These books are fine books


064) Night Weather by JS Absher, finished June 2

Absher is a poet I know through Irreantum (most recently) and he offered to send me his latest book. I agreed and he threw in two older books as well. This was the shortest and prettiest (and oldest) and thus the one I opened first.

The book is structured around the four seasons and is mostly haikus. So it should not surprise you that it is heavily nature-themed. And successfully so. It's a lovely book. And the few excursions into slightly aside topics blend nicely with the pastorals.

(An example haiku that is not about ice or leaves.)

My favorite poem may have been "Mackerel, Sesame, Jehosaphat," one of the longest poems in the book (the longest?) at over two pages. Black Bird creates the world in one of the best reimaginings of Genesis 1 I can recall (and I love retellings of early Genesis!).

Anyway, it's a lovely book and twelve years old, so good luck finding your own copy!

one afternoon and evening

065) Will Eisner Reader, finished June 2

Once upon a time there was a thing called Will Eisner's Quarterly. The stories in this collection first appeared there from 1985 to 1991 and show the variety and depth and irony one expects from a good Eisner tale. Can you imagine getting that in the mail? What a pleasure that would have been! I mean, at the time, I wouldn't have appreciated it, but so cool.

Anyway, this mix of stories includes gangster tales and family drama and early humans and a riff on Kafka and you name it. Pretty great. A terrific intro to the man's work—and much easier to find than the original issues.

four nights

0066) Pen Pals by Aaron Cometbus, finished June 4

I'd been attracted to Berkeley long before I moved here but even now, in my second decade in the neighborhood, I wouldn't say I understand it or have a particularly strong grasp on the depths of Berkeley's meaning.

So: Aaron Cometbus.

He's eight years older than me and grew up in Berkeley in a very Berkeley manner, hanging on out the street and worshipping leftist nutjobs. He now lives in Manhattan living the same life and he's been chronicling his lifelong obsessions since he was 13 and, I guess, still today.

Anyway, I learned about him recently having found this issue of his zine in a little free library in the hills of El Cerrito as I was wandering around with a vague idea of where a garage sale might be that my wife had driven to and had certainly abandoned by the time I left to look. I did not find her. But I found Cometbus.

Other issues can, apparently, be pretty inaccessible to outsiders, but Pen Pals is a novella-length memoir that works as a terrific entrance to his world. Honestly, if I'd picked up something handwritten or collaged, I may not have given it enough attention. I'm glad I found this one.

I should mention that, memoir though this may be, it's touch to say just how true any of it is. Among other discussions in this volume, he mentions some novels that capture Berkeley with something re recognizes as familiar, honest. But, best I can tell, there is not novel called Collective by a Joan Recht and no The Last Assyrian by an old "Assyrian." This is gravely disappointing to me.

I kinda guess they are real books, but these are not their titles and the author's identities are even more disguised than they appear.

Anyway, even though I'm not connected to Berkeley's history and depths, I do know what it's like to be part of a fringe community and to feel a compulsion to dig deeper and deeper into its history and details. The recent death of Béla Petsco has felt a great deal like Cometbus's descriptions of seeking out members of his old guard. They get old and grumpy but they appreciate the attention and there's an uncertainty as to whether it is better to give them love or let them retain their legendary untouchableness.

I'm glad we reached out though. No one should die believing they are forgotten. Maybe, someday, some young thing will reach out to you.

a few bursts over a month or two

067) I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, finished June 6

After Wee Free Men, the 5yrold warmed up to these books and we sped through A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith. We spent much longer on volume four. In large part because Tiffany is growing older (she starts the book at sixteen and, in the epilogue, is seventeen). Her interests are, naturally, diverging from a 5yrold's.

The supernatural baddie in this one is also quite terrifying. Nightmares occurred. And he seems so unstoppable—! But then, so did the Queen of Fairies and the hiver and the Wintersmith, at that. But this one seemed particularly impossible. And, at first, Tiffany's typically plain solution felt like a cheat.

But as we read the following pages after her victory, I realized there had been no cheating at all.

No one writes communities like Terry Pratchett.

The rest is what I would consider meaningful spoilers, so be warned.

In books two and three, it seemed as if Tiffany and young Roland, the baron-in-waiting, were fated to end up together. And all the reasons we thought so were reasons that seemed reasonable to them, as well. But, in the end, those were only so-so reasons. And when this book begins with them apart and Roland engaged, it's a little heartbreaking. Even though Tiffany is still just a kid and should be in no rush.

And so, that the conclusion of the monster is also Tiffany marrying the two of them together, is absolutely appropriate.

And, even more remarkably, let me tell you of a character that seems to be comedic background as the story begins. Rare is the book that captures so well how falling in love can happen while you're not looking for it at all. This is a wonderfully sweet romance and the manner in which it reaches a conclusion in Midnight choked me up and made it difficult to read.

We'll need to put a pause on starting book five as summer's a-coming and starting tomorrow the 5yrold will be with her grandparents for at least a couple weeks. But I for one am so excited.

Terry Pratchett: "The Tiffany Aching series is what I would most like to be remembered for, and I couldn't have written Tiffany Aching when I was seventeen. I just wouldn't have had the tools."

almost three months

068) Come Down Massive by Ross McKinney and Drew Grasso, finished June 10

I am astonished this is the work of two people. I'm not sure I've read a comic in which words and text are so idiosyncratically intertwined. And while it makes sense to think of them as separate things, they are just as much reliant on each other. Pages may go by without one or the other, but the whole is all the wholer therefore.

