February 2015: My month in books

I’m sorry this post is so late in the month. Things have been busy. It’s better late than never. So here is a rambling list of every book I read during February.

Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score by Darwyn Cooke

Walls: Travels Along the Barricades by Marcello Di Cintio

The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire

Paul Has a Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati

Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer

Facing History: Portraits from Vancouver by Karen Love

Lost Dogs by Jeff Lemire

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

The Walking Dead, Vol. 01: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Vol. 02: Miles Behind Us by Robert Kirkman

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Nemesis (Harry Hole #4) by Jo Nesbø

I feel about the same on the Parker front as I did in January. The books were decent enough, I read them and that was that. Noir, male lead, guns, crime, revenge, sex.

I’ve wanted to read Walls for a while. Marcello Di Cintio is a Calgary writer and I think it’s important to read local writers. Unfortunately the Calgary Public Library book club also thought so and there was a monstrous volume of holds on Walls. Here the book is readily available so I decided to go for it. I liked his style and observations. The topic is a clear winner. It was a quality read.

There are a lot of great Canadian graphic novel writers. It’s an art and Drawn & Quarterly gets a lot of good work out there. The Complete Essex County by Jeff Lemire is up there in those rankings. It’s about a family on a farm in Ontario. There are touches of hockey and tragedy. It’s a beautiful and moving story. All you Canadians out there should go read it.

Paul Has a Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati is a second graphic novel about summer camp. Unlike the boy scouts one it was not sad or miserable. It reminded me of being a kid at camp. Of the woods and the boats. We admired and loved out counsellors. We also knew that they dated and hung out (and when we got older that they got drunk and high at the lake on weekends when we weren’t there). Paul had fun at his summer job and I had fun reading about it.

Anyone who has been to Paris has heard of Shakespeare & Co. I remember wandering past while visiting one of my friends in the spring and deciding to come back later because Zadie Smith was doing a reading and the place was crazier than usual. It is a great place with lots of nooks and I suppose there is that urge to move in there. Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.by Jeremy Mercer is the story of a crime writer who does just that. It has all the magic and fantasy of being poor and living in a communal place. It’s not something I think I could handle but it’s fun to read about the adventures of the people who lived there.

Since moving to Vancouver I’ve been trying to learn more about the city and find photo books from here. Facing History: Portraits from Vancouver by Karen Love was one of those books you find when randomly searching city names on library websites. It was interesting but not quite what I’d wanted. Part of an exhibit at some point in time it pulled together a bunch of different portraits done by Vancouver photographers. There were also essays. Some were good. Some were weird.

I suppose I read Lost Dogs by Jeff Lemire as a followup to Essex County. It was also good and kind of weird in the way that graphic novels often are. I don’t remember what it was about.

Now before we get started on this one I’m going to do a poll: if you’ve actually read Eat, Pray, Love raise your hand. Not having read it will not stop you from judging me or saying snarky things about chick lit and how trashy it is it will just mean that you have no idea what you are talking about. If you have read it and hate it then good for you. Of my friends I told I was reading it only one said something positive. Even my friend who goes on cleanses said something snippy. I held my tongue and shrugged instead of saying, “You go on cleanses now that’s for silly crazy people.”

It’s sad really. I guess that’s what happens when a book blows up is everyone decides it has to be shit. I’d read Eat, Pray, Love before and also read Committed. I’ve been meaning to read more of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books but ended up back at the beginning. I got my first copy of Eat, Pray, Love off the fireplace at Higher Ground. Of all the books piled there it spoke to me and said, “I’m a friend, you need to read me.” And I replied, “Sure.”

There are copies of Eat, Pray, Love at every book exchange ever. That’s how I ended up reading it again. I kept seeing it and thought well I guess I should reread it. The world wants me to. I’m glad I did. Gilbert is an awesome writer. I love travel writing and memoir. After spending my adolescence reading the work of men I have recently developed a collection of female memoirists I adore and Gilbert is one of them.

Drawn and Quarterly has taken on the task of publishing Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s work year by year. He’s a famous Japanese cartoonist and vol 1 The Push Man and Other Stories is supposed to be good. The stories are simple and short. They give you a brief glimpse of life and then end. They remind me of Will Eisner in the simple way they tell the story of one person in one place at one point in time. This is what this person was doing here.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford was one of the first books I added when I got Goodreads. I’ve since added too many books many of which I will never get around to. I do want to try to read some of them though. I took Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World out of the library a few years ago but didn’t make it far. It was returned unread and I though one day I’ll return. Now after visiting Mongolia seemed like the time. It was a very interesting book and only renewed my sense of awe at what the Mongol hordes accomplished.

I’ve been meaning to read The Walking Dead so that I can watch the show. There are about twenty volumes so it’s going to take a while before I get through it. Vol. 1 and 2 were really good. They set an interesting premise and give us the characters. Doing it through how one character responds to this crisis is a good choice by Robert Kirkman. I’m excited to see where it goes next.

When I first saw My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff on bookstore shelves last year it felt like the kind of book I wanted to read. It’s cover was beautiful and I wondered what a Salinger year was. Was it a year during which she read Salinger or embodied Salinger or called everyone phonies? Was it going to be like The Year of Magical Thinking, which wasn’t very magical at all? Well it turns out that it was about a year Rakoff spent working at the agency that represented Salinger. Simple. It also turns out that is it a memoir by a gifted female writer about being a young writer, struggling through your first job and the painfulness of figuring out how to be an adult. It was like it was handed to me on a silver plater. These types of books always comfort me and reaffirm truths I know I can’t share with my friends because it would just confuse them.

My Salinger Year is a beautiful book. I finished it with a high and a glow. I wouldn’t describe that feeling as joy because it’s so much more complicated. It’s deeply life affirming and is the best high you can possibly get.

I also got lucky with Nemesis (Harry Hole #4) by Jo Nesbø. I have a troubled relationship with Nesbo. Few can craft sentences quite as well as he can but he has a tendency to kill off characters you love. It’s not easy to love him but you just have to keep turning the pages and hope that people survive until the next novel. Maybe him and George R.R. Martin have been hanging out drinking terribly expensive coffee in Oslo. Who knows. Nemesis also left me feeling happy and glowing. My roommate asked me if I’d slept with someone. When I said no he refuted by saying I couldn’t stop smiling. I really couldn’t. It wasn’t a bad way to end a month.