Sfar, Joann. The Rabbi’s Cat. Pantheon Book, 2005.
Rabbi’s Cat is a clever way of introducing Talmudic teaching…sort of like sneaking spinach into a burger to make it “healthier” (yeah, right). The philosophical arguments with a cat about God and love are pretty funny yet serious. To start from the beginning. A parrot annoyed a cat, so the cat ate the bird and gained the ability to speak and lie, not necessarily in that order. Even as a liar, the cat is a straight shooter, albeit a little sarcastic. The cat is also a true cat, randomly knocking over things, or walking on piano keys when you are trying to play, or sitting directly on the very book you are trying to read. But, remember, this cat can talk so it should be no surprise it is demanding a Bar Mitzvah. The rabbi needs to consult his rabbi on that one (although he doesn’t faze him to hear a cat speak). Thus begins the argument, what does it mean to have faith? Does what you practice define your level of spirituality? What about the differences between being a Jew or an Arab? I loved the argument between the cat and the donkey about the name ‘Sfar.’ Truly a clever book.
Great lines to quote, “He tells me that they don’t circumcise cats” (p 10), “You know, sometimes you kill just one person and it takes care of everything” (p 82), and “I love my master, too, it doesn’t mean I have to act like an electric fan” (p 128),
Author fact: Sfar won the Jury Prize for The Rabbi’s Cat.
Book trivia: The Rabbi’s Cat is a graphic novel and the illustrations express volumes (like being underwater and drowning to symbolize helplessness). Really cool designs.
Nancy said: Pearl recommended The Rabbi’s Cat “for a change of pace” (Book Lust To Go p 161).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 158).
Guibert, Emmanuel, Didier Lefleve, and Frederic Lemercier. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. New York: First Second, 2009.
Reason read: Afghanistan gained its independence from British rule in July 1919.
I didn’t know what to expect when I read a review of The Photographer, calling it a “photographic graphic novel.” It is quite unique and simply put, amazing. In three parts, The Photographer tells the story of how the aid workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres, smuggled across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan disguised as women in chadri, provided medical support to small communities during conflict. Didier Lefleve, a French photojournalist, traveled with the group to Zaragandara during the Afghan-Soviet War of 1986. In this district of Yaftali Sufla MSF establishes a field hospital while staffing a second one. The final part is Didier Lefleve’s nearly disastrous solo departure from Afghanistan. As the tagline for MSF reads, “We go where we are needed most,” The photographs and journal of Lefleve tell the entire story in intimate detail. It is a powerful print documentary.
It seems impossible for there to be humor in The Photographer, especially when you read of children with their eyes apparently glued shut and paralyzed by shrapnel, but it exists. One word: peaches. I confess. I giggled. That’s all I can say about that.
Most amazing fact: despite the reality they are fighting the Russians, Afghan doctors are able to obtain x-rays for patients, disguised as English speaking colleagues. they send men who are too old to be conscripted. No one suspects the men of being part of the resistance.
As an aside, I have supported MWF (known by the American subsidiary as Doctors Without Borders), for years. I first learned of the organization when Natalie would invite members to speak about their work during a set break in her concerts. I shared Natalie’s pride when they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. I appreciated learning about Juliette Fournot, the woman who started the US arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Author facts: Emmanuel Guibert is an accomplished graphic novelist. I am only reading one of his works. Didier Lefleve died way too young at only 49 years of age. Frederic Lemercier was the mastermind behind the layout and coloring of The Photographer.
Book trivia: The English translation of The Photographer was publisher in 2009. Lefleve didn’t live long enough to see it. He passed from a heart attack in 2007.
Playlist: Michel Jonasz
Nancy said: Pearl called The Photographer “one of the best books” she read in 2009.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires” (p 3).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: Invisible People. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1992.
Reason read: to finish the series started in January.
The stories in Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City keep getting sadder and sadder. The subtle humor once found in earlier stories has slipped away in Invisible People. Take Pincus Pleatnik from the short story “Sanctum.” Someone at the newspaper has made a mistake and prematurely put his name in the obituary section. Because Pincus is an unmemorable (invisible) man no one believes him when he tries to prove his living-and-breathing existence. Then there is the librarian, a spinster in her 40s in “Mortal Combat.” She spent her entire life looking after her father. Despite the many sacrifices she has made over the years to care for her dad, once he passes she believes it is not too late to have a life of her own. She tries…except she choses a man exactly like herself, locked into a lifetime of caring for a parent.
