074) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris, finished August 29
This is multilayered comics on the level of Chris Ware or Duncan the Wonder Dog. Although it begs us to ask how autobiographical it is, I'll avoid that topic. There's enough without it. We have monster movies/magazines; we have childhood cruelty; we have mob violence; we have all kinds of sex; we have family dynamics; we have the Holocaust; we have a mysterious murder; we have questions of sexuality; we have human duality; we have fine art---
All these pieces click together nicely. It might be hard to imagine all those things coming together without becoming either maudlin or oppressive, but no: Ferris shows real skill in balancing all this stuff. It's a heavy read, but not at all unpleasant. The only awful thing about it is the likely wait we have in front of us before the story will continue.
075) The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond, finished August 30
We're in a different American city now (Oakland rather than Chicago) but we still get to see much of the seedy underbelly---only now we're a bit more involved as our protagonist is an adult.
Madge is working at a cafe, saving her money so she can move to New York and pursue her dreams of being a cartoonist. Her boss is Lazlo (imagine Scott McCloud in a trilby), a well meaning would-be poet. Everyone is doing alcohol and/or coke and/or speed and/or "Persian" and/or mj and/or tobacco and/or heroin and/or methodone etc etc etc. It's not a life I'm interested in, but Pond's look is kind without being romantic and truthful without being vindictive.
Although it's born of her actual experiences, Pond's ficionalization is very satisfying as fiction. The story is well organized and structured. It's a great piece of writing and it works well as a novel.
076) Bandette: Stealers Keepers! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 30
This picks up where volume one dropped off and provides a satisfying conclusion. There is a third volume, but it seems likely that it will take a new direction. I hope so as this volume, while wonderful, couldn't match the bright delight of newness we encountered in volume one.afternoon
All I really really want to do now is show my kids Charade....
077) You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld, finished September 6
078) Baking With Kafka by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
079) Mooncop by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
080) Goliath by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
The first two volumes are collections of his short comics, mostly originally published in the Guardian as part of his literary series. They're good. They have the heightened starkness of Jason and the deadpan intelligence of Edward Gorey.evening, day, afternoon, afternoon (respectively
The latter two are booklength narratives that excel in quiet. Silence is one of the great powers of comics, and Gauld has almost weaponized it. These odes to loneliness, to being an outsider, to calm consideration---they're peaceful even when they are wrought.
I'm fond of his work.
081) Educated by Tara Westover, finished September 12
I can't think of a "Mormon book" that's made this big of a splash. Maybe ever. Amazon's top recommendation? President Obama gave it a recommendation? That never happened to Scholar of Moab.... So I suppose I was in some sense obliged to pick it up. But if Lynsey hadn't read it as part of an online book club, I would have just kept waiting for it to show up in a Little Free Library.about two weeks
I think my favorite aspect of the book is how Westover made transparent her efforts to be accurate in writing the story of her childhood onward. Footnotes that lay out the variances in different character's memories give the book an honest sheen that most memoirs simply do not have for me.
One of my instinctive reactions is similar to how I reacted to Elna Baker's memoir: I'm frustrated by how a character who is growing seems to have no access to intelligent faithful Mormons in their moments of need. At BYU (and in Manhattan) there are numerous concourses of such people, yet they're just not there. In Baker's case, she seemed to avoid Mormons when she was shaky; Westover, on the other hand, having had such a "conservative" upbringing had already drawn her to people who were likely to tell her unhelpful things. Given the ties she had to cut, however, it's hard to imagine there were many pathways where the Church did not become collateral damage.
The writing itself is simple, clean, and readable. I don't know how natural it is for her to write this way, but she and her team put together some wonderful prose.
On a personal note, this book hit close to home. I don't know anyone quite like her family, but she's local to me. Franklin County is next door to Bear Lake County---the Bear River runs right past her homestead. The nearest town was the same town Napoleon Dynamite lives in (although Westover kindly refers to it by a historical name), and we all know how much I identify with that bit of Idahoiana.
The greatest bit of Idaho she accomplishes, however, is the dialect. I often want to write Idaho, but I can't get the words to sound right. Tara Westover nails it. That's just how my family talks.
It's also heartbreaking to see how cut off our corner of Idaho is from the rest of the world. My own hometown, when I enter it, looks essentially identical to its appearance when I left, thirty-one years ago. A healthy town changes in three decades. You feel nostalgia for what was. My nostalgia is for what does not have the economic health to grow and change. Although I never met any hardcore fans of the apocalypse and was never treated by homeopathics, it fits; it makes sense.
So I think my primary feeling is one of shared tragedy, although mine is far less violent. And I thank her for sharing.