Belgium!

Welcome to Marwencol by Mark Hogancamp and Chris Shellen. Princeton Architectural Press, 2016. 9781616894153. 278pp

Gene: Did you ever see a documentary called Marwencol?
Sarah: The name sounds familiar but I don’t think I did.
G: It’s about Mark Hogancamp. He’s had kind of a sad life. He was married, he was in the army. After he got out his wife divorced him and he became an alcoholic living in, I think, rural New York. He went out with some friends one night a while back and got totally plowed — his blood alcohol level was 3.0 or so after this incident. He was drinking boilermakers — whiskey and beer, whiskey and beer. And he admitted to some guys that he’s a cross dresser. After the bar closed down, these guys beat him so badly he was in a coma, unconscious, for 9 days. Lots of brain damage. It knocked him back decades. He had been an artist, he drew a lot, but when he woke up he had to relearn how to walk and talk and it was awful.
And so — I want to admit I’m doing a piss-poor job of summarizing his life, you should see the documentary — he got these 1/6 scale action figures and started taking photos of them. Outside the trailer where he lives he created a World War II era Belgian village he calls Marwencol. There’s a character that’s him, Hogey. There are Nazi SS characters who are stand-ins for the guys who beat him up. There’s a bar, Hogancamp always wanted to own a bar.
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Food 101

Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible World by Julia Rothman with help from Rachel Wharton. Storey Publishing, 2016. 9781612123394.

Gene: This is totally the book for you.
Sarah: (laughs)
G: There is so much in here about food and cooking — goodness and drawings and amazing stuff. The part in the beginning that I love so much is where Rothman is talking about how hungry working on the book made her.
S: Oh, yeah?
G: She had to go out and try food. She wants the book to inspire you to experiment with cooking and be more curious about what you’re eating. Chapter one is a timeline of food history that looks like a board game.
S: Oh, yeah.
G: 1700, the Earl of Sandwich, 1686, the croissant is born in Austria. Ice cream cone invented at the St. Louis World’s Fair, 1904. With nice little drawings of everything.
S: I think there were several foods that first appeared in the US at that Word’s Fair, because the fair is where people try out weird new food!
G: First sushi restaurant in America, 1966. In California!
S: Wow! I guess in Seattle back then there were Japanese restaurants, but it was only sukiyaki.
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Thanks, mom!

The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. Harper & Brothers, 1945.

Gene: Oh, I think I know about this book! When was this one published?
S: This one is from the forties so it was printed on this very soft, fuzzy paper. “This book is complete and unabridged in contents and is manufactured in strict conformity with government regulations for saving paper.”
G: (flipping through it) It doesn’t have as many illustrations as I thought.
S: My family are big readers, but we’re not big book-owners or book buyers. There were not many books that we owned, but there were always a ton of books around from the library. This is one of the few books my mom owned. At some point in my late elementary years, maybe junior high-ish, I picked it up.
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Philosophy-a-Day

Zen Speaks: Shouts of Nothingness by Tsai Chih Chung, translated by Brian Bruya. Anchor Books, 1994. 0385472579.

Sarah: I picked this book up originally because I was interested in Zen. This is by a Taiwanese author who took the great works of Zen and translated them into vernacular language, into modern Chinese, and made them into comics. And the comics are just great.
Gene: Oh, man! This is a very Asian cartooning style.
S: Yes, it seems very Chinese.
G: Did you ever see that book by Lat that First Second published?
S: Yeah!
G: It looks like this, a little bit. Lat’s from Indonesia. And there’s a certain style of Korean and Japanese comics that this reminds me of, too.
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Franglais Lessons

Let’s Parler Franglais! by Miles Kington, illustrations by Merrily Harpur. Penguin Books, 1981. 0140056254.

The Franglais Lieutenant’s Woman by Miles Kington. Penguin Books, 1987. 014010142X.

Sarah: I know that you speak some French.
Gene: Very little.
S: Probably more than me, since you’re able to get through some graphic novels.
G: That’s not speaking, though, that’s reading. It’s very different.
S: That’s good. If you read a little French, but not much, this is the book for you. “Let’s Parler Franglais” was a column in Punch magazine. It’s a combination of French and English in very funny dialogues, in the style you would get in a French textbook. It’s funnier than it would be just in French or English. It’s a great combination.
G: Who illustrated this?
S: Merrily Harpur.
G: Her style reminds me Tomi Ungerer’s and Shel Silverstein’s.
S: If you get a chance to look at her work, do. It’s really good.
G: There are two books?
S: There’s more, but these are the two that I have.
G: The Franglais Lieutenant’s Woman! (laughs)
S: That one is full of short literary parodies. Kington was a cool guy, he was a writer, a musician, and a jazz reviewer for The Times of London
G: (flipping through a book) Can you understand this?
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File Next to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Rules of Thumb by Tom Parker. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983. 0395346428.

Rules of Thumb 2 by Tom Parker. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1987. 0395429552.

Sarah: Every superhero has an origin story. I’m not sure if every librarian has an origin story — I need to start asking. But I suspect that, when we were kids, we each had at least one reference book we loved. I bet for most it was usually the World Almanac or The Guinness Book of World Records, both of which you could buy through the Scholastic Book Fair. But these were the reference books for me.
Gene: I read The Guinness Book. I never thought “I’m gonna use this to answer questions.”
S: This has nothing to do with answering questions. This is more about the book that gives you the realization that “information is really interesting and I want to sink into it like a bog.”
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Wait, where’d I leave my heart?

Meanwhile in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words by Wendy MacNaughton. Chronicle Books, 2014. 9781452113890.

Gene: This is Meanwhile in San Francisco: A City in Its Own Words.
Sarah: Oh, the cover’s cool.
G: I’ve had this book for years — I love it. (There’s one like it on New York as well that’s called Hello New York.) This is by Wendy MacNaughton. She wandered around San Francisco, drawing the city. It reminded me of a book of drawings we both liked, Tokyo on Foot. MacNaughton records people’s own words, sometimes by overhearing them, sometimes by talking to them. It’s very fun. There’s a giant fold-out map inside the dust jacket…
S: …that show San Francisco at the center of the solar system.
G: Floating around it are Oakland, New York, LA and the Sun. That’s how San Francisco sees the universe. Isn’t that brilliant?
S: Yes.
G: Here’s the table of contents, done as a map, with arrows pointing to different areas of the city (with corresponding page numbers).
Here are some pages about the MUNI. They don’t seem to be watercolors, they look more like marker drawings?
S: The MUNI driver says, “We get paid about $30/hr. $1 to drive, $29 to deal with people.” That’s like a thing I used to have hanging over my desk.
G: The librarian version of that?
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