Friday, July 31, 2009

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

I had to read this book for a college class and while I was admittedly not all that interested in getting to know it (not sure why), after awhile I actually found myself enjoying it, even laughing out loud at parts. A satire on the British upper class, the novel is set in the 1930s and focuses on the breakdown of the marriage of the fictional characters Tony and Lady Brenda Last.

Waugh was best known for his darkly humorous and satirical novels, though he was extremely conservative. George Orwell apparently called him "about as good a novelist as one can be while holding untenable opinions." Regardless, I'm still interested in reading some of Waugh's other satirical works.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spiels of a Minuteman by Mike Watt

Published in 2003, this book contains an introduction by Mike Watt, lyrics to every Minuteman song, Watt's tour diary written on a 1983 tour with Black Flag, writings by Joe Carducci, Richard Meltzer, and Thurston Moore, and Raymond Pettibon drawings throughout. It comes in a cute little square package with a silkscreened front, back, inside covers, and flaps.

Published by L'oie de Caravan, a Quebec publisher, the book is written in both English and French simultaneously (English on the left side, French on the right). It appears that the French side is not always a direct translation of the English side of the spread.

The front and back inside covers feature a drawing of Mike Watt that I believe is based on this photo.

While perhaps not essential reading, it's definitely a nice package and an interesting read for Minutemen fans.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lost in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman by Bill Zehme

I bought this biography of Andy Kaufman not long after Man in the Moon was released. That movie was my first real introduction to Kaufman and I was intrigued. I wanted to know more. In addition to telling his life story, this book tries to get inside Kaufman's mind (to the extent that that is possible). I remember it seeming pretty effective, though who can know for sure? The man's been dead for 25 years* and I doubt that anyone really knew his thought processes while he was alive.

There are a few black and white spreads of some great archival photos like these from his early days. The top left one is especially cool--it's 14-year-old Andy entertaining some neighborhood children at a birthday party.

*There are speculations that he faked his own death to escape celebrity. I suppose anything's possible, especially given Kaufman's history. But I'm inclined to think that he is just dead. Maybe he will reveal himself and prove me wrong.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ghost Houses by Nigel Peake

I picked up this book at one of my favorite stores, Spoonbill and Sugartown, without really knowing much about it. All I knew was that I liked the premise, and the drawings contained within.

The book is by Nigel Peake, an architecture student from Northern Ireland. His background is definitely reflected in the, well, architectural style of his drawings.

"The drawings included in this book were drawn in June and July and collated in December. They are intended as records of lost buildings and constructions - inspired by a collection of photographs (some of which appear int his book) found in a secondhand store in Philadelphia. The lady who sold them to me said they were 'instant relatives.' It has been a joy to draw and dwell on these structures and to remember the empty houses that line the country roads and the edges of prospering towns." (From the last page of the book)

I love the watercolor stripes. I don't know why but they seem to perfectly complement the buildings.

And there's something so intriguing about old, dilapidated, crumbling buildings, long forgotten--ghost houses, if you will.

After perusing Nigel Peake's website, I've found that he has a number of other books for sale, as well as prints, zines, and the like. I may very well have to purchase a few!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire

Tony Millionaire, creator of such titles as Maakies and Sock Monkey, is one of my favorite comics artists. His work is strange, hilarious, and unsettling at its tamest--more often, I'd say dark and creepy, maybe even disturbing (but always great). This book is the tale of Becky, a young girl and scientist, and her friend Billy Hazelnuts, who was created by mice out of suet, yeast, and mince-meat pie.

His drawing style is a mix of cartoonish and realistic. As evidenced by his work across the board, he seems to particularly love drawing old houses and ships.

Fantasy and adventure are almost always infused into his storytelling. In this book, Becky and Billy journey to find the missing moon while battling an evil steam-driven alligator with a seeing-eye skunk. Need I say more?

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

Whitehead's first novel (and the only one I've read) takes place in an alternate New York City, where elevator inspection is an extremely serious and controversial issue. There are two opposing factions, the Empiricists and the Intuitionists, within the Department of Elevator Inspectors. At the heart of the story is Lila Mae, an Intuitionist, and the first black female elevator inspector in the history of the department. With shades of noir mystery, it is a strange and gripping story. Or so I remember. Maybe I ought to check out some of Whitehead's other novels.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Revolt of the Cockroach People by Oscar Zeta Acosta

This is the second book by Oscar Zeta Acosta, the Chicano lawyer immortalized as Dr. Gonzo in Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The book is a semi-autobiographical fictionalized account of the Chicano Moritorium, a movement of Mexican-American anti-war activists that formed a coalition to organize opposition to the Vietnam War.

It's been a long time since I've read it but I do remember enjoying it, and this is a particularly nice copy and edition (the first, actually!).

Much like the blood splatters in Fear and Loathing, the book is "infested" with random cockroaches crawling around the pages.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Greasy Spoon

Dave has a stack of cookbook zines that he ordered some time in the 90s, and we've lately been really into this one (don't mind the cooking stains). Not only does it contain a variety of good recipes (from the likes of Adrian Tomine, Julie Doucet, the late Lance Hahn, and other probably cool people), but the cut and paste layout is great too, with images from vintage cookbooks, comics, and more. I can't seem to find much information about the zine online, but it was put together by someone named Megan who at the time lived in Providence (according to the first page). I'd love to know if there were any more issues.

The zine contains recipes for entrees, spreads, sides, desserts, and cocktails (and it even has one for pet treats).

