Tuesday, July 07, 2009

passing before my eyes

this is what i've read in the last 3 months or so (continued from this post):

frequent readers know what a fan i am of yoshihiro tatsumi's work. i've reviewed other books of his before. adrien tomine (another comic writer/artist i'm a fan of) has been instrumental in getting drawn and quarterly to republish tatsumi's work and rescue this dude from cult obscurity. tatsumi's stories are like a cross between haruki murakami's work and twisted, pulp, fiction. these stories all centre on some kind of warped desire or "deviant" sexual proclivity. works in "the push man and other stories" were originally published in 1969, while "good bye" features select works from 1971-72. it shows a very different side of japanese culture than what we in the west are usually exposed to, even more so because the stories all focus on the lower-middle class - not the droney, repressed office workers of contemporary american depictions of japanese culture, but sewage workers, janitors, and failed, impotent men in general. the drawing style is naive, but with an expressive grace - tatsumi is incredibly evocative with a few thick lines of ink. the stories can be a little hard to swallow. the subject matter can be difficult to read - the seedy underbelly that's exposed is something you don't necessarily want to see. at the same time, they lure you with their almost surreal horror - like murakami's work, you're left puzzling at the subtext and deeper meaning of the grotesque vignettes.

i followed those up with jeff lemire's eisner award nominated essex county trilogy, which i read out of order and then pieced together sequentially after. these are top-shelf comics, folks. and so canadian! and for once, i'm not using that as a pejorative! these interconnected, slim little books tell the stories of a few generations of a small town in ontario, weaving together the genealogy and history that belies the open, aching, sparseness of the countryside and its inhabitants. lemire's drawing style runs the gamut - mostly thick, messy, and scrawling, but controlled all the same, and at times, fine and delicate - when showing the frail stubbornness of an old, alzheimer's-ridden drunk at a senior's home, the lines echo the faint, papery vibrations that beset the elderly. the story is touching and sweet, full of what's not said, the secrets that breath out in the vast stillness in the sleepy farming community. i can't say enough good things about these comics. highly recommended.

i don't know if you guys remember, but i was kind of obsessed with mormons for a while (i may or may not have mentioned this here.) this coincided with my fleeting fascination with those giant-family shows on tlc. you know, like the duggers of "18 kids and counting" fame? the thing that gets me is that there's this weird normalization of fringe religious wackpotness under the guise of, "look how cute! they have a million children! all with weird j names like jebediah and josiah!" i feel like this discourse carefully sanitizes (to the point where creepy black and white low-grade junior photoshop photos of giant crosses in the duggers' house are blurred out for the cameras) and elides the religious fanaticism that turns women into baby machines and nothing else and subjugates them under a yoke of patriarchal obedience and ugly fashion and bouffant hairstyles. there's also an explosion of mormon bloggers and mormons in popular (i use that term loosely) culture and i feel like they're an insidious force.

ANYWAY, spurred by a conversation with P, who had read this book, i picked it up. it's kind of standard jon krakauer fare - using a true crime, ripped-from-the-headlines story to examine what makes people stand on the edge of heaven or into the wild or whathaveyou. in this case, it was the murder of a woman and a baby by mormon fundamentalists. did you know that mormonism is the fastest growing religion in the u.s.? did you know that they think that there's nothing better for a woman to do than sit at home and obey her husband and make babies? did you know that they don't like the gays? did you know that there are doctrines against interracial procreation and they hate black people and only allowed black people into the church hierachy in like, the 80s?!? did you know that joseph smith was a class A charlatan and kook of the highest order who flirted with the occult? did you know that the mormon origin story is on par with scientology? did you know that brigham young and other mormon historical paragons were freakin' crazy? well, you'll find this and a lot more out in this book. it was way creepier than tatsumi on a bender, lemme tells ya.

okay, that's enough out of me for one night. i've got a couple more book reviews to do and then i'm done. i'm going to go pack some things and stress out and take out my sublimated anxiety on the poor dotytron.


p.s. pizza lunch today was THE BOMB! my coworkers did something super cute and got us (the dotytron came for lunch too!) a giant basket of some of their favorite foods (some of them just got T to pick out something). we had pizza nova pizza and chicken wings and ate it in the park with caesar and potato salad and sparkling juice. then T made us not one, but TWO cakes! one was an ice cream cake made entirely from ice cream sandwiches layered with hot fudge sauce and chopped pecans. the other cake was white cake layered with sheriff lemon pie filling and canned pineapple topped with whipped cream, with sliced almonds pressed into the side and strawberries that she had cut to make a heart on top. T IS THE BEST. i'm so lucky!!!!!!!

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