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Monday, 30 November 2015

D+Q Office Reads: Welcome, Sruti! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Here's our fourth installment of our "what we're reading in the office" blog, which will be our final one of the year, so take it as our de facto holiday suggestions...


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor)

At Librairie D+Q, we are coming to the end of what my coworker Saelen called our “feminist fall.” Thanks to a stellar events line-up by Jason, we have seen an outlandish list of talented female authors grace the stage of D+Q this Fall. How do we list who without sounding like we are *bragging*? OK, let’s brag: Kate Beaton, Anna Leventhal, Roxane Gay, Eileen Myles, to name a few and the still to come Glora Steinem (12/1) and Carrie Brownstein (12/7)! Say what? Is this real? But really–this is what our store is about, and what our customers demand. Let’s go over some of 2015 bestsellers that did not have Fall 2015 events: Elena Ferrante, Miranda July, Heather O’Neill, Simone de Beauvoir, Kim Gordon, Yumi Sakugawa, Patti Smith, Jillian Tamaki, Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Phoebe Gloeckner, Kat Su, Leanne Simpson, Marie Kondo, Diane Obomsawin, bell hooks, Maggie Nelson, Allie Brosh, Julia Rothman... All of these women have sold over 50 copies for the store this year alone and amongst our top sellers. In fact, 60% of our top 70 titles are by women.

Why does this matter? Why should I call out these female authors? Why should I be proud? Why is Peggy blabbering on about this again? Well, judging from other bestseller lists, it doesn’t happen all that often. To answer these questions, let’s consider our store’s second bestselling book in 2015 We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Note, this book is neck and neck with Roxane's Bad Feminist, and both will sell well over 200 copies by years end. So yes, our two best selling books are feminist books. Again, why does this matter?

In We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie pens an essay for a TED Talk, and details the subtle and not so subtle forms of sexism she has endured in her life; how culture privileges men, why people are scared of the word feminist, how the word turns people off. She uses her childhood in Nigeria, grad school in the US, and every day universal experiences to show the difference between how we raise men and women. But she cats her net wider than just the female experience, she explains how but society traps men within the confines of masculinity, how we’re all raised with expectations solely based on our gender. I have loved Adichie since I read Americanah, one of my favorite reads of the past few years. I love her voice so much, and get lost in it, that I forgot about the Beyoncé song until a day after reading the book. Really I Did. It’s that flawless.

I can’t help but think of our store as special. but I also can’t help but frame this in the context of Quebec, which while not perfect, it is where families get paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare, where our government enacted the Pay Equity Act, so maybe it’s not surprising that there is a bookstore where the top selling books are Bad Feminist and We Should All Be Feminists. My favorite passage is where Adichie says gender matters everywhere and to paraphrase – lets dream of a different world, fairer, happier, with people truer to themselves, that we must raise our daughters differently and also we must raise our sons differently. I couldn’t agree more.

- Peggy Burns, publisher




Submission by Michel Houellebecq (Farrar Straus & Giroux)
Fuck Seth Price by Seth Price (Leopard Press)
Make Me A Woman by Vanessa Davis (Drawn & Quarterly)

Taking care of some “finally’s” in my current reading! First up: Michel Houellebecq's Submission. Finally, finally, finally. I spent far too many months reading about this book, before I could actually get to the book itself. I’m reading the English translation by Lori Stein. Submission originally made headlines in light of its controversial timing of publication (right around the Charlie Hebdo attacks), and ongoing political/cultural tensions in France. Set in 2022, France's Islamo-Leftist Socialist Party forms a government led by traditional and patriarchal based values. So, you know — light read! In other new, I found myself in Toronto this weekend and picked up another “finally” in the form of a copy of Fuck Seth Price by none other than Seth Price. Beyond his role as an artist, I’m not too sure who Seth Price is, and why he hates himself so much. I look forward to finding out. Evidently, there are other perks to my new position here at D+Q beyond the actual perk of working here (!!!), there are delicious and free books at my disposal! This month I sat down with Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis, and cried, and laughed, and watched Buffy. It may have been a day that ended in Y. Good work, everyone.

