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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Staff Picks 2015: Kate

The stacks of books surrounding my bed and trailing off towards the kitchen attest to what a great year in reading I've had. Still, coming up with a list of the top ten books of the year is a daunting task (almost as daunting as the list of books that came out this year I still can't wait to read!) but here it is. These books stand out above all the others and they are the ones I will probably reread into the new year!


Argonauts - Maggie Nelson

Reading The Argonauts, I felt like I was floating through the stream of Nelson's mind, which is appropriate since the title and central metaphor of the work refer to a boat. From the vantage point of her flow-of-consciousness, her voice is direct, intimate and clairvoyant. It slips seamlessly from the intensely personal anecdotes of memoir into philosophical reflections on love, gender, family, art and language. Nelson's prose is brilliant as she guides you over rough waters to clear pools. 


Story of the Lost Child - Elena Ferrante

With the release of the final volume of the Neapolitan series, 2015 has definitely been the year of Ferrante! After opening the first book, it wasn't long before me and everyone I know had read all four. This captivating bildungsroman follows the lives of two women, Elena and Rafaella as they grow up amid the changing post-war Italy to the present day. Grappling with the complexities of friendship, politics and daily life with incredible psychological realism you'll be totally immersed in the sensuous world Ferrante creates.


I'm Very Into You - Kathy Acker + MacKenzie Wark

Subterranean queen Kathy Acker and McKenzie Wark met at a conference in 1995 and spent a night together. Thus began an intense weeks long e-mail correspondence between two anarchic minds. Acker here is at her rawest and you see a side of her writing that's rarely present in her books. She is lucid (even when she's typing drunk at 3 am) and playful as they gossip and blaze through _The X-Files_, Bataille, Pasolini and _The Simpsons_. The tenuous balance of power involved in a seduction forms a compelling meta-narrative over the correspondence, especially as it becomes a central topic in their exchange re: butch-femme, top-bottom and power games.
  

New Construction - Sam Alden

I've already gone back many times to this new collection by Sam Alden to savour it's atmospheric, introspective moments. It's all venetian blinds and loaded silences. Set in present day New Orleans, it takes marginal characters, an anarchist collective and two estranged siblings, as its center. Both stories are quiet, elliptical, and deeply disturbing. The dense pencil lines are textured yet straightforward like the writing.


 SuperMutant Magic Academy - Jillian Tamaki

Marsha - the central character at SMMA - is the BFF you wish you'd had to put the whole "high school" thing in perspective. Off beat jokes and endearing characters give SuperMutant Magic Academy all the charm of a classic sitcom while its subtlety gives it the nuance necessary to transcend clichés of teenage angst. Tamaki treats these formative years, which can be equally magical or freaky, with the appropriate blend of absurdity and resignation.


Never Goodnight - Coco Moodysson

I was totally charmed by this sweet and uplifting saga of disaffected tweens going through their first intense experiences with music, parties and puppy love in Moodysson's memoir of 1980s Stockholm. Coco, Klara and Mathilda meet in folk dancing class but they're not very interested in that once they discover The Clash! Despite often chaotic home lives, these girls are tough and they continually empower themselves through their friendship and the punk band they form together.


Trash Market - Tadao Tsuge

This collection of classic gegika offers six dark weirdo stories from post-war Japan. Tsuge was a regular contributor to Garo, the legendary avant garde comics magazine, during its heyday and an important figure in the evolution of Japanese comics. It captures the malaise of everyday life, the realities of mundane jobs, alienation and the specters of a nation in upheaval counterpointed with stifling heat and delirium rising off the page through Tsuge's intense drawings. Two essays included, the self authored Tadao Tsuge Revue and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man written by Ryan Holmberg round out the volume making for an illuminating and moody read.


When the Sick Rule The World - Dodie Bellamy

Every time I picked up this book I sunk into it like a conversation with a good friend. Bellamy, one of the pioneers of the New Narrative movement, reflects on culture and politics, sickness and death in her latest eclectic collection of lyric prose. She moves from memories of sex, hitchhiking through southern Florida to a deconstruction of whistling and the gender of sound in her loose associative style making unexpected connections with flashes of insight. Awkward and funny and just a little disgruntled it's thoughtful and engaging from page one.


Killing and Dying - Adrian Tomine

It's easy to be hyperbolic while talking about Tomine's most recent publication, a book which ironically excels at understatement. Killing and Dying gives form to those ineffable interior moments that creep up on you occasionally. With his distinctive fusion of pathos and deadpan humour, Tomine tackles problems with no clear resolution perfectly capturing the ambivalence of modern life.


Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels - Ed. Tom Devlin

Since it's release in the summer it's been a pleasure to lose myself pouring over the history of this remarkable institution. This deluxe treasury of comics and writing is an incredible celebration of Drawn and Quarterly's twenty-five years on earth. There are seven hundred and seventy-six pages of RARE photographs, essays, and never-seen-before comics by, quite frankly, some of the world's finest artists. Funny, illuminating and inspiring!    

Honourable Mentions:


Two graphic novels, the singularly weird Adult Contemporary - Benidk Kaltenborn + beguiling short story from Michael Deforge - First Year Healthy


Two books of poetry, the dulcet debut of one Daphné B. - Bluetiful + Pushkin Press reissue of the bestselling-in-Japan Salad Anniversary - Machi Tawara

For more check out these top tens too: 
Julie
Alyssa
Kira
Chantale
Saelan
Daphné 
Helen 

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