Friday, December 28, 2012

So many good things about bad things

It has been an amazing few months in essay. All of these transported me to a questioning place, guided me through an emotional minefield or somehow blew me a kiss. Please leave your recent favorite essays in the comments.

Nina Simone's Gun by Saeed Jones at LAMBDA Literary
"She went into the garage. When her husband, Andy, came home a few hours later, he found her sitting on the floor with a mess of tools spread out in front of her. Nina Simone was trying to build a hand-made gun."

What Music? by Brian Allen Carr at The Rumpus
"He had been out drinking with strangers—at least, that’s what the detective told us. The last words we know he said were, “Good night, new friends."

New Romance: A Practicum for the Living by Nadine Friedman at The Hairpin
"And because subconsciously I didn't want to love anyone, ever, I asked my new boyfriend to come, presenting it somewhat like a day trip to an upstate winery."

Go, Go, Go, Go, Go: Theo Ellsworth's The Understanding Monster by Martyn Pedler at Bookslut. "Time is the only thing that'll help? Then why are clocks ticking and suns setting and seasons changing with an almost sarcastic speed and everything feels worse and worse?"

The Uneasy Relationship Between Mental Illness and Comedy by Jaime Lutz at Splitsider
"Plenty of vulnerable people are drawn to, say, Scientology; why wouldn’t some of them instead be drawn to the equally expensive cult that is the Upright Citizens Brigade?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


It is no secret that I love Eleanor Davis. When I discovered that she'd be making a mini of her pieces for the most recent Giant Robot Post-It show I felt the gimme-gimmes overtake me.

I rarely allow myself to submit to such clammy passions, but it seemed a win-win situation. Sure the black of the stapled spine is already creasing away and there are a few unexpected blank pages, but considering that a pencil drawing of baby by Davis was included--like a best and most unexpected autograph--this $5 treat is all-ok with me.

Davis' usual botanical flourishes are a lush and almost furtive presence in these small, black and white drawings. It is almost as if the branches, leaves, flowers and berries want to distract the viewer from the things that the human figures are doing to one another, or sometimes the things that they refuse to do.

Some drawings are subtly heartbreaking >>>
Some are so sweet that you let out a breathe that you didn't know that you were holding in >>>
One of the things that draws me again and again to Davis' work is the way pain and hope are entwined in even her simplest images. You can feel the struggle to find answers to why we should persist. She often focuses on sex, love and the body and, unsurprisingly, all of those themes are present in 31 DRAWINGS THAT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH BEING IN LOVE AND NOT BEING IN LOVE. Sometimes, especially in her sketchbook work, anger or disgust with, well, human beings, comes through first, but instead of feeling like a reminder of horrors, there is an interrogation of relationships that challenges and inspires me.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Checked my P.O. this week and found stuff in there from October. Then I had to wait in line for 20 minutes to find out that that they had sent some of my mail back. I spent so much time in that post office that I forgot how much I love mail. That place has an evil power!

If you've been checking the sidebar at all you can see that I've been pouring books down my gullet like a starving sea bird. Almost all have been good, all have have fantastic elements. Reading still has that dislocating power for me--a fact that I become more grateful for as the tragedies pile up. Short stories work well for the subway, novels for the train and while in my parents' house, and comics for all the times in between.

What have been your security blanket books?
Felt a strong connection to the Norwegian people after hearing this from Julia Grønnevet's recent essay in n+1, "Letters from Oslo:"
"Almost everyone owns a washing machine, but no one owns a dryer! Instead everyone dries their clothes on flimsy drying racks, and this takes so long that these racks are out on display all the time, even though they are constructed so that you can fold them away. it mystifies me why Norwegians, who tend to arrange their lives for maximum convenience, treat laundry as though it were a passing issue. It looks terrible..."

The essay is actually about a mass-murderer, and it is very disturbing. A reminder that life and laundry persist even as monsters exist.

Monday, November 26, 2012

If you or someone you know had photos damaged by hurricane Sandy, CARE (Cherished Albums Restoration Effort) will digitally restore them for free.They are also looking for volunteers, so if you are a Photoshop wizard, look them up and use your powers for good.

Okay? Okay.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

I had an imaginary friend. Her name was Cousin Jane and she lived in the sewer. I could call her on the fire hydrant that was the same color as her hair. I don't know where she came from or when she left, but I know that I never saw her--I simply knew what she looked like. She was my cousin, you know?

The Icarus Girl is about an unpopular, sickly, and somewhat sad girl named Jessamy, or "Jess," who lives in London with her Anglo dad and Nigerian mom. The book plays with permutations of cleaving and doubling: Jess's "mixed" parentage and the division of her life between sickness and health are two of the more subtle examples of that. The more central doubling occurs when Jess and family go to Nigeria for a month. Jess feels better with all the aunties and cousins, but still on the outside. When she goes exploring the family compound she catches a message just for her: "Then her eye caught on something and she backed, all thoughts of staircases and balconies and upstairs rooms completely forgotten.

