Shelf Life: August 2012

Very brief comments on a lengthy list of books read in August. A banner month.

101. The History of Tattooing, by  Wilfrid Dyson Hambly
(Dover, reprinted 2009)

I love tattoos. At the time I read this I had only two, but for months I had been looking for an artist to complete my third and fourth. As I pared down possible artists, I read this, and found Hambly’s survey of dozens of indigenous cultures who use(d) tattooing for various purposes fascinating.

Later in the month, I had the first of two tattoos done by Alie K of Archive Tattoo, a gargoyle, my little monster. The second, to go on my right arm, will be a dragon.

102. The Last House, by Michael Kenyon
(Brick Books, 2009)

The Last House is Michael Kenyon’s third collection of poetry.

103. Food in Jars, by Marisa McClellan
(Running Press, 2012)

I’m amassing quite the collection of canning cookbooks. This is one of the most attractively packaged, and contains some of the most delicious sounding recipes, by far.

I’ve made a few of the recipes, among them a bread and butter pickle that turned out wonderfully. Last weekend my husband saw the recipe for lemon curd, and he helped make (or, in his view, he made) our first lemon curd. With the leftover egg whites he made meringue, and we create our own mini lemon meringue cookies, which turned out to be quite tasty.

I definitely need to try more things from this cookbook.

104. On Poetry and Craft, by Theodore Roethke
(Copper Canyon Press, 2001)

I haven’t read much of his poetry, but he seems to have had quite an influence on a number of poets, so when I picked this up, it was with high expectations. They were met.

Comprised of a collection of essays and aphorisms, Roethke is deft at exploring poetry in itself, and explaining approaches to the craft.

105. People Park, by Pasha Malla
(House of Anansi Press, 2012)

The copy I read was an advanced ready copy, and as such I’m not sure how or if it differs from the final print version, but I found it incredibly difficult to get in to. This unnamed city, with a set of characters who shift in and out of the narrative without direction or purpose, the pointless magical realism that added nothing to the plot or characterization, the irritating way everyone drank the same beverages, ate the same food, insulted each other with the same insults – I had a lot of problems with it.

106. The Invisibles, Vol. 1: Say You Want a Revolution, by Grant Morrison
(Vertigo, 1996)

107. The Invisibles, Vol. 2: Apocalypstick, by Grant Morrison
(Vertigo, 2001)

I bought the first volume about ten years ago, and just couldn’t get into it. The irritating teenage punk and future messiah, the pretentiousness of the whole set up – I gave up after the first volume. But the same bookstore friend who encouraged me to pick up The Astonishing X-Men, which I loved, suggested I give this another go. I also wanted to read Morrison’s new book, Supergods, and felt I should become better acquainted with his work before I read his commentary on the medium.

So, I gave the first book a re-read, and the second book a chance. More palatable this time ’round, perhaps because I’m now more familiar with Grant Morrison as a person, having read a few interviews, and enjoyed his stoned and drunken speech at the Disinfo conference.

108. The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, by Mayra Calvani
(Paladin Timeless Books, 2008)

Hugely disappointing. You can read my full review on GoodReads here.

109. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 3, Century #2: 1969, by Alan Moore
(Knockabout Comics, 2011)

110. The League of Extraordinary Gentlement, Vol. 3, Century #3 2009, by Alan Moore
(Top Shelf Productions, 2012)

More comics!

My husband’s a big Alan Moore fan, so I initially bought these for him, but I give ’em a read too. I don’t dislike Alan Moore, but I don’t love him either.

111. The Hard Return, by Marcus McCann
(Insomniac Press, 2012)

His poems crackle with energetic metaphors; kaleidoscopically shifting through intimate and personal moments imagined or observed, to more the pop cultural concerns of Britney Spears, password protection and a meditation on a puffy coat. It’s a jangly, eclectic collection and well worth checking out.

Full review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

112. Transformations, by Anne Sexton
(Mariner Books, 1971, 2001)

I’ve read a lot about Anne Sexton, but hadn’t read a full length collection of her poetry until now. Transformations is a retelling of fairy tales told through poetry, and it’s remarkably fresh. I need to read more of her work.

113. Coke Machine Glow, by Gordon Downie
(Vintage, 2001)

While some of these poems worked as poetry, more would have better of remaining songs. I don’t know or understand how that works, but despite my misgivings about his work on the page, Downie remains an incredible singer and songwriter.

114. Disappearing Ink, by Dana Gioia
(Graywolf Press, 2004)

A collection of essays and literary criticism from a poet and champion of the America’s west coast poets, whom I previously knew very little about.

115. This Will be Difficult to Explain, by Johanna Skibsrud
(Hamish Hamilton, 2011)

I didn’t love The Sentimentalist when I read it,  but I can better appreciate her style reading these almost impressionistic short stories.

116. The Invisibles, Vol. 3: Entropy in the U.K., by Grant Morrison
(Vertigo, 1996, 2001)

After getting through the second book, I placed the next volume on order. While I find each more progressively readable than the last, I still don’t get the fanboy appeal The Invisibles has for some people.

117. A Dark Boat, by Patrick Friesen
(Anvil Press, 2011)

Taking inspiration from cante jondo (Spanish for “deep song”), the vocal style in flamenco, and fado, a Portuguese form of music, these lyric poems form a haunting record of Friesen’s travels in Spain and Portugal. Interspersed throughout are snapshots: a horse, a marching band, young men at play, and the scenes set in towns with cobblestone alleyways and small bridges.

Full review forthcoming in Broken Pencil.

One of the best collections I’ve read this year.

118. I Know You Are But What Am I, by Heather Birrell
(Coach House Books, 2000)

Read in preparation for a review of Mad Hope forthcoming in The Rusty Toque.

I love Birrell’s work. She’s an incredible writer with a marked gift for metaphor, pacing, character creation, and complex social situations. It’s a joy to read.

The cover of this book is terrible, please don’t let that dissuade you. Read this, and Mad Hope. You won’t be sorry.


Another month down.