Oh, where has the time gone? Everybody has been traveling to-and-fro these past couple of months and it's been tricky to get everyone to sit down and rap about the books they're reading. But we're all in the same room for two hours so we're gonna sit in a circle with our books on lap and have an old-fashioned rap session, baby. Here's what we're reading this summer. Let's start with Tracy (above) shall we?
How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy
I'm on vacation typing from a plane so this might be a little brief, but I didn't want to miss a chance to talk about this special book. I first came across Luke Healy's work a couple years back when I was judging the MOCCA contest thing. I was super impressed by his minis and just delighted when I found out Nobrow would be publishing a book from him. How to Survive the North, Luke's first book, did not disappoint. Weaving together three stories—two failed (and factual) arctic exploration missions, seven (ish) years apart, with one (fictional) modern-day story of failure—Luke manages to sculpt a story that's new and old, relatable and yet...I dunno, whatever that thing that history is.
While the historical tales are set in the early 1900s, and focus on crews stranded on islands or ice, the modern fictional story covers a professor's foray into sleeping with a student, and the repercussions of that. All the characters make bad decisions knowingly and then live with the burden, the magnitude, albeit, a little different. Luke's art is loose and expressive; his colour palette utilitarian while being gorgeous. I had a nice time with this book. I highly recommend checking it out, and keeping an eye on this talented new voice in comics.
—Tracy Hurren, Managing Editor
The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit (Penguin)
Don't you hate it when you wake up from a dream with an overly obvious metaphor? Like, ok, I get what that too-big-for-me hat was really about! Be a little more subtle, subconscious! What I love about Rebecca Solnit, is that she lives in the realm of metaphor, making unexpected comparisons and stringing disparate things together, but at the same time, refuses to let these connections stay fixed or reliable. I’ve been reading The Faraway Nearby which ardent fans of the blog may recognize from Julia’s enticing post about it a few months ago. She lent it to me and I’ve been carrying it with me these last few months, reading and re-reading sections. My first experience with Rebecca Solnit’s work was finding A Field Guide to Getting Lost in the Banff library while I was trying to make a project about landscape and the unrelated thoughts and feelings we imbue them with, and needless to say, it blew me away. This book feels even more personal, yet similarly meandering - the book starts with a pile of apricots and touches on Frankenstein, the frozen north, jealousy, cancer, mother-daughter relationships, and escape, to name only a few - constantly spiralling back on itself and revisiting each of its past subjects in surprising ways. Sometimes I can find a text as laden with art historical and literary references as this one hard to get emotionally invested in, but the way Solnit treats her own personal revelations not as a counterpoint to these subjects, but as one and the same, compels me. Good luck gettin’ this one back, Jules!
—Alison Naturale, Print Manager
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
In June I finally finished the Neopolitan Quartet by anonymous Italian author and worldwide literary sensation Elena Ferrante. Above is a photo of me, minutes after finishing it. As you can see, I was in a desolate wasteland, a real “No-Fun Zone,” as it were. Just kidding. I finished these books—that took over my life and dominated so much of my thought process for nigh on 3 months—on an island while waves lapped upon a rocky shore!!! May you all be so lucky!!! In all seriousness though, the Neopolitan Quartet is one of the most beautiful set of novels I’ve ever read, for reasons that many other Drawn & Quarterly employees have already talked about: it’s tense, it’s fraught, it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s dense and yet intensely addictive. More than anything, what I love about these books is the complexity of the friendship between the two main characters, Lenu and Lila. I’ve had a few people tell me they dislike the causticity of the friendship between them, the jealousy and pettiness they so often exhibit, but honestly, that is one of my favourite parts about Ferrante’s portrayal of their friendship. I love that she never shies away from the pain that can stem from toxic relationships, the heartbreaking ways you can misinterpret someone’s actions or have your own emotional immaturity hurt others. It’s a raw, beautiful, painful read, that I cannot stop recommending enough, to literally everyone I see.
—Marcela Huerta, Production Assistant
Eve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz
Last month in LA, I picked up Eve's Hollywood by Eve Babitz at ol' Skylight Books. I picked it up because I've always sort of been in love with LA, and because there isn't anyone's LA I want to read and know more of, than the LA that belonged to Eve Babitz. There's an easy allure in the former party girl memoir, but that's not what stirs nor what did stir me to this title. Instead, I was given the always satisfying gift of encountering yet another profoundly talented, brilliant, imagistic and utterly poetic writer. Contemporary essayists ought to pick up Eve's Hollywood to truly learn the function of the essay. One that extends much farther than a so called opinion piece. Eve writes of growing up in LA, of attending Hollywood High, of falling in love with women for the way they wore lipstick, of unsatisfying but insatiable escapades with men, some of whom include the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Ed Ruscha, and Jim Morrison, but who cares — it's Eve the reader comes to idolize. Eve, who writes about a big, bright, highway, and flower filled city with a bad reputation, and all the — not lessons — but truths it taught her.
