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Friday, 25 September 2015

D+Q Office Reads!, Part 2: Allô Audrey!

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! Here's our second installment...


The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek (Serpent's Tail)
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau)
Bluets by Maggie Nelson (Wave Books)
Soft by Jane Mai (Peow! Studio)
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf Press)

As you can see, a bunch of books blew up all over me this month. Very sensual. I don't think this monthly post is supposed to be about a million books you read, though, so I'll keep it simple (stupid) and only elaborate on one. But first! A summary! The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek is one of those bombastic books that deals with sexuality in a bold, exciting way that I rarely see (Wetlands by Charlotte Roche is another example). Between the World and Me is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Bluets is an intimate, honest book that defies classification. Soft by Jane Mai is a lovely comic whose visual style contrasted so starkly with its content that I was forced to re-examine my “cuteness prejudice.”

I wanted to talk about Citizen, though, because this is a book I’m a little late to the party on, and it is such a compelling and important book that I now want everyone I know to read it. A volume of poetry that also employs prose, images, and essays, Citizen left me, at times, breathless with its turns of phrases. I think it can often be difficult to express the huge way that micro-aggressions oppress people of colour, which is why the form Citizen takes—using the second person consistently—makes it especially powerful. I was haunted by the familiar feeling of having the way someone sees me made suddenly clear by one or two sentences, sometimes one or two words, and the way you are encouraged to just “let it go.” It’s a painful book to read, but a beautiful, raw, and memorable one as well.

- Marcela Huerta, Production Assistant




The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions)

So much ink has been spilled on Elena Ferrante's prose-writing gifts that I feel a little embarrassed trying to contribute. I'll offer my thoughts, but for a truly in-depth analysis, check out this Vanity Fair interview (part 1 and part 2) or this Time review, which does a good job of encapsulating the series and why you'll instantaneously fall in love with the series. I picked up the first book way back in June, started reading it and realized I would need the second (and third) book very very soon. I read the second book while on a work trip and couldn't stop thinking about the characters - what they were doing, whose hearts were being broken, whether their dreams would come true. Reading the final book in the series, I've found myself resisting the temptation to speed through this. I know there won't be any more anecdotes from the lives of Elena and Lila after this, so I have an unusual desire (well, unusual for me) to make the book last, to savour every page and every piece of the story as it fits together. Since I've basically just discussed how obsessed I am with this series and not really why or what happens in the books, let me add that Ferrante's is some of the richest and most enjoyable prose I can remember reading. The story of Elena and Lila's friendship (and how it pulls in feminism, politics, love, envy, and everything else that matters in life) has captivated me for the entire summer, and now well into the fall.

-Julia Pohl-Miranda, Marketing Director




The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (Back Bay Books)

I just finished The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. This book came highly recommended from local comedian Tracy Hurren, and I really loved it, reading the second half pretty much in one sitting. Since 1) I spent my entire childhood reading exclusively sports novels and 2) I realized I have forgotten how to throw a baseball myself this summer, I am basically the target audience for this book. I’m a sucker for anything that is about the game but not really in any way at all, and this book does this in some surprising ways. The book tells the story of Henry, a baseball superstar, by bringing us closer to the cast of characters who orbit around him, whose stories mirror and contradict his own. I was impressed by the way Harbach manages both to keep the character of Henry at a distance -- like the living legend he is at Westish college -- and at the same time, by the end, make his story crushingly relateable. I am saying that because I definitely used to be very, very good at baseball. If only you'd known me then!

- Alison Naturale,
Print Manager



Here by Richard McGuire (Pantheon)

I have a favourite chair in my living room. It's in the corner directly across from my book and record shelves. Before my family moved in however, my friends, Peggy and Tom lived there and in that spot was their piano. When I'm not sitting in my chair, reading, listening to records (perhaps even a Liquid Liquid record, a band McGuire played bass for), one of daughter's two cats sits there, getting fur all over it so I have to remember to not wear black slacks when it's my turn. Before my family and Tom and Peggy's  there was a single, chain-smoking cat-fancying man living here, maybe sitting in the same spot, smoking up a storm. But before that, who knows? And after us? 

