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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Staff Picks 2012: Helen

Over the coming days, we will be unveiling Librairie D+Q's staff picks for 2012. Here's Helen's top 10!

Wandering Son, Volume 3 
by Shimura Takako 

The third installment in the understated, beautifully drawn Wandering Son series. Shimura Takako treats her two young, trans* protagonists (or an approximation of "trans*", in the context of Japanese gender politics and identities) with gentleness, but does not fall into the trap of painting an overly rosy picture of their experience. They slowly come out to friends, classmates, siblings and parents, and are met with varying degrees of acceptance and rejection, while simultaneously navigating the general difficulties and anxieties of tween-hood. I'm greatly anticipating the next installation in the series!


By This Shall You Know Him 
by Jesse Jacobs 

The story of how the world came to be, which has oft been told, but is here conveyed in an entirely singular and mindbogglingly weird way that appeals to all of my bizarro comic desires. Doesn't hurt that each page is like Escher on truckloads of acid, either. 


Nonnonba
 by Shigeru Mizuki 

A strange and beautiful addition to our growing collection of translated gekiga. Couldn't help but fall in love with the boyhood world of Shigeru Mizuki, in which the mundane and the magical are always entwined. Nonnonba, the young boy's grandmother figure, sparks his lifelong fascination with yokai, the assorted Japanese spirits who take on frightening/hilarious roles in regular folks' lives like it ain't no thang.


Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama 
by Alison Bechdel

I loved both of Bechdel's previous publications, Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home, immediately and without reservation, and so when I wasn't initially as seduced by Are You My Mother?, I felt kind of sad. However, now that a few months have passed and I reconsider, I'm realizing that Are You My Mother? is really just a much more challenging book, one that has taken more time to appreciate. Richly layered, both narratively and visually, it conveys the intensity of the relationship between "adult children and their gifted mothers," alongside reflections on artistic creation, serial monogamy, therapist relationships, and the history of psychoanalysis.


Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscence from the Road 
Ed. Michelle Tea 

A truly awesome collection of pieces from some of the many writers/artists/performers of the venerable-yet-still-scrappy queer performance tour, Sister Spit! I loved making my way through this assemblage of reflections, ramblings and revelations. Vestiges of that sweaty, van-sharing, stage-rocking, queer family-feeling radiates from these pages, including me in the stresses and joys of those many tours, though I've never yet made it to any of their shows. Includes work by Eileen Myles, Michelle Tea, Ali Liebegott, Elisha Lim, MariNaomi, Christy C. Road, and many more!

Snowflake and Different Streets 
by Eileen Myles

Just some really good new poems by one of my most-admired writers. The beauty of the simplest language, and all that. The highway is liquid. The shape of the pencil is everything. The car is a camera. I haven't figured out how to write about poetry yet, but - read this. Two volumes in one - flip Snowflake over, and you get different streets

Leaving the Atocha Station  
by Ben Lerner 

Much has already been said, and said again, about the genius of Leaving the Atocha Station. Suffice it to say that, as a reader, I don't often find myself empathizing heavily with neurotic, self-absorbed, male poet types, but somehow, Lerner's Adam, with his endless agonizing over his social and artistic "fraudulence", the seemingly uncontrollable lies he tells to manipulate social situations, and his confused American-ex-pat experience of the Spanish language, Spanish poetry, and a particular political event, totally got me.

Near to the Wild Heart 
 by Clarice Lispector (trans. by Allison Entrekin)

Reading this was a challenge in many senses. Lispector's prose is brilliant and virtuosic and therefore daunting at times, but in a good way. I couldn't always find kinship in the complex and often contradictory inner life of Lispector's Joana, but when the kinship was there, it felt immense. Certain sections were so exhilarating that it was hard to remember to breathe as I moved through them. The enigma remains, but the flashes of understanding I was offered were worth my doubts.

Sátántangó  
by László Krasznahorkai (trans. by Georges Szirtes) 

I'm a bit of a masochist when it comes to "entertainment" sometimes. This includes movie-watching and leisure-reading. Earlier this year, I was entranced by Béla Tarr's darkly apocalyptic and incredibly muddy, bleak and slow-moving film, The Turin Horse. So when I clocked this gorgeous newly-translated edition of Sátántangó, on which one of Tarr's most famous films is based, I knew what dark times I was in for - and I COULD NOT WAIT. Seriously. Susan Sontag called him "the Hungarian master of the apocalypse" and I am not one to argue. His sentences unfurl for days, his characters drag themselves from despair to wild hope, and back again, and the rain never ceases to soak every board, shoe, and field. I loved every minute. (It doesn't hurt that this edition is a work of art in itself. Come hold it for yourselves!)

The Innocence of Objects  
by Orhan Pamuk 

This gorgeous book has the Turkish novelist sharing his Museum of Innocence with us, through extensive photography and accompanying narration that follow his efforts to tell the story of people through their daily bric-a-brac. His is the anti-establishment museum, the museum that "reveal[s] the humanity of individuals," rather than celebrating nations and generalized histories. The central figure here is the fictional character of Kemal Bey, from Pamuk's earlier novel, The Museum of Innocence; but Pamuk is also a central character, as is Istanbul itself. Pamuk has been collecting the endless ephemera (timepieces, toy trains, trinkets, figurines, thousands of photographs...) of Istanbul for decades and assembling them in an assortment of frames and glass cases in a modest house. The result is haunting, sad, and beautiful.

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