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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Staff Picks 2014: Marcela


Each year the Librairie Drawn & Quarterly staff members post our Top 10 books of the year! I started working at ye ole' Lib. D&Q in January, and have been honoured to work with some of the greatest, kindest, smartest people I've ever met, in one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. I haven't had this much fun reading since I was ten and thought I was Matilda. So A) thanks for existing, Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, and B) let me humbly present my favourite books of 2014.


Bad Feminist (Roxane Gay)

I guess I was living under a rock before September, because I had no idea who Roxane Gay was before I read Bad Feminist. But now it is read, and I am changed. I don't always agree with her, but I will always listen. Accessible and incredible, Bad Feminist is the kind of book you’ll want all your friends to read as soon as possible so you can discuss extensively.



Sculptor's Daughter (Tove Jansson)

Tove100 has made it great to be a Moomin fan, but beyond that, it has provided different shades of Tove Jansson, who was a genius, pure and simple. Her life and work fascinates me to no end, and her memoir, which chronicles melancholic tales from her childhood, is both incredibly written and perfectly structured. I highly recommend reading these aloud; they are magical. 



Syllabus (Lynda Barry)

Syllabus ended up delivering so much more than I ever could have anticipated or hoped for; as with Lynda's whole gerd'damn life, it's an inspiration and an absolute joy. For those of you who are unaware of Barry's stylings, she teaches "a method of writing that focuses on the relationship between the hand, the brain, and spontaneous images, both written and visual." (D&Q) Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor uses the Dear Professor Old Skull's course plans from several of her classes at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery and expands upon them with her teaching insights, collages, and assignments.



This One Summer (Mariko & Jillian Tamaki)

I'm not even going to pretend to introduce you guys to this book. It was our June book club pick, it's awesome, you're buying it or you've already bought it. This One Summer is a beautiful, intelligent coming of age story focused on a preteen girl old enough to witness the angst surrounding her, but not quite old enough to be invited in. Mariko Tamaki's slow burning tension and unromantic nostalgia is perfectly matched by Jillian Tamaki's purple ink washes and character-focused illustrations. 


Everywhere Antennas (Julie Delporte)

Everywhere Antennas is Julie’s second book, and first foray into non-autobiographical. It’s the dreamy and thoughtful tale of a woman struggling to balance the demands of technology and human interaction. The anonymous narrator suffers from a severe sensitivity to antennas and electromagnetic fields, and goes on both an emotional and physical exploration to attempt to curb the affliction that’s affecting her life. It’s a beautiful and introspective story, and one that is immensely relevant to the sort of anxiety and sadness that blankets so many young creative people.



Riposte Magazine (ed: Danielle Pender)

Riposte is a relatively new magazine that I feel has made a significant impact in the publishing world. It profiles bold and fascinating women, covering a broad range of issues including: art, design, music, business, innovation, politics, food and travel. I am so happy that this magazine exists, since it has exposed me to so many incredible women in so many different fields. Also, on a bit of a nerdy note: it is designed by the incomparable Shaz Madani, whose work I adore.



Puffin In Bloom Series (Various Authors, illustrated by Anna Bond)

Anna Bond is famous in the stationery world for her company, Rifle Paper Co, so when I found out she'd be doing illustrated covers for the Puffin In Bloom series, I was over the moon. The series includes Little Women, A Little Princess, Anne of Green Gables, and Heidi, all of which I loved as a child, and all of which feature strong female protagonists. Additionally, the production value on these little books is so fantastic: I want all my books to have gold embossed titles, please.


A Work No One Told You About (Olivia Wood)

I feel like the critical and emotional response to Olivia Wood's first book of poetry (published by Metatron) speaks to the immensity of her talent and the power of her personality; it is an incredibly compelling book by an amazing young author. A haunting portrait of grief, A Work No One Told You About lulls you with its calming, lovely use of language before it hits you right in the gut and leaves you breathless.



