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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Staff Picks 2017: Luke

What a year it has been at the Librairie(s) Drawn and Quarterly. There are so many authors I've discovered. There were so many amazing events, so many wonderful people I've met and so many great books! Here are some 2017 selections with which I felt particular kinship:

Non-Fiction

The Mother of All Questions - Rebecca Solnit
It is perhaps because she speaks with such directness, sagacity and depth
of understanding that these essays are as brutal as they are uplifting. They describe despicable acts in an upsetting world, yet Solnit speaks truth and in this way the book feels celebratory. As Solnit analyzes current events and shows us rage-inducing-faults, we feel as though we are getting somewhere. Her essay "80 Books No Woman Should Read" tears into the "western canon" in the
best way. Ferrante, Lessing & Erdrich are held up, while a several supposed must-reads go high on her no-go list.

We Were Eight Years in Power - Ta-Nahesi Coates
There is a part in the book where Ta-Nahesi Coates says that James Baldwin’s writing “wasn’t just style or ornament but an unparalleled ability to see what was before him clearly and then lay that vision, with that same clarity, before the world.” One could say the same about Ta-Nahesi Coates’s
writing while reading this book. It is a collection of essays from years one through eight of the Obama presidency interspersed with present day reflections between each chapter. Coates eloquently expresses that although many of the ideas in the essays may seem radical, they really should not be.

No Is Not Enough - Naomi Klein
Like We Were Eight Years in Power, this book is crucial for understanding the present moment, and where to go next. Naomi Klein links her three previous works books about the climate crisis, shock, and superbrands in the comparatively concise No Is Not Enough. The book is a call to action "as the climate clock strikes zero." She lays out how middle-of-the-road, incremental change is woefully inadequate for today’s plethora of crises. She so aptly describes why colonialism, racism, misogyny,  corporate greed, superbrands and climate catastrophe, are linked, and how we must act to solve many crises at once.

Graphic

Boundless - Jillian Tamaki 
There is a strong sense of wonder and irreverence in Tamaki’s writing. She captures interpersonal relationships, strong emotions, and the minutiae of our daily lives in such a fascinating way. Tamaki’s
stunning and constantly changing drawing style pairs well with her beautiful prose. The short stories “Half-Life”, “Sexcoven”, “Jenny” and “Boundless” are particularly imaginative. “Darla” so hilarious. I love her commitment to showcasing diversity in her comics. She is able to capture movement masterfully with simple lines. Boundless is experimental and it feels as though she is exploring the full spectrum of drawing styles.

Moi aussi je voulais l’emporter - Julie Delporte
The latest from Julie Delporte is a tour de force: a profound meditation on gender and a strong feminist text. The voice is honest, poignant, and full of feeling. The images are beautifully rendered in full colour. Delporte explores creativity, isolation, loss, and personal and societal trauma with great care. Tove Jansson and Moomin occupy an important place in the text. There are references to many other other artists, writers and filmmakers and an examination of society’s treatment of female artists. The book is evocative and imaginative and the montage of text and images allow for profound reflections.

Poppies of Iraq - Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim - Translated by Helge Dascher 
Absolutely loved this book which tells the story of a childhood in Mosul, Iraq. Over 50 years of contemporary Iraqi history and personal narratives expertly play with the reader’s expectations. The minimal images combined with the text are replete with visual metaphor and parable. Use of real photos is reminiscent of Sebald as is the exploration of memory, identity and belonging. Poppies of Iraq is superb indeed.


Hostage - Guy Delisle - Translated by Helge Dascher 
This psychologically intense page-turner is dynamite. The reader is trapped with humanitarian worker Chistophe André when he is taken hostage near Chechnya. Though much of the narrative takes place in a limited physical space, the world we witness in André’s mind is broad. We experience his anguish and euphoric joy at the most minimal pleasure. We have compassion for his mixed emotions towards his captors, his only human contact. We can almost feel his physical pain. This work of deep feeling is another triumph from Delisle.

Fiction

Jenny Zhang - Sour Heart
Zhang’s honesty is startling at times. She is able to capture intimate moments and describe the thinking behind these moments so well. These short stories are engrossing, hilarious, sad, buoyant and eminently relatable. Loved the interwoven nature of the book.

Brother - David Chariandy
Swift character development, great metaphors, a use of language that is surprising, very-little-to-no superfluous detail: Chariandy’s Brother has got the makings of a superb work of fiction. The prose is fluid and lucid. The content of the book feels so relevant. It is engrossing in its structure, from the way people and events are revealed right down to how Chariandy’s constructs sentences.

Picture Books

I Am Life - Elisabeth Helland Larsen, Illustrated by Marine Schneider
Adored this book which is a follow up to Life and I: A Story about Death. In the second book, I Am Life we meet the character Life. The book is a celebration of this figure—Life—but at certain point the characters bleed into each other, and we see that Life and Death are together. The emotional effect of the book is heightened if one reads both the first and second book, but the profundity of the work is felt either way.


Marianne Dubuc - Le chemin de la montagne
A delicate book which also deals with death, but in a subtle way, as well as themes empathy, teaching, companionship and what we pass along to others. Dubuc places the text next to the images in a very playful manner. The turns of phrase are tender, the images stunning. Another grand accomplishment, as we’ve come to expect from Dubuc.

And make sure to check out all the other staff picks!

Alyssa \\ Anna \\ Arizona \\ Benjamin \\ Chantal H. \\  Chantale P. \\  Eli \\ Kalliopé \\  Kate \\  Kennedy \\  Lauriane \\ Saelan \\ Sophie

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