- Sruti Islam, marketing assistant




Cruddy by Lynda Barry (Simon & Schuster)

November, amirite? The perfect month for watching too much TV and not reading a thing. JK guys (kind of), here's what I've been up in my reading life:

Lynda Barry's Cruddy is one of my all time favourite novels. It's pretty rare I re-read a book because, like, the stack of book by my bed that I'm planning to read, going to read, want to read, surely will read one day is taller than me, but it's safe so say Lynda does not follow the rules, so neither do I when it comes to her books. The words flow off the pages of Cruddy like butter (surely it helps that the whole book was written with a paint brush and watercolours). You can't help but embody the characters as you read Lynda's cheeky, sassy, groovy, murderous, bad-ass words. The book follows Roberta Rohbeson past and present—past Roberta on a road trip with her homicidal father; present Roberta, five years later, as she starts taking drugs and spirals toward suicide. This book is dark and dark and dark and it's weird (for me anyway) to be so excited about something so horrific, but Lynda Barry has magic like none other, and I cannot recommend this book enough.

I spend a lot of time this month reading comics too, because I got to pick up a bunch at both CAB and here in Montreal at Expozine. Here's some of my favourites: Patrick Kyle's New Comics 7 as always for it's expert shapes/lines and also for the comics about smelly dinosaurs; Ron Rege Jr. and Fiona Smyth's Perish Plains vol. 4, because I won't see those two doodling together again anytime soon, I'm guessing; and HTML Flowers's No Visitors issue 1, because a collection of comics, poetry, and scraps that is at times hard to read cuz it's tiny would normally be something I wouldn't finish, but I could look away <3

Happy reading, suckers!

Tracy Hurren, managing editor



After the political coup in 1973, both of my parents—who didn’t know each other at the time—had to escape Chile. Both of them ended up in Canada, and, for at least 20 years, neither of them went back to their country. It always created a strange sort of paused backstory, one where there were floods of details from Chilean daily life pre-1973, and nothing but wide brushstrokes post. I’d hear about the family I had back there, but everything else was frozen in time. I remember finally going to Chile in 2012, and being told I used “hippie slang,” because my mom had only taught me the sayings and phrases that she knew from when she lived there.

So when I read Alejandro Zambra’s My Documents, it was like a veil had been lifted: on movies, on soccer, on the sex-appeal of Paul Simon’s solo career. I loved these stories, the way they captured people on the verge of changing their lives, convinced they were moving forward, deluding themselves beyond belief or simply forced to turn away by circumstance. Add to that the looming, semi-opaque Pinochet presence (and later, absence), the bratty, sassy, blunt Chilean sense of humour I grew up with, modernized with updated references, and Zambra’s subdued meta-style of writing, and it’s hard to pass this one up. 

Here is a photo of a Chilean holding up a book by a Chilean who is writing about other Chileans (harhar).

- Marcela Huerta, production assistant




Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T (One Man War On Terror) by Benjamin Marra (Fantagraphics)

Have you seen Cobra? It’s pretty cool. Sly Stallone ('86 vintage) plays this slick vigilante cop who chews a toothpick and lets criminals know he’s “the cure” before shooting them. There’s also a scene where he snips off the pointy end of a piece of pizza with a pair of scissors for his supper, as you do when you need to stay lean and mean. At the end of the film he impales the villain (called the “Night Stabber” or something similar) on a hook that carries him into a furnace to be burned alive, which seemed unnecessary but was kind of satisfying too, I guess. 

Marra’s newest is both an homage to those eighties Golan-Globus mega-masculine epic operas of violence that were staples of every corner store’s video wall and a critique of that post-9/11 American jingoism. Drawn in a primitive early indie comics style (though the fight scenes betray that a more talented hand is at the helm), the stone-faced hero works for a “super-secret team of U.S. foreign service Agents” and this mother just kills the hell outta anyone. We know this, not only because we can see it but also because everyone explains what is happening as it happens ("you chopped my neck", "you caught my kick") And when he’s not killing, he's stone-cold sexin' ( "I'm taking my pants all the way off", "I can tell this feels pretty good to you") to the delight of both the women and men he meets. And of course, like any action hero worth their salt he has pre and post-decimation catchphrases ("How was the meeting?" "Let's just say 'it was good'"). I found the whole thing unbelievably ridiculous and pretty damn funny -  Marra's a pretty skilled satirist.

The last part of the book deals with the agent’s domestic life. His court-ordered wife is his ex-arch enemy, now out of prison and enjoying life as post-op transsexual and his son was cloned from his DNA. Together they team up to deal with lingerie shopping, parking spot theft and keeping their marriage together. So, you know, some really relatable stuff.