As an aside, I was reminded of the lyrics from “Motherland”, a Natalie Merchant song: “Nameless, faceless, innocent, blameless, free. Now tell me what that’s like to be.” The people in Invisible People are indeed nameless and faceless.
Only quote I liked, “the pity of it is that deep-city dwellers carefully sidestep the human debris that they see in the doorways and crannies around them” (p 41).
Author fact: Eisner said he wrote Invisible People in anger. He read an article about a woman who was failed by the system. You can read more about it here.
Book trivia: Invisible People is the last set of stories in Will Eisner’s New York.
Nancy said: Pearl said Invisible People as one of the books about New York City she really liked.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: City People Notebook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1989.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January.
I am starting to notice a pattern with Eisner’s work: there is a level of subtle tragedy in every story in Will Eisner’s New York. One example – in City People Notebook the throngs of people moving down the bustling sidewalk do not give notice to the man in terrible distress, apparently having a heart attack until he lies prostrate on the sidewalk, dead. It’s a terrible image.
Despite the sadness there is some humor (Hotel LaSleaze where a man assumes he has anonymity and takes out an escort). I especially liked the smell shock. The city smells so bad you don’t recognize when it is on fire.
The same street has many different personalities: empty, angry, sad. Eisner studies the relationship between people and these streets. He calls it an “archaeological study of city people.” The lonely people, the suspicious people, the harried people. They all flow through the streets on their way somewhere. All the while they are unaware of the environmental factors of time, smell, rhythm and space. There is a certain cadence to the city – the element of speed through a maze; a certain cacophony of emissions.
Author fact: Eisner died in January 2005.
Book trivia: Eisner offers up a new introduction for City People Notebook in his compendium.
Nancy said: Pearl lists City People Notebook as one of the books about New York City she really liked.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: a Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City: The Building. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January.
So much tragedy and human heartache surrounding one building: the story of Monroe, a man trying to save all the children of New York after an accident involving a young boy changes his entire life; PJ Hammond and his singular obsession to buy the building he grew up in; the love affair between Gilda and poor poet, Benny in the shadow of the building (until Gilda goes and marries someone else for money); and Antonio Tonatti, the man who loved to play music in front of the majestic building until it was torn down. One building, so many stories. It’s as if the giant structure made of glass and steel stood guard over all these lives.There is one final story which ties all the other stories together. It’s bittersweet and beautiful. Quintessential New York.
Author fact: Eisner has a comic Hall of Fame award named after him.
Book trivia: Look carefully at the illustrations. Characters come back from other stories.
Nancy said: The Building is included in a list of books about New York that Pearl has enjoyed.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
Eisner, Will. Will Eisner’s New York: the Big City: New York. New York: D.C. Comics, 1981.
Reason read: Will Eisner passed away in the month of January. Read in his memory.
Every time I think of New York I cannot help but also think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Carnival.” How could I not? It’s an homage to a great city of contradiction. Her line, “A wild-eyed mystic prophet, on a traffic island, stopped and he raved of saving me” evokes so many conflicting emotions. Thanks to my nephew being born in New York City, I got to waken a dormant love for the Big Apple. Sights, smells, and sounds that are often times distasteful to some (like my husband), fill me with inexplicable energy and ambition. I want to run Central Park like I live on the upper west side. It’s as if New York’s grit and grime are tangible forms of strength and tenacity that speak loudly to me. In New York, Will Eisner captures perfectly the stark reality of the big city’s silent and subtle struggles. You can smell the stench of all corners of New York, hear the frenetic activity in every sentence. But, look and look again very carefully. There is power in what isn’t said. Look at the illustration of the people riding the subway. You can almost hear the rattle of the rails; and when the train grinds to a halt during a blackout there’s that one guy who doesn’t change expression. As the minutes tick by, the people around him slowly start to panic while he stoically stares ahead. There truly is always that one guy and if you were on that train, you would see him. This is a portrait of an important city doing unimportant things, all lovingly expressed in a series of vignettes; the constants of New York: Avenue C which connect the East side to West, the importance of stoops, the sentinels of the City (hydrants, mailboxes, traffic signals, lampposts, windows, and sewers), and the people. You can read the entire thing in minutes, but that only means you have time to read it again and again and again.
