Staff Picks August 2012

My Friend Dahmer 
by Derf Backderf

Back in the 1970s, Derf Backderf was a regular teenager who went to school with the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer. This book recounts his story and let me tell you, it is really creepy. Not creepy in the sense of a made-for-tv "portrait of a killer" special, but rather, as a complex examination of an outcast who can’t help the onset of violent psychoses. Equally frightening is the setting, where troubled teens are left to fend for themselves in a suburban wasteland where teachers and parents are either uncaring or altogether absent. 


by Vladimir Nabakov

The New York Times original 1957 review of Pnin describes the book as "heartbreakingly funny." I mention this because it pinpoints exactly what is so strange and special about this book - it is melancholic while making me (for realz) laugh out loud in guffaws. Nabokov tells the story of an émigré, a Russian professor in America, Timofey Pnin, who lives in that frustrating gap between the comprehension of English as a foreign language and the actual communication of said language and culture. I was really moved by how the book illustrated language, as it explores the sensation of experiencing life through a distorted muffled barrier, as well as noting the deep-rooted subtleties of inherent in communication.


L'Enfant Insecte 
by Hideshi Hino

L'Enfant Insecte is horror manga icon Hideshi Hino's take on Kafka's Metamorphosis. The story deals with bullying, revenge and ends in the saddest possible way. It was recently published in french by avant-garde publisher IMHO, but if you can't read it you should still pick it up because Hino specializes in the most dizzying, detailled and dramatic oversized panels.

Hino Horror  
by Hideshi Hino

If you insist on reading Hino's work in English, let me recommend the volumes we still have of his now out-of-print Hino Horror series. My favorites are Death's Reflection and Ghost School, both amazing compilations of Hino's inimitable mix of horror and shoujo manga.

 Food & Trembling
by Jonah Campbell

I love talking about food, I love reading about food, but above all I love gossiping about food, and that's what Campbell does in Food & Trembling, writing collected from a blog he's been writing for several years. Published by our good friends at Invisible, Food & Trembling explores the attraction of the BLT, the various chip flavours available only within Spain, and the good eating stories I love to hear. Also it's very funny, and occasionally Montreal-specific (Campbell lives here). And did I mention? Food gossip!!!


Aliens & Anorexia by Chris Kraus 
Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector; translated by Alison Entrekin

These two dazzling books hold a particular feminist mysticism at their respective cores, despite their apparent differences. I am fairly new to Chris Kraus, and very new to Clarice Lispector (recently wonderfully translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin and published by the glorious New Directions), and have been deliriously bouncing between Aliens & Anorexia, and Near to the Wild Heart in the past couple of weeks. Kraus' fascination with Simone Weil's "philosophy of sadness", her exploration of pain and the search for pain, with emotion as integral to writing and intellectual growth, meshes perfectly with Lispector's hurricane of prose, with Wild Heart's Joana and her raw emotional and passionate existence at the wild heart of life. It is within the wild heart of life where one finds "the symbol of the thing in the thing itself," and where she finds herself ecstatically alone, "brutal and misshapen as a rock," in need of no one but herself. Summer reading doesn't always have to be light and easy!

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