-Jason Grimmer, marketing director, Librairie D+Q



Puke Force by Brian Chippendale (Drawn & Quarterly)
Teratoid Heights by Mat Brinkman (Highwater Books)

In honour of American Thanksgiving, I brought Teratoid Heights and Puke Force back home to beautiful southern New England with me. Both were super weird and really great houseguests. Having lived in Providence for a while, I’m a sucker for any of the Fort Thunder stuff, but it’s been especially fun to read these two right after each other. Their rough hewn drawings and zigzagging compositions have a lot in common, but the differences are also striking - where Brinkman’s wordless comics take on an almost mythical weight, Chippendale’s relishes in the specifics and meanders in unexpected ways. Uncomfortable jokes, mysterious guests, creatures eating even weirder creatures, Thanksgiving in a nutshell!

- Alison Naturale, print manager



Putain by Nelly Arcan (Seuil)

I recently made the resolution to read more French, since I feel like I've been losing my mother tongue lately. Lucky for me, the D+Q bookstore now carries French prose books, so I went in for a gander and left the store with Nelly Arcan's 2001 debut book Putain (translated to Whore in English). For those of you who aren't familiar with Nelly Arcan, be warned that both her life and writing are quite harrowing. In the autobiographical Putain, Arcan tells her story through Cynthia, a young student who works as an escort in order to pay for her education. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style with long sentences (often only one or two per page), Arcan doesn't sugarcoat or shy away from graphic depictions of the sex trade, but rather, emphasizes the deep-rooted psychological power struggle linked to the profession, and the often dehumanizing effect on sex workers.

The text is also dark for other reasons. Nine years after writing Putain, Arcan was found dead in her Montreal apartment after committing suicide. This disheartening turn of events is foreshadowed in the book, with the words suicide and noose appearing at every few pages, making the bookall the more difficult to stomach. With the notion of suicide looming throughout, it's hard not to see Putain as a cry for help that was sadly ignored. That being said, don’t let the bleakness discourage you from reading Arcan’s works, because her writing is really some of the most unique and significant prose I’ve read in a while.

Don’t read French? No worries, Arcan’s books have been translated into English. I would suggest picking up the last work by Nelly Arcan, titled Burqa of Skin, which was translated by Montreal’s very own Melissa Bull. The book was launched at our D+Q shop earlier this year, and has received many rave reviews since. Speaking of which, guess who gave me the incredible Dolly Parton mug (straight from Dollywood no less) in the above photo? My good buds Melissa and Frederik! Talk about a perfect pairing for my very worried-looking reading face.

- Marie-Jade Menni, production assistant




Sunday, 29 November 2015

Gift Guide: Top Picks for Students!


In need some shopping tips for the student in your life? It might be hard to know what gift will best ensure academic success, but here are some recommendations for academics, high schoolers, lit majors, chemistry postgrads, and everyone in between.

School Supplies
Let's start with the basics. Every good scholar needs good quality tools, so here are some supplies that, aside from being very pretty, will be sure to keep your student organized and well equipped.


Handmade Shinola journals; Marimekko perpectual calendar; Rifle Paper Co. 2016 Folk calendar; Midori animal-shaped paper clips; Llewellyn's Witches' Datebook 2016; Field Notes cherry wood graph paper notebooks; Marimekko ten pencil set.

Good-to-know Things
It can be hard to buy gifts in the field your student's working in, but there are always good general-knowledge titles to pick from:


Top: The Technological Singularity (Murray Shanahan); Syllabus (Lynda Barry); Verso's philosophy and politics Futures series (including Marc Augé's The Future, Paolo Virno's Deja Vu and the End of History, and Franco "Bifo" Berardi's Heroes).
Bottom: The Best American Infographics 2015 (ed. Gareth Cook); The Illustrated Elements of Style (William Strunk); D'aulaire's Book of Norse Myths and Greek Myths (Ingri D'aulaire); What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Randall Munroe).

Self-care
And finally, the constant studying and course load juggling can wear a person down, so why not celebrate the end of term with books that are all about mental well-being?


Soothing, whimsical Moomin comis! Either our collected stories box set, hardcover volumes, or floppy, full-colour individual stories (Tove Jansson); Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh); The Affirmations Colouring Book (Sarah Mangle); The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo.