Best quotes, “The big city is after all a hive of concrete and steel in which living things swarm. Depositing, in the course of their lives, the residue of their existence, in the countless garbage cans that sit dumbly amid the swirl” (p 41).
Author fact: Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel.”
Book trivia: After New York the tribute to New York continues with The Building, City People Notebook, and, Invisible People.
Nancy said: Pearl said she really enjoyed New York.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York City: A Taste of the Big Apple” (p 151).
I can’t even begin to describe May. My first time to the Southwest. My first time traveling with family. Many different firsts. But, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Man in Gray Flannel by Sloan Wilson
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
- Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
Briggs, Raymond. Ethel and Ernest: a True Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Reason read: May is Graphic Novel month. I read that somewhere.
This is Raymond Brigg’s story of his parents as a couple from the moment they met until death did them part. Simplistic in graphic novel form but powerful in message. What started off as an accidental communication for the couple kicked off a poignant romance that lasted fifty years. Brigg’s loving tribute continues through his parents’s courtship and marriage, his mom giving birth to him at 38 years old (their only child), the war and the political aftermath, the ravages of aging, and finally each of their deaths. What makes the retelling so heartwarming is Brigg’s ability to communicate parental emotion. Every fear, hope, happiness and expectation they felt towards their son was delivered and exposed in loving detail.
Author fact: Briggs was removed from his parents (evacuated during the war for safety) when he was five years old.
Book trivia: Ethel and Ernest is a graphic novel.
Nancy said: Pearl called Ethel and Ernest a “touching story” (Book Lust p 103).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphic Novels” (p 103). Interestingly enough, the title Ethel and Ernest and author Raymond Briggs are missing from the index.
I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:
- Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.
- Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.
Caputo, Philip. Crossers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
Reason read: Arizona became a state in February.
Be prepared to go on an epic journey crisscrossing time when you read Crossers. Caputo will seize you by the scruff of your psyche to take you back and forth from the New York of September 11th, 2001 to the wild west of the early 1900s. You will bounce from the dirty roads of rural Mexico to the tranquil streets of Connecticut. Characters from all walks of life will march across the page: ruthless drug lords and crusty wild west outlaws; graceful artists and desperate illegal aliens. At the center of the story is one man, Gil Castle. Consumed by grief after losing his wife in the 9/11 attacks, Gil retreats to his generations old family’s ranch in a remote corner of southwest Arizona. There he joins his uncle and cousin and tries to rebuild his heart while mending fences, tending cattle, and fighting off mules and murderers. In this respite he thought he could escaped the senseless violence of the terror attacks, but when the present day ancestors of ancient ghosts come seeking revenge for something his grandfather had done, Gil realizes his own family’s past has a dark and dangerous story to tell and he will pay the price.
The line that gripped me, “The interregnum of fear that had gripped him on the train had passed; as grief, the true monarch of his heart, resumed its oppression” (p 32).
Author fact: Caputo also wrote Horn of Africa, which is also on my list.
Book trivia: This could have been a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl said “There are many good reads, both fiction and nonfiction, about an important but bleak subject: the hazards of illegally crossing the Arizona-Mexico border. Two of the best novels I’ve discovered are Philip Caputo’s Crossers and…” (Book Lust To Go p 31).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 30).
Talbot, Bryan. Alice in Sunderland. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2007
Reason read: April Fools
One word: savor. Savor this book slowly. It’s only 319 pages but let every page have it’s moment in time. This is a beautiful piece of art, chock full of culture, biography, history, creative use of the English language (“follow your spirit” with a picture of someone chasing a vodka truck), a comic book inside a graphic novel, brimming with literary references (Thirty-Nine Steps and Rugby, the same school made infamous by Tom Brown’s Schooldays, to name a few) and much, much more. This is a comprehensive walk through history with a myriad of people and places leading the way. In Book Lust To Go Nancy Pearl called it “one of the richest experiences of her life (p 68).
