Tuesday, January 05, 2010

9 book reviews

but, but, i r tired chat.

i was kicking around the idea of going to dr. rei's steeltown buddies' weekly comedy show...but i found out they don't go on until 10pm. considering that to be a fully-functioning adult, i have to be in bed by 11pm...so not happening.

the roomie popped by tonight for a little visit. i like having the roomie so close by. it's nice having friends pop by for a visit like it ain't no thang. she thinks my training bras/american apparel sports bras are a-ok. i suspect it's because we're kindred spirits in not knowing how to be girls.

STOP THE PRESSES. best email from my sister, ever. so, my sis and little ze get home late. eat dinner late. she decides to skip the bath for the kids and says it to rico (outlaw bro). little ze turns to her and says...

"you're a hot mess."

LOL!!!!!!!!! can you see why i don't EVER want that kid to change? he's hi-larious.

anyway...things i love about my 'hood:

- roomie w/i walking, 2 minute drive distance
- H, that guy, and sweet baby D within same distance
- skating rink at the bottom of my street
- yarn store w/i 10 minute walk
- tonnes of amazing restaurants close by
- my massage therapist is w/i a 10 minute walk
- amazing mid-century modern furniture stores w/i walking distance
- the dotytron's parents live up the street
- access to a super-regular bus to subway AND two 24-hour street car lines

in other news...i really want to get this backlog of book reviews done...so here goes. i totally went through a comic phase, where i read 9 (soon to be 10) in rapid succession, with 2 novels as well. since late OCTOBER. that's crazygonuts! just because they're comics doesn't mean they weren't hard-hitting.

brian fies "mom's cancer" chronicles his mother's battle with metastatic lung cancer. the effects it has on his family, himself, his relationship with his mother, and his mother's body from diagnosis to her eventual (short-lived) recovery. the emotions are raw and palpable, leaping off the page with an intensity that belies his simple, smooth, soothing line style. this shows the ravages of cancer and our pitiable arsenal of poisonous tools to combat it. it was deeply moving and depressing...the one uplifting thing was feeling empathy for fies' catharsis in publicizing his story and turning it into art.

i freakin' worship at the altar of brian wood. he also wrote "DMZ" which i've reviewed previously. his writing is so on-point...so vivid and so youth in revolt. lol! local is a collection of separate stories following a youngish girl/woman, megan, as she travels across america, finding herself in the process of living a ne'er-do-well itinerant lifestyle. each episode takes place in a different city in north america, wherever megan has temporarily planted herself in her hitchhiking bildungsroman. the illustrations are THE BOMB. this to me, is what i think of when i want rich, line-heavy, expressive, swirly, drawings. ryan kelly perfectly captures that alt-y, angsty, vaguely grunge aesthetic down to the meghan's scuffed cons and army surplus jacket and errant strand of hair in her spiky bob. sooooo good! i can't say enough good things about it. this is one worth owning for sure. the stories are addictive little pieces of grimey, heartfelt, candy - that thrum with the intangible pitch of the (temporarily) young and misunderstood. my only question is always...does that youth still exist? the punk-y, distorted-guitar, dinosaur jr., L7, doc martens kind? brian wood and adrian tomine seem deeply invested in that youth but i don't see those kids anymore. anyway, i highly recommend this to the moon and back.

i decided to go o.g. and check out will eisner's seminal work, "a contract with god and other tenement stories" which is widely considered to be a touchstone work in the maturation of "comics" into the "legitimate" literary form of "graphic novels." these interconnected, semi-autobiographical stories, show the lives of resolutely working class people (mostly jewish) in the bronx. it's bawdy, seedy, earthy stuff - faith, sex, love, and hardscrabble existences all tenderly rendered in a somewhat dated (to me) bulbous drawing style. i can appreciate it for what it means to the genre...but i wasn't in love with any of the stories...the best of them all is the title one. i can see how it is a landmark work for its uncompromising look at the regular, everyday lives of its' subjects - nothing is glossed over here.

