The Dusty Bookshelf: November 2016
… Renee Gladman’s Calamities (Wave Books, 2016). I’ve loved Renee’s work for a long while and was glad to publish one of her pieces in Biting the Error (Coach House, 2004). Most of these essays begin with the phrase ‘I began the day…,’ and unfold from there into meditations on the body, time, architecture, writing and literature.
… Kurtis J. Wiebe’s Rat Queens (Image Comics, 2014). It's been a troublesome month, to say the least, and regular fiction just won't do. You need to bring in the big guns, that hard fantasy stuff that’ll make you forget the real world is out there, waiting for you to return to its suffocating embrace. Enter Rat Queens, Kurtis J. Wiebe's graphic novel series (with three trades in print) that follows four badass bitches with magical powers plunked down in a medieval fantasy setting: Hannah, the rockabilly elven mage; Violet, the bearded dwarven warrior; Dee, the atheist cleric; and Betty, the bisexual thief whose satchel is always full of magic mushrooms and candy. Expect bar brawls, nods to Lovecraft, magical incantations, curse-laden dialogue and demon slaying. Hell yeah.
… two books by n+1 alumni. Against Everything by Mark Greif (Pantheon Books, 2016), the founding editor of n+1, collects a decade’s worth of essays – some of which are quite famous, like the fifteen page opening piece ‘Against Exercise.’ Greif is as exacting a writer and an academic as he is an editor and his seriousness can be off-putting for a moment. When that moment passes, though, his tone opens into a refreshing lens through which to examine politics, culture, philosophy and whatever’s left over. The Selfishness of Others: An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism by Kristin Dombek (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016) is quick to establish itself in an oversaturated pool of think-pieces. Both of these deserve the hype that’s been heaped upon them.
… Vickie Gendreau’s Testament, translated by Aimee Wall (BookThug, 2016). It’s the most affecting book I’ve read in recent memory. The writing is understated but brash – I read it in an evening and it left me with a raw sad ache, so definite tear warning. The other thing I loved lately is not a book, but a piece in GUTS magazine by Charlotte Bondy titled ‘Gay Best Friends’ that navigates queerness and the boundaries between love and friendship in a really thoughtful way. Please read.