Monday, January 31, 2011

I have a little something over at The Rumpus, third item down.

I don't know what the selection process was like, but I'd like to imagine that there was one. I'm glad it was chosen, as I am trying to work out some things for my zine. I was so excited that I told some people at work, who, of course, wanted to read it. Then the shame of having written something sad and true, a shame I am trying to get over, reared its ugly head and I wished I hadn't said anything at all.


Friday, January 21, 2011


Comics and librarianship comes together in this excellent post about CCS's Schulz Library by Caitlin McGurk. She talks about the history of their catalog and her newest project, using Koha to revamp the catalog and make it "more robust and 21st-Century." Besides all the details she provides about the project, a great help to me as a library student, this article shows what a dedicated community can do. The Schulz Library is for the students and it is the students that have largely created it. Fascinating!

Plus, check out the photos and illustrations in the post. So good!


This Dear Sugar column is about dating and love, but it also brings together two of my passions--smart pretending and the future. As someone who deals with, let's call them unhelpful, messages from my body all the time, I sometimes have to pretend that the day's challenges are worth it. I do this for my loved ones and friends and plants and home, but also for my future self--she needs smart decisions and good days to be the happiest and best version of me. I pull her together from everywhere--books, films, women I respect, dreams and good conversations--and make her real every day. If you tweak that scheme a little bit, you also basically get the blueprint for how I write. Shh, don't tell anyone my secret process!


Today I got a letter from an old friend with several small children. I could read the distraction in her lines--dropped words, glossed descriptions. I am so happy that took the time to write to me about her day to day. We don't live all that far apart from each other but our lives have diverged to the point that it is very difficult to get together or even talk on the phone for more than a few minutes. I miss her and must send off something exciting soon.

*Top photo by by Rudolf Eickemeyer from the NYPL Digital Gallery,Image ID: 92135; bottom photo by me

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Top 15 in 2010

2010 was a pretty good reading year. Strangely, I didn’t seem to review many of the books that delighted me most. I read a ton of books about British women in various types of confinement. Maybe that certain type of dry escapism is what I needed to carry me through my semesters and various infirmities. Two of my favorites were published in 2010: Meeks and Love in Infant Monkeys. Eleven were by ladies. Three were comics. And, with that riveting introduction, here is the list:

Meeks by Julia Holmes
This first novel was a weird surprise. At first I wasn’t sure that I was into it, this book about men with extremely limited options in life, for whom marriage is the ultimate goal, but then I got completely sucked in. Something about Holmes’ details, and the way that the broader story emerges from three characters’ points of view, makes reading this like unfolding a secret message prepared by an origami master—getting to the answer is half the fun.

The book’s design, with its French flaps and lovely cover art by Robyn O’Neil, should also get a shout out. It looks so unusual and compelling that even though I’ve already read it, I keep wanting to pick it up again for the first time.

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

This is a re-re-read. It’s a lovely meditation on old age and death done by a master.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
by Julia Strachey

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
by Barbara Comyns

How, why, did I not write about this British gem when it was fresh in my mind? This was a nasty little book about the horribleness of family and the loneliness that withheld wealth can bring. A huge flood in a small village is central to the plot and Comyns writes beautiful, gory details of rotting, waterlogged nature like no other. Calm yet precise, I loved this book!

Wide Eyed by Trinie Dalton

The Summer Book
by Tove Jansson

I will admit it here—I have never read any Moomin books. However, Tove Jansson wasn’t a one-comic pony, she wrote in many forms, including novels. This book is a quiet, hypnotic book about time, family and small worlds. I loved it.

China Mountain Zhang
by Maureen F. McHugh

The City and the City by China Mieville
A mystery in a divided city, this book was a total treat. Mieville’s usually florid writing is reined in here and it really works. Though the setting, two distinct cities existing in the same geographical area, with the possibility of a third emerging, seems like it could have turned into a blow-me-down political allegory or an exposition nightmare, the author’s character work holds its own. Check it out!

This year I also read Looking for Jake, an uneven collection of Mieville’s short stories. It was interesting to see how The City and the City could have developed from ideas he explored much earlier in a story about feral streets called "Reports of Certain Events in London." In The Scar, which I also read this year, the idea of a living, moving city was taken to extremes. The story was quite different from TCATC, and those with no patience for Mieville’s wordy style would not enjoy it. I read it at the perfect time however—in a sickbed—and was transported.

by Charles Portis & Amulet by Robert Bolano

Both of these books were gifts from The Prog Lady. I was concerned that her love of old man stories would have clouded her judgment, but both short books were excellent in different ways. Norwood was funny and deceptively simple. Amulet had an amazing main character, a jailed woman who considered herself the “Mother of Mexican Poetry” and a looping pace that challenges ideas of memory and truth.