Flowering Harbour (Seiichi Hayashi)

Breakdown Press has really been killin it this year, releasing a large number of highly praised comics that are almost all riso-printed. None affected me as deeply as Flowering Harbour, a new translation from the incredible Seiichi Hayashi (Red Colored Elegy, Gold Pollen & Other Stories). Heartbreaking yet subdued, bold yet quiet, Hayashi's work is always beautifully contradictory, and leaves you feeling a confusingly wonderful sense of gloom. 



Bleeding Edge (Thomas Pynchon)

Pynchon's ear for dialogue is unparalled, and his spiralling mysteries are almost always worth the trip. I found myself  in love with protagonist Maxine Tarnow, the unbelievably sassy, self-deprecating fraud investigator who helms this bizarre little ship of Pynchon's. With its penchant for (often non-existent) pop culture references and its ludicrous conspiracies, Bleeding Edge leaves you dizzy, in the best possible way.  

Honourable Mentions 
(with as much alliteration as my little brain was capable of)

BONUS: Literary Lovas 

Men Explain Things to Me (Rebeccca Solnit), White Girls PB (Hilton Als), Lila (Marilynne Robinson), Polyamorous Love Song (Jacob Wren)

BONUS: Kids Books I Covet

In Real Life (Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang), Julia, Child (Kyo Maclear & Julie Morstad), Grilled Cheese Magazine (ed: Julien Boisseau), Alpha (Isabelle Arsenault)

BONUS: Graphic Novels With Gusto

Showa: A History of Japan 1944-1953 (Shigeru Mizuki, trans: Zack Davisson), Earthling (Aisha Franz, trans: Helge Dascher), S! 18: Poetry (Kus Comics), Cats in Ukiyo-e (not really a graphic novel but I couldn't resist) (Utagawa Kuniyoshi)  

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And don't miss the other Top 10 lists by my well-read colleagues:
Alyssa's picks
Daphné's picks
Jason's picks
Julie's picks
Kate's picks
Kira's picks
Helen's picks
Saelan's picks

Staff Picks 2014: Kira

Say what you will about 2014 as a year overall, but there's no disputing that it was a fine one for books. I always struggle with narrowing a year's worth of favourite reads down to a mere ten titles for the year end list; although I generally love making proclamations about all manner of things, the responsibility of singling out ten books and deeming them the year's best, above all others, is quite intimidating! So rather than viewing this as an authoritative, capital-B "Best of 2014" I've simply selected ten great books published this year that I loved, and that I hope you will too. Also, I'm cheating a little and tacking on a bonus section at the end! Bear in mind that there's no implicit hierarchy intended in the order in which the books appear here. One more quick preliminary: I'd like to give a special tip of my hat to my colleague Marcela, who is responsible for making the awesome banner up top, which so aptly captures my essence. Without further ado, onto the list!

The Peripheral (William Gibson) 
It took a few chapters before I picked up on Gibson’s style, as so many of the terms used in his depiction of the high-tech, post-apocalyptic future were totally unfamiliar to me. But once I grokked the lingo, I became completely immersed in this tale of time travel, where the rich of the far future toy with the poor of the near future. The mind boggles at the scope of Gibson’s vision and imagination, and his voice is completely unique. The Peripheral is proof positive that the father of cyberpunk is as visionary now as ever.

The Woman Who Borrowed Memories (Tove Jansson) 
Full disclosure: my Tove Jansson fandom is, shall I say, significant. Let the fact that I have a sizeable Groke tattoo on my body attest to this! So it’s no surprise that two of my top ten picks this year are of Jansson origin. (See the Moomin Deluxe post below, wherein I heap praise on her Moomin comics.) Though she’s best known today as the creator of the beloved Moomin characters, she was also a formidable and prolific writer of fiction, as illustrated by this new NYRB translation of short stories. Jansson’s love of nature and her keen observations of human behaviour are always evident in her creative output. These beautifully wrought short stories are as dark as they are playful, and set against a melancholic Scandinavian backdrop I find irresistible.

Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition (Tove Jansson) 
Now that you’ve had a glimpse into the depth of my love for all-things Tove Jansson, you can imagine how excited I have been all year, anticipating the release of the D+Q omnibus edition of her complete Moomin comics. When it hit the shelves this fall, it did not disappoint! The stellar production values were no less than I expected from my talented colleagues who worked on this book: the vibrant colours of the slipcase, the sturdily bound, Moomin-embossed cover, the built-in ribbon bookmark, the insightful introductory essays, and even a special poster all contribute to this glorious celebration of Jansson’s centennial. I don’t mean to gloss over how awesome the comics themselves are with all this gushing about their spiffy new packaging - if you haven’t read them before, you’re in for a treat! But in my opinion, the shiniest gem of this collection comes at the very end of the book, where you’ll find pages of previously unpublished images and character sketches straight from Jansson’s sketchbooks. Ungh, it’s too much!!! *brain melts*

Stone Mattress (Margaret Atwood) 
Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of “tales” is fantastic, in particular the first three interconnected stories about a small group of aging poets and writers, whose romantic entanglements in 1960s Toronto continue to haunt them well into their geriatric years. It’s all the more testament to Atwood’s consummate skill that she succeeds in making this premise and these characters of -it must be said- dubious appeal, completely enthralling to read!

Ant Colony (Michael DeForge) 
DeForge has been getting no shortage of critical praise in recent years, and if you’ve read his comics, it’s easy to see why. Ant Colony, his first D+Q graphic novel is a great starting point for the uninitiated. Be warned, though; at first glance, the book might look like a psychedelic adventure about some battling ant factions, which it kind of is. But once you get into the story, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a seriously heavy tale, exploring the darkest depths of humankind’s capacity for evil. Reading it was an emotional experience, and I frequently found myself staring inwardly into an existential void for weeks after its conclusion. Fortunately, I quite like feeling that way, so it was great! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Deforge has got in the works for the future, starting with D+Q’s forthcoming First Year Healthy in the new year.

Petty Theft (Pascal Girard) 
Though I’ve just finished telling you how much I enjoy being emotionally eviscerated by a book, I can likewise appreciate a good dose of humour, and Pascal Girard’s comics always tickle my funny bone. Petty Theft is a hilarious and self-deprecating account of life post break-up. A fictionalized version of Pascal finds himself homeless, uninspired, incapacitated by back pain, and becoming an increasingly burdensome presence in his friends’ lives, as shipments of books from his ex keep piling up in their apartment, where he is overstaying his welcome. The hapless hero’s fortunes take a turn when he spots a cute girl stealing a copy of his book from a local bookstore (one you may recognize if you’ve ever visited us here at Libraire D+Q!) Does the thief also steal Pascal’s heart? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I promise, it wasn’t just because Librairie D+Q is so prominently featured that I loved this book so much!

Wendy (Walter Scott) 
It’s so great that the complete Wendy comics are now available in book form, courtesy of the folks at Koyama. Now you can laugh/cry along with Wendy, the titular heroine, an aspiring artist whose dreams of stardom are thwarted by such obstacles as heavy partying, flaky friends and fickle lovers, not to mention a consistent lack of funds. My personal experiences in the Montreal art scene are peripheral at best; like so many of my peers, I was drawn as a moth to flame by the promise of free booze and snacks on offer at student vernissages, and therefore became a shameless, serial attendee for a stint. Nonetheless, even without sharing Wendy’s proximity to the contemporary art world, I found that her misadventures therein were, at times, uncomfortably relatable. Reading Scott’s comics made me LOL, but also made my heart go out to Wendy and her real-life compatriots. Moreover, it made me pretty glad to have left my twenties behind!

The Guest Cat (Takashi Hiraide) 
This relatively short book is rich with emotional depth, exploring big topics such as love and loss without ever succumbing to treacly sentimentality. The author’s descriptions of his leafy Tokyo home do nothing to quell my lifelong desire to move to Japan: an entire room devoted to moon-viewing, and neighbourhood cats that drop by for daily visits? Yes please!

Sex Criminals Volume 1 (Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky) 
Refreshingly sex-positive and silly, this collection of the first five instalments of Sex Criminals is a pleasure to read. Protagonists Suzie and Jon share more than a mutual love of Nabokov; they also each have a special skill that allows them to literally stop time in the world around them post-orgasm. Naturally, the two hit it off and soon embark upon a latter-day Robin Hood mission which involves robbing a bank to save the library where Suzie works from foreclosure. But the mysterious sex-police are hot on their tails! There are so many great details in the drawings; the titles of the videos and various paraphernalia found in the the sex shop they frequent had me chortling away to rival Beavis and Butthead, undisputed lords of the chortle! Can’t wait for Volume 2.