"our cancer year" or, as the dotytron called it, "your stupid depressing cancer book for sadsacks" chronicles cult legend harvey pekar's battle with cancer (he survives) and its effects on his partner, joyce brabner's life. this is even more raw than "mom's cancer," probably because the drawing style is so crude and immediate - the illustrator (pekar always works with a revolving door of illustrators who bring to life his autobiographical observations on colleagues, work, and life in
cleveland), creates panels of scribbles and slanting, shaky, script that gives you the impression of hastily scrawled notes on events as they're happening. it reminds me of my grade 11 art exercise where you had to draw someone in one continuous line, without looking at the page. the text alternates between joyce's voice and harvey's and their immense love (and frustration) with each other is rendered with gut-wrenching honesty. a scene where joyce's body shakes with silent tears in reaction to harvey's pain during treatment made me well up. their love is so real - so deep, abiding, frustrated, honest, that when she comments about the night that she learned to cry without sound, in deference to his comfort and concern, it strikes a deep chord. be grateful that cancer treatment has come such a long way.

"stuck rubber baby" from a visual sense, is the antithesis of "our cancer year." howard cruse's tale of a closeted homosexual man coming of age during the civil rights movement the deeply bigoted south is depicted in an incredibly dense, cross-hatch style with pointilism details. i found the story to be lacking...i couldn't identify with the bland, vacant ambiguousness of the protagonist, toland polk. there were some moments of humour and veracity, but overall, the story was a boring and plodding, slumping from event to event with very little character development, depth, or nuance. i wasn't engaged per se - even as events turn for the worse. it seems to depict this weird nether region, where the histrionics aren't amplified enough to approach melodrama and the events are so plodding that even when there are shocking turns, it's all very muted and detached.

rutu modan's "exit wounds" is a quiet little family drama/mystery - tonally, it reminded me of "two lovers." it depicts a cab driver in israel, whose deadbeat dad goes missing, and who is drawn into the search by a mysterious, plain girl who was his father's girlfriend. i wasn't sure what to make of it. i wasn't sure if there was a larger story being told - about israel, about jewish-arab relations. maybe i'm reading too much into it. or being racist. not allowing the story to be itself. it left that weird indie feeling behind - where things just end and you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop - kind of "margot at the wedding" type vibe. i don't know where i stand on this one.

"epileptic" is french comic artist david b's account of his brother's battle with epilepsy, his bohemian, free-wheeling parents' attempts to find solutions for his brother's seizures, and his own retreat into an odd, disjointed dream world with bird-headed man talismans and drawing to buffer against the constant battering of his brother's seizures. it's critically acclaimed like whoa...but i wasn't feeling it. it was a little too impressionistic and meandering - too many tangents and journeys into his subconscious and the imaginary realm, not enough for me to hold onto. his parents don't make for sympathetic figures, which also makes for a trying reading experience. they keep flitting from one stupid new-age solution to another, joining cult after cult, totally a-critical and anti-intellectual - it's very frustrating because it's almost like they don't take their son's condition seriously. realistically, the "intellectual" alternative at the time wasn't very productive...it was institutionalization and electroshock. i'm not advocating that. still, i found his parents' flakiness supremely off-putting. i also wasn't a fan of the high contrast, picasso-esque, visual style.

phew! that's all the comics done. i just have 2 more book reviews and we're all caught up.

so...new year's resolutions are holding up fairly well on day 2. i went to my work's lunchtime yoga class today - which means 2 days in a row of at least 45 minutes of yoga. last night i made steel cut oats in the slow cooker, which meant waking up to a warm, steaming bowl of oats. i added 1 c. of coconut milk, some toasted coconut, and flaked almonds to the mixture so it was really nutty and toasty (a little too soupy, though.) a little bit of turbinado sugar stirred in this morning made it the perfect, hearty, winter breakfast.

tonight i made us penne with a simple "sauce" of pancetta, caramelized onion and fennel. with a salad of baby spinach, caramelized pears, toasted chopped hazelnuts, shallots, and shaved pecorino in a maple balsamic vinaigrette. very yum.

it's totally irrational but i'm already having anxiety about how few winter meal nights are left. I'M CUH-RAZY.


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