Expanded from work that appeared in Spiegelman & Mouly's Raw just over a quarter-century ago, McGuire's Here is about our roles as place-holders in permanent spaces. It's the story of a room - or rather a location that eventually becomes a room (in 1907 we see it being built in the very spot a dinosaur stood by in 80,000,000 BCE) told through panels within a panel, events and incidences happen in the same area, and we leap back and forth from B.C. to an imagined future. Panels illustrating an incident in 1998 are placed over the space as it appeared in 1775. A bestseller at Librairie D+Q since its release late last year (what stood where our beloved bookstore stands now?), Here proves difficult to describe but not to recommend and it got me thinking more about what was where before I was there. You know, like when you reluctantly climb into a motel bed trying to keep yourself from thinking about what went on in it the night before.

Jason Grimmer, Marketing Director, D+Q bookstore


                             
                         

The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames (Scribner)

Look guys: in the past year I've spiralled down (up?) deep into the Montreal Improv Scene, which involves a lot of silly walking, soul searching, and crushing personal revelations, but also a lot of hanging out with my comedy buddies (they're the best!) and talking about TV shows. I was getting a lot of flack for having never watched Bored to Death so I finally watched it and boy do I feel dumb for waiting so long. The show was basically tailor made for me—publishing, comics, socially awkward pot heads, and comedy. I just loved it. So when that same comedy-pusher friend suggested I read Jonathan Ames's The Extra Man, I was pretty delighted. I didn't know anything about the book (and I guess I still don't know it all—I'm about halfway in) but it's more fun than I could have hoped for. Having just watched all of Bored to Death in like three days (created by Jonathan Ames, staring Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ames), it's pretty hard not to read the book without being in that same frame of mind, hearing the lines delivered in Jason Schwartzman's voice. A sexually confused Jason Schwartzman trying to find himself in the Big Apple and become a real old fashioned gentlemen, with his older broke/shabby gentleman roommate/host as a guide to upperclass New York is pretty enjoyable. It's all very silly and you can't really trust either of the main characters—the older gentleman roommate Henry or the younger finding-himself narrator Louis—yet I'm charmed by/adore both, their ridiculousness making them all the more loveable. Anyway, okay. That's it.

- Tracy Hurren, Managing Editor




                

Aliens & Anorexia by Chris Kraus (Semiotext(e) / Native Agents)
Patti et les fourmis by Anouk Ricard (Gallimard)


I was introduced to the works of Chris Kraus back when I was working at the D&Q bookstore. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first; I found the incessant gushing about her genius a bit intense. But after reading I Love Dick, I felt like I had just gotten my ass kicked. There's something very different about Kraus' writing: it's intellectual but it's not annoying, it's a little insane at times, and it's incredibly insightful. It's almost as if someone got into my brain and articulated things that I wasn't fully conscious were there. I've since read Summer of Hate and am now reading Aliens & Anorexia, which is part autobiography, theory, criticism, and fiction. Like everything I’ve read by Kraus, it is so jammed packed with original ideas that it is impossible to not come out of reading her works with some sort of new insight about the human condition.

Patti et les fourmis is basically Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, just funnier and without the silly romantic subplot or unrealistic ending (as if they made it home unscathed, pfff). Oh, and a very funny recurrent male anatomy joke! After deciding that she's had enough with the world of grownups, Patti goes online and signs up to a website which promises to help. Little does she know that the service is quite literal: she is physically shrunk to the size of bug. With the help of some blasé ants and a jokester stick insect, Patti attempts to go back to her normal life, only to be thrown into a large anthill run by a tyrannical leader. Adventure and hilarity ensues.

And who's that little rascal peeping out of the book? That my five-year-old niece who made me a bookmark of herself, which I absolutely love. It was actually holding my spot in the Chris Kraus book, but I figured Patti was more her speed, especially since she is a mega fan of anything related to books or bugs. (Allô Audrey!)