Event recap: Teri Vlassopoulos launches Escape Plans!


On Thursday, November 26, we were pleased to help launch Teri Vlassopoulos's new novel, Escape Plans.


The event was hosted by novelist and journalist Ian McGillis, who was very keen to introduce a full roster of what he called "literary lifers," or people so dedicated to their craft that they write wherever they are in their lives, through highs and lows, new babies and puppies.


First to read was Lesley Trites, author of Echoic Mimic and wine writer (“I think it’s good to have at least one wine writer in your life,” said McGillis). She is currently working on a book of short stories, and read an excerpt of a piece about a single woman at a dinner party. 


Saleema Nawaz was up next, with McGillis counting her among one of the few heirs apparent to Mordecai Richler. (High praise!) The author of Bone & Bread is working on an interconnected collection of short stories that all take place as an illness spreads across North America. The excerpt she read followed an assistant editor going nowhere with her career. 


Teri Vlassopoulos then took the stage, glad to be back in Montreal and thanking everyone for coming. McGillis had mentored her through the Quebec Writers' Federation, and noted that she seemed to start her career already ready and polished. Escape Plans tells the story of a family: father Nico, mother Anna, and daughter Zoe. Nico gets killed at the start of the novel, and what follows is a thoughtful exploration of his last days, and the impact of his death on his family. Told from all three points of view, Vlassopoulos read a chapter from each. Zoe's memory, loss, and studying of Greek weaved beautifully into moments of departure, beige apartment buildings, and Jackie O from Nico, and Paris, warm bodies, and dining and dashing from Anna. 

All in all, it was a very memorable event with a great range of writing! Thanks to everyone who came and helped me it a great experience. 
Saturday, 28 November 2015

Drawn & Quarterly's Annual Sale is Here!



It's the most wonderful time of year, folks. It's our annual sale time! This will be our ONLY sale of the year, so be sure to stock up early this season and benefit from 40% off online* and 25% off in store at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on all Drawn and Quarterly publications (excluding pamphlets). Have a look back at our 2015 publications for some incredible selections, and or/browse our shop for even more variety.

The sale begins Wednesday, November 24th and ends Monday, November 30th. Happy shopping!

*Excluding Shipping & Handling
Thursday, 26 November 2015

Tonight: Teri Vlassopoulos launches Escape Plans!

Exciting! Join us tonight at 7:00 p.m when Teri Vlassopoulos returns to her former home of Montreal to launch her new novel, Escape Plans (Invisible Publishing). She will be joined by writers Lesley Trites (Echoic Mimic) and Saleema Nawaz (Bone and Bread). The event will be hosted by our old friend Ian McGillis of The Montreal Gazette!



 

Teri Vlassopoulos is the author of the short story collection, Bats or Swallows (2010), and a new novel, Escape Plans (2015). Her fiction has appeared in Room Magazine, Joyland, Little Fiction, and various other North American journals. She is the cookbook columnist for Bookslut, and has had non-fiction published at The Toast, The Millions and the Rumpus. She can be found at http://bibliographic.net or @terki. She lives in Toronto.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Les choix 2015 de Daphné

Ce n'est un secret pour personne: travailler à la librairie Drawn and Quarterly est une chance exceptionnelle. Cette année encore, j'ai beaucoup lu, avec une préférence inopinée pour les ouvrages non-romanesques. 2015 m'a comblée d'essais, de poésie et de récits, ou encore mieux, de livres défiant toutes catégories et mariant souvent plus d'un genre littéraire. Je suis aussi tombée sous le charme de plusieurs publications indépendantes. C'est donc avec joie que je salue le talent local! Tchin-Tchin!


1. La Jenkins, récits et graffitis du Sud-Ouest de Montréal, Vincent Tourigny

Il n'existe que 250 exemplaires de ce petit bijou numéroté à la main et publié à Montréal par Possibles Éditions. Ce livre-objet est un must en ce qui a trait au patrimoine artistique de Montréal. Il retrace l'histoire d'une usine abandonnée sur les murs de laquelle des générations entières de graffiteurs se sont exercées. La Jenkins s'adresse à tous; des néophytes aux grand-mamans, en passant par les poètes et les coquins. Intéressante, touchante et loin de l'académisme froid que partagent certains livres d'art, l'histoire de la Jenkins nous est plutôt livrée par l'entremise d'entrevues. La retranscription de celles-ci conserve l'oralité et la texture d'un slang juteux.

