Monday, December 24, 2007

Part of my haul, mostly from Half Price Books.

Besides being Christmas Eve, today was the day I didn't make it to Copacetic Comics. Feel free to regal me with tales of your Pittsburgh comic shop visits. Let me know what I was missing!

Edited to add: I am posting from a stale-smelling hotel room in a town outside Pittsburgh. I will be forced to go out into the air soon. Until then, how about we revel in this great essay from Amanda about hotel rituals.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Checking in from Western Pennsylvania.

Windy and snowing, the cold, ugly air has not stopped me from purchasing a number of books, one from a bookstore that I haven't stepped into since I visited my brother during his first (and last) year in college. At least, that's how I remember it. I'm talking about eljay's books in South Side in Pittsburgh. There is nothing like returning to a memory and finding the meat of it unchanged.

Right now I am watching Holiday Affair with sexy, old Robert Mitchum and thinking of you.

Send me comments for sanity.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mind Riot edited by Karen Hirsch

Oh, coming of age. How annoying you are!

Editor Karen D. Hirsch says in her introduction to Mind Riot: “Since the beginning of the comix movement in the 1960s, many artists have taken coming-of-age as their subject. Those were the comix I loved best, with their gritty, honest and often hilarious portraits of a time of life too often put in a soft-focus haze by the mainstream media.”

I am not sure if this has been a change in the past ten years or so, what with the internets and the instant co-opting of anything underground, fresh and marketable, but I think that the teenage years have been used and abused by the media in a way that has just become very boring to me. I am not longer a teenager and for that I am very, very glad. I think, if anything, there has been a 180 in regards to the “soft-focus haze” that Hirsch complains of. Now TV teens get raped, have bad relationships, do drugs and get lost all in the name of audience titillation. These are no longer secrets, they are fodder. I am not endorsing that pain or ugliness be kept secret, but I think today’s teens are faced with something even worse, a predatory curiosity from the world that doesn’t care about them, and will do nothing to help them heal or prevent the same from happening again. And on the other had, the excitement and fear that is present during adolescence is universal, a fact of American life and, “gritty” or not when portrayed in art, bores me to tears.

Ok, ok, so why did I buy this work? Because it is packed comics by the ladies and men of the 90s that I hadn’t seen before. The three that I loved the best were by “Painted Friends” by Carl Swain, “The Girl From Another World” by Phoebe Glockner and “A Tale of Three Sisters” by Ann Decker. Again, these artists show up in Twisted Sister II and because this book is geared towards teenagers, we get a softer, but not stupider, version of their work. For this book, they do the hard work of making stories that are compelling as art without being exploitative or insulting. They also show, mainly through the introduction each artist gives before his or her piece, that being an adult can be fun: art and emotion doesn’t stop at 25. And it shouldn’t!

So what are you making right now?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winners of the short contest are:
for avoiding the poop trap and making me laugh a bit on a rough day. If I don't have your address, send it to me and you will recieve a small box of items handpicked from all the tiny wonders in my apartment.

The right response to the question was of course:
"What brown stuff?"

Recipe for Disaster and Other Stories by Penny Van Horn

I grabbed this nice Fantagraphics paperback at Powell’s books on my short short trip to Portland in the summer. Between all the pretty hardcovers of the mid-2000s, there were four or so copies of this book shoved in the comics shelves. The author’s name sounded familiar and after a cursory flip-through I put it in my very small “to buy” pile.

The title story details Van Horne’s post-college descent into mental illness. She puts it this way: “… With the help of a few books and records, a typewriter, and some marijuana, I managed to go totally insane.” For Van Horne too much time on her hands, a few books on psychology and a little faulty wiring conspired to land her in a hospital with a busted face and a broken mind. In the epilogue she says, “At any rate, despite the fact it can be colored by sickness, I believe in the reality of inspiration.”

Later in the book comes “The Psycho Drifter,” my first exposure to Van Horne. I originally read it in Twisted Sisters II, an excellent anthology edited by Diane Noomin. I know I reread that collection recently, but I am not sure why it didn’t turn up on the sidebar. Digressions aside, “Psycho Drifter” is one of those stories one ends up telling at the spent end of a long, possibly drunken, night, the kind of story that’s only good because the teller survived it to marvel at their own stupidity. Most every fun person has one of these stories, and from the comics in this collection, it seems like Van Horne has more than most people.

The subject matter of “Binge & Purge: a thrift store odyssey” is close to my heart, what with the great depictions of the hazards of thrifting under stress, and has a Carol Tyler vibe. In it, Van Horne’s children are animalistic tornadoes, she is a droopy head case, retail clerks are gnashing, moronic, monsters and her husband is kinda useless. Instead of careening into a boring self-pity party, she manages to capture the excitement of thrifting and friends along with the crappiness of being poor.

All of the stories are either autobio or “a true story,” a subtitle I imagine covers stories told to the author. Black and white, scratchy and woodcut-looking, the art veers between cartoony (like in the workplace drama “Texas Characters”) and moody realism (like in the childhood story “Molested”).

Recipe for Disaster and Other Stories has stood up to a few reads and gives up new secrets each time. Fans of autobio, the ladies of the nineties and poor people comics need to pick this up!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


You and your lover and relaxing in the semi-nude. S/he is running his/her hands through your hair and you decide to remove your pants. Because you are sexy folk the lights are on. After being deliciously dazed by your silkily-haired legs, his/her eyes drop to your upper thighs and through damp, plump lips he/she breathes, "What's that brown stuff?"

Your answer is?

The best reply in the comments will win a box of crap!

Deadline next week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today I woke up with the feeling that, by the end of the day, I would be wishing for a permanent vacation. Before I woke up I was having many nightmares about many things: my brother, towels, the email group I am a part of, Vietnamese food in Roxborough an dmany murkier, darker things I thankfully can't remember. I was also apparently farting the smell of hotdogs all morning.

Now it is midday and I wish I was reading Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers. Last night I began rereading it. I like its dimensions. I like its heft. It is one of the few books I have ever paid full price for. I bought it from City Lights during a grey trip to San Francisco and read it on the plane ride back.

I remember it being uneven, but I enjoyed the two essays I read last night. More later.


Freebird bookstore went and reopened right under my nose!

Time for a trip.

And, yes, they still carry Moxie soda.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Linky Love

My new fave comics are by Kate Beaton.
My new fave writing about writing is by Tod Goldberg.
My new fave Italian restaurant is Il Melograno. Considering the number of well-dressed folks smoking outside and talking inside, actual Italians like it too. (Thanks nycnosh.)
My new fave blog about crazy animals is Zooillogix.

What are your new favorites?