Thursday, June 26, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008


I am hoping to get my computer fixed this week to solve the unreliable internet problem. Since I am now working two jobs and have a medical thang to endure this week I am not sure exactly how prompt the whole thing will be. Sigh. Again, intermittent posting is all I can promise. I have been writing a ton of reviews for this site so I will try to post whenever I can grab a signal.


I need more contest entries. Summer fun. Tell me all about it (within the parameters described).


Last week was the first pick up for my CSA. I got a big bag of spring mix, two heads of romaine, a savoy cabbage, a tiny summer squash, garlic scapes (my favorite!), fistfuls of basil and some dill. I f you live in an area where CSAs are available definitely look into joining one next year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Strange Horizons needs your dough. This is an excellent site for new science fiction, SF poetry, art and reviews. For awhile they had a cool podcast. Published weekly, Strange Horizons always has something new and interesting and you need to check it out.


Everything that Amy Ambulette said about those pirates was true. You will have crushes throughout the evening.


She also has a contest going. So get it together and win! win! win!

American Genius: A Comedy by Lynne Tillman

This book became a nightmare and an addiction once I was able to get into the wordy drone of the protagonist’s voice. The narrator (we learn her name very late in the book and it appears like a dug-in tick after weeks of stress-free hiking) is living in an institution that seems a cross between a writer’s colony, a fraudulent rehab spa and a summer camp, where each day is passed waiting for the next meal and not much is done, seemingly, to actually help any of the eccentric guests.

Here is a meditation on breakfast:
“People often want to recite the tragic events that have deformed their lives, offering up their pasts as a series of tableaus of deceptions, or unspeakable insults, since people blame others endlessly, and these assaults and imprecations clutter, like a dog’s defecations on the street, their lives and stories. What is said is often unremarkable, though sometimes horrible, but it’s still easy to feel the tiresomeness of another’s life, as well as your own, since interest in other people is also an interest in yourself, because human beings are interested in themselves and in ways of survival. All stories are somehow survival stories, with bad or good fortunes.”

As you get deeper into the novel and into the flow of the narrator’s speech, certain patterns of reminiscences and obsession emerge. Among them are the institution’s meals, her childhood pets, skin (“skin doesn’t lie”), Leslie Van Houton, the Zulu language and archaic sexual phobia. One her biggest preoccupations is design:
“When I was first here, no chair gave me what I wanted…The chair designer Harry Betoia sad, “The urge of good design is the same as the urge to go one living. The assumption is that somewhere, hidden, is a better way of doing things,” and that’s sensible, or in my life it is, because I’m looking for a chair that fits m and in which I can feel at home, since homeyness is easier to locate in things than in people, or even in animals, but I like cats, dogs, an chairs almost equally, thiugh I have more control over chairs, which are inanimate, but any cat or dog is in some way pleasing, while most chairs aren’t.”

My favorite part of this book, though difficult, is the voice. The narrator seems so far away (not knowing her name until very late is part of this) until one time you pick up the book and her obsessions seem almost normal because one can so clearly understand her reasoning, and how she gets from one thought to another. You gotta be hypnotized to have that much detail work and after the difficult adjustment to the rhythm of the book, I dutifully stared at Tillman’s swinging watch until the end. Another thing that made American Genius different from most other books I have read is that while a few mysteries pop up in the book, postcards from a familiar but unknown sender, an unsettling woman from town, a destroyed career, a missing brother, they never become the way the book advances; if anything, those tantalizing bits lead to even more blind corners.

Even though being firmly inside of the mind of mentally ill was exceedingly uncomfortable for me (in large part because so little of it seemed alien), the experience was exhilarating. Wow. American Genius kind of reminded me of Edith’s Diary, a brilliant book about the descent into mental illness written by the queen of creeping horror, Patricia Highsmith. Don’t read either if you are feeling fragile.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

High on a Hill: a collection of comics by Sarah Oleksyk

From behind her table at MoCCA, Sarah Oleksyk said to me the magic words in my guise as an interested browser, “these are the last two in existence.” After reading HOAH, I am super, super pissed that I didn’t pick up her new work Ivy. Luckily she has a story in Nerd Burglar, this year’s Free Comic Book Day book from Tugboat Press, Teenage Dinosaur and Sparkplug Comic Books. It is called “Fifteen Variations on ‘The First Day We Met’” and it is not only beautiful but the best comic in the collection.

So, HOAH is a self-published collection of minicomics, some from over 10 years ago. They are stories of traveling and bad roommates, love, hate, art and music. One of my favorite stories is “The Epic Saga of The Clum,” a piece about a mysterious bad smell in a shitty apartment in Providence, RI. Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine figure heavily into the stories (Oleksyk was born in Maine)-- two places my friends are fleeing to this summer. Sometimes the stories fall a little flat or the art doesn't do its job, but seeing an artist's development is part of what's fun about collection like this. The selection from 2002’s Creatures series show a detailed, eerie side of her work and really left me wanting to see more.

