A Dictionary of the Underworld, British and American, Being the Vocabularies of Crooks, Criminals, Racketeers, Beggars and Tramps, Convicts, The Commercial Underworld, The Drug Traffic, The White Slave Traffic, Spivs by Eric Partridge. Bonanza Books, 1961.

underworld Sarah: My parents are downsizing, so every once in a while they’ll say, “If there’s anything you want, make sure you ask for it.” So I said, “I want A Dictionary of the Underworld.”
G: I’ve got to do the creepy thing. (Sniffs book.) It doesn’t actually smell, but it looks like it would smell.
S: It’s old enough that it should.
G: How old is it?
S: First published in 1949, reprinted with new addenda 1961. Continue reading “Spivspeak”

Strong is Beautiful

Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker. Workman, 2017. 9780761189138. 256pp.

strong-is-the-new-prettyGene: It’s the ultimate coffee table book. Photos of girls, a lot of them doing sports – it’s a celebration of how strong and tough girls are. It’s not quite against the idea of dolling yourself up, but it makes it clear you don’t have to to be strong and pretty.
Sarah: So a wider variety of pretty than you’d see in a lot of books.
G: Right. The photographer, Kate Parker, said she was shooting pictures of her daughters and their friends and the ones that resonated were the photos where they are 100% themselves. They’re celebrations of who the girls are. (Reading) “I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.” There’s a quote from each girl next to her picture, with her age and her first name. Continue reading “Strong is Beautiful”

Beware Cat Ladies

The Collected Cat Rackham by Steve Wolfhard. Koyama Press, 2016. 9781927668382.

catrackhamSarah: OK, I picked this book for you because of the shiny bits on the cover.
Gene: Ooooh! Cat Rackham!
S: All the rain falling on a dejected Cat Rackham is shiny.
G: It’s a beautiful use of spot gloss on the cover.
S: Falling on a completely sad lump of a cat wearing a green t-shirt.
G: I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but rain is something that a lot of cartoonists draw to show off their skills. Like in old Will Eisner graphic novels — it’s beautiful. Glorious parts of Sin City feature rain, too.
S: So Steve Wolfhard is an animator and for a while he drew comics and they became really popular. He eventually ended up back in animation and he’s one the artists with Adventure Time. You can definitely see some of his style reflected in Adventure Time now.
Continue reading “Beware Cat Ladies”

My Life Sandwich List

The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread by Susan Russo, photography by Matt Armendariz. Quirk Books, 2010. 9781594744389.

10,000 Snacks: A Cookbook of Canapes, Savories, Relishes, Hors D’Oeuvres, Sandwiches, and Appetizers for Before, After, and Between Meals by Cora, Rose and Bob Brown, pictures by Julian Brazelton. Halcyon House, 1937.

encycsandwichGene: All right, these are from your permanent collection. Go.
Sarah: First, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches! It’s technically a cookbook but honestly I feel like it’s more of a checklist of sandwiches, regional and national, that you should eat. Because if I travel somewhere, I want to eat the sandwich of that place.
G: Doughnut sandwich? Where’s that from? Continue reading “My Life Sandwich List”

Wow, Speaking American

Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk, A Visual Guide by Josh Katz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 9780544703391.

speakingamericanSarah: This guy who was in charge of making infographics for the New York Times, with the help of a massive four-volume reference work on American regional English, made online  tools to show what people call things in different parts of the US, and other regional variations in language. It was one of the most popular interactive features the New York Times ever published.
Gene: So these images were all on its website?
Sarah: Yeah. They gathered information, then used those to make graphics that look like heat-maps that show ways people say things where. The more common the word or phrase, the darker the color. Continue reading “Wow, Speaking American”

Wow! Flying Dinosuars

Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City by Brendon Leach. Secret Acres, 2016. 9780996273930. 44 pages.

pterodactyl-huntersGene: It came out 5-6 years ago from Top Shelf, oversized on newsprint. Which fits, because it has fake news articles, and it was just this big, beautiful black and white thing. But I never wanted to buy it because I was paranoid that I couldn’t keep it nice. I don’t collect newspapers.

Sarah: It’s just going to get scrunched up under something.

