Nod then laugh/nod then laugh then really laugh then stroke thy chin


094) The Möbius Strip Club of Grief by Bianca Stone, finished November 2

The collection's split into two parts. I is entirely about the titular club save the final poem. II is not about said club until a couple near the end.

The Möbius Strip Club of Grief itself is a nice conceit. It's a play on another poem's title, the author of whom's foundation Stone now runs. In the Möbius Strip Club of Grief, the dead do the entertaining. Most of the poems that explore this place are quite good, though a couple approach fillery.

It was also a surprise to have a Mormon poem:

Back during our brief Mormon days
Mom wouldn't let us go to temple
out in Utah and baptize the dead.

"But I can baptize your father," I insisted,
who'd hanged himself all those years ago.
"He was a Jew," Mom said. "He doesn't want
to be baptized into the three Mormon heavens."

And that was that.

Soon after, we stopped attending, and really
I was glad. I didn't want to baptize the dead so much
as get into a swimming pool and be held down
by a gentle hand of the priesthood.

"Your brother got too serious," Mom said, smoking
in the car in her wool jacket with the elastic loops for
      shotgun shells
and the flannel insert and loose M&M's in the pockets
(I loved her coat). "He said I was sinning for
      drinking coffee." (59)

This is a bit of the third part of "Blue Jays," a paean to Stone's mother. Some of the collection's best lines are in this poem, but, like all of the longer poems, it also has patches that reveal Stone's distinct need for a limiting (and thus liberating) form. By the end of the book, her poetic techniques at times feel like poetic crutches. And the longer poems, in general, come off more as lazy prose than poetry. The reason I quoted only a bit of III from "Blue Jays" is because the rest of it didn't feel that connected. Not lazy prose, in this case, but disconnected. And that might be the same problem---an unwillingness to trim. Use of form would help.

That said, back to the Mormon bit, pretty good, right? Clearly she wasn't an attending Saint for more than a few months, but it's a good poem.


095) Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters by Ted Cohen, finished November 7

I'm fascinated by the science and philosophy behind humor. I love this Wired article, I love Asimov's musings, I love what the Whites have to say. And now I'm charmed by Ted Cohen, philosopher.

Like Asimov (relevant fact: a fellow Jew), Cohen muses at length at the traits and uniquenesses of Jewish humor. On the one hand, is this just because it is their native waters? Or is there really something different? I'm coming to believe there is. I'm a bit unsold by all the reasons proposed, though that soup of reasons is probably more or less accurate. With a book only sniffing a hundred pages to dedicate more than twenty to this question is fine as a case study, but I'm ... I don't know. It's hard, in American culture, in which we are simultaneously aware of these things and attempting not to be to know how to juggle the two demands.

Cohen's arguments regarding jokes (that they signify community, create intimacy, etc) and compelling and he is a jolly host. I'm not interested in reading his book on metaphor and, at least, the essays on baseball and Hitchcock here. Off the library!
probably two years


096) Sunday Funnies by Gahan Wilson, finished November 9

Gary Groth wrote a brief afterword and from it we learn that Wilson doesn't really remember how he started drawing this newspaper strip, which newspaper took it, how many papers carried it, or why he quit. How about that?

The strip is a collection of gags. Some are better than others, a couple are repeated. The strip works best later on as he started matching the gags thematically---sign painters, optometrists, hats. Sentient furniture. Often the final gag is either Future Funnies (a space-themed strip that tells us more about the '70s, naturally) or The Creep (a spy/vampire/weirdo being over-the-top macabre). This strip makes Wilson's role as missing link between Charles Addams and Gary Larson is clear.

Another thing revealed by this collection: that tired gag style of shoulda-been-retired strips still appearing in papers? Either Wilson is satirizing that gag style or it was popular then even when it's grotesque rather than cute.

maybe a week


097) Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, finished November 15

At BYU, I started hearing about the movie. Which I finally saw circa 2001 but barely remember. Mostly Stephen Fry talking about whether or not women have souls.

