Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 reads

  • Slade House by David Mitchell
  • Mickey by Chelsea Martin
  • After Atlas by Emma Newman
  • Cyanide Milkshake 8 by Liz Suburbia
  • Laid Waste by Julia Gfrörer
  • My Pretty Vampire 1 and 2 by Katie Skelly
  • Libby's Dad by Eleanor Davis
  • We All Wish For Deadly Force by Leela Corman
  • Summerland by Paloma Dawkins
  • Travelogue by Aatmaja Pandya
  • Nicolas by Pascal Girard, Helge Dascher (Translator)
  • nevers by Megan Martin
  • In the Time of the Blue Ball By Manuela Draeger
  • Ghost by Whit Taylor
  • In Situ no. 3 & 4 by Sophie Yanow
  • Bluets by Maggie Nelson
  • All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  • Dumb 1+2 by Georgia Webber
  • Future Shock 0 edited by Josh Burggraf
  • Guillotine #10: Kat Howard/Sofia Samatar
  • Planetfall by Emme Newman

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Behold my CAB haul:
My Pretty Vampire 1 and 2 by Katie Skelly
Laid Waste by Julia Gfrörer
Enter, Holy Pilgrim by Laila Milevski (part of my Ley Lines sub)
Cyanide Milkshake 8 by Liz Suburbia
Impatience by Inés Estrada
The End of Summer by Tillie Walden
No Exit by Annie Mok
Maleficium #5 by Sabin Calvert
What is a Witch by Pam Grossman and Tin Can Forest
I Thought You Hated Me by Marinaomi (part of my Retrofit/Big Planet sub)
Lovers in the Garden by Anya Davidson (part of my Retrofit/Big Planet sub)
Lizzie's Tale by Darryl Ayo (purple page version)
Ugly by Chloe Perkis
Big Sister by Natalie Andrewson
Annotated 19 by Aaron Cockle

sometimes being left in a backpack leads to having a special, separate photo shoot
This year's CAB was difficult and lovely. Difficult because I've been so depressed that leaving the house to go be around people seemed impossible and lovely because I did it and then was able to talk with a bunch of people I like. I noticed a lot of apparel this year and wished I brought more money to get all the t shirts and sweatshirts I desire.

Creators: like another link to your work better? let me know!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I was browsing Greenlight bookstore when I had the thought "there are so many books I still want to read." This was a surprisingly positive thought, one I hope that will sustain me in the coming months.
When one of your favorite publishers is also a writer and writes a story that feels like it was written just for you but it is about vampires: Blue is a Darkness Weakened by Light by Sarah McCarry
In other news, a new Guillotine is scheduled to print in January, which is a new year treat I can actually look forward to.

The second Atlas book came out and I grabbed it. Reading Planetfall was such a serious, immersive experience that I'm looking forward to a similar experience. I'm never sure about first-person books, but I was pulled in hard to Planetfall and hope the same thing can happen with After Atlas.

The colors are still good out on the streets. I'm trying to go outside while I can convince myself that being in nature will be pleasant. I haven't cobbled together a winter survival plan yet. Have you?

Monday, November 07, 2016

Oh lovelies,

Reading has been tough. My mind is currently focused on bringing up all the pain of the past 20+ years and parading it around, making focus difficult and spare time unpleasurable. Today is the third (is that possible?) anniversary of my father's death. He had terrible dyslexia; he was so proud that I enjoyed reading, even though it made us further apart. This year reading has not been the refuge I crave. What interests grief hasn't flattened, depression has steamrolled.

I'm still in The Crystal Eaters, still hoping the end supports everything I love about story developed so far. Shane Jones definitely has a razor insight into the thoughts and compulsions of children, especially traumatized children. It's so difficult to get that right. Place that precision in a book also dealing with complex family sadnesses, and dang, you've just created a book I am deeply into and can barely bear to read! He also captures what pain drugs can take away while also showing what pain they can give subtly and without moralizing.

I've been reading everything from my comics subscriptions (Ley Lines from Grindstone Comics/Czap Books, Kus, Retrofit/Big Planet and Frontier from Youth In Decline), but at a leisurely pace and without the calming effect of falling into a novel. CAB was fun and I'll dive in to my haul, mostly longer works, as soon as seems wise.

What have you been reading?

