Friday, September 27, 2013

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: September 2013

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Klezmer, Book One: Tales of the Wild East
Writer and Artist: Joann Sfar
via Sequart Research & Literary Organization

If we have a favorite comic book artist at our house, it is most certainly Frenchman Joann Sfar.  My Wife first discovered his Rabbi's Cat series (reviews here and here), which, like Klezmer, is definitely for adults.  Next, she found more kid-friendly titles for our daughter: Little Vampire (review here) and Sardine (which I have not read).  Sfar's playful irreverence holds great appeal for all three of us.

Sfar draws a great deal of his material from his own Jewish heritage.  As the title would suggest, Klezmer follows the adventures of Jewish musicians in Czarist Russia - Ukraine, to be specific.  The book begins with two separate story strands which merge by the end of Book One.  First, the Baron is the only survivor when his own klzezmer band is slaughtered by the members of another.  After exacting his revenge, he is unexpectedly followed in his escape by Chava, a young woman running away from the village and her own undesirable marriage options.  The Baron reluctantly accepts her companionship and indulges Chava by teaching her to sing.

Meanwhile, in the second strand, Yaacov is banned from his yeshiva for stealing the rabbi's coat.  He discovers the remains of the Baron's band-mates and, most important to future plot development, takes all of the still usable instruments.  He doesn't play himself but imagines they might come in handy.  In his travels, he encounters the sleepwalker Vincenzo and the gypsy Tshokola.  Fortunately for Yaacov, his new friends are much better musicians than he.  They teach him to play and a new band is formed.

There are three more Klezmer books which have yet to be translated to English.  Book Two is to be entitled Happy Birthday, Scylla (Bon anniversaire Scylla en Fran├žais).  I shall definitely keep an eye out for it.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post October's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is October 25th.


30 comments:

  1. I think I would need to flip through that before I could make a decision.

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  2. Sounds like a good read, although I picture it more in prose than graphic novel form.

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    1. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that I like Sfar's art style. His characters kind of look like they were poured out of a jar. However, that is oversimplifying matters. His faces, in particular, are quite vivid and do a fine job of helping to establish character.

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  3. Never heard of this dude, but his stories sound really intriguing. Playfully irreverent sounds just great to me!

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    1. Oh, he's fun! If you should go down this path, start with Rabbi's Cat. If you have or know children, Little Vampire is very cute.

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  4. I can see that I'm going to discover lots of never-heard-of-before reads from you. These tales sound delightful - and I dig irreverent.

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    1. All credit goes to my wife, Nicki. She's the one with the nose for the good stuff.

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  5. Sounds likable. I wonder if I can find it in the original French.

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    1. Here's a theoretically helpful Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/2070577856/ref=dp_olp_all_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=all

      Do you read a lot in French?

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  6. A graphic novel about Jewish musicians in Czarist Ukraine: now that is something I never expected to exist. Sounds fascinating!

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    1. I'd say it was a pleasant surprise but I've come to expect no less from Sfar. Glad to see you've joined us again, Stephanie!

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  7. I always find your reviews fascinating! You choose these strangely obscure graphic novels and comic books that just make me want to track them down and see how good they really are. I think the topic, like Stephanie said, would be fascinating, especially when you don't expect a lot of Ukrainian storytelling in French.

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    1. Thank you, Mary!

      The Rabbi's Cat takes place in Algeria. It's good to be reminded that just a century ago, Jewish presence in various parts of the world was a lot more prominent and influential than it is now.

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  8. This sounds like something very different! Thanks for the recommendation :-)

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    1. My pleasure. I'm so glad you're joining us, Linda!

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  9. Cool, I just put up my post on _Conan the Valorous_:)

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    1. You've joined the Coffeehouse and you're reviewing a Conan book for it... Double victory for Mark today!

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  10. Aw, shoot. I forgot this was the last Friday of the month. I'm so sorry. :( On a positive note, your book looks really cool. I'll have to check into it. I'll do better next month, I promise.

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    1. It not too late, Lara. I'll keep the list open at least until tomorrow morning (EDT).

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  11. That does look interesting and reminds me at first glance of Maus, which made me look up at my bookshelf and they aren't there and now I'm going to have to go look for them... But anyway, cool books, I'll have to see if they're on BN..

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    1. Maus is amazing. I was introduced to those a few years back, well before I was lured into the comics hobby.

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  12. These Klezmer books sound awesome. Love the illustrations on the cover! Wow!

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    1. They're fun. If you're interested in Sfar's work, I'd recommend starting with The Rabbi's Cat.

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  13. My husband has played in a klezmer band, so I bet I would adore this. And so would he. "Playful irreverence"is always a good thing:)

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  14. Long ago, I don't even remember what decade or galaxy, I read a series of mystery books about a rabbi. The series went like, Friday the Rabbi Slept Late.
    A wonderful series and about the only mysteries I've ever read.

    Hey thanks for hosting a great monthly blogfest!

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    1. Ha! Story: my family (not Jewish) has a summer cabin in Pennsylvania. A book collection has accumulated there over time as people finish books while on vacation and don't really care about taking them back home. During one visit, a friend of mine (who is Jewish) discovered one of the books from the series you mention sitting on the shelf. Highly amused, he couldn't resist reading it, giggling the entire time. For the rest of the weekend, he made jokes playing on the title: Saturday the Rabbi Took a Nap, Monday the Rabbi Clipped His Toenails and so forth. Good family fun!

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  15. I checked out the review of "Little Vampire" and I think I'd like to check that one out! Thanks for that link and this review!

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