13. Fist Stick Knife Gun, a graphic novel

by Geoffrey Canada
adapted by Jamar Nicholas

To adapt an extensive piece of writing to a graphic novel has its benefits - easy readability, fun, a summary of the text, a graphic interpretation, or translation, in a way - but it can be like removing ones guts and replacing them with pictures of some of the guts.  It ain't the same.  Something is lost and it hurts.

But the graphics are good and many more kids will read this than Canada's original autobiographical argument.

12. Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems

by Billy Collins

I'll just post one and hope he doesn't mind.  It is not the best one in the book but certainly my favorite:

Grave

What do you think of my new glasses
I asked as I stood under a shade tree
before the joined grave of my parents,

and what followed was a long silence
that descended on the rows of the dead
and on the fields and the woods beyond,

one of the one hundred kinds of silence
according to the Chinese belief,
each one distinct from the others,

and the difference being so faint
that only a few special monks
were able to tell one from the other.

They make you look very scholarly,
I heard my mother say
once I lay down on the ground

and pressed an ear into the soft grass.
Then I rolled over and pressed
my other ear to the ground,

the ear my father likes to speak into,
but he would say nothing,
and I could not find a silence

among the 100 Chinese silences
that would fit the one that he created
even though I was the one

who had just made up the business
of the 100 Chinese silences--
the Silence of the Night Boat

and the silence of the Lotus,
cousin to the silence of the Temple Bell
only deeper and softer, like petals, at its farthest edges.

11. Last Words

by George Carlin

George is dead now.

He would prefer the bluntness of that statement to "George has passed on," or, "George is in a better place," or "George expired."  He'd rant about the latter, how he's not a friggin egg, or curdled milk.  He'd like dirt nap.  He'd like the sportiness of kicked the bucket and would kill himself exploring where the fuck that one came from.

George Carlin is one of my heroes and went kaput, croaked, cashed it in, liquidated. Went bye-byes.

Gone to the big shit-piss-fuck-cunt-cocksucker-motherfucker-tits in the sky.

I can't believe tits makes the list.

But before he became at room temperature he wrote his autobiography.  Tony Hendra had to fix it up a bit before publication but it's all George.  What I especially like about it is the no-joke frankness about his life.  As many memoirs do, it begins with his Irish-Catholic childhood of meager means. He then tells the story of a guy who nearly lost his soul making an ass of himself in television for over a decade before finding a more genuine voice.  His genuine voice is something I like about America.

As a kid I would borrow my friend Brian's Carlin albums and secretly study (obsess over) the filth and wisdom.  I couldn't believe my ears. I could not believe that someone was saying those things about language, society, Congress, the President, the church, himself... me.  His voice, replayed over and over again in secret, saved me from living a clean, wholesome life that would not be my own.  And now, to read in his memoirs that some nut job had saved him from the same fate makes me feel a part of something really fucking important.

Thanks George for all the "flashy word shit."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrD6k8PDr1o&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_Nrp7cj_tM&feature=related

10. Never Let Me Go

by Kazuo Ishiguro

There is no way to meaningfully review this one without spoiling the plot. So read on if you don't mind a big, fat spoiler.

Thirty-one year old Kathy is reminising about her early days in an elite British boarding school.  This school and it's students are special, though, as it is a place where human beings are cloned to provide donor organs for transplants.  Their lives are incredibly sheltered and controlled but they are in effect allowed to live near fully human lives at school.  However they will never get married, have careers, or grow old and die.  They will die in their thirties of organ donations.  Kathy, our narrator, spent the decade after boarding school being a "carer" for those donating their organs.

Interesting philosophical shit.  I liked thinking about it while reading.  The plot is mostly centered around their childhood friendships, education and the mysteries around their existence.  It is an uneventful plot for the most part but it accomplishes enough character development for the reader to experience their humanity while knowing that they are bread only to be donors.

They don't rebel.  They don't seek alternatives to their fate.  A testament to the power of education.

Boring plot.  Interesting ideas on possible future ethics.