Julie Doucet and Adrian Tomine contribute the grossest-sounding meals of the book.

(See above comment.)

And then there are these fun little asides.

Again, don't mind the food stains--I need to remember to keep this thing away from the ingredients, since I probably won't be able to replace it!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard

This little square book contains essays on Godard's films from Breathless to Two or Three Things I Know About Her. The book stops right before La Chinoise, which I think really marks a turning point in Godard's oeuvre, so I suppose one could say that this is an examination of his earlier (though still evolving) style of film.

The essays are a bit didactic for leisurely reading, though would probably serve as good food for thought after watching each film. They all begin with a brief summary of the plot, which is kind of annoying because they reveal the endings, and if you haven't seen the film you probably don't want to know that "the two are killed in a car crash" or that a character "falls to his death." They also tend to quote lengthy sections of the script, but in French with no translation.

Each entry contains a fair amount of still images from the films, which are often great photographs in their own right--for instance, the above still from Les Carabiniers.

I love this image of Jean-Pierre Leaud from Made in USA.

And this last image (on the last page of the book, opposite a blank inside back cover).

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu

This book examines the rise of comic books in the 1940s, and then their downfall as right-wing parents and lawmakers sought to ban their sale to minors because they were believed to cause juvenile delinquency (in part perhaps because adults failed to take children seriously, considering them extremely impressionable and unable to form thoughts of their own--which, I think, is a mindset that still largely exists). Perhaps the most disturbing part is that in some cases the children themselves were leading the crusade against comics, organizing book burnings and chastising peers who refused to give up their favorite reading material. It all makes for a pretty interesting and often unsettling read into the extreme conservatism of the 50s. And what about the awesome cover art by Charles Burns?

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq

This bleak and misanthropic French novel switches between the lives of half-brothers Bruno, a failed English teacher and chronic masturbator, and Michel, an emotionally frigid molecular biologist. As toddlers they were abandoned by their mother for a life of "sexual liberation" at a commune in Big Sur, to stay with their grandmothers and live out separate but hellish childhoods and equally depressing adulthoods. A nihilistic and scathing critique of hippie idealism--perhaps not for everyone but I recall liking it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

US: The Paperback Magazine # 3

The third issue (of three total) of US: the Paperback Magazine, edited by Richard Goldstein, published in 1970. I can't find much about the history behind this short-lived journal of "radical" writings and art (I put that in quotes because if it's published by a large house, how radical could it be?), but after reading the New York Times article reprinted in its pages (see last image), it seems to have been Bantam's attempt at creating a hip magazine that appealed to the readers of the Evergreen Review and the New American Review and the like. Most likely it didn't sell as much as they'd hoped so they canned the project after just three issues.

With articles by two of the first rock critics Robert Christgau and Richard Meltzer, among others, on the likes of Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kerouac, etc., it sounded like a cool little collection of writing so I gave it a shot. Some of it felt a little bit dated, but most of it was pretty well written and interesting. Worth reading, either way.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tiny Giants by Nate Powell

When I was an intern at Soft Skull Press in 2003 one of the tasks that I (and various others) had to complete was scanning the huge stack of large hand-drawn comics that comprise the pages of this book. Each page was done in two parts, due to the size of the scanning bed. Then someone else would digitally merge the two halves together. This process was rather time-consuming, as each scan would take several minutes to complete, due to the shitty equipment and the fact that we were scanning at 1200 dpi. Halfway through we realized something was wrong with the scanner and had to buy a new one and start over. I remember there was much rejoicing after I announced that the final page had been scanned (a month behind schedule). Such are the tribulations of small presses. When I flip through the book I'm almost in disbelief at how good it looks.

When I look at Tiny Giants I always think of how I actually held the original drawings and had a (very small) hand in the creation of the final product, which is a collection of the works of Nate Powell, a young comics artist who has also played in various bands. He has since published several books on Top Shelf (which is probably better for him in the long run, as they are strictly comics publishers and know the medium).

His storytelling is poetic, blending reality with dreams, with hints of existentialism. As Frank Miller says, he employs "observant, intimate cartooning anchored with a nice punchy use of black."

This page seems particularly sad as we had to do this to one of our goldfish last week.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit

River of Shadows is part biography of Eadweard Muybridge, an English photographer known primarily for his use of multiple cameras to capture motion, and the development of the zoopraxiscope, an early device for projecting motion pictures. But it is also a larger story about the acceleration and industrialization of everyday life in the nineteenth century, such as the birth of the railroad. Solnit uses Muybridge as way of looking at the connections between art, technology, and politics.

There's a hard to find film about Muybridge that I had the privilege of seeing a couple years ago that animates his motion studies (not, apparently, the way audiences would have seen his films via zoopraxiscope, as those had to be drawn). This book goes into a little more detail about his background, but there is little known about him. It seems he was a solitary and private man who devoted his life to his art.

Monday, July 13, 2009

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Vonnegut was a favorite of mine in high school. I haven't read anything of his in a long time, and maybe I'm due to revisit him (the way I'm going, by the time I get through enough books on this blog I'll have to devote a year to revisiting old favorites).

An ex-boyfriend gave me this book, which prompted me to (at the time--about seven years ago) read some more of Vonnegut's novels. While I don't remember much about this one, I can't say I've ever disliked a book by this author.

The famous Kilgore Trout makes an appearance (no, I didn't remember that either, I looked it up).

Each chapter begins with the symbol of the Rosewater Fire Department.