Your friend,

Friday, October 28, 2016

Libby's Dad by Eleanor Davis

Recently I've had a lot of chances to experience shitty cable. Between traveling and "getting away" and tagging along, I've been watching a lot of Forensic Files. Overall this hasn't been so great for my peace of mind, but it has been a deep dive into the terrible things people do to one another, especially the terrible things men do to women. I've been marinating in not only death, but in should-have-knowns and we-never-thoughts, and it was in this state of mind I picked up Libby's Dad.

Libby's Dad is set at a slumber party at the titular characters home. Snatches of the young party-goers conversation drive the story, as well as the thoughts of Alex, a big-eyed, pig-tailed girl, the youngest invited to the birthday. This framing is what makes Libby's Dad so powerful and chilling.

The girls discuss Libby's parents' divorce, trying to come to grips with what they've overheard about violence in the relationship in the face of the fun slumber party stuff they are experiencing in the moment. Weaving in anecdotes of seeing Libby's mom around town being sad about the end of a relationship and other life stuff,  half-heard parental judgement, and an unquestioned belief in the justice system, the girls reassure one another that they are safe and that Libby's dad is no monster. The girls think what is easiest to think, that Libby's mom is crazy, rather than that her dad is dangerous. The child's POV shows plainly and with force that the simple story is usually the reasoning of a child. We know what nasties go on in adult relationships. We know that a person can be "like, super nice" to children and terrible to their partners. We know victims are often doubly victimized by having their behavior and life picked over in public. We know that adulthood offers may opportunities to cry in public, whether you're "crazy" or not.

We know.

We know, so we should know better. We know, and there is heartbreak in knowing that likely each  of those girls will know too, more sooner than later.

And, of course, it's beautiful. I've always loved Davis's botanicals and they, as well as her boisterous color sense, are out in full force in Libby's Dad. Her use of colored pencil is perfect here, and makes the whole story a little more sinister for me. Pick it up now.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Nicolas by Pascal Girard, translated by Helge Dascher

After years of cramming books in wherever they fit, I finally decided to redo my bookshelves. This has led to some intense re-reading, and in some cases, reading that had been left undone. Nicolas is one of those books I couldn't not buy, but also couldn't read the past several years.

 Nicolas is an autobiographical comic about the author's brother dying when they were both children. Told in flashes, almost like scrolling through the lowlights reel of grief, this short book cut right to what the legacy of a loss does to a person and their relationships. Girard's style is like a looser, sketchier Jeffrey Brown with some John Porcellino thrown in, which works well to express extreme feelings with humor.

Despite feeling incredible familiarity with the trials of Pascal, Girard's work is refreshing. It shows so simply how the absurdity of such a loss makes you weird (and in what ways). I love how Girard gets into how the fear it instills is not easily navigated, and how it changes as you get older, with emphasis on being a jerk in bars and hurting the people who love you romantically because you know that "it" doesn't only happen to other people. The tension between trying to remember your lost sibling and living your own life is also explored here, most especially on the page where a young Pascal asks his mother if he can sled at a friend's and his mother responds, in what I can only imagine is a distant voice: "Did you realize that Nicolas would have been eight years old today?" That sense of being snapped out of the present over and over is so particular and peculiar--glad that Girard included it.
my breath caught

After reading Nicolas, I felt less alone, which is perhaps the highest compliment possible. If you have someone in your life that's lost a sibling, get this book. I hope it helps you understand them better.

Link to the new expanded hardcover here.

Monday, May 02, 2016

MoCCA 2016

MoCCA in a Hell's Kitchen that looks different than it used to: A New Yorker's lament. 
Well, not really. While I miss my neighborhood as it was, I liked the new venue for MoCCA. Not only does the neighborhood still offer abundant cheap food, but the venue itself, which I used to walk by during late night strolls to the river, is bright, spacious without the high-ceiling anxiety of the armory and has almost enough elevators.The security was overzealous, something I got to experience twice as a perpetual late-o, but not as bad as at last year's Chelsea location.

