D+Q Office Reads!

People are always asking, whenever the conversation turns to work, at school or at the gym or liquor store, "hey, what the heck is the D+Q office reading right now". This has been such a constant query that it has now necessitated a blog. That's how things like this work, people: ask a question, get a blog!

How To Be Both by Ali Smith (Pantheon)

The book consists of two completely different but ultimately connected stories that can be read in either order-in fact, half the editions were printed with one story first; the other half with the other. I didn't know that when I purchased How To Be Both, and didn't compare it with the others on the table, but think that duality is fascinating--which would I have chosen had I known? The copy I do have begins with the story of a teenaged girl trying to make sense of her mother's sudden death that's also an exploration of how times passes-memories play out at the same time as present-day events, and as vividly. Now I've finished this half, and really enjoyed it. It's impossible to know how my reading experience would have differed if the stories in my edition were reversed, but I'll be thinking about that as I begin the next story, which I know is about an Italian Renaissance painter.

Alexandra Auger, marketing assistant

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O'Neill (HarperCollins)
The Diary of A Teenage Girl  by Phoebe Gloeckner (North Atlantic Books)

While on vacation this summer I read Heather O’Neill’s THE GIRL WHO WAS SATURDAY NIGHT for my bookclub of local Moms from the Plateau. I ADORED THIS BOOK. It’s funnier and not as heartbreakingly bleak as LULLABIES FOR LITTLE CRIMINALS. It paints an incredible portrait of Montreal in the 80s, about the friendship between fraternal twins who are the former child star offspring of a fallen Quebecois pop star. Blvd St Laurent comes to life and O'Neill weaves in the Quebec referendum. I could not put the book down and thought about the story for a days after and swore to myself I would watch more french tv. When I returned from vacation I reread DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL to prepare for my September bookclub and to prepare for the movie starring Kristen Wiig. (!!!) Rereading this book as a 40-something Mom of a ten-year-old is definitely a different experience then being in my 20s when memories of being a teenager were more acute, but reading it right after Heather, there are similarities of how both tell the story of children having to mother/parent themselves and the voices Heather and Phoebe write in as teenage girls rings incredibly true. Also, I like how both of them use the cities and neighbourhoods they grew up in and are now writing about, Montreal’s Plateau and San Francisco’s Mission as starring characters full of flaws and charisma as the actual characters themselves.

Peggy Burns, publisher

The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray (Hamish Hamilton)
Fante Bukowski by Noah Van Sciver (Fantagraphics)
That Amazon Article (New York Times)

I read and enjoyed Murray’s last novel Skippy Dies a couple of years ago. Did the Leanne Shapton cover draw me in last time? Probably. Did the fake Leanne Shapton cover draw me in this time? Sure. I’m only part way in to what seems to be a comic (as in funny, not drawings) thriller about international banking. Murray has great comic timing and can turn a phrase as well as anyone; It’s a smooth read. I spend all day reading for work so this seems to be the perfect Summer into Fall book for me. I know this is all so vague; I’m only 40 pages in!

Noah Van Sciver caught me off-guard with his last book Saint Cole. It read a like a good seventies short story—a dirtbag character half-heartedly tries to get out of his alcoholic rut but only makes things worse. And worse. It was the first thing by Van Sciver that connected for me—it read like he had arrived—so I eagerly grabbed his new one, Fante Bukowski. This one is about a crappy writer and his fumbling ambition. Told in short funny chapters, Van Sciver deadpans his lunkhead through a series of embarassing encounters with other writers, celebrity book agents, and friends from his old life. It’s a funny short read and perfectly captures the kind of blind drive and self delusion that any artist probably needs to accomplish anything.

And I suppose we’ve all read this and if you haven’t then you need to right now. It is shocking and completely unsurprising at the same time. Giant steamroller of a company pushes its employees to the limits of mental exhaustion. Fascinating read. Still catching up on all the followups.

Tom Devlin, executive editor

The Comedians by Kliph Nesteroff (Grove Atlantic)
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux) 

No joke, I was beyond excited to get an advance copy of human comedy history database Kliph Nesteroff's The Comedians and I'm taking my time with it. Any comedy fan worth their salt knows about Kliph and if you don't, you should familiarize yourself. You can start with his WFMU Beware of the Blog entries or his Marc Maron WTF appearance  Anyway, the book is even more of a terrific read as I anticipated - so many dark and dirty stories that lurked behind those stage smiles! Mudslinging, backstabbing, frontstabbing - it's all here. And, oh man, make you attend our launch event with Kliph on November 13th where he'll be interviewed by one of my favourite comedians, David Heti!

