Staff Picks 2012: Chantale

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story
by D.T. Max
Chronicling the life of David Foster Wallace from his childhood until his death, D.T. Max creates a vivid, moving portrait of the author. We all know about the end of his life with his suicide, but it was fascinating to read about Wallace's general insecurities and his overstated ego. For me, what makes a great biography is the depiction of a real person, not the Genius we have been taught to identify. I love it when a great male figure is brought back down to the rest of us. That being said, the characterization of Wallace in the book made me appreciate his writing even more.

by Kate Zambreno
Writing on the plight of the modernist woman (those from the early twentieth century), Kate Zambreno delves into the lives of the wives and daughters of the GREAT MEN: Zelda Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Jane Bowles, Lucia Joyce, etc. These are the women that are consistently forgotten in history or thought of only under the shadow of their male counterparts. The book jumps back and forth from woman to woman, making connections between their lives and fates. These women have been written about historically as hazardous to the men in their lives, while Zambreno refocuses the narrative towards how destructive the societal conditions were, in fact, for the women themselves.

The Address Book
by Sophie Calle

In the early 1980s, artist Sophie Calle found an address book on the streets of Paris. Who did this address book belong to? What did he do? What was he like? What were the relationships between the people collected inside the address book and the owner of the book? Contacting people itemized in the address book, Calle began an art project by writing short pieces based on her discoveries of the owner. They were published (almost) daily in the newspaper Libération. The collected writings from the project have just recently been translated into English and re-published as a small, red hardcover book - one that, I'm going to imagine, looks like the original address book.

Leaving the Atocha Station
 by Ben Lerner

I'm not alone in thinking this book is dynamite. Already on many best-of lists, it will likely be a recurring item in STAFF PICKS 2012. I was sucked into how this book approached languages and the practice of translation. A poet travels to Spain, steadily learning Spanish. However, he remains in a gap of communication between his native tongue and his newly-acquired language. In Spain, speaking Spanish, the main character shifts himself into someone else. I loved how Lerner accentuated the subtleties of language.

Swimming Studies
 by Leanne Shapton

Swimming Studies is a book of fragmented memories and thoughts on swimming by illustrator Leanne Shapton (you may remember her gorgeous D+Q book, The Native Trees of Canada, from last year). I'm no swimmer, nor have I ever been, but the episodes and moments described by Shapton of her years as a young competitive swimmer were somehow relatable. Shapton uses such precise and thoughtful language that found myself increasingly drawn in, thinking about habits, traditions, competition, and passions in a broader sense. To add a visual element, Shapton included beautiful scenic illustrations and photographs of her many bathing suits in the book.

Moominvalley Turns Jungle and Moomin's Winter Follies
by Tove Jansson 

Moomin! In colour! I think I have said all that needs to be said.
But I'll elaborate. Moominvalley Turns Jungle and Moomin's Winter Follies are such delightful snippets of Tove Jansson's Moomin oeuvre. Two short comic stories in bright, appropriate colour, they send the reader into a deep, marshmellowy wonderland. And isn't Winter Follies perfect for the coming season? I suggest Moominvalley Turns Jungle for your next safari expedition.

Maya Makes a Mess
by Rutu Modan

Imagine: You are sitting at the dinner table, eating spaghetti and meatballs, making a mess (because how else do you eat spaghetti and meatballs?), WHEN SUDDENLY, you receive an invitation to have dinner with the royal family. How would you behave eating dinner under such royal circumstances? For Maya, she joins the King and Queen for dinner and sees no other option other than to break every single etiquette rule possible. She makes a slurpy, splattery mess all while sitting amongst the most proper of the proper. Drawn and written by Rutu Modan and published by Toon Books, this book is pretty much my favourite thing ever. Maya should be the ambassador for breaking every elaborate, complicated, and stuffy dinner decorum.

The Wayside
by Julie Morstad

Vancouver-based artist Julie Morstad, author of MANY children's books in shop, has a really charming touch to her precise drawings. Delicate lines, deep colours, and slightly-surrealist imagery, The Wayside is an art book with mostly pen and ink drawings and some collage. Think Edward Gorey meets Henry Darger meets Marcel Dzama but through the perspective of an attentive and fresh female artist.
The Voyeurs
by Gabrielle Bell

Art Spiegelman loves it. Chris Ware loves it. As does Alison Bechdel and Françoise Mouly. The most important people in comics can't be wrong, CAN THEY? The Voyeurs is told as a real-time memoir by Bell, and it is warm, unsettling, relatable, funny, and dark. In short: fantastic. 

 The Femicide Machine
by Sergio González Rodríguez

The Femicide Machine is a theoretical argument for why Ciudad Juárez, Mexico has become so dangerous and hyper-violent in the past several years. Between 1993 and 2007, Rodríguez reported that 427 girls and women were killed in Ciudad Juárez. Sharing a border with El Paso, Texas, Rodríguez identifies Ciudad Juárez as America's "backyard". And it is this submissive and dangerous relationship with the U.S. that Rodríguez points to as the roots for the femicides in the border town. Does this book make you feel helpless? Yes. Does this book make you want to crawl into the fetal position and never come out? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.

Honorable Mentions:

Summer of Hate by Chris Kraus ;The Making Of by Brecht Evens; Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson; and Féminismes Électriques edited by Leila Pourtavaf.

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