I spent nowhere enough time on the floor and saw no panels, despite being somewhat interested in two of them. I'm never interested enough though. I did manage to say hi to a few of my far-away faves like Summer Pierre, Greg Means and L. Nichols. I missed more people than I saw, sadly, but that is the way it goes most years.
upstairs snack area
Jennifer Hayden, Summer Pierre and Glynnis Fawkes , buddies and excellent storytellers
Sara Edward-Corbett, with her beautiful rat creations
The fabulous Whit Taylor making a sale, Katie Fricas, who I met at Paper Jam, and Kriota Willberg, who cares about your health
Loved the bit of Travelogue by Aatmaja Pandya I read online, had to get the book!
Loved Gina Wynbrandt's mini, Big Pussy, had to get the book!
Rumi Hara's minis grab me with their covers, and I always enjoy the fantasies she creates.

I was excited for a few books not mentioned above and was happy to grab Dream Tube by Rebekka Dunlap from Youth in Decline, Bad Boyfriends, edited by Laura Lannes, as well as What's Your Sign, Girl?, edited by Rob Kirby. The two anthologies are stuffed with work from artists I need more of--you hear that big publishing?

I'm still working through my pile of MoCCA comics and will report back on what's grabbing me.
My Haul

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

bedtime stack

What's getting me to sleep these days:
Bad Habits by Cristy C. Road
This Is Not It by Lynne Tillman
In The Time of the Blue Ball by Manuela Draeger

Monday, February 29, 2016

Paper Jam 2016

Crowd shot
After the master hyping of Paper Jam by Darryl Ayo on twitter, I decided to drag my dusty carcass to Silent Barn in Bushwick for the small comics/zine fest. I am a big fan of the space with its cheap drinks and big outdoor space and really wanted to see what a comics show there would look like.

The show itself took place in  the performance space in the front of the building. I got there around 3:45, a little more than halfway through the day and the place was crammed with 20-something creators and fans and a smattering of us older types.

Though I mostly picked up comics by folks I'd never met before, the fest turned out to be an exercise in saying hi to the faces of internet faves including Sabin Calvert, Jude Killory, and "comics mom" Kevin Czapiewski. Ley Lines #6 author and buddy Aaron Cockle gave me a little zine featuring some risograph experimentation and we spoke briefly of chili and work.

After several trips around the crowded room, the consumption of a delicious ginger beer, and more hellos, I decided that I had spent enough money and felt low on energy so decided to head out. I was a bit disappointed in my own stamina that day, but sometimes you must bow to your body's boring needs. I missed the bus, managed to walk about a quarter of the way to where I was going before my hip started to kill and the rest doesn't matter.

The verdict? Would return to Paper Jam with walking shoes on.
Book and pamphlet haul
Prints and calendar from Courtney Menard
Walk away moon

Friday, February 12, 2016

lettermo 2, 2016

As usual, I've not managed a piece of mail a day. I tend to work better in bursts. I like to focus, perhaps too intensively, on the person that I am writing to and frankly I just haven't the energy for that sustained attention the past few days.

Today I felt the urge to make some fantasy worlds and there is no better way to get into the zone than with collage. So I brewed up some tea, busted out the new glue sticks and got to flipping through all the sloppy magazines I've hoarded for just this purpose. From the colors it is clear that I am yearning for some sunshine.

today's batch

Thursday, February 04, 2016

just friends

The other day my heart felt heavy but open. I was ready to spend the night contemplating the good things in life. I'd heard many good things about Paul Lisicky's new book, The Narrow Door, and thought I'd go feel big feelings at his reading at Community Bookstore.

The week after my friend Sally died, I started a zine about her. Collages mostly. I put them all together and stared and stared and then the dog knocked them over and then it didn't seem right and then and then and then my dad died and I still dream of her house almost every night.


After shuffling my way down 7th Avenue, I took my place in the small but crowded back room of the bookstore. The space was filling up with Lisicky admirers, many of who greeted the poet with hugs. While a clot of pretty poet boys decimated the wine, the rest of us settled in amid the fishy smell of store cat Tiny's food and the rustling of heavy coats. Writer A.N. Devers opened the evening with a short intro and then Lisicky began reading from The Narrow Door.

"It's weird," I thought as I cried into my companion's coat, "How sometimes a book comes right at the right time." How to reckon with relationships that are incredibly intimate and life-changing but not generally recognized as an important kind of love?  Even during this reading, a celebration of friendship, more audience questions were asked about Lisicky's ex, a famous poet, than about the subject of his book. I remember my frustration with trying to describe my relationship with Sally, everyone trying to name it with descriptors like "second mom" as if being friends was not enough for the grief I feel.