On the surface of the tabletop, someone had disturbed the dust. Scrawled in the centre in lopsided lettering were the words HEllO JEssY"

This is Jess's first introduction to a mysterious, mischievous girl that she nicknames Tilly or TillyTilly. But what exactly is TillyTilly? And what does she want with Jess? I loved how Oyeyemi shows the danger inherent in Tilly's seduction by letting the reader see the manipulation that Jess, as an 8 year-old, can't. When Tilly shows up on Jess's London doorstep things get really good.

Sure, this book is a first novel, and that shows occasionally, but The Icarus Girl is scary, very scary. It's a horror book dressed up like a literary novel about the trials of youth and the dangers of loneliness. I stayed up all night reading it, by coincidence in my childhood bedroom, and deep in the dark, I got the for-real shivers. Cousin Jane stopped calling long before my teens but just for a moment I experienced the feeling of the fire hydrant suddenly sounding into the night.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Today has featured two Isle of Man delights:

First Isle of Man stamps of 2013 revealed! To celebrate a Manx heritage museum opening!

"That Ol' Dagon Dark" by Robert MacAnthony (Pseudopod #307) and read by Pseudopod host Alastair Stuart. Never, ever try the special blend, no matter how good it smells.
From the NYPL Digital Gallery: ID 1640578

I spent one Christmas in the  mid-2000s stomping through the snowy streets of Manhattan with a young Manx man. He didn't know what Hanukka is. He also may have thought I was going to murder him. He wanted fish and chips for dinner but I think we ended up with falafel. I think he wanted a Christmas kiss. He promised to write but never did.

So I bought a YA novel by a science fiction author I am trying to get into. Most of the blame should rest on my lack of close reading of the cover copy, but the fact that the design of this book for teenagers is indistinguishable from those marketed to adults says a little something about the genre.


That is all.

Friday, November 02, 2012

taxes, why you pay

Need to get out of the house post-Sandy? Use the internet? Find edification or escapism?
Most Brooklyn Public Library locations are open today until 5, including Central Library at Grand Army Plaza. These are not: Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Jamaica Bay, Kensington, McKinley Park and Sheepshead Bay. All open branches are open normal hours tomorrow. 
NYPL (Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island) are also open til 5 today, with some major exceptions. Click the link for a full list.
The Queens Library system is mostly open normal hours, with the exception of the beach branches (Arverne, Broad Channel, Peninsula and Seaside). Click the link for a full list.


Because the mail must go through I am grateful. With the mail today was this. I cannot wait to read it. Vanessa Veselka and Lidia Yuknavitch wrote two of the best books I read this year, along with several get-down-to-it essays.

Monday, October 29, 2012

sandy sandy sandy

I worked from home most of last week on a very frustrating project. One of the ways that I deal with being glued to the computer for most of the day, and the subsequent loss of reading time, is to listen to podcasts. I've been catching up with my Inkstuds and loved the Pat Grant interview. It starts off with a roadtrip elopement and goes so many places from there. Grant has a kickass process blog that all lovers of self-published comics should check out.


I don't know how else to illustrate the word irresistible than this dollar rack find:
 With illustrations by Tanith Lee herself!


I'm sure that you already know about the newly revived The Memory Palace, being the kind of discerning folk that hang out in tryharderland. But, if not, just know that little nonfiction stories about history are found there. (See also 99% Invisible.) 


This posey is made from some of the last of the flowers from the roof. Well, not the last, but probably the last untouched by Scary Sandy. With the storm a ragin' or whatever, let's write one another some letters and emails, ok? Ok.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chester 5000 XYV by Jess Fink

Ah, comics erotica, when you're good, you're good, when you're bad, that's normal.  The story of a woman and her sex robot, Chester 5000 XYV is somewhere in between. A mostly silent, Victoriana-themed, hardcore is promising of course, and the fact that there is a sweetness and fun about the whole book is even better. But the thing about about art meant to jingle jangle your downstairs is that it kind of matters what you are into and I am into story and this is where the book forgets foreplay.

The book opens with heterosexual newlyweds going at it. They seem to be having a good time when the man looks disturbed and runs from the room. The next panel is the wife looking sad and the husband thinking hard. The next page is devoted to his construction of the titular robot, before he hands his wife the key and runs off. The rest of the story shows the evolving relationship between wife and robot, husband and jealousy and a determined brunette and all three of them, but, storytelling-wise, that first page haunts the rest of the book.

Husband flees wife
I can't figure out why the husband flees the bedroom and decides to replace himself with a robot, which makes his eventual jealousy less interesting, and his love for his wife less believable. The book copy has an answer, but I don't read book copy and didn't even look at it until writing this review. It says that he is too busy thinking of inventions to fuck, but it doesn't ring true, partially because of the time he is shown jackin' to their shenanigans and partially because he creates a robot that can love her. The brunette's lack of distinguishability (besides hair) from the wife also bugged. If her body looked different from the wife's it would have helped give her more of a character, especially with much of the action in this book happening during, well, action. The usual cartoony mangling of anatomical detail (missing buttholes, weird proportions, etc.) crops up here and there which is distracting but not terrible. Fink's style, though not my preferred vision of erotic cartoons, made details of robots, ladies and annoying dudes getting off pretty fun, even if the final product was a tad too superficial to earn a spot in the try harder library.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


It should be no rug pulled out from under you that I subscribe to The Rumpus's Letters in the Mail. I always forget that I signed up, so each letter from an author is a surprise. I mostly read them on the subway, the perfect way to transport from Brooklyn to Manhattan with even knowing it. I've even written a few back. The stacks of white envelopes remind me to write to my letter friends--I always feel behind.

