What We're Reading in the Office This Month—May Edition

It is the end of the month and that can only mean ONE THING—it's time to see what all the people in the office are reading. Hmm, let's take a look into the brains of this very serious group of "fans of the written word, and picture, and written word and picture combined."

Our three production interns added their choices this month (So long, Juliette and Sandra) so we'll start with them.

Le secret, Émilie Vast (Édition Mémo)

Ce mois-ci je vais vous faire découvrir un livre illustré et édité en France, Le secret. Émilie Vast est une illustratrice française qui vit et travaille à Reims. Son style de dessin est minimaliste et stylisé, les formes et les couleurs donnent une impression de douceur et de poésie. La majorité de ses illustrations ont pour thème la nature et les animaux.

C’est le cas dans ce livre qui nous emmène pages après pages à la découverte des animaux et des plantes de la forêt. L’histoire commence avec « Renarde a un secret. N’y tenant plus elle le confie à lapin. Oh ! Extraordinaire, dit le lapin. Lapin a un secret. N’y tenant plus il le confie à libellule. Oh ! Formidable, dit la libellule. » Mais quel est ce secret que se chuchotent les animaux ? Je vous conseils vivement ce livre qui est pour moi une pause de douceur et de calme.

—Juliette Flocher, spring intern

Hiver Nucléaire, CAB (Front Froid)

I discovered this graphic novel in Toronto, during this year’s TCAF Festival. I was actually reading a few other books at the time but that’s what happens when you are at a festival like TCAF, you’re surrounded by so many good books that you have to read some more!

Cab is a young author from Montreal who sets her story in her beloved city. You can guess this right from the cover, which depicts part of Waverly Street or what is left of it. The book is written in Quebecois, which is perfect for me (as a French speaker from France) to learn more about this exquisite language (and the swear words). But, if you’re not comfortable with French, an English version titled Nuclear Winter is also available online.

It’s been nine years since an accident has occurred at the nuclear station of Gentilly-3 in Montreal. Since then, winter has never stopped and the snow has become radioactive, as have the citizens! They are now slightly different, some with a lonely big eye, some with three eyes; some with a type of horns (so, weird faces mostly)…and most of the animals have turned wildly dangerous, or green!

But life is life and it still goes on almost as it used to be. So we follow Flavie on her ski-doo, delivering bagels in the whole city. She’s pretty shy, not like her best friend Leonie who is a party girl and tries to make Flavie more outgoing. And then, there is this cute-cool guy: Marco… So, Hiver Nucléaire is really much more about life than pure sci-fi. What do you do in a post-nuclear Montreal? You’ve still got to have a job, you still go to parties, you still hang out on the phone with your friends, you still meet new people, and you definitely still eat Whippets! As it is said in the story: you “moved to Montreal (and you stay) for a reason”! I am definitely looking forward to reading the next volume.­­

—Sandra Martin, spring intern

Heureux qui comme, Nicolas Presl (Atrabile)

I first read this book in a few minutes, but the images lingered in my head for days and I just had to read it again (this time slowly!)

The story is mute, which is apparently the author's trademark. The result is intriguing and deeply moving. In the absence of words, there are some aspects the reader never fully understands, while interpretation and feelings take over. The colours are used sparingly but beautifully, highlighting the contrasts which underpin the story at all levels.

It follows two foreigners in an unnamed African country as it enters a period of political trouble and violence. One of them is clearly there to keep damaging the country for profit, whereas the other is trying to heal some wounds. They both don't get the country, they both are out of place, and that's all they seem to have in common. But at some point, they meet each other.

I know little about Presl's work, but it looks like I really need to catch up!

—Lucie Lecoutre, summer intern

Frontier #10, Michael DeForge (Youth in Decline)

The tenth installment of Youth in Decline’s Frontier monograph series is by Michael DeForge, with his story "Sensitive Property." An ex-protester turned real estate broker recounts the details of their job as a secret agent who infiltrates communities to gain their trust so that the big bosses can buy the town for profit. To avoid suspicion, everything must be carried out in a measured fashion: start a family with one of the residents so no one will see you as an outsider; be outraged when everyone else is, but not too much or too little; make sure the protests against your bosses are violent enough, but not too violent either; and so on.

As with many of DeForge’s stories, the main character's narration is imbued with a peculiar sense of detachment, which makes "Sensitive Property" all the more weird and interesting. In terms of art, DeForge opts for something a bit different than his usual style, with simplified colorful geometric shapes that give the story an almost abstract feel. I could go on and on about all the cool things about Frontier #10, but really, it’s another wonderfully bizarre work by Michael DeForge, who as always, just knocks it out of the park.

