Wow: Stick Man

Stickwork by Patrick Dougherty. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. 9781568989761. 208pp.

Gene: Patrick Dougherty is a sculptor who works with sticks. (opens book)
Sarah: Oh wow!
G: I know.
S: Are those elephant butts or faces?
G: He works onsite at museums and gardens and parks. When he goes in (he needs a bunch of volunteers to help) he has to figure out what kind of sticks will work with the site. Sometimes the site is trees or a building or the inside of a building. And then he has to find a source of sticks nearby. The intro says that because of urban expansion, trees are often cleared from lots, and small sticks will grow there. Before a lot is cleared again for final construction, there are enough sticks for him to harvest. Dougherty works in different layers, and the first phase is anchoring bigger sticks in the ground to act as structure. Then he weaves in smaller sticks, and keep weaving them in until shapes appear.
This book includes not just photos of freestanding structures but big swirly shapes, some look like they’re windblown or organic…
S: Like they’re put together by birds.
G: And others look like big houses. It’s a look at his career up until the publication date.  (looking at another photo) This is a giant swirly pattern in a room. It’s not quite as full as some of the other sculptures. It really looks like if you sketched the wind.
S: It’s cool that he uses local sticks. That makes it more environmental, right?
G: It’s renewable, and the sticks would be removed anyway…
This is one of my favorites, Holy Rope.
S: Twining through a tree…oh, you can go inside it!
G: It was in Chiba, Japan. It’s a swirl of a treehouse, and there’s a photo of two people inside looking out at us.
This is Little Big Man and it was in Denmark. It’s a weird guy who looks like he’s made of wind. He’s just above a pond or marsh.
S: Spooky.
G: Creepy as hell.
Continue reading “Wow: Stick Man”

Wow: Dave Engledow is the World’s Best Father

Confessions of The World’s Best Father by Dave Engledow. Gotham, 2014. 9781592408894.

Sarah: This is Confessions of the World’s Best Father by Dave Engledow
Gene: Who’s Dave Engledow?
S: He’s a photographer and a photojournalist who started taking these pictures of himself with his daughter. Each picture has him, his daughter, and his World’s Best Father Mug.
G: (laughs) On the cover he’s arm-wrestling her on a box.
S: On a crate of hand grenades.
G: Oh! I didn’t see that. And his daughter has a barbed wire tattoo on her bicep.
S: He does some Photoshop on the pictures. He arranges the pictures in the book by how old his daughter is.
G: “Day 240” (laughs) They’re playing X-Box together!
S: I don’t know if you can see the games…
G: I see Resident Evil, Grand Theft Auto… and Call of Duty! I was talking to Bill Barnes, he was asking how early I played video games with my daughter. I couldn’t remember! She was always watching me play, so she wanted to play. I think we started with Katamari Damacy.
S: Oh, yeah, that’s a really good kid game.
Continue reading “Wow: Dave Engledow is the World’s Best Father”

Wow, Forest Folk

Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero by Michael DeForge. Drawn & Quarterly, 2017. 9781770462700.

Gene: This is a little more realistic that some of DeForge’s other books. It’s the story of Sticks Angelica, 49-year-old former Olympian, poet, scholar, sculptor, minister, activist, governor general, entrepreneur, line cook, headmistress, mounty, columnist, libertarian, cellist. She has left Ontario and is now residing in Monterey National Park. Now, I looked that up online and the only Monterey National Park is in California. So she is there, she’s becoming one with the animals. Living a crazy life. There are geese, there’s craziness, she always wears this red sweater. It’s very random, It’s got a DeForgean stream of consciousness flow to the narrative, and it reminds me more of Ant Colony than anything else he’s written. (That’s my favorite book by DeForge.)
Sarah: Oh, yeah. Continue reading “Wow, Forest Folk”

Fly Daddy Fly

My Dad’s A Birdman by David Almond, Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick, 2008. 9780763636678. 128pp.

Gene: Before I moved last year I hadn’t seen this book for a long time, and I hadn’t really thought about it, but as I was looking at my shelf I realized this is the book from my daughter’s childhood that means the most to me. It’s one of the first chapter books we read together. It’s illustrated. And it’s all about a little girl coming to understand her very weird dad.
Sarah: (laughs)
Gene: It’s My Dad’s A Birdman by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar.
S: On the title page he’s eating a worm!
G: Lizzy’s the little girl. Her dad is kind of sad and unkempt.
S: Sad bathrobe dad!
G: She kind of takes care of him. There’s a guy named Mr. Poop who is taking entries for The Great Human Bird Competition, a contest to see who can be the first to fly across the River Tyne and win thousands of pounds. Mr. Poop comes around and calls for entries with a bullhorn, as one does. And Lizzy’s dad enters. He plans on wearing the wingsuit he’s made.
Continue reading “Fly Daddy Fly”

Dark Dollhouses

The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corrine May Botz. Monacelli Press, 2004. 1580931456.

Sarah: So in the 40s and 50s there was a woman who was born into money, an heiress — this is a true story — she got into forensic criminology and then used some of her money to sponsor forensic criminology classes and a department at Harvard. She ended up working for a police department, training police officers. To do that she made incredibly detailed 1/12th scale dollhouse murder scenes.
G: What???
S: This book is The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, which was the name of her project.
G: (flipping through the book) Oh my God.
Continue reading “Dark Dollhouses”

I Cannot Wait Till Lunchtime

English as She Is Spoke by José Da Fonseca & Pedro Carolino, edited by Paul Collins. McSweeney’s Books, 1855.

Sarah: In 1855, two Portuguese guys decided to write a Portuguese-English phrasebook, the drawback being that neither of them spoke English and neither had access to any Portuguese-English dictionaries. So they used a Portuguese-French dictionary and and French-English dictionary to create their phrasebook.
Gene: (laughs)
S: And they published it. This is a reprint of that book, which immediately became an early comedy hit. Because it is hilarious.
G: Unintentionally hilarious?
S: Unintentionally hilarious. You do have to remember… well, like when you read Bram Stoker’s Dracula and you think “Well, this isn’t that spooky,” but it was the first one. Sometimes if it limps a little, you have to remember it was the original. And this was before machine translation, so they were doing this by hand. It’s artisinal translation.
G: Are we at the point where we’re calling translations artisinal? That’s kind of sad. Continue reading “I Cannot Wait Till Lunchtime”

Mrs Vince Camden Written on a Pee Chee

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter. Harper Perennial, 2008. 9780061577659.

Sarah: So when you first talked about Book Wows, you pitched the idea to me as we grab a book from our collection and talk about why we love it. So this is the first book I thought about, but I didn’t want to start out with it. It’s almost too much for me to talk about. The book is Citizen Vince by Jess Walter.
Gene: OK!
S: It’s the first or second book by him that I read.
G: He was a journalist somewhere in Washington state, I think — he’s somewhat local, right?
S: He still lives in Spokane.
G: He used to work with my friend Jonathan. I was at a party at Jonathan’s house and he and another reporter talked about how Jess Walter had escaped journalism much like librarians talk about those who escape the library.
S: Walter and Sherman Alexie do this podcast together, it went on hiatus while Alexie was ill, but it’s rumored that it’s coming back. It’s so good: two really smart guys who are incredibly good writers interviewing other writers they like. It is the best way to get to know authors that you need to read.
G: So tell me about this book. Is it a mystery? Continue reading “Mrs Vince Camden Written on a Pee Chee”