The most recent letter is from author T Cooper. I love it. It is long and wandering and includes pictures. On the first page he writes about a correspondence with a friend in France: "Every time I open up this drawer (approximately two times a day), the envelope is just sitting there staring up at me with its little foreign stamp and sailboats running atop it in reverse, reminding me that I'm an  asshole for not yet having written him back. I've seen him once and written him electronically countless times since he wrote that latter back in July, so that certainly thwarts my motivation to write him back. Or maybe that's just how we live now, even me, even though I think I'm somehow different."

I like how written letters mix in with everything else. I think of them as a moment where I can stop and focus only on the person I am writing to, which is a different thing than taking to them, or holding hands or tweeting at them. I think of them and how I want to tell it, whatever it is, to them. It is a powerful way to stay in the present. Plus, everyone loves letters.


How to throw a fancy mail art party. I'd probably drop the gift bags and nice paper, add piles of old magazine for collage and put out a tip jar for stamp costs (and offer to mail everyone's letters), but to each her own. What would you want at a mail art do?

My dad has cancer and was given (too) short number of years to live. Unsurprisingly, he is very sad. One of the few things that cheers him up is mail. His friends have been sending a ton of postcards and other greetings, which surprised and cheered him. And, of course, me. I'm sending him and my mom a Nan Goldin postcard tomorrow. Three dimes and two pennies is all it takes, and I have that, if not a lot else at the moment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

cleaning, cleaning my brain

Comics from one or two years ago to read and shelve, or read and recycle:


Found this paper doll by Susie Oh and put it together, sans two grommets. Check out her animations with the dolls. Botanical boojangles.


I found a first draft of a poem I wrote deep in my grieving:

I meant to say yes, but,
you're too late.
I'm sorry that you are stuck,
a few years behind.
The train still goes there, yes,
all the way to the end of the line,
but what was there
isn't anymore.
Yes, I was a mother but now I am just a mouth.
Were you in bed, were you wrapped up tight,
were you dead for minutes that stretched and stretched?
Not sorrier than I.



Friday, September 28, 2012

trip book style

I took a most relaxing vacation. I missed SPX and the Brooklyn Book Fest and Theo Ellsworth and everything, but I promise that I did my part in between redwoods, oaks, MUNI, METRO and fish watching and fish breakfasts.

blurry enough?
Since we stayed in Silverlake for two nights, I had to check out Secret Headquarters. I barely made it ot of there with adding tens of pounds to my already book-laden luggage. Because I cannot drive I must walk and this sends me to Fairfax when I am in L.A. Not only does the lovely and talented Chez Mo live very near, but the Farmer's Market, Family Bookstore and Cinefamily are all on the row. Nothing grabbed me at FB, but I paced and dug until I pulled up HAV by Jan Morris. The intro by scifi legend Ursula K. LeGuin sold it.

When several people tell me that I'll just love something, I start to feel a little uneasy. This usually means that the something is something horrible. I guess I just give off that vibe.  So, when we hopped on the Expo line to Culver City I was a little apprehensive. The Museum of Jurrassic Technology did not disappoint, however.  I picked up No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again: Letters to Mount Wilson Observatory 1915-1935, edited and transcribed by Sarah Simons. This book not only arouses the urge to write letters, but also contains some sweet telegram spam:

Most of the time between LA and SF involved nature and driving and basking. I read my airport-bought The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It was sufficiently distracting, but ultimately bloodless, despite pretending to be a romance. I spent most of my time breaking into a new journal with entries describing warm weather, drawing pictures of my luggage and listing the various plants I saw that day for our leather-clad, cyborg, future kids.

I finished The Night Circus by San Francisco. At Borderlands Books, I traded it in for a bit of credit and picked up the anthology Firebirds Rising edited by Sharyn November and the Tachyon Press chapbook A Flock of Lawn Flamingos by Pat Murphy. Firebirds Rising is YA, an unpleasant surprise that I could have avoided with a closer reading of the cover. The troubled teens helped pass the flight back and included two stories that I really liked by two weirdo masters: "Quill" by Carol Emshwiller and "The Wizards of Perfil" by Kelly Link. A Flock of Lawn Flamingos was a sweet and simple ode to troublemakers. I read it on the way to work my first day back to Midtown, letting the story take me back to California.

Now that I am back, life has taken a sad and shitty turn, so I especially relish the worry-free reading and writing time I had.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Torch by Cheryl Strayed

I spent much of Sunday night discussing this book so I won't go on here. Suffice it to say that I liked Torch, but felt that my knowledge of Strayed's biography, learned from her fantastic essays and Dear Sugar column, detracted from the story itself. It was not what I expected; I felt that the book lacked the balance of brutality and compassion that characterizes Strayed's nonfiction work. The addition of sensual details, especially relating to the rural setting, would have added some of that back in.