The premise is really quite simple. Bryan Talbot has researched his hometown of Sunderland and found every possible parallel connection to Lewis Carroll’s famed The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. It’s brilliant. Read this alongside The Annotated Alice for a healthy dose of all things Wonderland.
Best quote, “All the lives seen tonight…so many lives…” (p 290). Case in point: here’s the ridiculously long list of Who’s Who in Alice in Sunderland. How about a game? How many people do you recognize?:
- Abraham Lincoln
- Al Davison
- Alan Hargreaves
- Alexandria “Xie” Kitchin
- Alfred Jarry
- Alice Liddell
- Ally Sloper
- Andy Capp
- Arthur Racham
- Arthur Frost
- Bande Dessinee
- Benedict Biscop
- Benny Hill
- Beryl Formby
- Bessie Wilcox
- Betty Boop
- Bill Shakespeare
- Bobby Thompson
- Bram Stoker
- Bryan Ferry
- Capt. Edward Robinson
- Capt. Joseph Wiggins
- Capt. William Bligh
- Caryl Hargreaves
- Cary Grant
- Catherine Cookson
- Charles Dickens
- Charles Kingsley
- Charles Lutwidge Dodson
- Charles Weiss
- Charlie Chaplin
- Chaz Brenchley
- Chster P Hackenbush
- Chico Marx
- Chris Mullin
- Clarkson Stanfield
- Colin Wilbourn
- Craig Knowles
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti
- Dave Stewart
- David Malan
- David McKean
- Dennis Potter
- Dick Turpin
- Doctor Who
- Dorothy Williamson
- Duke of Wellington
- Earl Zetland
- Earl of Bute
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Edgar Atheling
- Edith Liddell
- Edward Bulwer Lytton
- Edward Burne Jones
- Edward Hylton
- Edward Schoeder
- Edwin Moss
- Eileen O’Shaughnessy
- Elizabeth I
- Elizabeth Liddell
- Ellen Terry
- Emily Pankhurs
- Emperor Claudius
- Eric Gill
- Florence Becker Lennon
- Frank Caws
- Franz Kafka
- Frederick Cotton
- Fredericka Liddell
- Friar Tuck
- George “Dubya” Bush
- George Formby
- George Hudson
- George Lightfoot
- George Lilburne
- George Orwell
- George Stephenson
- George Washington
- Gerald Frow
- Gertrude Bell
- Grace Slick
- Grant Morrison
- Harry Furniss
- Harry Lauder
- Harry Potter
- Henry VIII
- Hedworth Williams, Sr.
- Henry George Liddell
- Henry Holiday
- Henry Hylton
- Henry Irving
- Henry Lambton
- Henry Stanley
- Hunt Emerson
- Ian Watson
- Irving Berlin
- Isabella Hazard
- Isambard Kingdom Brunel
- Jack Crawford
- Jack the Ripper
- James Herriot
- James Joyce
- Jan Svankmeyers
- Jeff Smith
- Jimmy Carter
- Joe Nattras
- John Bunyan
- John George Lambton
- John Humble
- John Lawrence
- John Lennon
- John Lilburne
- John Millais
- John Paul Jones
- John Proctor
- John Ruskin
- John Tenniel
- Jonathan Hanker
- Jonathan Miller
- Jordan Smith
- Joseph Conrad
- Joseph Swan
- Joseph Wiggins
- Joshua Wilson
- Karl Fisher
- Karl Marx
- Kate Adie
- Keanu Reeves
- Kelly Osbourne
- Ken Russell
- Kevin Cadwallender
- King Athelstan
- King Charles I
- King Ecgfrith
- King George I
- King Harold
- King James I
- Lady Montagu Wortley
- Lawrence of Arabia
- Leo Baxendale
- Leopold Hargreaves
- Les Dawson
- Lewis Carroll
- Lily Lumley
- Lizzie Webster
- Lord Ravensworth
- Luther Arkwright
- MacDonald Gill
- Manfred Mann
- Manuella Bute Smedley
- Margaret Thatcher
- Marie Lloyd
- Marilyn Manson
- Marilyn Monroe
- Mark Lemon
- Marlene Dietrich
- Mary Ann Robson Cotton
- Mary Shelley
- Mary Wortley
- Max Ernst
- Mervyn Peake
- Michael Bute
- Mike D’Abo
- Miles Standish
- Mother Shipton
- Mr T
- Nannie Scott
- Ned Kelly
- Neil Gaiman
- Nellie Melba
- Nicholas Hawksmoor
- Odo of Bayeux
- Olga Lowe
- Olive Hardy
- Oliver Goldsmith
- Oswald Moseley
- Oswald Stoll
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Patrick Lavelle
- Paul McCartney
- Peter Camm
- Peter O’Toole
- Peter Smart
- Peter Sutcliffe
- Prince Leopold
- Queen Elizabeth II
- Queen Victoria
- Ralph Steadman