—Sruti Islam, Marketing Assistant
Boo by Neil Smith
Looking through the books in my frequent visits to the bookstore I came across this title twice (once in English and once in French) and the contrasting book covers intrigued me. I was headed out on vacation and had a stack of new novels, memoirs, forthcoming D+Q comics on loses sheets of paper, and too many New Yorkers (code for People magazine) but I added this to the top. It's a sprightly YA philosophical comedy mystery about a boy named "Boo"because of his ghostly complexion and his recent death by gunshot. But its narrated by him as a letter to his parents. From Heaven. A certain kind of Heaven where only thirteen year olds go. It's kind of like a comfortable but slightly rundown suburban town complete with parks and museums and occasional food drops from God. Or Zig as the kids in the book refer to him. The story really gets going when another boy from Boo's hometown of Hoffman Estates (wait, that's John Porcellino's hometown?!?!) shows up and evidently he too died of a gunshot wound. Except unlike Boo, he remembers what the shooter looks like. So the boys set off across their part of Heaven-for-only-thirteen-year-olds looking to see if this shooter possibly died too. Smith is funny and never let's the details of his creation bog him down. The book is funny and goofy and sweet and Boo is a wonderful nerdy modern Holden if ever there were one.
—Tom Devlin, Executive Editor
Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt
This comic is a riot. It follows a mid-twenties Justin-Bieber-obsessed vixen who's desperately looking to get lucky. Unafraid to gross out, flip power dynamics, and assert sexual desire, this super bright book looks at both the tough and vulnerable sides of sexual frustration with a fantastic sense of self-deprecating humour.
Sick by Gabby Schulz (Secret Acres)
New Gabby Schulz comics! In Sick, Schulz recounts his experience dealing with a severe illness without any health insurance. The focus on illness and the body isn’t new for Schulz, but the tone here is decidedly bleaker than in Monsters or Weather. Funny details are still present but are much more sombre, moving towards the gory and macabre. And the political too, as the author uses his experience of being uninsured and ill to point out the far greater injustices in our society, making for a very interesting read.
Pissing in a River by Cherry Styles (Synchronise Witches Press)
Punk Village #1 by Lisa Czech (self-published)
I recently picked up a few zines from a friend. The first was a Patti Smith fanzine titled Pissing in the River. Not much more needs to be said–it's a Patti Smith zine with over twenty collaborators, so if you like Patti Smith, you'll probably love this. The second, Punk Village #1, comes from local cartoonist Lisa Czech. From the very first comic about street harassment, to the great little nuggets of Quebecois dialogue, Punk Village is spot on. The author's in-your-face attitude recalls the raw energy of Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte, which we could always do with more of!
—Marie-Jade Menni, Production Coordinator
Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett
Coming across almost as a diary rather than a series of short stories, Claire-Louise Bennett’s debut book is an account of the mind as it exists in solitude. Recording vignettes of woman’s life on the West Coast of Ireland, Pond takes the banality of the day-to-day and somehow illuminates it—focusing in on specific moments that are completely unremarkable, but that are nonetheless happening in space and time.
She muses about porridge with black jam and almond flakes, oranges after sex, how burnt stir-fry gets thrown in the garbage like everything else in her life—and other fun, non-food related things as well. The book also has a meditative quality to it, the stories themselves moving at a languid pace with run-on sentences and one-paragraph stories acting as a kind of buffer so that the book doesn’t dive too deep into the philosophical. The title also serves as a nod to Thoreau, who went to Walden’s Pond in the mid 1900s to “live deliberately.” Then narrator in this case definitely does; the pages of the book reeling you in slowly, but still allowing you to observe from afar.
—Courtney Baird-Lew, Administrative Assistant
Big Kids by Michael DeForge
I picked up Michael DeForge’s Big Kids because I wanted something to read and it was small enough to slip into my (very tiny) backpack. But inside this humble little book, I discovered the kind of largeness that is hard to find in even the thickest Russian tomes. Equal parts wise, funny, and strange, Big Kids contains all the awkward uncertainty of teenagedom and everything that comes with it. The breakups, the hormones, the failed sexual experiments; the desperation of being alone, lost, and completely confused; and the relief of finally figuring your stuff out—or maybe instead realizing that you never actually will.
I think I finished the whole thing in less than an hour, but I really wish that I hadn’t. Yet even reading as quickly as I did, I found something on almost every page that made me want to stop and think, laugh, or—at one point—even cry. It’s funny, but looking back on it now, I realize that I have no idea what Big Kids is really about: maybe about everything and maybe about nothing at all. Just like I have no idea where DeForge finds his gently perplexing storylines, no idea how he executes them so perfectly, every time.