Love in Infant Monkeys
by Lydia Davis

This book of short stories totally rocked. They each have a central animal presence, but are fully about human inadequacies and excess. And the book was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction runner up if that means anything to you.

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Being middle-aged and female sucketh, as this book of malignant benignity shows. So, sometimes you need to become a witch.
The usually excellent introductory essays furnished by the New York Review of Books were not represented here. Alison Lurie’s intro was superficial, boring and gives away the entire plot of the story. Read it after you’ve finished the novel, if you must.

Monsters by Ken Dahl

A curious mix of sex ed and autobio, Dahl’s big book on herpes illuminates life with an unpopular disease. The self-loathing infused self-portraits fill the pages alongside facts about herpes and several painful anecdotes about self treatment and relationships after the herp. His hideous visualizations of his body were my favorite part. If only I could express my internal hatred so beautifully! Of course, things straighten out for him in the end, but it is an interesting path to what feels more like a compromise than peace.

Cross Country by MK Reed
I initially picked up the single issues of Cross Country and was super bummed when I found out that there wasn’t going to be a final chapter released. So it took me awhile to pick up the trade but I am really happy I did. Reed’s writing shines here and though the art looks a bit labored, the story of a work-related road trip works really well.

Down the Street by Lynda Barry
Before Marlys and her pals, there was Down the Street, where puffy-haired ancestors of the alternative press darlings played in sadder stories. It’s not quite as smooth and universal as Barry’s later work but it’s a great, instructive read nonetheless.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

all those todays

Today I forgot to do every little thing on the list, crying and dreaming in equal parts. Nothing important got done, I think, but I’d like to believe that this neck-up action will lead to something akin to what Renee French talked about on her recent Inkstuds interview. She discussed how when she has migraines she can’t do anything but sleep and imagine lightly around a blocky world. Those flights from physical reality ultimately inform her work. It’s nasty and tiresome and painful, but she makes something out of it.

I just keep reaching in and rooting around in my guts and heart looking for a hold on any one irritant, something I can pluck out and expose on the page, pin down and examine until it dies and disappears. I want to reach out instead, and perhaps I should, but right now I am out of step with my people. Friends, near and far, are often mired in pits of things done and left undone and likely don’t have time for search parties and good cop, bad cop.

It takes me forever to lurch around my own mental landscape and find words. To find out if the way I’ve arranged stuff is worth keeping in any way and then move on. I’m working on something depressing but very important—a difficult position for someone like me, someone who flees from pinpricks but often ends up trotting straight into the woodchipper. Even though I hate them, I need the failures almost as much as comments and kudos and victories. Without them I can’t get to the good stuff and I’ve been avoiding failure for more years than I care to mention and, of course, only failing to do anything at all.

Shining a light on a wheel as it spins in place doesn’t tell you much, does it? So, how about I turn off the light and just listen for awhile?

Image from the NYPL Digital Gallery, Image ID: 1157702

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Books of 2010

Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
Meeks by Julia Holmes
The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
Horse, Flower, Bird by Kate Bernheimer
Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction, Edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev
Zero History by William Gibson
Corrupting Dr. Nice by John Kessel
Bookhunter by Jason Shiga
Hound by Vincent McCaffery
Amulet by Roberto Bolano
The Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss
The Scar by China Mieville
Momento Mori by Muriel Spark
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey
Monsters by Ken Dahl
Rainforest by Jenny Diski
Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks
Absence Makes the Heart by Lynne Tillman
The Salon by Nick Bertozzi
Looking for Jake by China Mielville
Cross Country by MK Reed
Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns
King Rat by China Mieville
Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin
Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso
Summer Will Show by by Syliva Townsend Warner
A Mess of Everything by Miss Lasko-Gross
Whirlwind Wonderland by Rina Ayuyang
Wide Eyed by Trinie Dalton
Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw
Exit Wounds by Rutu Mondan
Cast in Doubt by Lynne Tillman
The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. Mc Hugh
Paper Cities, An Anthology of Urban Fantasy Edited by Ekaterina Sedia
Cecil and Jordan in New York: Stories by Gabrielle Bell
Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology by James Patrick Kelly & John Kessel, eds.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
The City and the City by China Mieville
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Sweet Tomb by Trinie Dalton
Norwood by Charles Portis
Down the Street by Lynda Barry
Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Davis
Lolly Willowes by Syliva Townsend Warner