Anyway, it's a crime tale, two young kids in the 1930s scrambling across the country getting into scrapes and worse. It weaves from point of view to point of view without roadsign and we the reader must assemble this collage which lets us feel as disconnected as the kids do themselves.

The art starts and ends with images reminiscent of Lynn Ward or Frans Masereel, cuts of some kind (wood? linoleum?). But the varieties and styles of art pass through a dozen styles (by which I mean both medium and presentation and level of realism and such).

I've owned this volume for a while but every time I flipped through it I was leery of this variety, worried it would just be a mess and confused and unpleasant. I'm happy to report it was all of those things but in a wonderful way. (See some of the art here.)

one sitting

069) Pluto: Urusawa × Tezuka 001 by Naoki Urasawa et al, finished June 16

I don't remember where this came from, but I'm trying to unload some books and manga don't take long to read, so I sat down to crank it out. It's the first volume in an interesting detective story where humans and robots coexist on a nearly equal basis.

I didn't realize until I got to the stuff at the end that our lead character is a minor character in Astro Boy and this is a new take on a classic Astro Boy story, "The Greatest Robot on Earth" (or "The Greatest Robot in the World") which the legendary creator of this volume says "has been enshrined as a centerpiece in the literature of our generation."

This was only one of eight volumes, but it seemed pretty good so far!

a sitting

070) The Gadget War by Betsy Duffey, finished June 16

I'm not sure why I felt a need to read this book. I mean—it's for what, second graders? And yet I couldn't let it go before reading it.

Anyway, I guess it's good for second graders? New kid moves in, is a one-dimensional villain, they he and the protagonist are friends at the end. It doesn't really hold up to adult eyes. But I guess that's on me, for being an adult.

a sitting

Previous Posts

001) U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton, finished January 4
002) Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin et al, finished January 7
003) Joseph Smith and the Mormons by Noah Van Sciver, finished January 7
004) The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, finished January 11
005) The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani, finished January 11
006) Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation by Nick Bruel, finished January 12
007) Remina by Junji Ito, finished January 15
008) The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
009) The Tea Dragon Festival here by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
010) A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, finished January 18
011) Diana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon & Dean Hale and Victoria Ying, finished January 26

012) Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished January 28
013) The Art of Description by Mark Doty, finished January 28
014) Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê and Andie Tong, finished February 5
015) Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, finished January 9
016) The Art of Mystery by Maud Casey, finished February 11
017) The Art of Bible Translation by Robert Alter, finished February 13
018) No Longer Human by Junji Ito, finished February 15

019) Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani, finished Febraury 17
020) Fuzz by Mary Roach, finished February 19
021) Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection by Junji Ito, finished February 25
022) You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis, finished March 4
023) Audience-ology by Kevin Goetz, finished March 4
024) The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, finished March 7

025) Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, finished March 8
026) The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells, finished March 11
027) Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael J. Trinklein, finished March 12
028) Nightwing: Leaping into the Light by Bruno Redondo and Tom Taylor, finished March 13
029) Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, finished date
030) Invisible Ink: My Mother's Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist by author, finished date
031) Ghosts of Vader's Castle by a slew of folks, finished March 15
032) The Flintstones Volume 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, finished March 16
033) The Flintstones Volume 2 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, finished March 16
034) The Jetsons by Palmiotti/Brito/Sinclair, finished March 16
035) Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan, finished March 18
036) Ballad for Sophie by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, finished March 19

You tell me whether it's garbage-in or not

037) Bride of the Far Side by Gary Larson, finished March 23
038) Batman: Night of the Owls by the entire DC bullpen, finished March 23
039) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, finished March 25
040) The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash, finished March 25
041) Slaugherhouse-Five or the Children's Crusade: a Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut / Ryan North / Albert Monteys, finished March 28
042) The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, finished March 28
043) Jem by Frederik Pohl, finished March 31
044) The Mundane Adventures of Dishman by John MacLeod, finished March 31
045) Because Sometimes You Just Gotta Draw a Cover with Your Left Hand by Stephan Pastis, finished April 4

Books: extralong edition

046) Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline by Leth/Williams/Allegri, finished April 9
047) The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner, finished April 11
048) Weird Al: The Book by Nathan Rabin with Al Yankovic, finished April 11
049) My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin, finished April 16
050) The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet, finished April 19
051) Beast of Burden: Occupied Territory by Dorkin & Dyer & Dewey & Piekos, finished April 16
052) Building a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business by Scott Adams, finished April 22
053) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, finished April 27
054) Salt Magic by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock, finished May 5
055) Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi, finished May 6
056) Hemingway in Paradise and Other Mormon Poems by Scott Hales, finished May 8
057) Romeo and Juliet: The War by a team assembled by Stan Lee, finished May 10
058) The Dark Horse Book of the Dead edited by Scott Allie, finished May 14
059) A Little Lower than the Angels by Virginia Sorensen, finished May 15

060) Irredeemable by Mark Waid, et al., finished May 20
061) Stanslaw Lev's The Seventh Voyage by Jon J Muth, finished May 23
062) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Simon Armitage, finished May 28
063) Heike's Void by Stephen L. Peck, finished May 30

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021

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