However I wanted to share this passage from the book about forgiveness:
Years passed. She was thirty, then thirty-five. Slowly, stingily, she forgave them without their knowing about it. She accepted the way things were—the way they were—and found that acceptance was not what she imagined it would be. It wasn't a room that she could lounge in, a field she could run through. It was a small and scroungy, in constant need of repair. It was the exact size of the hole in the solar eclipse paper plate, a pin of light through which the entire sun could radiate, so bright it would blind you if you looked. She looked.
This passage waves to the wrestling Forgiveness Twins, Impossibility and Necessity, while foreshadowing the incomplete forgiveness that hounds the characters after Teresa, the character who's forgiveness of her parents is examined in the above passage, dies unexpectedly.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Get Into the Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak

I read this like a pelican eats a fish. Why I gulped it down so fast I'm not sure, because How to Get Into the Twin Palms is about a woman changing herself to capture a man and I usually don't care for that story. But, despite the simple plot, there is something very much not straightforward to this story. The book's first line, "It was a strange choice to decide to pass as a Russian," alludes to this and though the following sentences seem to give reasons why the main character, Anka, chooses to do just this and more, they don't provide easy answers.

There are a several things going on in this novel. Despite being framed as a way to "crawl out of [her Polish skin]" and find out, between Russians and Poles, "who was under who," Anka's desire to get into the titular Twin Palms nightclub seems less like a desire to escape a specific ethnic identity and more as a particular way to obliterate self. When it comes down to it, Anka feels like she is nowhere and nothing. The fact that her search seems like a whim, a way to pass her recent unemployment, makes the mercenary quality of her plan--find a Russian man, seduce him, gain access to the inexplicable charms of the club--distressing and, as she begins to succeed, it gets weirder. Anka is unpleasant to spend time with. She is prickly and seems fascinated by a chinzy excuse for paradise; sitting with her as she decides to ruin her life is hard only because you keep wanting something more interesting to be revealed in her desperateness. Anka is the dark side: boring without being sweet, self-destructive without being artful, strange without being intruging.

At its heart, How to Get Into the Twin Palms is the story of a breakdown. It is also a story about being 25 and unmoored, about being an immigrant, about what happens when the money runs out, about being a woman, about sex and relationships. Most potent is how the book examines modern American womanhood. Anka herself is consumed with beauty and courtship rituals so unexamined they read as ridiculous and disgusting, and she herself finds the reality of the body as something to be fought against. The character of Mary, a lusty, oversharing, and unraveling old lady who attends the bingo where Anka is occasionally employed, is a reminder that loneliness and desire aren't assuaged by age. Mary is a specter in Anka's life and Anka begins to hate her for her needs, the same needs that Anka wants to satisfy for herself. The two women's exchanges are some of the most satisfying in the book because of their unexpected weight.

I don't know if it is because I just got back from another quasi-disturbing trip to LA, but the importance of the LA setting crept up on me only after this visit. Anka is always scraping at her skin, dyeing her hair and doing the laundry with stinging stinky chemicals, with dinged faith that change will happen this time."The box said Spicy Ginger... I put on a shower cap and caught myself i the mirror.  I looked ridiculous, but this was it. I knew this was what I finally needed. I would look ravishing fresh and new." Also to this point is the exchange between Anka and a regular-guy-type fireman who is in LA to fight wildfires:
"What's your problem," he asked.
I wasn't sure how to answer.
"I don't know what's yours?" I said.
This place. This place doesn't make sense to me."
"It's alright. Takes some getting used to." I let pool water into my mouth and pushed it out again, for effect. "There are places you should see."
Even after some time, I can't quite pin down my feelings about How to Get Into the Twin Palms. As usual, Two Dollar Radio's production is beautiful. Examining my reactions to Anka and her world gave me a lot to think about and sometimes that is enough.

Waclawiak will be in conversation with Vanessa Veselka(author of my favorite book from last year, Zazen)  and Sarah Mcrary on October 11th @ 7pm @ Melville House.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

a choir of caresses

My recent reading life takes place mostly on the subway. This week's B/Q train book has been Three Messages and A Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic edited by Eduardo Jiménez Mayo and Chris N. Brown. 

In "Future Nereid," by Gabriela Damián Miravete, translated by Michael J. Deluca, these two lines lines about reading jumped out at me:
"In your belly something will shrivel at the thought of the unfortunate distance which sometimes separates us from souls attuned to our own."

"You'd like to underline the words in this book as a substitute for a choir of caresses."
And something shriveled in me, and something else bloomed.


And this is why I give my heart to authors that find the combination of words that describe a part of me, of my life or my thoughts or give me new places to go to. I relentlessly recommend them, I buy their books, I think of them often. Sometimes I write them letters. It is why I keep reading. I keep reading because they love me through the page, a special, wide-spectrum, im/personal love ray.

Who has caressed you?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

get in my ears

Authors like Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Bucknell, Lavie Tidhar, Genevieve Valentine and more populate Clarkesworld. I'm not sure how I missed the way there for so long, especially with all of the recasts by my favorite scifantastic podcasts. Anyway, I subscribed to the podcast a few days ago and haven't really stopped listening since. As you know, I love closing my eyes, just me and the story. Podcast director Kate Baker reads many of the stories and she brings a lot to each. Here are some to start out with:
If you've ever known a true believer: Semiramis by Genevieve Valentine
If you've hated on your body: Worm Within by Cat Rambo
If you've ever played a player: Clockwork Chickadee by Mary Robinette Kowal

Check out the magazine for more stories, cover art, essays and interviews. They pay their authors--another reason to support them.


