Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Des Constructions de Panneux Publicitaries Dessines pour une Ville Francaise by Nigel Peake

I'm pretty excited about this new zine from Nigel Peake. The title translates to "Billboard constructions for a French town," and while there is no accompanying text or introduction, it seems to be a collection of line drawings of imagined signage in an imagined French town.

The concept and execution are fantastic. The drawings are copied onto pastel colored papers, with a solid black cover and stitched spine.

I especially love the more fanciful signs. I'd love to see a giant hat on the side of the road somewhere, in France or otherwise.

You can purchase a copy here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nine Ways to Disappear by Lilli Carre

Another book by one of my favorite new comic artists, Lilli Carre, author of Tales of Woodsman Pete. This book is pretty tiny, about five inches square, which makes it extra adorable and lovely.

I love her drawing style, and the storytelling is strange and whimsical and weirdly funny. The stories in this book are exactly what the title describes: nine short vignettes, each about objects and people drifting out of sight.

From things flowing down a storm drain, to shrinking people, the stories and illustrations are beautiful and surreal. I probably read this all in one sitting, and the more I flip through it, the more I'd like to read it again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

I'd never read anything by Walter Mosley before, but I've lately been more and more interested in hardboiled crime fiction, and had been curious about this new series about an aging, hard-drinking, ex-boxer New York P.I. named Leonid McGill. McGill has spent most of his career working for criminals, involved in countless shady deals, wrongly setting up innocent people, taking bribes from hitmen, and so on. Now he wants to change "from crooked to slightly bent." Flawed characters are always more interesting than "good people," so the bad guy as the hero angle works pretty nicely. I wouldn't call it a masterpiece but I enjoyed the book and look forward to the second in the series, Known to Evil.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We're Desperate: The Punk Rock Photography of Jim Jocoy

This is a collection of photographs of punks. Taken in the late 70s in San Francisco and Los Angeles, they serve as a great portrait of the era--the characters, the venues and hang-out spots, and the style. Or many styles, maybe. The great thing about punk in the late 70s (okay, not like I was actually there) was that there really were no rules, no cookie cutter music conventions, no uniforms. And so the looks are wildly different, totally original and outrageous, from thrift store duds to plastic bags to impeccable suits. I also love how the musicians and artists are given the same treatment as the fans--really, they were all fans. But unless you know them by sight, you can't tell Alice Bag or Tomata DuPlenty from the random chick with the zebra print coat (and maybe she was in a band too, who knows).

Another great thing about the book is how you get to glimpse into the bathrooms and dark graffiti-covered corners and alleyways of all the storied punk venues you see on flyers. Where else would you get to see those places?

I love the random flotsam on his shirt--the button, the photo attached with masking tape, the spraypainted circle, the bleach spots. It's like a little collage.

The mirrors do great things to these photos. It feels like a funhouse or something.

The legendary Claude Bessy.

How awesome is John Waters? It's kind of perfect that he's standing next to a toilet. (Maybe that's on purpose.)

So not all of the outfits in the book are anything you'd want to actually wear. W-T-F? (Note that I never use silly abbreviations like that. This is what this lady's get-up has done to me.)

P.S. Dave would like me to mention that this is technically his book.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon

Thomas Pynchon's latest novel is a bit of a departure for him. For one thing, it's only 384 pages--practically a short story. Set in California in the early 70s--the seedy, LSD-laced, post-Manson era--it's written as a noir detective novel, starring a hippie P.I. named Doc Sportello. The writing is recognizably Pynchon's, with its countless subplots and counterplots, though it is on the whole much more casually readable than most of his work. Parts of it reminded me a lot of The Crying of Lot 49, stylistically.

Overall, it's not one of my favorites of his. I think I might have overhyped it in my mind. I wanted to love it--the premise sounded so good--but while I found it enjoyable it was also somewhat forgettable.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Cat Inside by William S. Burroughs

I saw this one on a shelf at work. I love the collage style cover. I also love that it's a book about cats by William S. Burroughs. This series of prose poems, written when Burroughs was in his early 70s, shows a gentler side of the author of Junkie and Naked Lunch, as he reminisces about the many cats he has known, and ponders man's relationship to cats. It's a rather slim volume--I read it in a sitting.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pulp by Charles Bukowski

This is Bukowski's last novel, but the first one that I read. I remember seeing it out on a table at The Strand and being drawn to the striking cover. I'd heard of Charles Bukowski, though I didn't know much about him, but I decided to check it out.

Pulp is a strange introduction to his work—definitely not characteristic of the bulk of his novels and stories. It's more of an homage to classic detective fiction like Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, with quite a few literary references—the main character, Nick Belane, is asked to find the author Celine, whom Bukowski has called "the greatest writer of the last 2,000 years"; he's also hired by a man named John Barton to find the Red Sparrow (undoubtedly a salute to his Black Sparrow publisher John Martin), and visited by two thugs named Dante and Fante (after Dante Alighieri and John Fante). Bukowski died shortly after writing this book so perhaps this was his idea of a farewell and salute to his literary heroes.

I don't actually remember much about reading it but I certainly liked it enough to keep reading more of his books. But maybe it's not generally the best place to start.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris

The five movies nominated for Best Picture of 1967 were Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, and Dr. Dolittle. Pictures at a Revolution profiles each of them from conception to release and beyond, providing not only the stories of the making of each individual film, but a broader picture of Hollywood in the 60s, not to mention the overall culture and atmosphere of the era. That year marked a kind of turning point for American film-making, heralding the coming decade of the 70s--and some of the best movies to ever have come out of the Hollywood system. The five nominees nicely represent both the new and the old, the generational divide sharply on display.

The book provides a fascinating if not exhausting look at how hard it is to get a film produced, as well as the rather arbitrary forming of the cultural landscape and icons of the day. At one point Bonnie and Clyde was to be directed by Jean-Luc Godard, who wanted to film it in New Jersey in the middle of winter with Elliott Gould starring as Clyde Barrow. (I actually kind of wish that had come to fruition.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

This is Nabokov's memoir, an impressionistic tale of his youth—or rather, his remembrance of youth—in an aristocratic family living in Saint Petersburg and their country estate before the Russian Revolution. His family escaped from the Bolsheviks in 1918, with the book touching lightly on his European exile during the 1920s and 30s and ending with this departure for the U.S. in 1940.

The inside pages have this great map of the Nabokov estate, with a drawing of a butterfly in the upper left (obscured by the bookplate left on by a former owner).