Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One way to fight black thoughts and bad days is to use whatever you have extra of (time, money, art supplies, love) to help someone who is at risk have a chance to do something great.

"Helping Books Find Libraries Since 2003"
I have been remiss in not posting about the Dewey Donation System earlier; it is a project of pamie and friends that send books and sometimes money to libraries in need. Often it is a surprise to the librarians when they start recieving the packages. Nice, huh? You have to use Amazon for the book donations which is a drag, but you will get over it.


Another site I like to peruse when I am feeling help-y is Donors Choose, which helps teachers get much-needed supplies for their students. Some projects in Philadelphia that intrigued me:
- Kids in Germantown need owl barf for science!
- Some reluctant readers need those comics!
- Second graders in Wissinoming want to snap photos for a neighborhood history project!

Of course, there are many proposals for basic school supplies and textbooks as well.

If you decide to sponsor a project or donate something, please let us know!

Thinking of the children,
Carrie Tryharder

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Good to know

1) Fecal accidents in swimming pools: no big deal
2) Ghost trains are most likely friendly.

Sorry for the nonbook coverage. Look for the rest of 2007 the next couple of days and perhaps some of 2008!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Late Valentine's Day

I love love, but February 14 is always kind of lame. Today I saw so many ladies toting home shopping bags of various hues filled with wilting flowers.
Also, a crazy man walked by me and said "rich bitch," which is half uninformed. He may have said "bitch bitch," which seems a little like overkill, don't you think?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Enjoying these. I hope the story turns out to be as good as the art. Mice on a mission! But why does it bug me that its not hand-lettered? Thanks indie spinner rack.

Part of a comic buying spree that I don't even want to cop to right now...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

also it snowed

Last 4 comics of 2007

Tell Me Something by Jason
I got this as part of a group of books, many of which were discards from a public library in Las Vegas. Tell Me something is another of Jason’s temporally twisted love stories in black and white, peopled by his usual bird and dog-people. It is cute, requires a few reads to follow all of the way through and uses few words to tell the story. This copy fell in the Bad Place behind the toilet and rested there for a few clicks before my intrepid life partner fished it out. Luckily the nice plastic coated library binding kept the pages dry and free from hair monsters.

The Fart Party
by Julia Wertz
After finding Wertz’s site and enjoying her daily journal comics, I looked forward to getting the hard copy of her collection, lured by the promise of new material and happy to support Atomic Books’ publishing company. I bought it from her in person at SPX while most of her attention was taken by a kiddy sketchbooker trying to get her to draw a piece. Overall, I was underwhelmed by the book, having read most of it before on her site, but I really liked the way it was printed and the paper and all.

by various artists
This fat collection of war themed comics is put out by Forum Ljubljana and features contributions from cartoonists from all over the world. I really enjoyed the introduction by Alexsandar Zograf (and still somehow haven’t picked up his newest collection). Many of the strips place their focus on the US’s actions post-9/11, which makes sense as Warburger was published in 2003, the year the US invaded Iraq (again). There were a few standouts in the collection, including work by Fabian Goranson, Rocco Lombardi, Capucine Latrasse, Michal Baruch and Primaz Krasna. Though the art was very different from piece to piece, the black and white pages ran together for me. The pieces that stuck out were the ones that tackled the cyclical nature of war, how subliminal training for war is universal and how ignoring war is surprisingly easy. The ones that fell flat invoked images of Hitler and made easy linkages between sex, consumerism and war. War is a universal topic, but that doesn't mean you get to be lazy when talking about it.

Real Stuff
by Dennis Eichorn and A Host of Artists
I learn history best when I am able to work out connections between people and events on my own over a long period of time. I am talking years here, folks. Such has been my education in comics so far. One way I do this is to buy collections that look forgotten but have work by artists I am interested in. Real Stuff was one of these, a collection of Eichorn (apparently quite an autbio cartoonist and crazy man) stories illustrated by other artists, including pieces by Renee French, Mary Fleener, Ariel Bordeaux, Jason Lutes, Carol Swain and many others you probably care more about, originally published by Fantagraphics in single issues. Each story at least one of these elements: troublesome women, binge drinking, sex, drugs and fighting, and most consist of some combination of them in color and B&W. I liked seeing how each artist dealt with the similar material in their own way. I also believe that Eichorn must be fun to know, just not all that personally. Definitely worth a purchase if you can find it.

5 more to finish up 2007!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead by Alan De Niro

After buying this at the Brooklyn Book Fest oh so many months ago I listened to the Bat Segundo podcast with Alan De Niro and fell a little bit in love. After reading Skinny Dipping a few times, it’s official. Though short story collections always seem to disappoint me because I read them too fast and complain that all the stories are the same, that didn’t stop me from doing exactly that with this book. Luckily, this collection is many-sided and holds together perfectly- the book heaves and sighs with few dull patches and each story is great individually. Like another Small Beer Press short story collection (you know which one I am talking about), it does perfectly what it should do, showcasing the writer’s talents and themes without boring me to death.

