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Friday, 30 October 2015

D+Q Office Reads: The Office Blames Jason For Their Colds

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 third installment...

Can I Come Too? by Tara Castellano (self-published)
Chicken Nugget Comics #2 by Erik Rogers (self-published)
Art Comic vol. 1 by Matthew Thurber (Swimmers Group)
Art Comic vol. 2 by Matthew Thurber (Swimmers Group)

Have you guys seen that new movie Constipation? No? That's cause it hasn't come out yet! Ba-dum-tshh. While not written by her, Tara Castellano has been working that joke like you wouldn’t believe. She's also one of my best buds (and the weirdo peering behind me in the above photo), so not a big surprise that I'm a fan of her art. She just made a zine titled Can I Come Too?–and yes, if you caught that, it is indeed a Simpsons reference. If crass humor isn't your thing, then this zine is probably not for you. If on the other hand you do have a sense of humor, then you are in for a treat! Her sarcastic take on things like the Ikea monkey (remember?!) and Mel Gibson’s terrible movie The Beaver never ceases to make me laugh. In a similar vein is Erik Rogers's Chicken Nugget Comics #2. This one came as a submission to D+Q (that's right, we read 'em!). It also came with a small scribbled note saying: "Here is a comic I made with my hands, please look at it with your face." I have no clue who Erik Rogers is, and there’s not much online about him, but this zine is hilarious. Drawn in a very shaky hand and punctuated with uncertainty (“This is what cars look like, right?”), Chicken Nugget is jammed packed with extremely ridiculous jokes that veer on slapstick and had me laughing out loud. All right, enough teasing with hard-to-find zines…up next is Matthew Thurber's Art Comic vol 1 and 2. I'm sure you're all familiar with the very talented Thurber, since he has some great books to his name (1-800-MICE and Infomaniacs), and has done some cool things in art, film, and music. So what could be better than a comic mocking the world of contemporary art? Nothing really, so go give it a read. Also, might be a bit tricky with this photo, but here’s a fun game: how many of the 19 artists can you identify on that cover?

-Marie-Jade Menni, production assistant

Stolen Sisters: The Story of Two Missing Girls, Their Families, and How Canada Has Failed Indigenous Women  by Emmanuelle Walter (HarperCollins)

Last year, the book Sœurs Volées popped up on my radar because the author Emmanuelle Walter was a fellow parent at my child’s school. This past October, we launched the English edition, STOLEN SISTERS, at Librairie D+Q. At the event, Emmanuelle was in conversation with Métis filmmaker Michelle Smith. I attended the event before had I read the book and the stats presented in regard to MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Woman) that evening were harrowing. Since 1980, more than 1,200 indigenous women have disappeared or been murdered. Proportionally, this number represents approximately 30,000 Canadian women. In other words a real genocide is happening in Canada. Emmanuelle and Michelle discussed how it is a Canada-wide issue; how the inhumane reaction from politicians and police is always the same, placing blame on the communities themselves or framing the women as runaways; how the reaction from the press is always the same whether it is a Francophone newspaper in Quebec or English papers in the Prairies or the west, the press constructs a reserved and removed profile of the missing woman that is in stark difference to stories of missing non-indengeoious woman. Tellingly, Emmanuelle and Michelle were able to rattle off too many stories of women from all over the country: Whitehorse, Red River in Winnipeg, Prince Albert, Edmonton, Vancouver, and more.

The book presents the story of Maisie Odjick (16 years old) and Shannon Alexander (17 years old), two teenagers from Maniwaki in Western Quebec. (Maniwaki is close to Ottawa, our nation’s capital, where for the past ten years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that an inquiry into MMIW was not a priority for his government.) Through interviews with family members and friends, Emmanuelle paints a fuller, richer picture of Maisie and Shannon's lives as pretty typical teenagers, with goals and passions, occasionally struggling with their family but loving them all the same. Maisie had returned to school, Shannon was in nursing school. They disappeared one night in the fall of 2008, leaving behind their ID, wallets, and clothing. She never finds a reason for why they would leave on their own accord, or a reason for their disappearance.

