a last minute list of gifts for other people you should actually, really, maybe keep for yourself

These are three of the best (recently published) novels I read this year. Each author plays with the idea of authorship and representation, using letters, interviews or other methods of indirect discourse to create characters that are sometimes neat and sometimes curmudgeon-y. I loved the way each one of these books made me think beyond the extent of the stories they told.

If you want to geek out and have discussions about narrative technique with your literary friends, give them these books, wait till they read them, then find a cozy place with wine, a fireplace and soft music in which to discuss the various ways each novel offers a unique, yet similar, methodology to expose the grit of its subject.

Now, we all, also, have those friends who don't exactly read. For those folks, whose dabbling in books never extends beyond the yearly venture into lierature or non-fiction, here are a few art books that can satisfy you both: you'll feel good about giving them a book, and they'll probably just be happy to receive a gift.

The intense and involved, even overwhelming, color and texture in Olaf Hajek's Flowerhead requires a skilled discernment very similar to that which we use to read.

Here's a look inside:

We now have Diane Arbus' massive book, Revelations. I usually only know artists are big time when I see their bio pic. Nicole Kidman sold me on Arbus in Fur, and now I am a huge fan.

Henry Darger was a certifiably weird guy who toiled as a janitor his whole life, living in seclusion and creating masterpieces in his spare time. After his death, they found his apartment jam-packed with work . The drawings in this book do nothing more than give a us a tiny glimpse of all the outlandish adventures that were probably always going on in his head.

They made a movie about him too.

Shary Boyle has blessed us with a new book. It has two covers and all sorts of good stuff inside. Unlike Otherworld Uprising, this book goes beyond documenting her ceramics and gives us a bit of her installations, drawings and wax work. Essential for any friend who is an artist and wants to know the what's what and who's who of contemporary Canadian art.

Here's a sneak peak inside:

Sharry Boyle is a who and a what. And, though They haven't made a movie about her yet, she still gets heard.

Amber showed me Richard Barnes' Animal Logic and it took me only moments to understand the love she has for it.

I agree with her that this the book's cover belies the awesomeness that lies inside. Here are just a few images of Barnes' explorations into, and experiments with, taxidermy:

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