"Le livre, c'est comme un black book (...) Tu fais writer tes amis, tes idoles, pis tu colles des niaiseries d'dans. C'est comme un patchwork. C'est un portrait. C'est important de pouvoir archiver ça parce que justement, moi j'ai pas tout vu c'qu'y'a à la Jenkins."



2. Chasse aux licornes, Baron Marc-André Lévesque

Baron, c'est le Gaston Miron 2.0, un poète qui échange ses cartes Pokémon pendant les pauses et mange des chips au vinaigre. Dans ses grandes envolées lyriques atypiques, les hyperboles sont en spécial et la marche à l'amour se fait dans l'eau "pas de tube pas de flotteur/ pas d'ostie de nouille en foam rose Popsicle". Chasse aux licornes ressemble à un film d'action dans lequel les dieux de l'Olympe affrontent des dragons et "Wonder Woman vomit à Villeray dans une poubelle". Une nouvelle voix à surveiller, Baron est un poète ludique qui ne fait rien comme les autres. Chasse aux licornes, publié aux Éditions de l'Écrou, est aussi un des titres finalistes du Prix des libraires 2016.



3. Caresses Magiques, Ouvrage collectif

Si on se fie à sa quatrième de couverture, c'est un "bouillon de poulet pour l'âme d'une vulve" que nous propose ce titre rose à la couverture pimpante. L'ouvrage recueille en fait le témoignage de 41 femmes au sujet de leur parcours sexuel respectif, en mots et en images. Or, on est loin de la sexualité bonbon, celle qui fait vendre et qui finalement, nous crible de complexes. Si ces femmes parlent, c'est pour aborder sans fard une sexualité parfois  honteuse ou douloureuse, ou encore source de plaisir et de découvertes. Ces 41 parcours sont tous uniques, mais surtout, humains! Caresses magiques fait du bien.


4. Her 37th Year, Suzanne Scanlon

Cet index terminologique recense les termes significatifs dans la vie d’une femme. À 37 ans, celle-ci voudrait crier à son amant qui porte des bottes, comme l’héroïne d’Hiroshima mon amour: “Ah! Que j’étais jeune, un jour!” J’ai envie d’écrire un e-mail à Scanlon pour lui dire que son livre est sensationnel et que “Moi aussi, moi aussi j’ai déjà eu cet amant qui portait des bottes.” Peut-être alors ferais-je partie de sa sororité étincelante. De A à Z, ce livre est aussi comme je les aime: truffé de références. Scanlon revient amoureusement vers les oeuvres qui l’ont marquée et réfléchit sur l’écriture. Un must pour les lecteurs qui aiment le style d’Ariana Reines, de Maggie Nelson ou encore de Dodie Bellamy.



5. Tender Points, Amy Berkowitz

Un autre bijou couleur lavande qui nous vient cette fois de Timeless Infinite Light, une maison d'édition de poésie anticapitaliste avec un penchant pour la prose expérimentale, radicale et mystique. Un diagnostic de fybromyalgie engendre une narration fragmentée qui fera cercle autour de plusieurs sujets, tels que la douleur chronique, la culture du viol et le patriarcat. Un essai lyrique qui n'est pas sans rappeler Bluets, de Maggie Nelson. Tender Points est un tour de force hybride qui a ce je-ne-sais-quoi que j'aime tant.



6. The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson

Une de mes nouveautés préférées, le livre de Maggie Nelson est un délice à lire. À mi-chemin entre le genre de l'essai et celui du récit autobiographique, son éditeur le qualifie même d'autothéorie. The Argonauts, c'est aussi une élégante exploration des notions d'identité, d'amour et de famille. Le texte de Nelson est limpide et truffé de références, puisque sa prose revient amoureusement vers les auteurs et les théoriciens l'ayant inspirée.


7. Super Mutant Magic Academy, Jillian Tamaki

Issu d'une série originellement publiée en ligne, j'ai trouvé ce livre hilarant! Pour comprendre de quel bois SuperMutant Magic Academy se chauffe, il faut s'imaginer un comic strip à la sauce Harry Potter, avec une bonne dose d'humour, d'ironie et de désenchantement. Une bande dessinée divertissante qui marie habilement acné, sorcellerie, médias sociaux et art performance.



