Displaying articles for: August 2012

The Underwater Welder

I first encountered the work of Jeff Lemire in 2008, when I sat as one of the judges for the Eisner Awards, comicdom's premier prize. Volumes 1 & 2 of what would become his Essex County Trilogy were under consideration and indeed ended up on the final ballot: an easy decision, as I recall, that elicited unanimity from the impressed judges. Since then, he has gone on from strength to strength, becoming one of the best writers at DC Comics for some of their core superhero titles, while also drawing and scripting his own stand-alone project for their Vertigo imprint, Sweet Tooth, a brutally tender tale about chimeric mutants in a postapocalyptic landscape. And the most amazing thing about Lemire's career since 2008 is that he has not compromised his indie vision. He's remained weird and off-kilter and idiosyncratic, failing to succumb to the bombast and swell-headedness that so often infects even the sharpest of the alternative creators when they enter the franchised world of "the Big Two," Marvel and DC.

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Dead Funny

After reading Rudolph Herzog's Dead Funny with mixed laughter and gasps, head-shaking incredulity and sagely nodding confirmation of the best and worst that humanity has to offer, I find myself channeling the Three Stooges in You Nazty Spy!, John Banner (Sgt. Schultz) in Hogan's Heroes, Roberto Benigni in Life Is Beautiful, and John Cleese in that episode of Fawlty Towers known as "The Germans". In short, I'm trying to use all the familiar, non-German instances of humor about the Nazis to understand this book's revelations:  a heretofore rare glimpse into the incredible pressure cooker of mortality and laughter that Herzog reveals Hitlerian Germany to have been.

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Birdseye Bristoe

Dan Zettwoch's debut graphic novel sings with a sweet simplicity enhanced by a concealed formalist complexity. Birdseye Bristoe, a spare, episodic tale concerning a few momentous weeks in the lives of the citizens of a small, eccentric "Midsouth" town, is Norman Rockwell by way of Twin Peaks. Although not as ambitious or dense as David Mazzuchelli's Asterios Polyp, it shares some of that book's sly blending of macrocosmic and microcosmic concerns, where big issues arise emergently out of the quotidian.

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Art Forgery 101

Ken Perenyi, author of Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger, teaches readers how to create fakes, fool experts, and laugh their way to the bank.

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From "Juicy" to "Beasts": A Conversation with Lucy Alibar

In an exclusive interview, playwright Lucy Alibar, who adapted the script of art house favorite Beasts of the Southern Wild from her one-act play Juicy and Delicious, talks about the gender of her main character, future plans for her play, and authors she admires.

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Wearing the Poisoned Shirt

Be very careful what you wish for -- you might get it! This familiar bit of cautionary and cynical folk wisdom -- with its unspoken but obvious corollary that when you get your wish it will prove distasteful -- would surely have been known to the master American fantasist James Branch Cabell (1879-1958), especially in its contemporaneous incarnation as "The Monkey's Paw," a 1902 story by W. W. Jacobs. In fact, the monitory maxim could almost serve as a recurring motif and theme across all of Cabell's books, in which unrealistic desires and expectations and dreams are often undermined and betrayed by their very fulfillment, proving that the deluded  human heart is never the best judge of what's really healthy for it.

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A Reader's Guide to Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

With the news of Gore Vidal's death at 86, our editors' guide to essential reading from the novelist, essayist and provocateur.

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July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).