Emmanuelle is a native of France, which to some may make her telling the story of indigenous women problematic. She explains that she arrived in Canada, a country she had seen lauded for human rights, and was shocked to see such disregard of human rights on an institutional level, as well as an ignorance among the general populace in Quebec and a belief that this was only a problem in Western Canada. In her book, Emmanuelle details the reaction from Sûreté du Québec and how they have been a “colonial and repressive force.” Just this past weekend, news broke that the SQ placed 8 officers under investigation for sexual abuse against aboriginal women. The story  is shocking. If all of this doesn't wake us out of willful ignorance, I don’t know what will.

- Peggy Burns, publisher

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf Doubleday)

This month brought with it a terrible illness (thanks, Jason!), which meant a lot of starting every book in my house and then quickly tossing them aside cuz fever, but one really stuck, so I'll talk about that. The first is Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven. Like most books I read, my roommate/our sometimes copyeditor Kathleen recommended it to me a while ago; I kept putting off reading it because I was like—GENRE FICTION? No way. Not for me. Not for this literary snob. No thanks. Well, it turns out I was wrong and the two are in fact not mutually exclusive (doi). It's a post-apocalyptic story of sorts, following several characters or groups of characters from about ten years before the flu hits—the flu that knocks out 99.9 percent of the population—to about 20 years after. Their lives intersect at times, paths cross. What made this book so delightful to read was the speed in which I could devour it. The prose is smooth, the chapters are short, and every time you jump back and forth between story lines, between the years, it's always a bit a cliff hanger, so you have to keep reading until you're back in the other story line because you are dying to know what's happening over there. But then you get so into the current story you're in that damn it, once you get back to that one you were longing for, you're plowing through that one as quickly as you can to get back to the other one. It's all very delightful and thoroughly enjoyable. As soon as I finished Station Eleven, I walked straight to my shelf and grabbed Lynda Barry's Cruddy. I had not been planning on rereading it, and I'm not even sure where the action of grabbing it came from. I think I just enjoyed the fast pace of Station Eleven so much that my body involuntarily hurled itself toward quite possibly my favourite fast paced novel—Cruddy. Good job, Body. I love this book so much. That being said, consider this a teaser. I'm just 50 pages in so I'll write more about it next month, when it's fresh in my head and it's all I can think about. Which will inevitably be the case because Lynda Barry has a way of doing that, now doesn't she?

- Tracy Hurren, Managing Editor

Avenue of Mysteries  by John Irving (Knopf Random Vintage)

 Would it be a surprise if I told you that I wasn't a big reader when I was younger? I was very into comics but could never get anywhere with books and mostly only read school assignments and anything related to living off the land. Did I carry a copy of STALKING THE WILD ASPARAGUS in my back pocket? I did. But at a certain point, it clicked. There's nothing better than discovering a favourite writer and then tearing through all their books that you can find. I did this with Thomas Pynchon, Haruki Murakami, and Denis Johnson at different points in my life. But the first author that I did this with was John Irving. Not surprising, there was a point where everyone had THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP fever (I swear it was a real thing, look it up on wikipedia) and I tore through all his book until, well, I just didn't. John and I lost touch. I don't know what he was doing. I guess I was hanging out in filthy Cambridge and Boston rock clubs and then going to small press comic shows all over the country. So all these years later, I look up and there's a new John Irving novel due any day now! It's called AVENUE OF MYSTERIES and it's about a brother and sister living in Mexico underneath the shadow of a gigantic dump and a bigger religion. It's got the usual mix of magic, whimsy, and emotional and physical pain that is all coming back to me in a rush. Where was I all these years? I didn't have time to read an old friend?

- Tom Devlin, executive editor

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978 - 1984 by Riad Sattouf (Metropolitan Books)