The WORN Archive ( Serah-Marie McMahon) 
Compiling the best of WORN magazine’s first 14 issues, this book is perfect for a casual Sunday read over a cup of tea. There’s this pernicious idea that an interest in fashion is incompatible with serious or intellectual inclinations - a notion which WORN happily debunks. I appreciate the diverse topics explored by the contributors and editors, proving that a magazine with a sartorial and pop culture focus can be socially conscious and smart. Compared to your typical glossy fashion mag, WORN is a breath of fresh air, emphasizing that the expression of personal style is, at bottom, a fun and empowering experience that needn’t conform to any fashion industry constraints.

So that wraps up my official top ten. Diehard readers, BEHOLD THE BONUS SECTION!

Cats in Ukiyo-E (Kaneko Nobuhisa) 
It can’t be on my real list because it wasn’t published this year, even though it’s new to the store. Nonetheless, I’ve just got to give a shout out to Cats in Ukiyo-e. What’s not to love about a book devoted entirely to antique Japanese woodblock prints featuring cats?

Who Did It? (Ohara Hale) 
Local author Ohara Hale has created a delightful boxed set of little picture books about bodily functions, aimed at teaching kids good manners. It’s chock-full of really funny drawings of farting animals. Need I say more?

Megahex (Simon Hanselmann) 
Megahex would have been in my top 10, had it not become temporarily out of print and therefore unavailable for the time being. This collection of comics about a perpetually stoned witch, her cat boyfriend, their owl roommate and a party-crashing crew of werewolves and wizards walks the fine line between the utterly bleak and hilarious. Their misadventures in sex, drugs, and casual cruelty may hit a wee bit too close to home if you’ve ever had to cohabitate with low-lifes, or happen to have misspent your youth!

Thanks for bearing with me through my extra-long list, everyone. Happy reading into 2015 and beyond!

If you want to check out the other staff lists:
Alyssa's Top 10 of 2014
Daphné's Top 10 of 2014
Helen's Top 10 of 2014 
Jason's Top 10 of 2014
Julie's Top 10 of 2014
Kate's Top 10 of 2014
Marcela's Top 10 of 2014
Saelan's Top 10 of 2014

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Recap: Aisha Franz Launches Earthling!


On Thursday, November 6th, Drawn & Quarterly, the Goethe Institut, and Librairie Drawn & Quarterly had an amazing time welcoming Aisha Franz to Montreal on her North American tour!


A bit about the book: Earthling captures a brief moment in the lives of three women – two sisters and their lonely mother. Aisha Franz’s grey pencil renders perfectly the greyness of the trio’s suburban existence. It's incredibly novelistic, and Tom Devlin (Creative Director at Drawn & Quarterly) is right to call her one of the most amazing new cartoonists working today.


Store manager Jason introduced Tom, and took the opportunity to thank the Goethe Institut, which so generously helped bring Aisha on her North American tour.


Tom Devlin, captured here at his most zen, introduced Aisha, whom he met at Angouleme. Angouleme, for those unfamiliar, is an international graphic novel festival which has, in addition to mainstream features, a special tent where they put all the "cool zine kids" and special publishers. A few years later, he met her again in Helsinki, where he approached her about a longer work she was working on. That book was Alien (in German), which became Earthling in English. 


And with that fabulous introduction, Aisha made her way onto the stage. She said she was so excited to be here in “the city of [her] dreams, Montreal.” She mentioned a period of her life where she thought she had to move here, then forgot about it, and somehow ended up here anyway, though only for a day.


Aisha's presentation was incredibly unique, in that she showed us sequences of the book set to music we later found out she had composed herself in Garage Band (!). It made the whole thing seem like an in-depth book trailer.


As with the book itself, the presentation was beautifully atmospheric.


