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The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider

Shape of Ideas

We all need Grant Snider.

Get the book.

Visit his website.

Be wryly inspired.

Have a companion in your quest to create.

 

For example:

Writers Hierarchy of Needs Snider

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Sleepwalk by Adrian Tomine

SleepwalkOriginally published in 1998, Sleepwalk and Other Stories collects the sixteen earliest stories from the Optic Nerve comic series. Tomine won a Harvey Award for Best New Talent for this book.

These are stories of people trying to move on in their lives, trying to connect with each other, and more often than not missing, and when they miss they end up somewhere they hadn’t intended, and the focus of their attention often is misplaced.

Sleepwalk  is just one of several volumes that collect these short stories, first of all self-published and then continued by the always impressive Drawn and Quarterly.

Rivers of London (Graphic)

RiversOfLondon-CollectedEditions-Blog-2Rivers of London began as a series of novels by Ben Aaronovitch.

Each volume is a separate story featuring Peter Grant, who is both a junior detective and trainee wizard.  He is joined in the stories by his boss Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, a police colleague of Nightingale’s, and Peter’s girlfriend, Beverly Brook, who is the goddess of her namesake waterway.

The setting is the dark side of London, where criminality and evil collide. You can read the graphic series, or the novels or both, and on his own website Aaronovich has a chronology, which, of course, is not the publishing chronology, where you can read both in the sequence that the events unfold (mostly).

London is a background, and clearly the inspiration, but these could take place in any big city, on cusp of night and darkness, where reality meets the fears and real dangers that haunt us all.

Tenements, Towers & Trash by Julia Wertz

Tenements Towers and TrashWertz‘s book is subtitled “An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York.”

That it is.  When I first found this book in Shakespeare and Co, I was looking for a present for a new New Yorker friends that would give them a new perspective on their new home town. Wertz brings to life not the whole city, but many parts as they have changed through time.

The epigraph of the book is from E. B. White: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second,, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and coame to New York in quest of something. Of these three trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination.”

Wertz brings to life all three New Yorks.  Even if you didn’t grow up there, and haven’t moved there, for several hours poring over Wertz’s evocative drawing, and harsh witty writing you can live there through so many periods of the twentieth century.

Don’t miss the 12 pages of the “Biased Guide to New York’s Independent Bookstores.”

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Threads: From the Refugee Crisis by Kate Evans

Threads - Kate EvansMy current obsession with graphic literature continues and I am continually surprised by new works.  Kate Evans’ extraordinary book is dark and fascinating and draws you in to the world of  The Jungle outside Calais.  The Jungle was a sprawling camp full of desperate people escaping their horrors of their home countries.  Evans’ visual style and fragmentary storytelling shows the dark and desperation, but more importantly she explores the humanity and even the joy of so many of the people who were not welcomed, had nowhere to go.  Their story is here, and it is one of the best antidotes to the xenophobia that drives Brexit and similar forces in France. Read it now.

I’m OK with I’m Not OK with This

IAmNotOkay_Cover_forsman.pngI heard about the new Netflix series The End of the F***ing World based on the graphic novel by Charles Forsman.  Thought I’d read the book first.  You know. When I went to look for it, found this instead.  Okay is almost about high schoolers, focusing on Sydney, who has lsot her father, has trouble getting along with her family, despite the fact that she would like to, and  has few friends at school.  On top of that, when she is angry, she has a power that destroys.  You’ll have to read it to find out more. The drawings are cartoonish–just enough lines to tell the story and generate a feeling. The story is emotional and engaging. The ending is earned, but unwanted, as Forsman has made the connection between Sydney and the reader.

The Death of Stalin

Death of Stalin coverA true Soviet Story by Fabien Nury et Thierry Robin (Titan Comics, 2017) (Original pub. France: Dargand, 2012) Now a film directed by Armando Iannucci.

Fiction?  Non-fiction? The difficulty of telling the stories of the Soviet Union.

“Although inspired by real events, this book is nonetheless as work of fiction..having said this, the authors would like to make it clear that their imaginations were scarcely stretched in the creation…since it would have been impossible for them to come up with anything half as insane as the real events.”

In this novel as in the authors’ statement and as in the Soviet Union, it is difficult to separate truth from fiction.  By writing “fiction” Nury and Robin avoid the need to decide what is true. There is almost no other way to go, as they pull this “true” story from “historical evidence that was at best patchy, at times partial, and often contradictory.”  As always, it is tough for an outsider to know how convoluted and dangerous life was in both the government of the U.S.S.R. and in the opposition. I have written about The Yidanother fictional and satiric take on the Stalin’s death.

Strong (a derogatory word) leaders always leave a huge hole when they depart, and this version of the story focuses on the jockeying for position as a hole is opening. The shadowy world is drawn in shades of brown and grey, just occasionally punctuated by a red highlights: a dress, a pillow, the fabric around Stalin’s coffin.

The story is framed by a classical radio broadcast of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23, featuring the soloist, Maria Yudina. Stalin calls the radio station asking for a recording of the performance, which had gone out live and was not taped.  Quickly, the orchestra is detained in the studio, and when they are asked to record the piece, Yudina refuses to play for Stalin.  She is bribed with 20,000 rubles, and then the conductor collapses too scared to carry on.  A second conductor is forcibly brought in by the police, in the middle of the night, and when the recording is done, Yudina, forces a note into the package with the record that the NKVD have come to collect. Stalin gets the note, reads it, and it tells him that Yudina will “pray for him” and that she will “donate” the money she was paid “to her parish for restoration work.” Immediately after he reads the note, Stalin has a massive heart attack.

The rest of the story is the negotiations and underhand manipulations that the Central Committee go through to figure out who succeeds the Georgian as Party Secretary.

It’s well written and dramatic and revealing of how decisions are made when there is no centre of power. But the idea of what is true, is central. The final image is a two-page spread of two parallel scenes. Beria is being executed,. He wonders if anyone will believe that he is guilty of the murders he is accused of, while at the same time, Yudina tells a joke about him, where a NKVD officer is crying in front of the mausoleum, and his colleague asks him if he is OK. The crying man asks, “Is it true that they arrested Beria?” The other man replies that it’s true, and the crying man says, “He raped, my daughter.” The other man replies, “Your’s too.” Beria is on the left-hand page, Yudina on the right, and at the bottom, across both pages a brick wall and a cloud of dust, and speech bubbles, presumably from Beria, say, “They’ve washed their hands in my blood…and now…they want to start afresh, to look ahead.”  The final bubble alone in the cloud of dust from the bullets that kill him, “towards a glorious future!”

Read it.  See the film.

It may seem distant in geography and in time, but these are the ways of our species.

In Russia, nobody’s laughing at Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin