EVERYTHING, VOL. 1: COLLECTED AND UNCOLLECTED COMICS
Lynda Barry's FREDDIE STORIES is still the first thing I think of when I think about which comics are the funniest and saddest, and she's better at writing dialogue that sounds like the way people actually talk than almost anyone else. So I always want to read more things by her, but I don't try very hard to find her stuff, I just read whatever the library gets which is mostly these collage scrapbooks where she tries to inspire people to Be Creative and Draw All The Time Without Worrying What People Think. I like them alright. This new one that the library got is different, it's a collection of comics she made in the late 70s and early 80s, when she was in her early twenties. There's a mostly unfunny strip called Girls + Boys that takes up a third of the book, and a funnier one called Two Sisters that seems like kind of a precursor to her Marlys strips. Only people who are obssessed with Lynda Barry need to read this, and I don't think anyone is. But I always like being reminded of her and I'm gonna reread FREDDIE STORIES and probably order ONE HUNDRED DEMONS soon.
Jesús, my brother's former roommate, asked everyone on facebook what their favorite book is. No one said "facebook". One person said "Firebringer" then later she said "Ok there is supposed to be a space... fire bringer". In between those two posts someone said the name of a book that I think is about a talking seagull. I'm not making fun of anyone I'm just telling what happened. FIRE BRINGER is about some talking deer. The front cover compares it to WATERSHIP DOWN and the back cover has a quote from the author of WATERSHIP DOWN, but it's never as good or sad or scary or wise or well-written as that book. One of the talking deer is a long-prophesied messiah deer who doesn't know how to be the messiah or if he even wants to be it. I know that sounds like it could be cool, but it's mostly boring. If you want to read about teenage messiahs, go read THE INSTRUCTIONS; if you want to read about talking animals, just read WATERSHIP DOWN or PLAGUE DOGS again.
At the end of the eighteenth century lots of Enlightened Europeans, over-impressed by Science and Reason and Empire, were busily trying to organize and catalog every piece of information that had ever existed. Jules Renard - wiser and humbler and funnier than everyone else - decided to mock this idea by writing his own NATURAL HISTORIES that wasn't a seventeen-volume set of encyclopedias, but just seventy short descriptions of things he saw and imagined when he wandered around his farm. Lots of animals, a few people, talking flowers and farm tools. Toulouse Lautrec, who I've only heard of because of that Silver Jews song, made an illustration for each entry. Most of the pages are just calm and pleasant, like a good, non-cutesy children's book, but sometimes Renard says something genuinely strange or funny. He sees a snail that "seethes like a stuffed nose", and when talking about a goat says, "If men have burdened him with their sins, he hasn't heard about it, and merely releases, quite solemnly, a little rosary of droppings." Renard seems easy and fun to talk to. I wanna hang out with him. I wanna tell him about my day and hear about his.
When Natalie (Guevara) told me I should read this I was a little nervous - I always feel like a jerk when I don't like things people recommend to me, and a while ago I tried to read Calvino's IF ON A WINTER'S NIGHT A TRAVELER but got bored and annoyed and gave up after like two pages. Maybe I should've been more patient with that one. I liked the first four sentences of this one but got annoyed halfway through the fifth sentence. But I kept going and ended up liking it a lot. All the chapters are short and they always start with Mr. Palomar looking at and thinking about something concrete like the moon or a gecko or jars of cheese or humping turtles. His brain rapidly balloons into larger and stranger and more abstract places until he's startled by the customers in line behind him or his daughter pulling him off to the penguin house. Sometimes his thoughts were funny and sometimes they weren't, and sometimes I related to them and sometimes I didn't, but there were lots of great sentences and I always liked to watch his brain float up out of his head and then get yanked back down.
other stuff I read: |
SHOOTING KABUL - N.H. Senzai
FROM THE MEMOIRS OF A NON-ENEMY COMBATANT - Edward Gilvarry
THE ANCIENT BOOK OF HIP - D.W. Lichtenberg
OPEN CITY - Teju Cole
REACHING OUT: THE THREE MOVEMENTS OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE - Henri Nouwen