- Ravi Shankar
- Reginald Hargreaves
- Rev. Charles Collingwood
- Rev. John Wesley
- Rev. Robert Gray
- Rex Hargreaves
- Rhoda Liddell
- Richard Nixon
- Richard Thornton
- Richard Wallace
- Rick Griffin
- Robert Bowes
- Robert Graves
- Robert Heinlein
- Robert Liltburne
- Robert Stephenson
- Robin Hood
- Robinson Duckworth
- Roger Skelton
- Roland Wilson
- Rudolf Toffer
- Saint Cuthbert
- Saint Godric
- Saint Hilda
- Sally Geeson
- Salvador Dali
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- Sarah Junner Lawrence
- Sarah Michelle Gellar
- Scott McCloud
- Septimus Scott
- Sheri Holman
- Sidney James
- Sir Henry Havelock
- Sir Humphrey Davy
- Sir John Lambton
- Sir John Conyers
- Sir Walter Scott
- Sir William of Hylton
- Stan Laurel
- Steven Spielberg
- Stuart Dodgson Collingwood
- Suzy Varty
- T Arthur
- TS Eliot
- Thomas Dixon
- Thomas Edison
- Thomas Edward Lawrence
- Thomas Henry Liddell
- Thomas Paine
- Thomas Randall
- Tom Taylor
- Tony Blair
- Tove Jansson
- Trina Robbins
- Ulysses S Grant
- Vesta Tilley
- Virginia Woolf
- Vladimir Nabokov
- WC Fields
- WH Auden
- Wee Georgie Woods
- Whoopi Goldberg
- Wilkie Collins
- William Bell Scott
- William Blake
- William Clanny
- William Hogarth
- William Hylton
- William Joyce
- William McGonagall
- William Mills
- William Morris
- William Mowbray
- William Reid Clanny
- William the Bastard
- William the Conqueror
- William Wilcox
- Windson McKay
- Winnie Davies
- Woody Allen
- Yehudi Menhin
Fun stuff: Ever wonder why all public doors are supposed to open outward? The answer is in Alice in Sunderland. Did you know there is a missing Alice chapter called Wasp in a Wig? Or that Grace Slick is such a huge fan of Alice that she created a whole series of Wonderland inspired paintings when she retired from music.
Favorite line, “Don’t confuse the genre with the medium” (p 187).
Author fact: Talbot has his own website here.
Book trivia: I know I said it before but this book is an oversized visual treat.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).
I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:
- Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
- The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
- Family Man by Jayne Krentz
- Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
- The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
- Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
- Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
- In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)
On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):
- A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
- Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
- Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
- Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
- The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April
So, February was a weird month. Being sick and injured didn’t help except that both ailments gave me more time to read. Turning 47 turned out to be not a big deal. Just another number in the grand scheme of things. The groundhog didn’t see his shadow either so there are less numbers in winter… And speaking of numbers – here are the books:
- A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld
- Beautiful Place to Die by Philip Craig
- If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Sandra Loh
- Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine
- As She Crawled Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem (AB)
- Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
- Her First American by Lore Segal
- Down Where the Moon was Small or And I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon was Small by Richard Llewellyn
- Path to Power by Robert Caro – finishing TODAY!
- Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (AB)
- Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes (DNF)
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (AB) – will finish in March
- The Art of Dying by Patricia Weenolsen
- Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano
- Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan
- The Ultimate Treadmill Workout by David Siik
For LibraryThing’s Early Review program:
- Liar by Rob Roberge
I also spent some time revisiting the Challenge list. Because of all the missed individual titles I wanted to redo the schedule. That took up a great deal of my time!
Neufeld, Josh. A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. New York: Pantheon Books, 2010.
Reason read: Mardi Gras is held in New Orleans every February. Rather than read this in August (typical because of the date of Hurricane Katrina) I decided to twist it up a little. Just as Pearl did (see BookLust Twist at the end of this review).
Right from the very beginning you know you are in for something deeply moving and very special when reading the graphic novel A.D. (although technically it is not a novel. Novel implies fiction, right?). Neufeld starts the reader off looking at Earth from outer space. As we look down on North America we almost get a sense of the calm before the storm. On the next page the graphic orientates us to the tragedy to come as we get a bird’s eye view of the city of New Orleans. We are coming in closer. We see the city as one entity and the storm as another, as if they are two strangers being introduced at a party. As the days go by we follow the lives of seven New Orleans residents. This becomes a biography of each individual.
To me, what is incredibly sad is the emphasis on their naivete, their attitude of “this is no big deal” all because hurricanes in their corner of the world come and go. They have lived through them before. They are experts in the realm of weather. That may be true, but no one expected the levies to go…
Yes. You can read this in one day as posting this on the first implies. My recommendation? Read it several times. Read and share it. There is a message hidden in the comic.
My favorite StopYouInYourTracks quote: “At least then we wouldn’t have had to walk on top of the things I cared about the most” (Leo, on page 171).
As an aside: Neufeld wasn’t the only artist to be shocked by Hurricane Katrina. Many talented individuals expressed their grief through art. But, listen to Natalie Merchant. She wrote a song called “Go Down Moses” (on her self titled album) that addresses not only the city of New Orleans after the hurricane, but the Danziger Bridge tragedy as well. Danziger is what she was referring to when she says, “let your people cross over.” Sad.
Author fact: the author of A.D. is JOSH Neufeld. Josh, not Joshua as Nancy Pearl refers to him. He is Josh in twelve different places in the book: on the front cover, on the title page, four times on the copyright page, in the afterward, on the “about the author” page, on the back flap and three in separate instances on the back cover. Not once does the name “Joshua” appear anywhere. Call me crazy, but I think he wants to be called Josh. For more information on Josh and this project, check out this link.
Book trivia: this was a New York Times best seller. Of course it was.
BookLust Twist: in Book Lust To Go but not for the reasons you would think. You’re thinking this would be in the chapter “New Orleans” but it’s not. It’s in “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).
Inman, Matthew (aka the Oatmeal). The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014.
Reason read: because I’m still stuck on running books even though I’m officially done being psycho.
I cannot, cannot, cannot stress how frigging funny this comic* is. I found it while searching for something completely (and I do mean completely different), but sooo happy I found it. In a nutshell, it’s the illustrated running biography of Matthew Inman, better known by his comic name, the Oatmeal. But, he’s not your typical athlete. When he runs he’s chased by a “fat cherub” he calls the Blerch (the little voice in your head that convinces you you’re better off sleeping in late or eating cake or both, maybe even at the same time?). And speaking of cake, Inman is not immune to food addiction. He runs so that he can eat “like a fast moving dumpster” (p 18). His words not mine. See what I mean? Funny. There’s more: slaying kraken, being vain, running from Giant Sparrow Bees in the mountains of Japan, tips on running a marathon; there are even race stickers. And much more. I kid you not. Maybe it’s because I am a runner (kinda sorta maybe) but I had more laugh-out-loud moments than I knew what to do with.
As a postscript, I had this quote of Inman’s taped to my treadmill for the longest time (long before I even knew of the Oatmeal or his book): “The Blerch is a horrible anthropomorphized white blob, a monster made of mayonnaise and hatred…” Why did I have this taped to my treadmill? Because everyone has a Blerch.
*I can’t call it a “graphic novel” because it’s not fiction, but it’s not your typical comic book either. You just have to read ti to see what I mean.