When I was about five years old my father quit his job in advertising and started his own dog training business. He, my mom, and I all moved from the city to this big, very old stone house right beside a highway between two towns and he turned the big barn in the back into dog kennels. Previous to moving, my experiences had been relatively urban – bookstores, restaurants…streetlights- and now, we were in the middle of nowhere, with a large acreage, in a completely Francophone community…and it got so dark at night! I made friends with my neighbours - two brothers around my age and we spent most of our days digging holes and sitting in them, getting into fist-fights, climbing barns and setting fire to things. Meanwhile, at home my father was knee-deep in his business, strange new people were visiting our house on a regular basis – an assortment of local weirdos who were either new clients or new employees- and all the while my parents’marriage was crumbling. Of course I understood little of what was going on and the memories I retain are largely sensory. The smell of the abandoned chicken coop I treated as a club house, the cool dampness of our dirt-floor cellar, the thick warmness of the front room with huge windows where I read my comics and monster magazines in the morning.  Though there are many obvious differences I did find a few commonalities in Riad Sattouf’s acclaimed book - an ambitious, overbearing father, a life-changing move from the city to a more rural environment where an unfamiliar language was spoken, the battles with cousins and other kids my age, and a glorious mane of golden hair. Notably, Sattouf draws attention the many distinctive smells he encounter during his travels with his parents from France to Libya to Syria and the back to France: the mustiness of an otherwise delicious jar of makdous (eggplant with chilis and oil), the sharp and spicy air in France, and the sweat and perfumes on various relatives. There are also little notes littered throughout the drawings, indicating distinctive textures and small details (the wild onions he notices growing in a wall during a visit to his father's hometown).  As recollection of what it was like to live in Libya under Ghaddafi, Sattouf’s book is important, but what affected me most was his evocative reminiscence of life as a child adapting to the circumstances his parents create.

- Jason Grimmer, marketing director Librairie D+Q

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial)

 OK fine, I’ll say it - I went to the Roxane Gay event last Thursday at the Ukranian Federation without ever having read any of her books, despite recommendations from almost everyone I know. I always feel a bit embarrassed going to an author’s talk when I haven’t read any of their books, but I had forgotten how great the week after the event can be! I’m beyond delighted that Roxane decided to skip her flight home and spend the week with me, expanding on her thoughts over breakfast, on the bus, while I’m waiting for a friend at a bar. I am only part of the way through Bad Feminist, but I’m already worried about it ending, as I’m loving the way these essays flow seamlessly between her relationship with academia and with the characters of Girls and Sweet Valley High. These relationships to media are so much more complicated than "love-hate," and most importantly, they matter!

- Alison Naturale, print manager

Hitler by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)

This month I got overwhelmed. I read one book so quickly I immediately forgot most everything about it except the feeling of being immersed in a world, any world. I read 75% of an amazing collection of short stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and ... lost the book? I have zero idea where that is. Then I read the epic New Yorker profile on Gloria Steinem and got really excited for our event December 1st.

 Then I picked up four books in the past week and finished none of them. Okay that's a lie. I finished Shigeru Mizuki's HITLER, which is an intimate and riveting biography. If you've read any of Mizuki's other historical books you know he relishes the odd human details other chroniclers of history would leave out, thereby creating historical portraits that breathe and live like real people do. While Mizuki maintains a staunch anti-war stance and leaves no question of the monstrosity of the Nazi regime, I can't imagine any other (equivalently compact) biography of Hitler would include his gift for whistling or the moment he decided on his iconic mustache. Darkly humorous and obviously extraordinarily carefully researched, this is a fascinating read.

- Julia Pohl-Miranda, marketing director

 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihra (Doubleday)
Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles (HarperCollins)

Those who know me know that there is seemingly no end to the amount of sadness and intensity I can endure in literature, but folks, I have finally hit my ceiling, and it was about halfway into A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara. A relentless, epic novel about the limits of human endurance, A Little Life begins by following a group of four male friends as they find their life paths in New York (I know I know, stay with me), but slowly pulls back from the group to focus on one of the men, Jude St. Francis, and his extremely traumatic background. Yanagihara plays with so many themes and ideas in this massive book—self harm, the unending half-life of abuse, friendship in its many forms—but something that I thought was fascinating was the way that she juxtaposed an adult life of extreme privilege and success with a past of overwhelming anguish. Put a sticker on it that reads “the book that broke Marce.” I’ve been pairing this Sadness Chianti with a Charm Merlot: Eileen Myles’ CHELSEA GIRLS. After going to Eileen’s packed house event at our bookstore, I needed to read Chelsea Girls. I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this book, this fictional non-fiction artist’s novel that is so full of personality, of wit and fantastic one liners (“I’m a poet, you fools, you asshole cops!”) I haven’t finished it yet, but I know Eileen won’t let me down.

- Marcela Huerta, production assistant

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