Queer Spirits, AA Bronson & Peter Hobbs (Creative Time / Plug In Editions)

A friend got this for me from The Plug In, a contemporary art gallery in Winnipeg which also publishes gorgeous art books. The impetus for Queer Spirits is quite interesting: the authors held spiritual invocations in five North American locations (Banff, New Orleans, Winnipeg, Governors Island, and Fire Island) to "invoke the 'queer' and marginalized spirits of the site." Each invocation is specific to the location, with research into marginalized communities for each séance. The book is packed with interesting photography and art, and I was immediately drawn to the Winnipeg section that showcased the famous Dr. T.G. Hamilton ectoplasm photographs, which, as an added bonus, glow in the dark. The writing sometimes veered a bit too much into new age for my personal taste, and I was a bit disappointed to find that basically all the photos and artworks represented white males (c’mon, it’s a book meant to address the marginalization of minorities!), but nonetheless, the ideas, aesthetics, and beautiful design made this a very worthwhile read.

—Marie-Jade Menni, Production Coordinator

What Is Obscenity: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, Rokudenashiko (Koyama)

The whole time I was reading artist Rokudenashiko’s graphic memoir What Is Obscenity: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, I kept thinking how brave she was. But the more I thought about how brave she was, the more I felt I was detracting from her wittiness. Because Rokudenashiko (Megumi Igarashi) is both a very brave person and a very funny person, taking a situation that could have destroyed her career and destabilized her life and turning it into a work of art, as well as an opportunity for activism. Rokudenashiko makes manko (pussy) art that fights “discrimination and ignorant treatment of the vagina in Japanese culture— toys, phone cases, and other items designed from a mold of her vagina, as well as the pussy de résistance, in my opinion, the world’s first pussy-shaped kayak (created with a 3D printer file of her vagina). It was for these works that she was arrested in 2014, and since then she has not stopped fighting charges that are ridiculous and representative of the repression of women’s sexuality and agency over their bodies.
What Is Obscenity showcases the double standards of so-called obscenity in Japan, but also serves to remind us of how much work is left to do around the world to curb the amount of control “small-minded men” hold over so many people in society. What Is Obscenity: The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy is an incredibly funny and powerful book that shows a less acknowledged but no less important method of revolution, and through its humor and positivity also inspires the hope needed to continue that draining fight. Long live Rokudenashiko! Long live manko! {*}

—Marcela Huerta, Production Assistant

Sea Change, Frank Viva (Tundra/Toon)

Frank Viva does some of the most beautiful kids books out there these days, He’s got a kind of fifties throwback style but there’s a modern color sense. I’m not sure how to even gauge such a thing but that’s my sense. Anyways, he’s one of those very distinctive illustrators that brings a smile whenever you encounter him in a bookstore or while reading a magazine. So when I saw this book in the kids section of the D+Q bookstore, I was excited for page after page of drawings. But that’s not what this is at all. It’s a chapter book with occasional illustrations. It’s the story of a twelve year Eliot Dionisi (self described as “twelve and a half”) who is sent from his home in Ontario to stay with relatives in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia for the summer. Of course, he is unhappy and even a little terrified to be sent off to a fishing village in easternmost Canada. The setup is familiar enough—a smart sarcastic kid is thrust into an uncomfortable situation and his inner monologue runs wild with observations and articulated fears. Unlike his other work, Viva lets the words do the talking, the pictures (scratchy minimal pen and ink drawings) take a back seat. Viva can turn a phrase and my memories of not-quite similar (lake houses and station wagon trips to Maine) came flooding back in a perfect rush. I found myself nodding in recognition and even feeling that long lost anxiety of making a different life for myself, even if just for a few weeks.

—Tom Devlin, Executive Editor

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan (Penguin Press)

This month I’m reading Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. Why? Because Blue Crush is one of my all time favourite movies. No, I’m kidding. Well, only half-kidding. The real answer is mostly because I kept reading critics commenting on the book as engaging for readers and non-surfers alike, and well, you won’t find a greater non-surfer reader, than with lil ol’ me. Then, The Paris Review released this excerpt, and I got a taste of what exactly everyone was waving (this is a failed pun at “raving”) about. Finnegan explores his passion, and at many times, obsession with surfing as much as he chronicles the culture it bred from. I’m happy to report it’s as engaging as they say, and largely in part to Finnegan’s precision to writing in so much as his precision to surfing. He is the first to recognize this challenge, saying, “Nearly all of what happens in the water is ineffable—language is no help.” With Barbarian Days, Finnegan fills up 500 pages or so taking on both this impressive literary and athletic challenge. 