I've also been listening to 99% Invisible, hosted by Roman Mars. Ostensibly an architecture podcast, the short episodes almost always get into culture and personality, too. I loved to episode on Galloping Gertie, the killer bridge!


Are you generally a genre lover? Do you like smart artists? If so you should also subscribe to the woefully under-updated Make Believers podcast, hosted by Alexa Rose and Ming Doyle. Even though they sometimes they talk about astrology and superhero comics, I am always excited for a new episode. Hat tip to friend of try harder Simon Häussle for recommending it to me!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

today, with partial punctuation

Today, or maybe yesterday (time has been broken for years) is the anniversary of my brother's death. Today it has been nine years since I lost him. Today I try to figure out how that is even possible but no calculations make sense. Today I am happy that I am marked forever by love even though it is inconvenient. Today I eat strawberries. Today I host a good friend. Today I make jokes about not wanting to leave the house. Today I do work for a few hours until my eyes get tired from the screen. Today I don't tell anyone about today until right now. Today I smell a phantom dead mouse and gag a little. Today I take a nap until I have a nightmare. Today I finally vacuum the rug. Today I miss you, and you, and you. Today I am angry about all that's been taken from me. Today that thought does not eat me alive, only nibbles on the edges. Today I cried while using Photoshop specifically the rotate canvas button that I could not get to rotate us right-side-up. Today I wear safety orange shorts because it is hot and I am lazy and you would have loved them too.
Check out this process post by the intellectually ravishing Anne Emond. Be sure to click through to her tumblr for the final product: Motivation!

I like to see how the sausage is made. If you can't think of something to update your blog with, a process post is always appreciated.

I am 100% (1000%?) delighted that she recently started having comics on The Rumpus, the font of many of my recent obsessions.


Friend of try harder, Marguerite Dabaie, is not only a cartoonist, but a professional copy editor to boot. And, lucky lucky, she wants to help you. Here's what she says:
"Cartoonists, zinesters, and good ol' fashioned writers: I will soon be offering my copy editing services at a very affordable price. My specialties will be in self-published and small-press publications. I have been employed for the past five years as a copy editor at an internationally renowned institution in New York City, and I'm more than happy to use my experience to make your work stronger."
Take her up on it! mdabaie AT margoyle DOT net


Visiting me this week is the fabulous Amanda Welltailored.  I am being a terrible host as usual but I love having a friend in the yellow room, making life fuller and more interesting. I promise by her third visit I will have this "being fun" thing down.

Friday, August 03, 2012

this would be better or different

Roxane Gay is the best essayist around. She is also one of the most interesting pop cultural critics working today. She recently wrote this list-a-say about female friendship that struck me as deeply important, as well as informative, for everyone: How to Be Friends With Another Woman

I've been thinking a lot about friendship recently, and as Gay is a writer that helps me think, I am glad she is thinking about it too. Thanks, the hairpin for sending me towards her tumblr.


NEWS: Got my first subscription shipment from Oily Comics. It made me happy. 
ADVICE: You should listen to Robin's interview with artist and publisher Charles Forsman on inkstuds where he talks about what led to Oily, why it feels good to charge $1 for comics, and family. He also reveals that his new book will be about Wolf, a character I loved in a mini I loved.
BRAG: All of you who didn't subscribe really missed out.

This is exactly what I look like.


I write to a six-year-old regularly. We are not related. When I started, she couldn't read the letters herself but now I choose words that I hope she finds delightful. I do hope that our little correspondence, even when likely forgotten, inspires her to be a lifelong letter writer. If I wanted to up those chances considerably, I'd pressure her parents to buy her the Rumpus Letters for Kids subscription. Writers writing letters to kids? Yes, please.  I get the adult version and overall it has been an amazing experience.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I was walking in the woods with my main man. The trail was narrow and beset by deer flies or it was wide and sandy, I promise that it doesn't matter which, and we couldn't hold hands because it was too hot or I was too sick or that sort of thing simply wouldn't fit. I thought about all of the trees I know the name of and at the same time how soft a bed pine needles can make when you are too young to get home on your own and no one is going to pick you up any where near on time. The tiny frog I caught waited just until her close-up to hop off of my hand and into an inkberry bush or a beech tree grove with all the other frogs I didn't step on and some memories that flood flood flooded my brain while we watched our feet. My shoulders swung like a weather vane and I pointed out things I knew and wanted to know, all the while trying to avoid shit-in shorts and more embarrassing things because you never know which one will be too much. Why have maps when you can get lost in a paradise is a nice thought but my body never wants to sit down and let such ideas have an orderly hike by. I blew mosquitoes away with loud, huffing breath—all the better to not talk with. But that sort of thing never works, does it? Still, mishearing a woodpecker is better than never even considering one, never even looking and trying to find the culprit.

It was that kind of walk.

Friday, July 06, 2012

mail enhancement

A treat from Amanda WellTailored:

My first piece of mail in my P.O. Box from Melissa at Viva Snail Mail, which goes to prove that if you want mail, you simply have to write to the right person.

