The Big Book of Surgery

The Sacred Heart: An Atlas of the Body Seen Through Invasive Surgery by Max Aguilera-Hellweg. Bulfinch Press, 1997. 9780821223772. 128pp.

Gene: This is a Wow, but it’s also potentially an Ick. What I love about sharing books with you is that I’m digging into books that I’ve kept for a long time and asking myself why I’ve kept them, and if they’re worth hanging on to. This book freaks me out.
Sarah: Ugh!
G: It’s photographs of surgery. I’ve looked at it so many times, but so quickly, that I didn’t realize before the other day that a lot of the pictures are of the same surgery. I never read the essay before (I did a little this time) because the photos take over my brain and then I have to stop looking at it. Continue reading “The Big Book of Surgery”

I (Heart) Sequential Art

Sequential Drawings by Richard McGuire. Pantheon Books, 2016.  9781101871591.

sequential-drawingsSpot illustrations from the pages of The New Yorker by the author of the graphic novel Here. Some are groups of related objects, others sequential. Luc Sante, in his introduction, points out that “McGuire has a special gift for endowing inanimate objects with personalities. He accomplishes this with the most minimal means.” In “Three Friends” a parking meter on a bent post looks like Munch’s The Scream. “Rock, Paper, Scissors” stresses violence as well as cooperation. (The entire sequence can be seen at the top of this GQ review.) “Flamingo Umbrella” starts with irritation but ends with pure delight. “Pigeon” is my favorite sequence — the birds’ poses perfectly express their ridiculousness.

The beautifully minimalist illustrations seem designed to remind me both that anything can be represented via a few simple lines and that creating such pleasing drawings requires a level of skill few possess.

And, you know, if you know a comics geek like me, there could be no better Valentine’s Day gift than this.


Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino. Dynamite Entertainment, 2016. 9781524101039. 352 pp.

art-of-atariGene: My birthday was last month, and I’m very nostalgic for old video games again. So I built myself a MAME emulator in a Raspberry Pi computer so that I can carry it around easily. I’m a little embarrassed, but not enough to not tell you about it apparently. But this book fits in perfectly with that —

Sarah: Ahhh!

G: I don’t normally like video game art books, but this is Art of Atari, and it focuses on the art of the Atari 2600. [There are other Atari systems’ / games’ art in there, too.] I never though the box art was done by hand.

S: Yeah!

G: Atari had a lot of in-house artists. The book has the history of the company, a lot about industrial design, an introduction by Ernie Cline (who wrote Ready Player One), and a lot of Atari’s advertising art that I remember from comic books.

S: And this is back when the ad art was three billion times nicer than anything you would ever see on a video game screen.

breakout-boxG: Right! Here’s one for Breakout. It’s the game with the little bar across the bottom that would hit the ball up to the top and knock out a square, like a tooth, and you had to use it to destroy the rows of blocks on top.

S: One person destructo Pong. My mother played that for hours on the Commodore 64.

G: That is totally what they should have called it. That game’s art is my favorite, bar none. They were trying to figure out how to pitch it. My least favorite art is from licensed games. There was a Pigs in Space video game. The box has a photo on it from the show and it just looks sad.
Continue reading “ARTari”

Radiant Mind

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay A. Haring, illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 9780525428190.

keithharingWhen Keith was a little kid, he drew all the time. He drew with his family. He drew in the margins of his schoolwork. As a teen, he listened to loud music in his room and drew. He even sold his bike to buy art supplies. He went to art school and then moved to New York. He drew on everything: walls, posters he stuck on lamp posts, and on blank black paper panels on subway walls in chalk. Even after he was recognized by the art world, he kept putting his art where people could see it for free or buy it cheaply. He painted a huge mural on a children’s hospital in France and he opened a shop where people could buy his art on buttons and T-shirts. As Keith explained it, “I draw all the time because there are many spaces to fill. I give my drawings away to help make the world a better place. I draw everywhere because EVERYONE needs art!” (This is the part of the book where I got weepy.)

