Master and Margarita, but I want to pick it up now. As a former seminarian and youth minister, I love books that explore religious themes especially when they offer up a new or different interpretation of Jesus.

BTW, what was the Pilate biography if you remember?

As for me, I am rereading Young Avengers from the beginning, pouring over basketball coaching manuals so I can look like I know what I am doing coaching my son’s team, and am about to start Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 25, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Ah…the novel is structured so that the 1st-century Judea stuff alternates with the 20th-century Moscow stuff. The Yeshua chapters are half the novel.

Omar: Ah. I figured there was more Pilate in the book, but I wasn’t sure how much more Jesus there was!

Argo: The biography was simply called Pontius Pilate and it was written by Ann Wroe. As I alluded to, it was less a biography (how much do we know about Pilate anyway?) and more of a psychological profile of a Roman prefect and how literature has portrayed Pilate. It’s fairly fascinating.

Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones is inspired by the Master & Margarita. I’ve read it a few times now, interesting book and great song!

I, too, just read New Maps of Hell. I’m currently reading E for Extinction, the begining of McKeever’s Teen Titans run, Scott Pilgrim book 1 and Ellis’s Stormwatch.

I”m also reading this old science fiction novel from the 50’s called “The Man Who Wanted Stars”. It’s totally revived my interest in old school sci-fi books.

I guess I’m in a class-but-new-to-me sci-fi mode right now. After introducing myself to Philip K. Dick (he writes books the way I imagine Kilgore Trout would, were he real), I tackled William Gibson’s Neuromancer. And now I might move onto some short stories, or reread Fahrenheit 451 (it’s been yeeeeeeeears).

Comics-wise, not much. Waiting for this month’s box of comics, which should be awesome for Afrodisiac alone.

in hanuman’s hands, a memoir by cheeni rao, about his keeping himself off drugs by returning to his hindu faith. authentic stuff…

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

January 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I haven’t read the Wroe book, but what I have heard is that Jewish sources of roughly the same time period portray Pilate as an exceptionally brutal guy, to the point that Rome actually reprimanded him for unnecessary bloodshed. The ineffectual, hand-wringing Pilate of the Bible — which Bulgakov goes by — is at odds with these other historical records of the man.

Also, he probably looked nothing like David Bowie.

I’m working my way through my Christmas books. Just finished Popeye Vol 3 last week and now have started on Herbie Archives vol 2. As for non-comic reading, I started on Digging up Butch and Sundance by Anne Meadows, a very interesting book about the author and her husband trying to find out what really happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once they fled to South America.

Mostly old Doc Savage, I scooped up a bunch of those Nostalgia Ventures facsimile doubles for a buck each a few weeks ago. Just finished Andre Norton’s original The Beast Master, which was pretty cool but had almost nothing in common with the movie. Also reread a bunch of Solomon Kane comics and prose for last week’s column.

For comics, a bunch of Essentials and Showcases that have been stacking up since last September. Right now it’s Savage She Hulk, to be followed by either Ghost Rider 3 or Moon Knight 3, haven’t decided yet. Leaning toward the Moon Knight though.

After Mr. Hatchers Saturdays in The Castle of the Devil I’m returning to the Saga of Solomon Kane I picked up right before Christmas. Just finished Ray Bradburys’ From the Dust Returned. Not quite sure what I’m going to read next.

As an aside The Master and Margarita is one of my favorite books ever.

Just finished All the Pretty Horses by McCarthy and The Kents by Ostrander/Truman/Mandrake.

Now I’m trying to decide whether to dive right into The Crossing or read some of the big stack of Comics You Should Own I just purchased (The Intimates, High Roads, Challengers of the Unknown Must Die, Hard Boiled, Batman: City of Crime).

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Just finished reading “Dexter by Design” by Jeff Lindsay. Gotta love the nicest serial killer that ever lived. ;-)

Also, started to re-read Ellis’ Desolation Jones/Fell/newuniversal series in order to “refresh” my memory for when these series starts up in 2010. (IF they do! IF! IF!!! IF!!!!!)