And some outgoing mail:

Send me stuff! Including review books--I know, I know, it has been awhile, but I plan to start writing comics reviews again.
Carrie Try Harder
P.O. Box 170293
Times Plaza Station
Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

"lazy shut-in"

If you, like me, love horror movies, then Final Girl Theory by A.C. Wise will unsettle you for several excellent reasons. It is a great, scary, story about obsession, entertainment and complicity. It is narrated by John Meagher over at Pseudopod, #287.
“The woman screams. The screen dissolves in a mass of spinning color, and the opening credits roll.
You know what the worst part is? The opening sequence has nothing to do with the rest of the film. It is what it is; it exists purely for its own sake.”


Let's talk about subscriptions. If you make minis regularly or have any other kind of regular publishing schedule, please make a subscription option available. It helps lazy shut-ins like me get your comics when they come out AND you make more money upfront--all the better to plan your lavish vacations and yacht purchases with. Kus does it, Retrofit does it and Oily Comics has been talking about it. Who else?


Dear comic book store guy,
When I come into your store, head straight for the mini comic section, pick out a few things and come to the register money in hand, do not tell me that you'd rather pay highX amount of dollars for the item that you have displayed on your counter, no matter how cool it is, than the regularX dollars for the comics I have chosen. I am standing at the register. I could still walk away. (I should have walked away).

You are not only drastically lowering my opinion of you, but you are insulting me, the work I am interested in, a genre that I love and your own store's selection. This does not make you seem cool or informed--it makes you seem like a preteen braggart all alone on the playground.


Monday, June 04, 2012

Looking for a safe space to have a vagina

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I love to let my eyes leave the screen for a while and let my brain grapple with information in another way. It’s generally a very enjoyable way to spend time.

As I recently prepared my place for guests, I clicked on the science fiction cast StarShipSofa #240 to make the cleaning go faster. Everything was going great, as usual, until J.J. Campanella’s Science News. His intro to the first story began, as you may remember like this: “The first story of the night may make the male part of the audience a bit uncomfortable because it has to do with, well, female plumbing, so to speak. So if you have kids listening or are just uncomfortable about the topic you may want to skip ahead about five or six minutes to get beyond this particular story. So what is this anti-macho, squirm-inducing story?”

The answer to that is: a very technical story about the human microbiome, specifically that of the vagina.*

This embarrassing intro not only undercut the cool science of the story but it also made me feel incredibly angry and sad. Here’s why:  First it suggests that male audience members are so immature as to find a rather dry (though interesting) story about vaginas somehow unlistenable. StarshipSofa often includes stories where men and women fuck each other, most often, vaginally—including the story before this one. So imagining a vagina is cool if we’re talking sex, but if we are talking science, it’s gross? Way to reinforce negative stereotypes of science fiction fans, Dr. Campanella, while undercutting your own science reporting at the same time! At its most innocuous, this kind of intro panders to the immature and close-minded, more insidiously, it provides support to the idea that it is totally reasonable to think that women’s bodies are gross, that it's okay, if you are a man, to be ignorant of the non-sexual aspects of the vag.

And, worse than gross, apparently “the topic” is unsuitable for children. Considering half of those hypothetical kids have vaginas themselves, this idea is absurd at best. It is definitely a pretty terrifying statement about how many people conceive of reproductive organs, especially those of women, as shameful, embarrassing, and most importantly, a dirty secret. If you, as a parent, are not comfortable with your kids knowing about their own bodies, or them hearing the correct terms used for their parts, then you are failing in your job. Frankly, any parent listening to a podcast aimed at adults, full of violence and other adult situations, with their children better be prepared to answer much more challenging questions than “What’s a vagina?”

Even though the terms “anti-macho, squirm-inducing” are thrown out a with a little cheek, it is still incredibly disappointing to hear SSS’s science correspondent use those words to describe a story about a part of half of the population’s bodies. Why do I have to hear this shit on a podcast dedicated to the world of the fantastic, fiction or fact, where anything is supposedly possible?

* Here's the article: P. Gajer, R. M. Brotman, G. Bai, J. Sakamoto, U. M. Schütte, X. Zhong, S. S. Koenig, L. Fu, Z. (. Ma, X. Zhou, Z. Abdo, L. J. Forney, J. Ravel, Temporal Dynamics of the Human Vaginal Microbiota. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 132ra52 (2012).

"archive dust"

An excellent essay about letters, choices, writers, grandmas and Martha Gellhorn over a The Millions by friend-o-tryharder, Amy Shearn: A Goofy State of Mind


The Vatican, yes that Vatican, has opened, and is sending out, a portion of their massive "Secret" archive. The real, live items will be exhibited in Capitoline Museums in Rome, but you can see some very intriguing tidbits here: Lux In Arcana


I started buying magazines. So many subscriptions bought, forgotten about, then appearing, regularly in the mail. B did the same during the contagious fugue state where credit cards flashed to the sound of glossy pages flip flapping. It was a good idea: Cabinet, Gastronmica, wax poetics, bitch, BOMB, The Coffin Factory, and more now come to our door.


I grew these and now they are gone.
The rest of the summer is waiting.