Devers pointed out that there are few books by men about their female friends, which is both true and too much to think about right now.

Lisicky talked a bit about the loss of his "sidekicks"--the people who know you the best and always want the best for you--to divorce and death. What does one loss mean in the midst of many? I lost my friend suddenly while my father was dying absolutely for sure. My friend lived boldly, but within many constraints. She was both incredibly inspiring and a cautionary tale. I wanted to spend years discussing life with her. Despite knowing her since I was eleven, I felt like our friendship was just beginning to take on a new form.

Because of her faith in me, a little piece of my writing is always for Sally.  That's going to have to be enough.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

lettermo 1, 2016

I am starting #lettermo this year with two collaged cards for two great people. 

I think I probably owe you a letter. Feel free to remind me in the comments.

Monday, January 18, 2016

2015 finally dies!

Despite this being a horrible life year, it was a very wonderful reading year. Not included in my tally are the many books I started or collections I picked through over 2015, many of which were also good but not for me, not right now.

This has been the first full year I've lived without my father after two years of his frightening and terrible decline. I was deeply involved with my father's end of life and death, the details of which I am still reckoning with and will be for quite some time. Being faced with admin tasks that are not only relentless and boring, but suffused with such powerful hurt has been exhausting and lonely. Luckily for me, cartoonist Roz Chast went through some similar things and decided to write a funny, informative and just SO TRUE book about it called Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? This book was loaned to me by a great friend. When I read it I cried, but with relief.
There are books that take you away and books that make you stay and the three novels in The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer accomplish both. The first, Annihilation, is a missive from an inhospitable land, filled with beautiful natural details and almost unbearably tantalizing mystery. The second, Authority, is about juggling identities and becoming oneself, and while the main character wasn't all that interesting to me there were enough other things going on in the story to carry me though. The final volume, Acceptance, follows a character present in the previous two and brings many of the mysteries of the Southern Reach to a satisfying close, without solving a single thing. Vandermeer created a world with endless frightening possibilities and endless frightening beauty that I still think about; this trilogy is an excellent reminder that life is complex and not simply a trial, no matter how much horror gets served up.
Speaking of horror, I returned to an old favorite this year The Haunting of Hill House, after recommending it to a friend. Turns out that Jackson's sure voice and teasing plotting were exactly what I craved at the moment, and it is always worth taking another look at what the desire for acceptance will do to a person. Plus, Theo, always Theo.

To balance the many terrible surprises of the year, the mail at least was peppered with some lovely ones care of my subscriptions to four comics presses: Ley Lines from Grindstone Comics/Czap Books, Kus, Retrofit/Big Planet and Frontier from Youth In Decline. I wrote about some here on try harder, some I just sucked in. Two stand outs I didn't write about, both from Retrofit/Big Planet were Ikebana by Yumi Sakugawa and Sea Urchin by Laura Knetzger. I loved Sakugawa's quiet story about stopping giving any fucks and creating oneself. Sakugawa's work always speaks to me, but this one came at exactly the right time. I've been following Knetzger for awhile, and just got her all ages tome Bug Boys from Czap Books. Sea Urchin is decidedly adult autobio about depression and what we think about when no one is watching.

I listened to many fewer SFFH podcasts the second half of the year than I usually do, mostly because I fell victim to Fallout 4's immersive charms. However the casts from The District of Wonders, Escape Artists, Clarkesworld, Strange Horizons, Uncanny and Apex, continue to expose me to exciting short story writers and take me places I never could have imagined.

And no 2015 survey would be complete without talking about twitter. Besides the usual dog jokes, book news, essay recommendations and author process notes that twitter always provides, this year the service was one of the only and best ways I could connect with my own grief. That meant posting photos and thoughts, as well as meeting (or further developing relationships) with others that have been through similar stuff or are just empathetic souls. Invaluable stuff.

I know I'll be thinking about the stuff I read in 2015 for many years to come. What about you?

Friday, January 08, 2016

As longtime readers know, I love mail. It is such a simple thing, available to most people, and yet so few of us take advantage of a reliable postal system that sending a letter can feel like magic.

One of the things I've tried to do with friends' kids is show them how cool it can be to send and receive stuff in the mail. I'm no longer the letter writer I once was, but as 2016 is here now, I'm adding getting back to letter writing to my short list of resolutions.

Won't you join me?