What I do know is that Big Kids is going to be staying in my backpack—and my mind—for a long while yet.
—Alice Fleerackers, Production Intern
Den Дrliga Bedragaren by Tove Jansson (Bonniers/Le Livre de Poche/NYRB)
I’ve been obsessed with Tove Jansson’s life, art, and comics lately (this may or may not be a side effect of the D+Q internship) and was very curious about her novels too. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Swedish is virtually nonexistent, so I settled for a French translation of Den Дrliga Bedragaren (The True Deceiver). However, if you can't read Swedish either, I would rather recommend reading the English translation, which seems to convey the original writing style way better. The main character, Katri Kling, doesn't trust anyone or anything but numbers and doesn't bother with politeness and white lies. Her brutal honesty and her fairness are very convenient when it comes to settling accounts of any kind, but they also expose everyone's pettiness in the process. In the same village lives Anna Aemelin, a famous children's book illustrator (sounds familiar? Wait, it's not over!). Every year, she waits for the long winter to end to start painting the mountain landscapes of Vдsterby as a background for her next book, and every year, the background grows richer in details as she puts off the moment when she will have to draw the rabbit family that brought her fame—and that she has come to hate over the years. She doesn't seem to realize that she could do whatever she wants if she wasn't trying so hard to please everyone all the time: the villagers, the publisher, the young children who read her books, the only friend who ever listened to her...even though she is well aware that they all are taking advantage of her kindness. Katri decides to enter Anna's life with a pretty simple aim: make enough money for her younger brother Mats to achieve his only dream, to have a boat of his own. This money she will earn, she will earn it in the most honest way, by telling the truth to Anna about every single deal she has made in her life. But she doesn't know that by doing so, she is also changing the rules she has set for herself and grown used to.
Il est l'heure d'aller nourrir les poules, Noriko (La Logique du Calendrier)
Noriko se lиve tфt, tous les matins, pour un travail qui ne lui apporte rien, sinon une certaine sйcuritй financiиre et un profond mal-кtre. En parallиle, son alter ego passe ses journйes а travailler sur des projets crйatifs qui ont vraiment du sens pour elle. La jeune graphiste rкve de donner sa dйmission mais n'ose jamais franchir le pas, prйfйrant passer ses nuits а dessiner. Ces contradictions dйtйriorent de plus en plus son moral — et la qualitй de son sommeil. Mais bientфt, des distorsions surrйalistes viennent troubler la platitude de son quotidien pour lui rappeler qu'elle a une passion а entretenir... Une lecture йnergisante qui donne envie de boire beaucoup d'espresso, de ne jamais perdre son temps а travailler sans conviction pour des employeurs qui ne respectent qu'eux-mкmes, et surtout, de se mettre sйrieusement а ce beau projet que l'on repousse sans cesse. Il est l'heure d'aller nourrir les poules est le premier livre de Noriko et le premier livre publiй par la Logique du Calendrier en tant que maison d'йdition.
So if you haven't already, go see Tove Jansson's paintings and Noriko's website, embrace change, and don't forget to feed the chickens!
—Lucie Lecoutre, Production Intern
Ant Colony by Michael DeForge
Michael DeForge’s Ant Colony was my first foray into the absurd graphic novel. The storyline begins relatively broad, introducing the ant colony as a whole, namely two homosexual ants (this is not rare: having sex with anyone but the queen is illegal) and a father and son. Eventually, ants begin dying. It’s discovered that colony of red ants has begun killing the dear black ants, creating a life-size spider sculpture with the bodies. Why? Because spider milk is a drug that they’ve become addicted to. After a war begins between the two colonies, the apocalypse happens by means of a child with a magnifying glass. The only ants left are the couple, the father and son, and a rogue police officer who refused to fight in the battle. In any post-apocalyptic tale, there are those who are hopeful, those who are wise, those who are anarchistic, and those who have lost all hope. The end of the graphic journey leaves readers with all of these characters and the actions they take as such.
As I was reading Ant Colony, I realized that what is truly absurd is not the story about ants itself, but that DeForge successfully gives human traits to ants. This tactic is necessary in animated television shows such as Bojack Horseman or Rick and Morty. It is the core reason why I love animated television shows. The fact that the characters aren’t human—whether they are animals or other-dimensional—allows me to look at the sadness that each character experiences with a sense of detachment: a tool that Michael DeForge is known for. DeForge is able to analyze the issues plaguing humans by way of a story about ants: addiction, relationships, war, and random deaths. Yet, I don’t ever feel overwhelmed being confronted by the problems being exposed. This leaves space for me to consider these concerns objectively, while still appreciating the surreal, absurd, colourful, and robotic world of nature that DeForge creates. DeForge’s Ant Colony is able to put our earth in perspective; in comparison to the universe, we are one tiny little colony.
—Gillian Cott, Production Intern