A good start to 2012
(which, as we all know, will have a bad end)


005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21

If you have not been following Hark! a Vagrant! online, why the heck not?

The book has a good selection of the best strips (though, naturally, not just what *I* would have chosen) as well as some new ones which match her high standards. Here are a couple early strips before she found her feet that aren't in the book (but which I like; language warning on second):

perhaps five days


004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12

Prepare to hear me gush about this novel all year long. It's terrific. Read my full review on AMV.

two days


003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9

The Big O's friend gave him Dingers!: A Short History of the Long Ball for his birthday in 2010. As I looked at the book I realized that many of the great heroes of the game have been forgotten by the most of us. One that struck me was Jimmie Foxx who a) has a memorable name and b) came darn near to breaking Babe's single-season homer record more than once.

Al Simmons played with Foxx on perhaps the greatest team of all time and, even here in the A's new home, is essentially forgotten. It's a shame.

Nicknamed Bucketfoot because of his bizarre batting stance, Al still had an incredible career as a batter. He was a great fielder. And Parker let's us meet him as a person as well.

The book is almost painfully well researched. Which I do appreciate --- a historian who can show that the contemporaneous accounts don't always agree is my kind of historian --- but sometimes it did get a little much. I think I would have preferred some rollicking end/footnotes.

The book did have some minor editing errors but nothing that would make you doubt the accuracy of the facts.

In the end, if you like baseball history, are an A's fan, are curious about historical sabremetrics, enjoy a bit of tragedy with your sports Olympia, or Poles from Wisconsin, then this is the book for you.

a month or so


002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9

What a book! This is meant for, like, ten-year-olds---yet it's a pretty successful work of horror for adult standards as well. In essence, a kid from a timeless (half Victorian/Edwardian, half now) era visits an aged uncle who tells him awful stories which, weirdly, seems to be somehow true. Priestly has nailed the diction and syntax, and the stories themselves are genuinely chilling. Even the ones I thought would fall into old ruts did not. Each provided surprises along the relentless plodding to disaster.

I think it's good for scary kids' books to be scary (an amen).

This one is.

Here are a couple others worth considering: The Graveyard Book. If You Want to Scare Yourself.

Uncle Montague has spawned a couple sequels which also consist of strange adults telling a child or children strange stories. I may well pick one up some time. And I'm sure you can read them in any order.

David Roberts's illustrations are decidedly Goreyesque (and appropriately so, I think, as Gorey has built the visual vocabulary for this brand of out-of-time horror. The primary difference is that Roberts's kids have bigger (and thus cuter) eyes. Here's an example:

about a week


001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5

Read my review here.

maybe a month max


  1. Goreyesque? I'm so there. Also you're right: I should be reading "Hark! A Vagrant!" Because clearly it is awesome.

  2. .

    You won't go wrong with either one.