I’m working my way through Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons’ “vampire” epic that was recently reprinted to commemorate its 20th anniversary. It’s got a lot of the same bleak world view that informed Song of Kali, his first novel, in that the protagonists are thus far completely powerless in the face of the psychic antagonists they’re opposing, and they’re getting constantly manipulated and brutalized as a result. It’s definitely compelling and very ambitious for a writer so early in his career, but for me it’s not as compulsively readable as some of Simmons later material, especially The Terror and the Hyperion series. Still, I’m only about a third of the way in, so I’m sure the book will get better and give me a more thorough grasp of why Stephen King and Guillermo Del Toro are such advocates of it as a masterpiece of modern horror.

I recently finished Bodily Harm, by Margaret Atwood, and right now I’m reading Citizen Sherman, a biography of William T. Sherman that isn’t bad, but isn’t all that good, either. Like usual, I’m in the middle of a buttload of comics – The Minx, by Milligan & Phillips, Read Yourself Raw, Terminal City, the two Love & Rockets New Stories books, the Binky Brown Sampler, a slowly growing stack of those kickass Adventure Comics digests that helped young me fall in love with comics., with a batch of books and comics on deck: the Schulz bio, The Education of Hopey Glass, the latest issue of glamourpuss, etc… I need more free time, I think.

Ah, The Master and Margarita, sheer genius. I’m tempted to pick it up and read it again, but my “to read” list is so hefty I don’t think that will be happening any time before next year … or the next one after. By the way, I strongly recommend anything by Bulgakov – you really can’t go wrong. Once you finish M&M, I think you’ll especially enjoy “Heart of a Dog” (or “Dog’s Heart” depending on which translation) and “The Fatal Eggs”.
Oh, and since you asked, I just finished J.K. Galbraith’s “The Great Crash 1929″ (really pertinent for these modern times) and I’ve finally started reading Iain Banks’ SF works, and am happily working my way through “Consider Phlebas.” My bed-time reading for the past week or so has been “Essential Man-Thing” (almost finished vol. 1 and looking forward to vol. 2).

I’m almost finished with The Given Day by Dennis Lahane (enjoying it thus far), and I just finished Terry Pratchett’s Making Money (another funny & smart Discworld book).

I’m enjoying Sweet Thursday by Steinbeck right now. Next up is a Christmas gift, The Search for God and Guinness: A Biography of the Beer that Changed the World by Stephen Mansfield.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 26, 2010 at 6:21 pm

There’s been a 20% off all comics sale at a bookstore with a good range, so I’m drowning in comics at the moment!
Greg Pak’s War Machine (forgettable – and slightly annoying as I thought it was a mini, but it ends on a cliffhanger), Joe Sacco’s Palestine (amazing), Matt Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men, Thor and Invincible Iron Man (freakin’ fantastic), Ellis’ Astonishing X-Men (great up until the last two issues, where the end destroys a character for no reason and besides that has a meh conclusion), Captain America: Road To Reborn (it’s so good I don’t want Steve back!), Incognito (Am I wrong to enjoy it more than Criminal?), Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore (Good, but I wish it hadn’t cost so much).
Also in the middle of Daredevil: Born Again (after it’s high placing in the top 100 story lines), and have Modok’s 11 and Footnotes to Gaza to go.

What’s bizarre about that list, is I consider myself much more a DC fan these days, yet this month I’ve mostly been reading Marvel.
DC might be doing retailers a favour by releasing soft covers months later, but it’s left me with not much of theirs to read, as every book I follow has nothing out, and I’ve tried out the series I was only vaguely interested in.
Strong product, and nothing coming out from the competitor(!), sells more issues than stupid gimmicky promotions.

I also broke the rule that superhero movies don’t make people by superhero comics – the only marvel books I had been reading were Captain America, Agents OF Atlas, iHerc and JMS’ Thor.
Seeing the Iron Man 2 trailer the other week gave me a jonesing for Iron Man (that even the first film hadn’t done), which made me try Fraction’s Iron Man… which led to trying his other Marvel work, which made me try out other Marvel books I’d ignored.

After introducing myself to Philip K. Dick (he writes books the way I imagine Kilgore Trout would, were he real), I tackled William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

Ha – I’d read Dick for years before trying out some Vonnegut, and as soon as Kilgore Trout appeared, my first thought was ‘It’s Phillip Dick’!
How good is Neuromancer? I read it a few years ago, and it kind of upset me that I’ve seen all these films trying to be cyber punk or intelligent sci-fi, and yet none are as good as this (despite the one’s I’m thinking of having been made a decade or two later).

sorry, maybe i missed something when i read the book. how is jesus a bit of a jerk?

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