Monday, May 14, 2012

half a good ship MoCCA: 2012

An inexplicable sea theme for the post? Yes, and? Help me fill in the question marks in the comments.
Salty sailors Kenan Rubenstein and Neil Brideau
Three Armed Squids Kim Ku, Alexandra Beguez and Alden Viguilla. Their tablemate, Estrella Vega, is unpictured because I apparently don't know how to use a camera. I remembered Kim and Alexandra  from the SVA table last year and was happy to see all their new stuff.
Prism Index, editor Jeffery Bowers, handmade paper, music, movies, and a vast collection of conch shells. Jeffery told me that I looked miserable which is always nice to hear.
CCS castaways Denis St. John, Matt Aucoin and ???
Idiot's Books' co-captain Robbi Behr.
Alabaster sails into the storm with The Complete Talamaroo.
The Hic & Hoc table, helmed by Matt Moses. His triton is hidden. Guess where!
Jensine Eckwall, Lily Padula, ????, Lindsey Richter were gracious, for sea witches.
MariNaomi, one of my favorite crew members of The Rumpus, signs my book and makes me feel like a million pirate golds.
Box Brown, with booty from the holds of Retrofit Comics.

Requisite (and terrible) crowd shots:

Because of my looming surgery and general malaise, I wasn't sure that I would make this MoCCA. I was only able to circulate for about two hours. I saw many fewer iPad displays than last year and seemingly more handmade work by youngoes and oldies alike. Along the left wall there was a large group of antipodean folks, under the banner of Caravan of Comics and I popped in long enough to check out Mandy Ord's books and buy her collection, Sensitive Creatures. I wish I had been able to spend more time at the Caravan since meeting authors from other places is one of my main reasons to go to shows. I was happy to pick up two Retrofit comics that came out before my subscription started. By the time I made it all the way to the right of the space, I couldn't afford any Nordic beauty, but it was cool to see the contingent present again this year.

The show felt more attuned to my interests than last year, which meant I spent a ton of money. There seemed to be fewer melting neon faces in the mix but perhaps my rose-colored glasses were acting up. Hooray! But the usual looming question still hung heavy on the day: who is making money at this thing? The price of tables needs to go down and/or the door fee has to go. More attendees and more, and more relaxed, contributors could only make the show better. With a venue like the Armory, walk-ins could be an powerful audience--especially with an extra 15 or so dollars in their pocket. I know that the fest is in fact a benefit for the MoCCA museum, but as I said last year, the high price of doing MoCCA might feel a better value if they actually did a much higher ratio of programming highlighting the small press comics community.
the haul
I also hit up Sean Ford's long-awaited book release party at Bergen Street comics. It was great to see all the CCS folks and other interested parties. When I checked out, the dude asked me if it was my first time "coming out" and I wanted to punch him in the face, but instead I just said "no." Sigh.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

items of interest

I finally got a new P.O. box. Yes, I braved the absolutely terrible Atlantic Station office with my two sets of I.D. and glistening neck scar and picked up the keys today. Here is the address:
Carrie Try Harder
P.O. Box 170293
Times Plaza Station
Brooklyn, NY 
An exciting essay on pregnancy and the importance of controlling one's own information (and body) over at The Rumpus: On Pregnancy and Privacy and Fear by Aubrey Hirsch.
Even if you have never been pregnant, or noticeably pregnant, it will make you angry, perhaps nod in recognition and hopefully remind you to check yourself around pregnant, and all, women.

Catching up on my podcast listening and heard the Inkstuds interview about RUB THE BLOOD with editors Ian Harker and Pat Aulisio. If you want to hear some serious Philly-style accents, check it out.

And what's happening over at the hairpin you ask? Well, they finally have an Ask An Archivist column.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

what I've been doing

Feels worse than it looks, but better than it sounds.

But don't worry, I may have lost a few lucrative neck-modeling contracts, but my new gasping talent has triggered several voice-over opportunities in the horror and pharmaceutical industries.


I hope to be back to writing by next week. I hope everyone hasn't decided to stop bitching about MoCCA by then.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Readers know how I feel about Lynda Barry. An interview of the lady herself at The Rumpus by Anne Elizabeth Moore: "It doesn’t matter what their days were like before, their lives. Lynda Barry is in the room with them now so everything from this moment on will be amazing."

From Barry: "The one thing I can say about images and work with images, if I can put their function into one sentence: it’s the thing that gives you the feeling that life is worth living. Which is step one, I’m not saying it’s really worth living or it’s fantastic. I’m saying it’s also the thing that will keep you from killing yourself and others. So it’s a public service, I think [laughter], to engage in images."


This weekend I got an tour of East Coast former-Pennsylvania Railroad stations via an unexpected trip to Charm City. Philadelphia's 30th Street Station is my one and only love, but I also got to see Frank Furness's little brick Wilmington station (twice) and spend an anticlimactic hour and a half in Baltimore's beautiful Penn Station. 

B and I relaxed into acceptance by the time the train back North arrived and on the way back we sat across from some drunken New Yorkers. We talked about Sodastream and running. Well, they talked about running. The lady half of the couple already googled me and found this blog, which proves she is much better at drinking than I.


Saveur magazine is making the world a better place by asking amazing comics folks to make one of favorite things: recipe comics. The most recent one is from Corrine Mucha and includes "choi butts." 

