I’m going to hit the reset button on my book reviews because I let them go for too long and the thought of writing 22 posts fills me with a kind of dread. But here are some highlights.
I’ve read a few books by writers who’re coming to our local writing festival next month. Charlotte Gill’s Eating Dirt was my favourite of those.
Margo Lanagan’s Red Spikes and George Saunders’ In Persuasion Nation were two books of short stories I read. The George Saunders one is amazing.
The only comic I read and loved recently was Chris Ware’s Building Stories. I loved it so much I feel like I need to write a huge essay about it, and probably will eventually.
What else? Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends and Will Bingley’s Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson both made me want to be a writer.
I even read some nonfiction! (To me books about writing and literature don’t feel like nonfiction, which is why I separate these out from the two in the previous paragraph.) Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English was a great layperson’s guide to some linguistic issues with the language I know best, and David Graeber’s Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology was a good articulation of some issues I think I need to be writing more about.
There were some other things too, including finally getting to Pirate Cinema, which was yes, a novel, but a preachy one in a really good way. That will probably get a real review here as it falls squarely in my professional interests.
So yeah. Books. Reading. I’ve also been doing three storytimes a week since February started and our library’s Teen Advisory Group finally had its inaugural meeting yesterday. It’s been kind of busy.
Baloney is “A Tale in 3 Symphonic Acts” by Pascal Blanchet. It’s a beautiful book with art all in shades of white black and red and a kind of retro cartoony design sense.
In a small town there is a butcher named Baloney, who’s had a sad life. His wife fell to her death from the town’s cliffs and his daughter has lost a hand, a leg and her sight. He knows she won’t be able to go to a good school so he sends for a tutor. The tutor is a dreamer and man of science and they run afoul of the tyrant of the town who sells all the heat. Nothing good comes of it.
The neat feature is how each act is preceded by a description of the music accompanying it. Example:
Orchestration: Slow waltz in a minor key
- Bass for gravity
- Flute for the wind
- Vibraphone for mystery and snow
- Cellos for austerity
- Oboe for melancholy
I really liked how that worked and especially how it slowed down the way I read the book. There’s a playlist at the end that gives the different characters and themes their own music (mostly Shostakovich and Prokofiev.
The story doesn’t have many words and would work as a picturebook bedtime story if you wanted your kid to grow up to be Chris Ware. It’s a great dark little book.
Lint is a Chris Ware comic, that is a sad story about a sad man. It follows Jordan Wellington Lint from birth to death with lots of missed opportunity (especially in the various parent-child relationships he could be involved in) in between.
Chris Ware books are always interesting to read because of the way he lays out his stories, and how his drawings are so stripped down to be almost unrepresentational but they carry all this pain in them. It’s a great little book (a chapter in the ongoing Acme Novelty Library experiment), but not something to read if you want to feel wonderful about the possibilities in life.
I have been neglecting my reviewing duties. But don’t worry, I’ve still been reading. I haven’t given up on the printed word (and image). Just been slow in typing about them. So here is a list of the books I read before coming to Australia.