Some years later I started hearing about the book. With at least the enthusiasm with which the movie had once been discussed. And I developed an interest and a must-someday-read opinion. Well, that day has come. The Relief Society's ancient but unofficial book club selected it and read along with them. And I'm so glad I did.

As a comic writer myself, I don't laugh at books often. Instead, I appreciate them. I see the joke, I nod with professional respect, I mumble things like "Well done" or "What a clever way of doing that" or "Yes, quite funny" and then I move on. I rarely actually laugh. I envy people who laugh at books.

I laughed frequently at Cold Comfort Farm.

One unexpected blow hit me at the end of chapter three as I was walking home. I immediately stopped walking beause it is unsafe to laugh as I was laughing and walk simultaneously. I cried out to the empty air around me such things as "What the---" and "How did she---" and "I can't even didn't---" and other such unprofessional nonsense.

For those who are familiar with the book, I am referring to a certain bovine ailment.

It is a brilliant piece of comedy. So brilliant I, like most readers of comic art, am barely aware after first read of the art. I can smell it under the surface, but I barely noticed it, to be frank. I was too busy trying to marshall all the funny. Which is no easy task, believe me.

The aspect of Cold Comfort I was most looking forward to is that it takes place in the near future. I'm quite fond of near-future fiction. That's largely why the final season of Parks & Recreation might be my most believed final season of a television show. The weird thing was, everytime I mentioned this aspect of the book to its fans, they all told me I was wrong. But then I started reading and a clear announcement that the novel is near-future was in large letters right below the epigraph! What the heck!

The near-future aspect is not glaring, as it ends up. Rich people own personal aeroplanes and you can go in town to use the television-enhanced telephone, and you get details of future history like an annual Spanish Plague and the Anglo-Nicaraguan wars, but it's not much. And the details of life feel, from here, honestly, pre-1932 if anything.

Still. One more thing I like about it.

I reread so rarely I don't want to make a promise, but Cold Comfort is a book I hope I'll reread someday.
maybe two weeks


098) Green Monk: Blood of the Martyrs by Brandon Dayton, finished November 15

I preordered this book shortly after I learned Image was publishing it. I had been trying to follow it online, but it wasn't getting updated regularly and I kept forgetting to seek it out. I was also stoked that Image picked it up. I love Brandon's work and I want it to find a larger audience.

This volume picks up long before the original independently published version---it's an origin story, really. (Upon finishing Blood of the Martyrs, the first thing I wanted to do was reread that first book, but ... I can't find it. Dang it, Theric.) How the orphaned child was raised by monks. How, when he came of age, he first joined the monastery, then had to leave in order to redeem his sins. I loved the in media res-ness of the original, but this is a lovely and moving origin story. I hope it sells well and we get to hear many more tales of the Green Monk in years to come.

(In the meantime, you can read a related story I commissioned for Sunstone 160.)


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

74 – 81
074) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris, finished August 29
075) The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond, finished August 30
076) Bandette: Stealers Keepers! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 30
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
081) Educated by Tara Westover, finished September 12

82 – 85
082) Beyond the Light by Ryan Shoemaker, finished September 17
083) Space Cat Meets Mars by Ruthven Todd, finished September 22
084) Invisible Gifts by Maw Shein Win, finished September 24
085) Middlemarch by George Eliot, finished September 29

86 – 90
086) Murder in Manhattan, finished October 7
087) The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh, finished October 10
088) Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut, finished October 10
089) Lumberjanes, vol. one by Noelle Stevenson and village, finished October 16
090) SkyHeart Book I: The Star Seed by Jake Parker by Jake Parker, finished October 16

91 – 93
091) Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, finished October 22
092) Homespun and Angel Feathers by Darlene Young, finished October 29
093) A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, finished October 29

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* the most recent post in this series *

final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017

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