G: It was going to be destroyed and I was going to cry. So I bought a copy from amazon.fr because they had an oversized hardcover edition.

It’s a vignette set in an alternate 1904 New York. It’s not quite steampunk, but it’s guys in hot air balloons hunting pterodactyls with these harpoon rifles. And then eventually, of course, dynamite. That’s my pitch: old timey pterodactyl hunting above New York City.

S: Look at that! You can see the head turn in the sketchy bit!

Continue reading “Wow! Flying Dinosuars”


Northlanders Book 1: The Anglo-Saxon Saga by Brian Wood, Davide Gianfelice, Ryan Kelly, Marian Churchland. Vertigo, 2016. 9781401263317. 464 pages of Viking goodness.

northlanders-book-1Contains Northlanders #1-16, #18-19, and #41. Originally collected (mostly) in the first three Northlanders graphic novels: Sven the Returned, Blood in the Snow, and The Cross and the Hammer.

Gene: This is the book I sent Chris Hallbeck for his birthday in November, and I realized I wanted to reread it — maybe it was that seeing Mads Mikkelsen in the new Star Wars movie reminded me of the quiet, brutal fights in the first 30 minutes of Valhalla Rising, or the fact that I’ve been trying to get into Neil Gaiman’s book of Norse mythology. And I just read Black Road, which is the newest installment in Brian Wood’s Vikingverse, and I want more.

This book isn’t about the same characters all the time, though some come and go. It’s an easy readalike for the TV show Vikings. It’s the book I want to give anyone who falls for Marvel’s perfectly coiffed Thor.

It has a beautiful old map, which shows where the stories take place — all not too far from Scotland or Ireland. Where’s Danish Mercia? Right there. I had no idea.

The first story starts in 868 AD. There’s a kid whose dad is a Christian and is always down on him — I think they live in abbey. The kid gets pissed. When the Vikings come ashore to raid, he meets them and goes, “It’s this way.”

Sarah: Ha!

Gene: That has nothing to do with the next story — three women escape when Vikings murder everyone in their town. They go to an old fort on the sea where they hold off the Vikings.

Sarah: Sweet!

Gene: (I worry that I use the word “brutal” in my reviews too much these days because that describes everything I’m reading and enjoying. Not sure what that says about where my head is…)

The next story is about a guy named Sven who is returning to the Orkneys. Somehow he ended up in Turkey, and he’s working as a guard there, living the good life. He finds out his father died and he wants his inheritance, so he goes back home. He looks like a fancy fop, especially to the Vikings, but he completely kicks ass. Back home, no one wants to see him. There’s violence. He finds the woman he once loved, who is with the guy in charge of the village, and falls in with another who is fighting a one-woman guerilla war against the Vikings. And he tries to get his stuff back while getting revenge.

Sarah: I enjoy a good revenge story.

Gene: And then there’s a one-issue story from the comic, drawn by Marian Churchland

Sarah: That’s gorgeous!

Gene: …about a small young woman whose father is the big man in town. After he dies, she has to figure out how to survive because nobody respects her. She’s always been her father’s daughter. She has to figure out her place and who she is.

The last story takes place in Viking occupied Ireland in 1014.  There’s a badass warrior on the loose, killing Vikings, and he has a little girl with him, his daughter. The Viking King’s right hand man is hunting him, along with a bunch of dogs and grizzled warriors. Man vs. dog. Man vs. human. Hacking and slashing. And then there’s a beautiful turn in the story that’s awful for the character…

But all I need to say is “Vikings!” right?

Sarah: Yeah. But the way you talked about it there was a lot of story and character complexity, and I think people that like those HBO destination TV series full of all the guts would like this.

Gene: Would you pitch it as a Game of Thrones readalike?

Sarah: Yeah. Not that I’ve watched or read GOT.

Gene: What’s your one sentence booktalk of this?

Sarah: If you like HBO….

Gene: If you like really violent, old timey shows…

Sarah: Old is new again.

Gene: But it’s not a readalike for Westworld. You’re probably not watching that either.

Sarah: No.

Gene: Robot humping! You’re missing out.

Sarah: I know! Fanfiction-wise, I should be watching it.