- Marie-Jade Menni, Production Assistant



If You Steal by Jason (Fantagraphics)
Weaver Festival Phenomenon by Ron Rége, Jr. (self published)

I think we can all agree that life in an unending slog until the soft release of death takes us. That has nothing to do with these comics though. It’s just that I was at the dentist and had a bit of time to think. But concerning comics, and concerning perfect comics, comics made by a master, a practitioner so skilled that he makes it look easy, Jason (you know, Jason Jason that Norwegian fellow) has a new book of short stories that manages to be funny and compelling and at times downright sad. Each story seems more like a riff or a what-if than a full-blown story except for Jason always manages to pay just enough attention to the side-players and their lives or motivations that this kind of magical thing happens and a story like the book-titled “If you steal” with it’s minimal dialogue and choppy chronology becomes a haunting story of bad decisions and an unraveled mind in the wake of those decisions. Jason is so steady and so consistent that he can almost be taken for granted but like another great minimalist, Gilbert Hernandez, when you take the time he never disappoints.
Ron Rege Jr has been talking about adapting this Banana Yoshimoto short story for so long that we initially talked about doing it for Highwater Books. I couldn’t be more excited to see this finally happen. Ron is a rare talent and is often way ahead of the rest of us in his ideals or approaches to our favorite art form. This 64-page comic (two minis so far, one to come) is about a woman trying to move forward with her life after the death of her lover. The initial story is written in that magical matter-of-fact approach that Yoshimoto is known for and Ron’s tight, thin-lines and jagged dashes imbues everything with a very very personal aura. The pain is palpable on each. How do we go on? Why do we even bother?

- Tom Devlin, Executive Editor



Adult Contemporary by Bendik Kaltenborn (Drawn & Quarterly)

I've recently started Bendik Kaltenborn's Adult Contemporary, which we just received in the office and which will be in stores next month. I've been curious about this one since production work began so long ago--it had this great bright cover and the original title is Liker Stilen, which is very fun to say. I have said it aloud many times in the past months for no reason at all. This Drawn & Quarterly edition is beautiful-wait 'til you see the flaps on this book!-and feels good to hold, like the fine collection of comics it is. Within the first few stories there's spaghetti at a crime scene, sound effects, spontaneous dance numbers, lame dads, a lot of butts, and a terrified and terrifying hairless cat that is maybe the craziest-looking thing I've seen so far in this book, but then I'm only about fifteen pages in. My favourite parts so far are the wordless, dramatic single-image spreads. Kaltenborn's characters live in elastic, brightly-coloured worlds that follow no logic but their own-I'm looking forward to reinterpreting them as I re-read Adult Contemporary over and over, which I plan to. I will definitely leave this book someplace my guests will flip through it when they're at my house.

- Alexandra Auger, Marketing Assistant



Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books)

Woo boy, so last month I read Diary of A Teenage Girl which, as the mother of a 10-year-old girl, scared the hell out of me. And this month I chose to read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, a story about how marriage changes people, how a couple changes through the course of their relationship, how to support one another, how to work together, being broke and trying to make it in NYC, secrets and lies. And most of all, how every relationship has two perspectives. There is no right or wrong. For those of you who don’t know, D+Q Executive Editor Tom Devlin is my husband of 14 years so a story of spouses who work together and each feel like they are being taken for granted hits a bit close home! (Too much information? You must not be married!) I knew nothing about this book except that the store received an ARC that I picked up so I did not know that Groff uses the device of splitting the book into two parts-hence Fates and Furies-and midway through I would be able to read the narrative from the wife’s perspective. I don’t mean for my “what I am reading” entry to be so “heavy”–there’s plenty about this book that is pure dramatic delight that draws you in and makes you want to read it until you are finished, (I'm always a sucker for boarding school drama!) and there are plenty of things that I thankfully don’t relate to such as trust funds, witchy moms, Vassar, and a few spoilers I won’t mention! This book is as complex and layered as any relationship, in the best way possible.

 -Peggy Burns, Publisher

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