—Sruti Islam, Marketing Assistant

All About Love: New Visions, bell hooks

What can I say about this book that will resonate with you and convey the way in which the book resonates with me? I've been trying to find ways to talk about it that go beyond "you should probably read it" for the past month and a half. But you probably should!!! In writing this I just read the New York Times review of the book, but found it wanting because it placed too much emphasis on the "pollyanna"-esque qualities of her ideas. Why shouldn't philosophizing about love be pollyanna-esque? 

In less than 250 pages, bell hooks teaches us her ideas about what love is, how to love, how to accept being loved, and the importance of finding love beyond romantic relationships. She speaks clearly and eloquently about things that are bunched up and made ugly in modern discourse. All About Love is half philosophical treatise, half self-help book - but the elements that constitute the latter are empowering and community-centric rather than individuating and placing the blame elsewhere. I found utterly compelling hooks' definition of love. Perhaps the best argument for this book is that if you mention it to someone who's already read it or even sometimes someone who has a close friend who read it, they gush about how transformative it was to their own or their friend or their lover's ways of understanding love. 

—Julia Pohl-Miranda, Marketing Director

A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James (Riverhead Books)

Marlon James's A Brief History of Seven Killings takes place, mostly, in Kingston (for now anyway, I'm just a little over halfway through!). Here we see political turmoil, some of the most horrific violence I've ever read, some horrible American's who are certainly not as bad as the Jamaican gang members who are slaying people left and right, but somehow I hate them more...Wait, are they worse? Who am I to pass judgement here. Those Jamaican gang members were not dealt great hands and it's not like the Americans aren't killing. And then there's the lone female central character who my heart aches for and I cannot get out of my head, the insanely strong Nina Burgess. And then of course Bob Marley, or known better in the book as simply, the Singer. There's a ton going on here: each chapter is named after its narrator, of which there are many (so many that there's a character list a the start of the book), so this is all the plot summary you are getting.  

This book is difficult to talk about. Indeed, it's difficult to read at times. I often find myself finishing a particularly difficult chapter and closing it, shoving it under my pillow, and leaving it there for a week or so before I'm ready to jump in again. But despite the horrible things depicted in this novel, and the many many terrible men within, the book is a joy to read, somehow. It's a fictional take on true events. That weight makes it important, and the violence harder to take but worth taking. James's characters, despite how despicable they are, are fun to read, and I somehow like them despite their awfulness. And the patois, after a few pages, starts to tick by in a fun way, and really helps the characters to be so real in your head—it's fascinating the various voices James is able to write in. 

Anyway, this book good! Buy it then give me a call and we can chat about it! 514.516.3121

—Tracy Hurren, Managing Editor

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Lindy West

Yes yes I know, why do I have to read a book about being a loud woman? I am a loud woman, I always have been. U-N-A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-A-L-L-Y. I was voted class clown of my high school class, for gosh sakes! I picked this book up as soon as it arrived, let’s just state the obvious, it spoke to me. Lindy West is the former Jezebel writer whose writing provokes but she doesn’t write to provoke. And therein is the magic of her writing, and what separates her from so many other contemporary journalists.  What I like best about Shrill is how Lindy reflects both on her critics, people whose opinions she does not agree with, and best of all herself.  When she calls out her boss Dan Savage on his anti-fat people writing, she goes back to look at the original email she sent him, expecting to find a prime example of maturity and respect, and instead calls herself “completely nanners.” (love!!!) She goes into great detail about the aftermath of the Daniel Tosh rape joke saga in regard to her world class essay, "How to Make a Rape Joke", most of which I missed the first time around.

Not only does Lindy prevail, she also forgives. It’s easy to tear someone a new one, to tear your idols or critics down, but to share a tear as hokey as that sounds—like Lindy does on This American Life with her harshest troll—is epically humane. It’s an act that no one would ever expect anyone to endure, and yet Lindy does, she is genuinely curious to understand the other side of the debate. The TAL piece is the portrayal of misogyny on the internet, and how a strong, loud, confident woman stating her opinion, doesn’t just shock but will anger. And yet, Lindy calls people out but she doesn’t cut them down. Once she finds out her troll’s life story, she wants to know more, she wants to know why people troll.

Shrill will have you laughing, cheering and crying. Lindy’s experience of flying as a fat woman is devastating. When she tells her story on Jezebel and faces more discrimination, her end note on the matter is not to tell everyone to fuck off, but she says “i’m just telling you human to human that life is complicated and people are trying to live.”  (love!!!) And as a comics side note, Lindy got her start at the James-Sturm-cofounded-Seattle-weekly, The Stranger. (love!!!)

In the larger picture, Shrill charts the path that public discourse has travelled from our newspapers to the internet and how the interaction between writers and readers has utterly changed.

—Peggy Burns, Publisher

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