My favorite part of HOAH is that it really illustrates what was so awesome about discovering an autobio minicomic by someone around your age that was doing what you wanted to do and succeeding (even if in their actual life, they were scared or doing it for the wrong reasons). It was always as if the person jumped off the page and into your life to become an inspiring, if distant, friend. Why didn’t I find Roadside when I was 19? A cross-country move would have been a good idea around then…

HOAH is a great introduction to Oleksyk’s work. If you do manage to find one pick it up!

Taking Things Seriously: 75 Objects with Unexpected Significance, edited by Joshua Glenn & Carol Hayes

One day I got a bug in my butt about Lynn Peril, former zinester and writer of postcards to teenage me. I wanted to see what she was doing, if she had written any other books besides Pink Think; I wanted to get another piece of her as an adult. When this book came up in a search I felt like it would fulfill my craving for some good old zine-like autobio and maybe have some nice pictures too.

It has been months since I read this thing and only on object stayed with me: Lisa Crystal Carver’s sand-filled glass clown, a happiness charm from her ex-husband Boyd Rice. Their connection is not mentioned, but she does mention that she doesn’t like him (or the attributes of the clown). Somehow all that crappiness adds up to hope that one day she the charm will work. I have always loved this zine queen’s writing, even when I don’t agree, and her life story is really amazing. Her object is so ridiculous and her take on it so loaded—I guess that’s why I haven’t forgotten it.

The introductory essay reads academic with a whiff of book proposal. While the ideas are important and otherwise interesting, somehow it fell flat and seemed more like a justification for the pages that follow instead of a signpost to them.

The rest of the book includes objects of other stars of the underground, as well as a bunch of people who grew up or lived in Boston. Most of their stories are boring or similar—it’s the snapshots that really carry this book. Somehow, when transferred to the creamy pages of a Princeton Architectural Press book, these underdone personal stories just don’t carry the weight they would in a stapled n Xeroxed format. I guess knowing that the person who is telling the story also labored over the container was what really made it all come together.

I’ll keep this around for awhile, but I doubt it will become an object I need to have (like my Tales of Poe or I Wish I Was Sick) because it only points to the stacks of smeary paper I remember and love.

PS- Lynn Peril’s object was a scrapbook of pages torn out of 60s magazines that her now-husband gave her. Not exactly "unexpected" in her case!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Here is an article on cool stuff found in used books. (via kimbooktu)

The best part of working at the bookstore I used to was the finds. Every day in my first summer there my colleagues and I would find all kinds of things. Sometimes the donation boxes would reveal whole sagas; one box was filled with books on coping with the loss of a baby and later books on coming out and lesbian life with covers relying heavily on a aqua n' lavender color scheme. Inside one of those was a half-written letter lamenting a poorly-chosen expression of love and too much cocaine.

Some other cool finds:
1)Teenage love letters, in drafts
2)A b&w set of closeup photos of a man masturbating stuck in a copy of The Kingdom and The Power. They could be arranged as a flipbook.
3)Photographs from the early 20th century
4)Dollar dollar bills

What are your good finds?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Posting May Be Sporadic...

Here in tryharderland, the computers are all in a kernel panic, the family is beckoning and the books are piling up.

I'll do what I can, considering, but now may be the time to work on your contest entry and enjoy my favorite computer based pick-me-up.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Contest! Contest!

The challenge: Tell me a little something about summer fun.

In Words: 600 or less.
In Art: a one-pager that I can link to for a big size or something that will look ok on blogger.

The prize: 4 comic mystery pack by I Know Joe Kimpel artists and maybe a few other things.

The EDITED deadline: Monday, June 30th.

This could be you:

Monday, June 02, 2008

Last Friday, after my sometimes houseguest and fulltime friend The Prog Lady returned to the land of our birth, I tried desperately to adhere to the plans of the evening which included going to the ABCNoRio zine party mentioned last post. When my partying compatriots and I reached ABCNoRio the speakers had spoken but the band had yet to play. I only have four words for the rest of my time there:


It was the best and I hope I win the Rude Mechanical Orchestra's raffle of themselves. That would be the best bbq ever.

I also picked up a little zine from the Banard zine library on how to cite a zine for academic papers which I am sure will come in useful when I finally drag myself back to school. Pushes towards that goal are encouraged.

Skin flakes in my cereal:
A thought: Reading a book about crazy person obsessed with skin disease while you have dermatitis and family issues is an interesting experience. Finishing that book is a relief, but also a spell broken. More on that later.