Mechanical ponies and owl-babies


Happy weekend! Weekends are good times for reading so I really ought to be pointing you to the new issue of Irreantum, out now, and specifically a poem of mine selected by the guest editor, but it doesn't officially launch until Tuesday, so more on them later.

In the meantime, some suggestions from my own reading:

096) One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale, finished August 20

I know Nathan Hale mostly from his Hazardous Tales series of historical comics. I don't think I ever made it through one, but my kids devoured and redevoured them.

Me, I've read his books with some unrelated Hales and Apocalypse Taco.

I suspect this book was not the hit the publisher expected. My local Pegasus still has some hardback remainders on the table. I know 2017 wasn't that long ago, but those books feel like they'll never go away.

And I'm not sure why. The cover looks exciting enough. The story's fun (though the conclusion's a bit pat) and the characters and world are fun too visit. Was it the black-and-white-and-yellow color scheme? I don't know.

Publishing is a mystery.

two sits

097) My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, finished August 22

As my students were perusing and reading from my contemporary-poetry collection, I picked this one up and immediately recognized poems. I had read chunks of this book before and liked it. So I started at the beginning and, shortly after school, finished it.

This autobiographical-seeming collection is about a British woman whose mother is black and whose father is white and explores the world this fact birthed her into. Some recurring themes (the pull of motherhood, sexual violence) and techniques (repeated sequences, moments of the fantastical) threaded through a compelling voice and brightly seen situations make the collections as a whole deeply compelling.

The sadness and shallowness of even her most longed-for romantic relationships ("I will be so light / upon his life he won't realise / he's kept me" 73) contrast with the depth of feeling she has for her mother. Consider how well she sees her here:

I can still only tell if Mum is laughing
or crying by her breasts
—up-down for laughing, up-down
then into a heavy sway for crying.

But even the people we know and respect and love the best remain unknown. She must see her mum this clearly because otherwise she will not be able to tell if she is laughing.

an afternoon

098) Chivalry by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran, finished August 23

I read the short story "Chivalry" circa 2001 and, like Gaiman's work tends to do, it came back to me as soon as I started reading this adaptation. It's a charming little number.

Apparently Doran's been wanting to adapt the story to comics since it was first written, but it took a quarter-century of waiting for some movie rights to lapse before she could start. I first became aware of the adaptation via the Cartoon Art Museum's website. We never did make it there this summer, but reading Dolan's afterward about how she worked to make the art a different experience in the book versus in person, I've a renewed desire to check it out.

after school

099) Chouette by Claire Oshetsky, finished August 25

I enjoyed this book lots. I don't know if this book liked me (was I under attack?) but I dub it's straightforward madness. Starting from the epigraph (from Eraserhead), we are in a world that is strange and surreal. I recommend clicking on the cover and reading the first couple of pages and see if you can avoid buying it. I couldn't.

Also, what a great cover! And it follows the rule suggested by Aaron Cometbus to give books good spines so they continue to attract attention even when they've been remaindered or twenty-years-old.

Anyway, a woman gives birth to an owl-baby. Disaster ensues.

The author bio on the backflap says this novel "draws on her own experiences of motherhood" and it's easy to see the realism behind the magical in the little mother's sacrifices and abuses. Although the idea of training a hollow-boned baby to catch gophers might be absurd, a sense of honesty pervades each page.

Not that this is an allegory. Don't ask me to provide the key explaining dog-people or cellos or damaged peacocks. While the novel feels true throughout, it is not so plain as to explain which truths it is revealing.

Although, I suspect, if you are a mother, you may already own the key.

under a month (as I reread the first page)

100) Weiner Dog Art by Gary Larson, finished August 26

Honestly? Maybe my favorite index of all time.

two or three stops on a road trip

101) A Bestiary of Booksellers by Aaron Cometbus, finished September 2

I am become quite the fan of Aaron Cometbus's essays. He also writes novels and perhaps after I finish reading what I've already purchased, I may pick one up. But what I have picked up are his personal essays—not any of the anthologies he's edited or anything else. I enjoy his explorations of his lived world.

This one is about selling books in New York City. Starting your way out selling on sidewalks and working your way up—or over. Lots of side paths you can take. He tells us, for instance, that he has become the go-to guy for sorting collections of the newly dead.

The book, as the title might suggest?, is abecedarian. A is for Adam though Z is for Zoo. Adam is one of the patriarch's of New York's bookselling scene; the zoo is the site of a marriage that brings many of the essay's characters back together one last time.

After I read #55 (links below), I spent a lot of time trying to track down several of the books he talked about only to decide that the authors and titles had been anonymized. I started this one from the same assumption, but eventually I realized this book was doing something different. I didn't start looking things up for a while, but I suspect most (even all?) of the books here are real and perhaps the authors as well (with a couple likely exceptions) even as title of magazines and friends and former movie stars are disguised out of my ability to track them down.

Which gets to one of the peculiar things about Cometbus's intimate essays. As well as we feel we get to know him, we have reason to doubt the veracity of almost every intimacy-creating detail he shares with us.

Regardless, he's a fine host.

54 | 55 | 56

about two weeks

102) Slaughterhouse-Five, or. the Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 9
What with all the bookbanning of late, I figured I ought to teach Slaughterhouse-Five again. It's been a while. And, it having been so long, I decided I should read it again. Which is a very 2022-Theric thing to do since I have recently read the comic and and watched the film adaptations. Which were both quite good.
As is the novel. I have a very high opinion of the novel. It may hold up better than any other Vonnegut novel I have reread (and reread).

One of the quiz questions this week was "Chapters six and seven contain many things that a reasonable person could find offensive. Explain to that person why one of those things has value and belongs in the book."

Your responses invited in preparation for Banned Book Week, starting on the 18th.

under two weeks


Previously . . . . :

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 LĂȘ 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

064) Night Weather by JS Absher, finished June 2
065) Will Eisner Reader, finished June 2
066) Pen Pals by Aaron Cometbus, finished June 4
067) I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, finished June 6
069) Pluto: Urusawa × Tezuka 001 by Naoki Urasawa et al, finished June 16
070) The Gadget War by Betsy Duffey, finished June 16

071) Sensational Wonder Woman, finished June 22
072) Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, finished June 27
073) 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) by The Oatmeal, finished June 29
074) Socks by Beverly Cleary, finished June 29
075) The Ultimates Volume 1: Super-Human by Millar/Hitch/Currie, finished June 30
076) In China with Green Day by Aaron Cometbus, finished July 4

077) V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, finished July 7
078) Spin by John Bennion, finished July 10
079) The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker edited by Robert Mankoff, finished July 11
080) The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett, finished July 23
081) W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, finished July 25
082) How About Never—Is Never Good for You? by Bob Mankoff, finished July 28

083) Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz, finished July 29
084) Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley, finished July 30
085) Urban Legendz by Paul Downs / Nick Bruno / Michael Yates, finished July 30
086) The Best Film You've Never Seen by Robert K. Elder, finished August 1
087) It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken by Seth, finished August 4
088) Spencer Kimball's Record Collection: Essays on Mormon Music by Michael Hicks, finished August 7

089) The Last Man by Mary Shelley, finished August 11
090) Funny Business by Revlio, finished August 13
091) The Sopratos by Stephan Pastis, finished August 15
092) Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
093) Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
094) Friends Forever by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
095) The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, finished August 20

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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