Summer Reads 2016: Saelan

Hi, everyone! Here's a few things I've either read lately or that I'm looking forward to:

Double Teenage - Joni Murphy and Rich and Poor - Jacob Wren

Here's two new novels from the consistently excellent BookThug Press that I'm eager to dig into. Jacob Wren (a performance artist as well as author) is a perennial local favourite for his frequently autofictional meditations on art and politics. Rich and Poor recalls the title of one of his earlier books, Revenge Fantasies of the Politically Dispossessed, in that it's the story of a poor artist who decides to assassinate a billionaire. Joni Murphy's debut novel is one I've anticipated for some time and, by all accounts, it doesn't disappoint. It comes bearing praise from no less than Chris Kraus and Ariana Reines, and folds reflections on art, literature, and theory into a narrative about girlhood and coming of age under North American neoliberalism.

We Want Everything - Nanni Balestrini and
Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador - Horacio Castellanos Moya

Having adored the passages in Rachel Kushner's The Flamethrowers about Italy in the 1970s, I was thrilled to see this new translation of Nanni Balestrini's classic novel about the ''Hot Autumn'' of 1969-70 and it's implications for the massively influential Workerist movement. Hot summer reading for sure. I'm also looking forward to the new translation of one of the first works by Salvadorean writer Horacio Castellanos Moya, whose Senselessness I previously enjoyed. A style exercise in homage to infamous Austrian misanthrope Thomas Bernhard, Revulsion's diatribe against El Salvador's political culture is so vitriolic that it earned Moya death threats when it was first published in 1997.

Hot Dog Taste Test - Lisa Hanawalt and Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus - Chester Brown

Like the rest of my coworkers (and just about everyone), I can't resist Lisa Hanawalt's absurdist body humour. Food! Sex! Anthropomorphic animals! Hot Dog Taste Test has it all. And, as if I needed another reason to love Hanawalt's drawings, I finally started watching Bojack Horseman (which features her character and production design). Sex is dealt with a lot less facetiously in Chester Brown's engrossing, idiosyncratic Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, which looks at prostitution in the Old Testament. Having grown up evangelical, I felt uniquely prepared to digest Brown's unorthodox exegesis, though the revelation that he is a practicing Christian was unexpected, to say the least. It's a provocative and masterfully drawn book, even if it's not entirely persuasive.


Asshell #1 - Nosebleed Comics and Frontier # 11 - Eleanor Davis

Asshell is exceptionally crude, in a Vice-mag gross-out kind of way, but it's still deceptively brilliant. One man's cursed anus becomes a gateway to hell, hijinx ensue. What sets Asshell apart is the balance of juvenile absurdity and macabre occult fantasy. Nosebleed's drawings aren't technically impressive, but they're still pitch-perfect, somehow. By contrast, Eleanor Davis' contribution to Frontier is all about sexual tension on the set of a lesbian BDSM porn shoot, but both her drawings and storytelling are the height of psychological sensitivity and aesthetic craftsmanship. It's also one of the hottest comics I've ever read in my life.

Hatred of Poetry - Ben Lerner and Little Labours - Rivka Galchen

I really loved Ben Lerner's essay of the same title for the LRB, so naturally I was eager to read the expanded version of Hatred of Poetry in this attractive little book. Ken Chan's rather critical review gave me a moment's pause, so now I'm even more curious to read this longer version to see if I agree or not. Meanwhile, I've heard nothing but praise for Rivka Galchen's playful new book of essays on the subject of babies and literature, which, as a bibliophile with a small child, I feel primed to appreciate.

Nanban: Japanese Soul Food - Tim Anderson and
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream - Lauren O'Neill and Pete and Ben Van Leeuwen

Two of my good friends recently left for a month-long trip to Japan. If I wasn't already jealous about all the delicious food they're going to eat, we just got Nanban, this beautifully-photographed and designed compendium of hearty, satisfying Japanese recipes. Drool-worthy in all respects. I've also become borderline obsessed with making popsicles over the last few summers (though my favourite recipes are more like ice cream bars). I've plundered this Van Leeuwen book a few times for flavour ideas, but it's got me thinking that I really ought to just get myself an ice cream machine. Of course, you don't need a machine to make ice cream, but you absolutely need ice cream to make a great summer. Consider getting yours (or your recipes, anyway) from Van Leeuwen.

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