8. Melody, Sylvie Rancourt

La bande-dessinée autobiographique de Sylvie Rancourt est captivante! De magnifiques dessins de style naïf narrent sa vie de stripteaseuse à Montréal. Le livre est  disponible en anglais et en français, la version anglaise fraîchement publiée  par Drawn & Quarterly. C'est génial!!



9. Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me, c’est la lettre d’un père à son fils. L’auteur y narre son parcours de vie et se questionne; comment vivre ou sur(vivre) avec un corps de couleur noire en Amérique? Il met en évidence le statut précaire que confère sa couleur et raconte son enfance passée dans une peur viscérale. Ta-Nehisi Coates décrit aussi son parcours intellectuel, riche de remises en question. Son livre s’en fait d’ailleurs le miroir et préfère les questions aux réponses faciles. 



10. The Princess and the Pony, Kate Beaton

S'il y a un livre pour enfant qui me fait fondre cette année, c'est bien lui! Princesse Pinecone est une guerrière et souhaite avoir une monture à la mesure de ses ambitions. Malheureusement (heureusement pour nous), on lui offre un petit poney bizarre qui louche et qui pète lorsqu'il est trop excité. Ce livre est un must, surtout depuis que nous avons les poney en peluche à la librairie. Un combo génial!


Mentions honorables:





Citizen, an American Lyric de Claudia Rankine, Miseryland de Keiler Robert et Salad Anniversary (Pushkin) de Mashi Tawara

Pour en voir plus...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

New and notable: The Pickle Index by Eli Horowitz

The Pickle Index, the new novel by California writer Eli Horowitz (The New World, The Silent History) is an unconventional puzzler that is at once a paperback, a two-volume hardcover set, and an app.


Pictured above is the paperback element of the whole project. The hardcover set is on its way. As explained in Wired this week, the two books tell the same story, but from different perspectives, using different methods and illustrations. The app, according to the same article, "is the most inspired aspect of the storytelling experience." Meant to represent a fictional app created by a dysfunctional government to share pickle recipes. You are meant to spend a lot of time trying to figure it out, thereby immersing yourself in the strange and convoluted world of The Pickle Index.

NPR calls the work "a fun, strange romp", and Miranda July asserts that it is "rowdy and sweaty and heartbreaking." Nothing like a whole lot of weirdness to get you through the beginning of winter, I say!

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 
Monday, 23 November 2015

Staff Picks 2015: Helen

I read piles of books this year, as in previous years. The longer I work here, the more voracious I become. My bedside table is to be commended for withstanding the weight of the tomes that I stack mercilessly upon it. I always balk at picking a Top Ten, because unless a book is truly awful and/or boring, I want to promote it far and wide. But we do live in the era of lists, so here are ten books that immediately spring to mind when I look back on my reading year! In alphabetical order, because there is no way I can rank these books against each other.


Garments Against Women (Anne Boyer)
I had been starving for a full volume of Anne Boyer’s work ever since I started reading her Tumblr last year. I love her wryness, her philosophical grit. She writes of the trouble with objects, with one’s own subjectivity, with production—even or especially the production of poetry. I can find some solace in her bafflement with the world, and in how well she writes her way through it to us.


Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Coates' long-form letter to his young son is raw, unsparing, and heart-clenching in its portrayal of the dangers and struggles faced daily by black people in the racist order of current-day America. Coates writes with anger and grace, and without illusions. Winner of this year's National Book Award for non-fiction.


Outline (Rachel Cusk)
A book that will make you want to listen to the monologues of strangers. A book that will make you want to write down the mundane details of life in hopes that they will coalesce into something like the dazzling whole woven here by Cusk. Her writing is so effortless that it may trick you into thinking you can easily achieve the same.


The Story of the Lost Child (Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein)
The staggering finale to Ferrante's gorgeous, overwhelming, widely lauded Neopolitan novels. Sure to become a classic of this century's literature. If you haven't taken the plunge, start with My Brilliant Friend and cancel all plans for the next few weeks. Kudos to Europa Editions for making me think twice about judging a book by its cover from now on!


