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Friday, 22 December 2017

Staff Picks 2017: Kate

Happy winter solstice everyone. As multiple people have consoled me, whenever I complain about early northern hemisphere sunsets, the days start getting longer again today. On the other hand, it's also the official beginning of winter. Thank goodness for the deep shelves of Librairie Drawn & Quarterly keeping me supplied with books throughout this dark season. Over the past twelve months I've read a lot of good books, but these are the ones that stuck with me.   

Notes from a Crocodile - Qiu Miaojin, The Idiot - Elif Batuman, Homesick for Another World - Ottessa Moshfegh

I read Qiu Miaojin's first novel for former D&Q bookseller Helen Bradley's bimonthly meet, her stellar Reading Across Borders book club. Miaojin became a cult literary figure in 1990s Taiwan due to her transgressive writing that addressed sexuality and depression frankly. The NYRB edition of her first novel was a highlight of my reading this year. Another highlight was undoubtedly Elif Batuman's novel, The Idiot. This school days narrative, set in the heady first days of e-mail, sees protagonist Selin, an earnest undergrad, stumble her way through freshman year at Harvard. The characters that populate Moshfegh's collection of short stories are for the most part past college days, but just as fallible and complex. After reading Eileen, I have devoured everything I can get my hands on written by Ottessa Moshfegh and Homesick for Another World was as phenomenal as I anticipated.

 
Modern Love - Constance DeJong, After Kathy Acker - Chris Kraus, Difficult Women: A Memoir of Three - David Plante

DeJong's compulsively readable story of modern love, written circa 1975, cartwheels between downtown New York, India, and the courtly love of Elizabethan England. When I learned of its influence on Kathy Acker's work, I knew I had to read it. Chris Kraus traces this lineage and many more in her biography of Acker, which had to be one of my favorite reads in 2017. Meticulously researched from the diaries and correspondences that Acker kept herself, this intimate portrait of her life and career was completely engrossing. In other memoirs, I sped through David Plante's record of his time spent in the company of three beguiling women: Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell, and Germaine Greer. This taut account, rendered in cinéma vérité like detail, is worthwhile for its unsentimental depiction of said luminaries.

Boundless - Jillian Tamaki, The Green Hand and other Stories - Nicole Claveloux

Boundless was hands down one of my favorite reads of the year! The collection of short stories truly showcases Tamaki's astute writing, in addition to her effortless drawing style. Stories range from the quotidian to the very strange and are at their best when they're both. NYRC's late 2017 reissue of The Green Hand also features a series of strange stories that I knew I had to read right away. Originally published in Heavy Metal magazine, these comics are stunningly evocative in the way that only the best surrealist fiction can be.

Perfect Hair - Tommi Parrish, Anti-Gone - Connor Willumsen

Both of these books are formally inventive, critical accounts of love, gender, politics, and apathy in the 21st century. Of all the cartoonists I'm excited about these days, Parrish is definitely up there. Perfect Hair, out on 2d Cloud, depicts experiences of discomfort and anxiety in a way that is both visceral and familiar to me, and I'm dying for more long-form work. Inversely, Willumsen's Anti-Gone captures the ominous serenity of escapism and alienation inside a fantastic self-enclosed world.  

Moomin and the Brigands - Tove Jansson, Moi aussi, je voulais l'emporter - Julie Delporte

Julie Delporte's introspective comics are some of my favorite, and her latest is no exception. Done in the raw style of a diary, she explores sexuality and solitude, while tracing a genealogy of female role models. One of the women she examines most thoroughly is Tove Jansson, writer, artist, and creator of the beloved Moomin series. I highly recommend picking up a copy of D&Q's latest reissue of Jansson as well, Moomin and the Brigands, in which Moomin and Snorkmaiden meet!

Nature Poem - Tommy Pico, delete - Daphné B., Tropico - Marcela Huerta

In Nature Poem, Pico's follow up to the stunning IRL, he writes against the stereotype of the "noble savage" that indigenous people are endlessly confronted with. Pico is hilarious and his insights abrasive, while he creates a space for sincere reflection. Amidst all of the great poetry this year I can't leave out delete and Tropico. Both are written by former colleagues, Daphné B. and Marcela Huerta respectively, and both are truly excellent. Fusing fragments of past selves to circle around absence and loss, these slim volumes contain lush explorations of grief.

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