The book opens with a story that was hard for me to like at first, “Our Byzantium,” but after a few readings this story of an almost-relationship really delivered. All of the emotional dynamics of almost-sex and almost-friendship are captured in the midst of a violent invasion of a college town by soldiers from the past. Somehow both elements fit perfectly and show how even an almost-relationship can sometimes wreak a more devastating change than one with a beginning and an end and also how friendly acquaintances can turn into personal saviors.

The title story had a George Saunders-ish feel that I enjoyed but didn’t hit me quite as hard as some of the others. It also includes footnotes.

“The Caliber” tackles high school and groping government fingers. After Shelby’s millionaire hating, cultist uncle is moved up on the FBI’s most wanted list, a black suited agent appears in her life. I love how De Niro introduces the feeling that Shelby wouldn’t have been socially successful even without this shadow and that her former invisibility needled her without playing on well-worn high school stereotypes. No angst here, just the real deal. “The fall stumbled on. An extra layer of coolness and distance fell on her. I am a disaffected character she wrote on the second stall in the ladies room, right below the toilet paper dispenser. Two weeks later, her words had been scratched out with Who has a big dick? Who has a big dick?” Exactly.

My favorite story is “Salting the Map” because it feels like it was written especially for me. Office jobs and imaginary lands fight for space in the narrative and I love the absurd crush of the words. “ABTACAS, population 4122. He wet his fingers on his tongue and found the listing for ARGH. Population 310, 210 he scribbled. He decided that ARGH needed a lot of inhabitants.” Is there magic in the supply closet or under the desk of the last cubicle down the hall? I fucking hope so.

This was one of the top three books I read in 2007. Every story had some element, subtly woven into the plot, with no loose thread showing, that obviously required a world of imagining- the newspaper code in “Child Assassin,” the bird merchant’s shop in “Cuttlefish.” War and nationhood as ideas get a lot of play here too, two topics I shy away from. De Niro got me thinking about both and it didn’t even hurt a little.

Buy Skinning Dipping in the Lake of the Dead now.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

five years.

oh my!

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

My favorite part of cons like SPX is the availability of single issues, access to artists and the cool art, prints and doo das that artists bring along. I got a few examples of the aforementioned and, AND, two books, French Milk and The Fart Party by Julia Wertz (to be reviewed later, hopefully sooner than). I was excited for both and disappointed that Lucy was too sick to come to the fest, mostly because I wanted to tell her about my love for the painting I bought from her at MOCCA.


The cover of this book grabbed me right away. A drawn-in Knisley, hanging out the window of a stereotypical Paris apartment, interrupts the dull palette of a rainy-day snapshot. It seemed the perfect image to introduce a book about a young gal in the city of light (and smoke).

Ostensibly, this is a book about Knisley and her mother’s month-long trip to Paris, where they rent an apartment and sort out their emotions about growing older in between eating, sightseeing and meeting up with friends. This is how Knisley says it in her handwritten intro:
“During January of 2007, my mother and I lived in a small rental apartment in Paris, in order to celebrate my mother’s turning fifty (and my turning twenty-two). The following is the drawn journal which I kept in the course of the trip. The title is in reference, in part, to my love for the fresh, whole milk which I found so different from American processed dairy. It also deals with the valuable and significant influence that we take in from out mothers, as well as my own struggling towards adulthood, at an age when we so desperately cling to our adolescence. With thanks to my mother, for holding the map.”

I was hoping FM would do for mother-daughter relationships what Epileptic did for sibling relationships, that is, expose the shadowy web that binds us to our loved ones in a way that is very hard to describe in mere words. Instead FM was frustratingly superficial and there is nary an indication that Knisley is really thinking about her mother very much during the trip.

The pages are filled with beautiful sketches of meals, the spoils of numerous shopping trips, people and art hat she meets and a few overexposed photos. I loved the art and the paging kept turning for sure, but by the middle I realized that the lists of things bought, things eaten, doubts and friends missed was all there was going to be. I feel like all the mother-daughter stuff was a sales pitch that didn’t pan out. As it ended up, these journal comics are too journally to tell a cohesive story and at the same, spend too many pages giving back-story on things she obviously knows herself, detracting from the energy daily journal comics can sometimes have. For example, early in the book, before the trip to Paris, Knisley meets up with an old “lover” (!giggle! it is hilarious to hear someone under forty use that term seriously) in the East Village named Zan. “Zan and I met in high-school [sic], fell madly in love, fell madly in art, and his presence is associated with all my good adolescence [sic] memories.” This dude, who Knisley seems super excited to tell us was born a girl, gets six pages and we don’t really learn much about him or Lucy. The vague details of their visit and a page of his drawing may have been meaningful for Knisley to have, but as a reader, I don’t care and it comes across as Knisley pimping out her friend’s life to add a little zazz to the section.

I’m sure that given some time to reflect on the trip, Knisley would have been able to use this journal as a source to tell the story she was aiming for and still have it be a document of the beginning of her twenty-second year. I do wonder why no one advised her to do that…

Apparently there will be a revised version of the book out this summer with 30+ new pages. I am definitely going to check it out and I hope the changes are improvements on a not-so-good story from an obviously amazing talent.

PS- her livejournal is here and totally the greatest thing.