A promise of stories comparable to such greats as Lorrie Moore and Raymond Carver lured me in and -full disclosure- I'm only in one story deep so far ...but what a story! A lonely lady in a dirty New Mexico laundromat with an ailing Jicarilla Apache? I don't see abandoning this collection anytime soon.

-Jason Grimmer, marketing director Librairie D+Q

Wittgenstein's Mistress by David Markson (Dalkey Archive Press)

 I've been reading this experimental novel by David Markson about a woman named Kate who believes herself to be the last living being on Earth. She narrates her day-to-day existence from the first person as she roams different, empty cities and landscapes. It is, to say the least, deeply lonely, but also incredibly witty and full of vibrant cultural and literary references. It also deals beautifully with memory and language; Kate often articulates her inability to express herself through the very writing she is doing—as she is doing it—in a way that is deeply relatable.

- Marcela Huerta, production assistant

Purity by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

One of the perks of having a bookstore is that sometimes advance copies of books roll through the door and then Jason says, "Hey! You wanna read this?" And then you get to read it before anyone else and you feel a little special. This happened with Jonathan Franzen's latest—Purity—due out next week.  I'm a sucker for Franzen. His stories are so well balanced—engrossing and easy to digest, yet there's enough going on to keep my little brain pretty busy. Anyway, while previous Fanzen novels—The Corrections and Freedom—felt very broad and somewhat normative in their depiction of the contemporary American middle-class existence, Purity reads more like a knock 'em sock 'em thriller (okay, I normally read pretty low key comics about old men walking around outside). I'm about a third of the way through so it's hard to say how this will all come together, but boy are their a ton of balls in the air and I'm very curious to see how Franzen catches them all. Ploughing forward at a pretty fast pace, Franzen's tossed together a truck load of male privilege, several crushing female stereotypes, and some fun little current events type topics (read: Occupy and Wikileaks and maybe cults). It's ambitious, guys, but I trust Franzen. Now someone please pull the go-home bell at this mill so I can crawl back into this book!

-Tracy Hurren, managing editor

The Oaf by Nick Maandag (Pigeon Press)

Nick Maandag’s The Oaf is about a man who is at odds with his slobby lowlife roommate who consistently pushes the barrier of what can be considered tolerable: wiping his boogers on the couch, scamming the government for unemployment, knowingly letting the toilet overflow, and the list goes on. Unable to let himself sink to the same level due to his higher “ethics,” the unemployed protagonist attempts to find work only to be thwarted once more by his dirty roommate. I won’t give away how this happens, but trust me, like all of Maandag’s comics, it is absurdly hilarious.

-Marie-Jade Menni, production assistant

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Europa Editions)

With all of the buzz over the fourth of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels coming out this fall, I thought it was high time I read the first one like my mother's been telling me to. I am loving it. Ferrante drops you into the small world of a neighborhood in Naples with a straightforward style, charting a young girl's growing understanding of herself and the community without belaboring each point. While an enormous cast of townspeople weave in and out of the story on their own trajectories, they seemingly exist only in service to what is unabashedly the main focus of the novel and in fact the narrator's young life, her friend Lila. In this way the story of their friendship feels a bit like the neighborhood she portrays - an intimate, insular world surrounded by a larger one.  I have cancelled all other obligations until I am caught up.

Alison Naturale, print manager

Miseryland by Keiler Roberts (CreateSpace)

I've been reading Keiler Roberts's comics online for the past few years. Everytime she posts a new one, I find myself laughing aloud, then nudging my boyfriend and making him read it, too. I picked Miseryland up the moment I saw it, tore through it, and I've been keeping it on my living room table ever since. Whenever I feel like a little pick me up, I flip through it and laff and laff. The premise is simple: basically, it's "Shit my kid says", but it's much much funnier than it has any right to be, laced through with social anxiety and unexpected plotlines. The pacing is perfect and the punchlines (many of them "written" by Keiler's daughter Xia) are killer. The look of these black and white strips has some affinities with Gabrielle Bell and Rutu Modan, but the content is all Roberts' own. One of my favourites has as its punchline, "Hello Kitty. Pink and purple." A+.

-Julia Pohl-Miranda, marketing director

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