Hella comics and the biggest Mormon book ... ever?


074) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris, finished August 29

Drawn entirely in ballpoint pens (Bic-style) with the occasional colored pencil and seemingly on notebook paper complete with blue lines and binderholes and metal coiling, this is supposed to be a sequence of notebooks by an elementary-school girl. She's a helluvanartist for her age, let me say.

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.

two weeks or so


075) The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond, finished August 30

Another enormous comic book! This one is a much quicker read, but it's remarkable how much they have in common. This takes place in the late Seventies rather than the late Sixties, but Madge is about ten years older than Karen, so I suppose they're still contemporaries.

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.
two days


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.

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.

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.
evening, day, afternoon, afternoon (respectively


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.

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.
about two weeks


The other books of 2018

1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

18 – 20
018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13
019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22
020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

21 – 25
021) M Is for Malice by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
022) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany; finished March 31
023) It All Started with Hippocrates: A Mercifully Brief History of Medicine by Richard Armour, finished April 6
024) Don't Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein, finished April 14
025) Coriolanus by Wm Shakespeare, finished April 16

26 – 32
026) The Trouble with Reality by Brooke Gladstone, finished April 24
027, 28) Coriolanus by William Shakespeare, finished April 26
029) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, finished April 28
030) Twisted Tales from Shakespeare by Richard Armour, finished April 28 or April 29 depending on when midnight happened
031) Bless The Child: A Romance of Redemption and Glory in the Ancient World by David J. West, finished May 1
032) The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy, finished May 3

32 – 34
032) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished May 9
033) Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami, finished May 9
034) Vader Down by Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato, finished May 18

035) The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition edited by Grant Hardy, finished May 23

36 – 50
036) Bad Kitty Camp Daze by Nick Bruel, finished May 24
037) I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, finished May 24
038) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua, finished May 30
039) Princess Leia by Mark Waid et al, finished May 30
040) Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral, finished June 12
041) Everything You Need to Know About a Mission by Ralph Thomas, finished June 13
042) The Invisibles by Grant Morrison et al, finished June 14
043) The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, finished June 15
044) Material Volume 1 by Ales Kot & Will Tempest & al., finished June 23
045) Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav, finished June 30
046) The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, finished July 7
047) Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier Vol. 1: The Man On The Wall by Ales Kos, finished July 7
048) Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10
049) Poems Dead and Undead edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10
050) Mary's Monster by Lita Judge, finished July 11

51 – 57
051) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, finished July 18
052) Hostage by Guy Delisle, finished July 21
053) The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, finished July 22
054) Paper Girls, Vol 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, finished July 24
055) Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton, finished July 25
056) [Aelian's] On the Nature of Animals translated by Gregory McNamee, finished July 27
057) Blue Yodel by Ansel Alkins, finished July 27

58 – 63
058) The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater, finished July 31
059) Bandette Volume 1: Presto! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished July 31
060) Legends of Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke, finished August 3
061) Darth Vader: End of Games by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca, finished August 6
062) How to Read Nancy by Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden, finished August 10
063) The Selected Poems of Donald Hall by Donald Hall, finished August 14

64 – 68
064) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg, finished August 15
065) The Humans by Stephen Karam, finished August 15
066) Space Cat by Ruthven Todd, finished August 16
067) Strip Search: Revealing Today's Best College Cartoonists, finished August 16
068) A Contract with God by Will Eisner, finished August 18

69 – 73
069) Space Cat Visits Venus by Ruthven Todd, finished August 19
070) Served: A Missionary Comic Anthology edited by Theric Jepson & Mike Laughead & al., finished August 22
071) Precious Rascals by Anthony Holden, finished August 24
072) The Peanuts' Guide To Life by Charles M. Schulz (sort of), finished August 25
073) Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham by Mike Mignola et al., finished August 28

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final booky posts of
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1 comment:

  1. I read Educated last month and was surprised by how much I liked it. I had expected it to be more sensationalistic and shallow like similar memoirs I've read, but I liked the way she interrogated the process of memoir writing. I also have mixed feelings about calling it a "Mormon" book, especially since I know the author herself doesn't want to be seen that way (and I'm hesitant to claim her family and their wacko beliefs as Mormons--she does make it clear that they are outliers even among their community). However, there were also Mormons in her hometown and at BYU who helped her and guided her. I guess you could call it a "Mormon" book in that sense, and I appreciate that it includes a number of different types of Mormons.

    I also felt a connection to the book because of the BYU angle, and most of my extended family is from western Wyoming, a similar corner of the world (although they do go to the hospital for their horrific farm accidents).