Photo from Saveur 

Other contributors include Dorothy Gambrell, Jillian Tamaki and Anthony Clark. And it is a great place to see work from criminally under-read Laura Park.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler

Since reading the collection of short stories What I Didn't See, I've been going through Karen Joy Fowler's back catalog and snatching up anything that didn't have Jane Austen in the title. This book sounded great for a fun bit of a mystery reading, hopefully with Fowler's trademark emotional smarts.

And, in some ways, that is exactly what I got. Wit's End includes many of the elements that appear in Fowler's other work, such as an immortality cult with one surviving member whose founder was mysteriously exempt from the group's celibacy vow (the sweet and funny "Always"), mystery writers and their foibles ("Private Grave 9") and the strange ways that people do a number on one another (too many to mention). The plot centers around the mystery surrounding the relationship of godmother, famous mystery writer Addison Early, and her father—how exactly it began and what soured it. There are descriptions of meals that made my mouth water, images of Santa Cruz that jarred my memories of the place and lots of creepy letters. These parts kept me engaged and excited like a good genre book should.

But what I am gracelessly dancing around here?

I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that the main character, Rima, is twenty-nine and an orphan. She is grieving for both her mother and father, as a unit and separately. Their deaths color her life and make her feel set apart from other twentysomethings, apart from everyone. The thing is that not only are her parents dead, but her little brother is dead, too. He died at the same age as my little brother, from essentially the same cause. This worried me for many reasons--was this not going to be the light read I craved and what if the author got it wrong?

Fowler gets it right, that spectrum of feelings and experiences when someone (or everyone) you love dies. She shows how a person can live with those things and not be permanently broken through the voices of both Rima and Addison. The parts about grief sang with truth while being both simple and in service to the story. It felt good to read even as I shook with angry recognition:

"Rima was perpetually offended by the suggestion that luck should be graded on a curve. Of all of the false comforts she'd been recently offered, the most poisonous one was the one that told you to be grateful that you were better off somehow."

"There'd been an undertone in Scorch's* blog, maybe even in a few comments Addison had made had made, or maybe Rima had imagined it. You weren't supposed to love your brother more than anyone else in the world..."

"In telling the story to Rima and Tilda, her point was a different one. Sometimes something happens to you, she said, and there's no way to be the person you were before. You won't ever be that person again; that person's gone. There's a little freedom in every loss, no matter how unwelcome and unhappy that freedom may be."

I was also really into the idea that runs through the book that we make our own families. This was the subtle message that pulsed under all the loss--inspiring without any saccharine promises.

*Oh how I hate this character's name. Every time I would see it on the page I'd scoff a little then dive back in. I get the whole Santa Cruz, self-invented and kinda stupid young person name but it just didn't sit right.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

one piece of the story

So of course I got a subscription to The Rumpus' Letters in the Mail. I've been enjoying it immensely, especially the missives from Padma Viswanathan and Matthew Specktor. Sari Botton's essay about participating in it talks about her letter writing friendship with a guy called David. It reminded me a little about the one I have with my friend R—what's encapsulated in our correspondence is how we became ourselves and how we become over and over. It's a maddening record but I love it. 

As you may remember, I have a problem with poetry. I don't read it. When Adrienne Rich died many of the people that I respect were expressing their feelings of loss and I've got to say that every single excerpt of Rich's poetry bled with truth and made me want to read more. Here is a lovely illustration of some Rich lines by Lisa Congdon.

Several people have asked me over the years what comics got me into the genre. At 15 I was volunteering at a thrift store on South Street to fulfill the delightfully named "community service" requirement of public schooling in Philly. One day I was working in the basement in the book section and came across a comics anthology about abortion. I stopped working and read it through. I had never really experienced that kind of storytelling before--angry, smart, feminist and utterly human. Each story looked different and I could understand each one. For almost 16 years I've been unable to remember the title and all my googling was in vain until moments ago. The book: Choices: a pro-choice benefit comic anthology for the National Organization for Women. The extreme ugliness of the cover was instantly identifiable. Click the link to see all the heavy hitters that contributed work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Christian,

I do not care to think about how old you would have been today. It has been too long and it is too hard. I am farther and farther away from being my favorite thing: a sister. This cannot be helped and I need all the help I can get.

Since the idea of creating a ritual around your birthday just never felt right, I'll simply tell you what I decided to do today:

1) I read selections from the collected Sugar columns by Cheryl Strayed on my subway ride home from work. These columns inspired me to write again with their "radical empathy," as Steve Almond called it, and the sheer love of life and words that jumped out at me when I clicked over every Thursday--a new ritual for a new life. I think "The Black Arc of It" helped B understand me better and I could never thank Strayed too much for that.

2) I began, and hope to finish, a review of Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler. The book had a secret dead brother, who died at 19, just like you. The protagonist is incredibly angry, just like me. The handled this so well that it mitigated my sad shock at finding us on the page when I was just trying to read a good summer book.

3) When I finish my work I will play Skyrim and forget a bit.

4) You were so full of love that it inspires me to make more every day. So, today I will love B harder, even if he doesn't know it.

Sorry you got a list letter for your birthday, baby boy. I am all out of other ideas for today.

Miss you always,
Your sister