After taking us through Earthling, Aisha offered up small presentations on her other comics as well as a look into her process. The above image was an excerpt from a short story/mini comic (very recent) based on a comic made for the Pitchfork Review.


Afterwards there was a Q&A with Aisha, who provided wonderful insights into her methods, Particularly interesting to me was the fact that Earthling was actually a grad project, completed during one year. She also showed a sneak peak of her new book,which is a fictional account of real-life events and experiences.

Thanks again to Aisha Franz, to everyone who came out to the event, to the Goethe Institut for their support, and to everyone from D&Q for publishing such fantastic graphic novelists.

Elements of Wit and A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy Montreal Book Launch

On Saturday, November 29, join Sarah Lazarovic and Benjamin Errett for the launch of their respective books, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy and Elements of Wit!


Sarah will begin with a workshop from 5-7 p.m. for which she will do free covet paintings. What does that mean? Tell her about a thing you covet, she will paint it, and you will take home the painting instead of the thing you wanted to spend money on! After the workshop, the authors will talk about their books with Montreal author Mireille Silcoff. There will be books for sale and signing!


A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy is a witty, gracious, and charmingly illustrated anti-consumer manifesto.

Like most people, Sarah Lazarovic covets beautiful things. But rather than giving in to her impulse to spend and acquire, Sarah spent a year painting the objects she wanted to buy instead.

Based on a visual essay that was first published on The Hairpin, A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy is a beautiful and witty take on the growing “slow shopping” movement. Sarah is a well-known blogger and illustrator, and she writes brilliantly without preaching or guilt-tripping. Whether she’s trying to justify the purchase of yet another particleboard IKEA home furnishing, debating the pros and cons of leg warmers or calculating the per-day usage cost of big-ticket items, Sarah’s poignant musings will resonate with any reader who’s ever been susceptible to an impulse buy.

Sarah Lazarovic is an artist and freelance journalist. She contributes to a handful of publications, and keeps you informed of these contributions at SarahL.com















Got wit?

We’ve all been in that situation where we need to say something clever, but innocuous; smart enough to show some intelligence, without showing off; something funny, but not a joke. What we need in that moment is wit—that sparkling combination of charm, humor, confidence, and most of all, the right words at the right time.

Elements of Wit is an engaging book that brings together the greatest wits of our time, and previous ones from Oscar Wilde to Nora Ephron, Winston Churchill to Christopher Hitchens, Mae West to Louis CK, and many in between.

With chapters covering the essential ingredients of wit, this primer sheds light on how anyone—introverts, extroverts, wallflowers, and bon vivants—can find the right zinger, quip, parry, or retort…or at least be a little bit more interesting.

Benjamin Errett is Director of Strategy at National Post, where he occasionally writes columns about people who are witty. You can find more Ben at elementsofwit.com











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Friday, 28 November 2014

Tonight! Book launch: Beginning with the Mirror by Peter Dubé

Join us tonight at 7 p.m. to celebrate the launch of Montreal author Peter Dubé's new book, Beginning with the Mirror. There will be a reading, books for sale and signing, and refreshments! The evening will be hosted by fellow Montreal author Christopher DiRaddo.



Jean Genet stated: "Anyone who knows a strange fact shares in its singularity." A few strange facts within this book, the latest collection by Shirley Jackson award finalist, Peter Dubé, are: the heat within a boy or a man can be muscular, be with purpose, be all consuming; mobs become consuming entities, shifting and hungry and with no humane intention despite being once composed of humanity; poets and actresses and students are words and words have power and resonance and walk on two legs and sometimes soar but more often haunt; and we can never forget that memories batter and wound, their shape defined like a blade or reflective like a silver-backed mirror. Dubé's short stories are eerie and fantastical and chip away at the known world until there are wide cracks that reveal many a strange fact to all of us at once.


PETER DUBÉ has published eleven books including the novels Hovering World and The City’s Gates, the short fiction collection At the Bottom of the Sky, the novella Subtle Bodies, which was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award, and Conjure: a Book of Spells, a collection of prose poems that was shortlisted for the A. M. Klein Prize. His new short fiction collection is called Beginning with the Mirror (Lethe Press). 

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