Thursday, May 26, 2011

Rabbi Harvey

     I teach a graduate course at Pratt Institute called Graphic Novel: Narrative and Sequence.  Last class, we had a guest speaker named Steve Sheinkin, who created a character (and a graphic novel series) named Rabbi Harvey.  The entertaining and informative talk he gave the class aside, his comic work is nothing short of unique.  Harvey is a rabbi who lives in the Old West, dispensing justice through wisdom and heaping helpings of Steve's trademark low-key humor.
     The Rabbi has three books behind him now (which you can find out about right here) and every one contains exactly the quirky personality and sly sense of humor that no one expects from ancient stories of Jewish wisdom.  As it becomes harder and harder to find works that are truly singular artistic visions in the extraordinary proliferation of mass entertainment available, Rabbi Harvey offers that most infrequent prize: something you've never seen before.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dystopian Domination

     Kai at Amaterasu Reads and Precious at Fragments of Life are currently hosting Dystopian Domination, a survey of recent dystopian fiction and an examination of why the genre is gaining such ground in the YA market.  In addition to featuring a review of Those That Wake, they were also kind enough to offer me a guest post, offering my own thoughts on dystopian fiction's growing market.  There's a book giveaway involved, too, so I invite you to have a look.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

School Library Journal Review

     School Library Journal just reviewed Those That Wake.  They said, in part "Karp has created a terrifically gloomy set and peopled it with both very real characters and others that are eerily unreal . . . With plenty of action, challenging ideas, and bizarre antagonists, this one should appeal to a broad section of teens."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Your Title Here

     The art of naming a work is a tricky thing.  I will cop to being much better at naming my own short stories than my longer works.  Those That Wake was originally titled Four until someone looked at me somberly and said "you know, your book isn't going to be named that when it's published."  I grant you that Four is not such a great title (and I'm not at all bitter about someone else going with I Am Number Four), and Those That Wake (from Matthew Prior's words quoted at the left of your screen) turned out to be both a fitting title and one that summoned the ominous sense I was looking for.
     What makes a good title?  Well, immediate impact certainly serves a purpose, something that grabs -- even demands -- attention the first time you hear it (like, say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  Something iconic that can conjure an overall sense of the work is good, too (for instance Star Wars).  Personally, I fall for the more subtle things: something that sounds mellifluous but also evokes a tone (The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers) or something so weird or mysterious you've just got to pick up the book and find out what it means (The Devil Is Jones by Lester Dent).  The very best titles, I think, work almost like a twist ending.  They function as one thing before you've read the book, but take on a new level of meaning -- or even give the work itself a new level of meaning --  once you're done (The Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton).  I was shooting for that with Those That Wake.  I also did some tricky stuff with the chapter titles, too, but don't get me started on chapter titles.  I've got so much to say on those, I'm going to have to save it for another post.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


     Sometimes a term from literature or movies enters the national lexicon, its meaning potent and universal, even if the work itself fades from wide-scale popularity.  "Stepford" is such a term.  When placed before "wife" or "husband" or what-have-you, it implies a vacuity, a sort of robotic hollowness that renders the person in question more automaton than human.
     The term's popularity may well have been helped along by the movie The Stepford Wives, which has its place in the pantheon of 1970's paranoid, fear-of-authority cinema (one of my very favorite genres, naturally).  But the term, the idea itself, originated in Ira Levin's novel.  Levin wrote the fantastic Rosemary's Baby, which Roman Polanski's fantastic movie was based on (and talk about paranoia . . .) as well as the slightly lesser known The Boys from Brazil (which also spawned a movie version).  But for the deftness of his literary skill, the original Stepford Wives cannot be topped.  It's  a very quick read, but it manages to characterize an era of the national dialog, and of women's rights in particular, with great clarity.  And as a stylistic achievement, it is incomparable.  This is a 208 page novel in which, essentially, nothing at all happens and yet, thanks to a tone of underlying unease, every page is utterly riveting.
     There was, of course, a Stepford Wives remake with Nicole Kidman.  I don't remember it being as horrendous as everyone claimed, but honestly, it is hard to imagine anything outdoing that book.