Tuesday, February 21, 2017

celeste by inj culbard

Craving a little sci-fi with your we all die alone ennui? I.N.J Culbard's intense depiction of the human condition post-event (although we're not certain that said event actually happened, or what said event may have been) is just the thing. Culbard tells his tale in three parallel narratives, featuring three lonely people: a young girl living with albinism in London, a Japanese comic artist on the brink of taking his own life, and an uptight man stuck in LA gridlock who has just received a mysterious interrupted phone call concerning his wife. The story itself is interesting enough, but what sets Celeste apart is Culbard's phenomenal, one might even say stellar, artwork: a mix of masterful single, multiple, and otherwise mixed-up panels that provide depth for his characters in a way that words never do. While some readers might find the open ending frustrating, I was delighted by the ambiguity and appreciated the opportunity for imaginative interpretation throughout the work. Give it to fans of Jeff Lemire's Trillium. Grade 11 +

Monday, February 20, 2017

the throwback special by chris bachelder

I'm not a team sports enthusiast. Truly, I'm vehemently anti-athletics of the team variety, since, among more virtuous geopolitical reasons, they remind me of being tortured by jocks as a new wave teen. Still, I relished Bachelder's book, because it isn't really about organized sport. Rather, it's a near-scientific observation of twenty-two men in the throes of middle life who have gathered annually for the last sixteen years to reenact Joe Theismann's 1985 leg-shattering play, known as "The Throwback Special," laced with heavy doses of bittersweet humor - a favorite flavor of mine. Those of you who miss the pleasure of eavesdropping on humans conversing in public spaces* will appreciate the low- and high-brow overheard philosophical gems sprinkled throughout the work as the men, largely begrudgingly, prepare for a ritual many of them are no longer emotionally invested in. Reading it felt like the best kind of being invisible: reader as witness to a curious cultural gathering without actually being invited. Give it to fans of Matthew Quick and readers who enjoy American football.
*long ago replaced with the silence inherent in smartphone-gazing

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

saint valentine's picks

Looking for love in unusual places? I've assembled a group of picks that aren't your standard romance fare - although if it is cheesy romance that you need, I'll gladly be your supplier. In the historical fiction category are three unforgettable love stories, all of which happened to win the Booker prize: Richard Flanagan's heartwrenching The Narrow Road to the Deep North, A.S. Byatt's sumptuous and suspenseful Possession; and Peter Carey's unforgettable tale of misfit love, Oscar and Lucinda. In the YA lit arena, three sad love stand-outs all evolve around mixed race romance; Ashley Hope Perez's Out of Darkness, Jodi Lynn Anderson's Tigerlily, and Martha Brockenbrough's The Game of Love and Death will make your heart hurt just the right way. Only have time for a little love? Check out David Levithan's love lexicon, The Lover's Dictionary, Junot Diaz's smart and funny This is How You Lose Her, or Carlos Fuentes' thinly-veiled tribute to his relationship with actress Jean Seberg, Diana o La cazadora solitaria.

Monday, February 13, 2017

griffin & sabine by Nick Bantock

Need a little something-something to melt away the madness? If you unwittingly made it through the 90s without reading Griffin & Sabine, as I did, you'll find it's just the thing: a delightful anachronistic correspondence via painted carte-postale tucked into actual envelopes, a slow getting-to-know-you, a return to the possibility and pleasure of mystery between two near-strangers. It's a puzzle, it's a love story, it's an artful multi-media mezcla. Griffin, a painter living in London, receives a postcard from Sabine, an artist who designs stamps for a living on a small island in the South Pacific. They have never met, but Sabine can see Griffin's brushstrokes in her mind as he works. Unable to resist the allure of the unknown, Griffin replies with a postcard of his own, and the two of them embark upon their nonnormative relationship with intrigue and aplomb. My only frustration is not having access to the rest of the collection until June! Merci, magnifique Mlle Motre, for introducing me to M. Bantock's work. Not to be missed. Grade 8+

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