A Brief History of Seven Killings (Marlon James)
I was late to the game with this one—didn’t pick it up until after it won the Man Booker. It does not disappoint. The central event is the (real life) attempt on Bob Marley’s life in 1976, which James uses as an entry point into the incredible complexities of Jamaican politics and social realities during the Cold War, over a period of thirty years. Among its 75 characters are members of Marley’s posse, American reporters, CIA agents, gang members, politicians and drug dealers. A kaleidoscopic tour de force!


The Argonauts (Maggie Nelson)
A queer love story for our time. The Argonauts is a memoir, a reflection on parenting, a work of artistic and literary criticism, an exploration of feminism, queerness and gender—all these things and more. I began to copy out a quote and found myself attempting to copy out the entire book.


Thus Were Their Faces (Silvina Ocampo, translated by Daniel Balderston)
Ocampo was an Argentinian writer and artist whose life spanned much of the 20th century. This selection of her stories awakened me to her genius. Each one is a strange, crystalline dream (or nightmare), with its own logic, its own particular language. In 1979 her body of work was deemed "too cruel" by Argentina's National Prize for Literature. Her writing is indeed cruel—wonderfully so. She should be far better known than she is. For fans of Lispector, Hernandez, and Cortázar.


Melody: The Story of a Nude Dancer (Sylvie Rancourt, translated by Helge Dascher)
What a joy that Mélody has been made available to an English-speaking audience, thanks to Drawn & Quarterly! Sylvie Rancourt's comic strips about her life as a nude dancer in Montreal in the mid-1980s were initially self-published and distributed mainly to the clients at her work. Her naive drawing style and straightforward story-telling make for a brash, humourous, and totally riveting read.


Super Mutant Magic Academy (Jillian Tamaki)
I have probably read every strip in this book fifteen times (and counting). I am completely charmed by Tamaki's hilarious concoction of everyday school troubles and more, well, metaphysical problems. Freaky and feminist, SMMA doesn't shy away from meanness or negativity, making it a much more entertaining and relatable read than many other teen character-driven books!


Gold Fame Citrus (Claire Vaye Watkins) 
A stunner of a book that imagines a near future in which large swaths of North America, particularly California, are so burned out by drought that they are practically uninhabitable. Young Luz Dunn fights to survive in this parched wasteland, while protecting Ig, the mysterious abandoned child she and her partner find one night on their search for food and water. Gorgeous, harrowing, and all too possible.


Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels (Ed. Tom Devlin)
Okay, I know this is the eleventh book in the list, but I feel like this one really deserves a category of its own. Just look at it! In its beautifully designed pages you will find a incredible array of comics and essays by Drawn & Quarterly artists (everyone is in here, seriously!); appreciations by a host of literary luminaries (Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Lethem, Heather O'Neill and Lemony Snicket, to name a few); and of course, reflections and reminiscences from the triumvirate that makes it all happen: Chris Oliveros, Peggy Burns and Tom Devlin. Lil gift idea for those comics lovers in your life...!


And, of course, because I can't contain my literary excitement, here are some honourable mentions. I heartily recommend them all!


Pictured from left to right: The Body Where I Was Born (Guadalupe Nettel, translated by JT Lichtenstein); The Sellout (Paul Beatty); Killing and Dying (Adrian Tomine—actual book not pictured because it's so popular we have to bring more from the publishing office today!); Signs Preceding the End of the World (Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman)


Pictured from left to right: Eileen (Ottessa Moshfegh); The Dream of My Return (Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated by Katherine Silver); Who We Be (Jeff Chang); You Too Can Have a Body like Mine (Alexandra Kleeman)


Pictured from left to right: Barefoot Dogs (Antonio Ruiz-Camacho); Vertigo (Joanna Walsh); Hotel (Joanna Walsh); Trash Market (Tadao Tsuge, translated by Ryan Holmberg)

Annnnnd finally, because I always aspire to read more than time allows: Books published this year that I still plan to read!


Pictured from left to right: New Construction: Two More Stories (Sam Alden); The Complete Stories (Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson); Negroland (Margo Jefferson)


Pictured from left to right: My Documents (Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell); In the Country: Stories (Mia Alvar); Oreo (Fran Ross)

All these and more in stock at the Librairie!

And do check out the lists of my other well-read colleagues (I will update this as more lists are posted over the next few weeks):

Kate's Picks
Les choix de Daphné
Saelan's Picks
Kira's Picks
Chantale's Picks
Alyssa's Picks
Les choix de Julie

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