The story is told by Keith’s sister, Kay, and she includes some great anecdotes about Keith’s childhood. The scenes depicted in the illustrations include reproductions of Keith’s art back to when he was in second grade! The picture of his big gallery show is a who’s who of influential people in the 70s art scene in New York — it’s like Where’s Waldo? for art nerds. (Hey, it’s Klaus Nomi! Look, there’s Basquiat! Is that Lou Reed?) I liked that it was a story that would be really appealing to kids, with the positive message to keep on drawing, and an inspirational story about a tremendously caring and creative person who died too young. There’s great additional material in the back about Keith’s family, career, the Keith Haring Foundation, and information about all of his art that appears in the illustrations. I will definitely be telling all of the art teachers I know about this one.

Monster Island

Yokainoshima: Island of Monsters by Charles Fréger. Thames & Hudson, 2016. 9780500544594.

yokainoshimaEvery town in Japan, from neighborhoods in Tokyo to tiny fishing villages, has festivals throughout the year, and each of these has its own mythological creature or folkloric character that is said to visit only during the festival. These yokai are represented by people dressed in costumes that can be clearly homemade or huge and elaborate. Photographer Charles Fréger photographed people in these costumes on a single island. His book seems to capture a vast pantheon of monsters, one you could never hope to see in a lifetime of travel in Japan, in a single magical place. It’s really cool.

The folktales and legends that the yokai are drawn from are unfamiliar enough that the creatures seem even stranger. They reminded me of the people who dress up for the turnip-hurling festival in Spain or for the festival of Corpus Christi.  Would Seattle’s Seafair Pirates look this strange to an outsider?

Mid Earth

nick-cave-meet-meNick Cave: Meet Me At The Center Of The Earth by Nick Cave, Dan CameronKate Eilertsen, Pam McClusky, Kenneth J. Foster. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 2009. 9780615245935

Gene: This is my WOW. And I’m wondering what we’re going to do the first time a WOW fails. Will we fake it? Will we not fake it?

(Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen today.)

Did you get to the Seattle Art Museum a few years ago to see the Nick Cave exhibit? He’s an artist and a dancer and a craftsperson who makes soundsuits. They’re made from reclaimed/recycled materials, and a lot of them (maybe all of them) are made for dancing.  This one is made from old bags and hats from thrift stores.

Sarah: Yes!

G: And look, there’s a person wearing it.

S: Oh woah! Yeah!

G: The soundsuits can be miraculously weird shapes. Sometimes they look like animals. Or like a junk store shelf.

S: Buttons!

G: I think of that as the Pac-Man soundsuit. (It’s covered in buttons.)  You can clearly see someone is wearing it.

S: Does he make them himself or does he hire the work out?

G: He used to make them all by himself and now (there’s an interview in the back) he says he makes about half of them. He has assistants now. He’s from a family with a large number of kids and he’s used to repurposing things.  I knew you’d like this.

S: Hand-me-downs!

G: When this was in Seattle there were performances, too.

The first soundsuits in the book are covered in buttons and other things, but later in the book there are soundsuits covered in ceramic animal figures…

S: It really reminds me of the full body costumes of African dancers that I saw some in a museum in Brooklyn.

G: Yeah. They’re a statement about diversity and inclusion…look at this one, which has an abacus for a face. Doesn’t it remind you of the robot prince in Saga? (Sarah shook her head. Me: What? You don’t read Saga?!?)

And this soundsuit is made of recycled afghans and socks.

S: That’s great!

G: Some people try to say Nick Cave is a craftsperson, others that he’s an artist. They see those as separate.

S: Well because if women can do it, then it’s not art, and if men do it it’s art. I have a maker program at the library that involves crochet and men don’t see it as a maker program.

G: (I still suck at crochet.) I could totally see you making these now that I’ve seen your house.

S: I’ll show you my doily stash.

G: My favorite sound suits are covered with sticks of about the same thickness. This one looks like one of those Scandinavian Christmas trolls to me. I saw an exhibit of photographs in Toronto a few years ago, photos of people in Christmas troll costumes made of fur and plants and things you’d find in forests. Really reminded me of these.

And then these are the ones that are made for dancing, which appeared around Seattle when the exhibit was at the art museum. They’re made from human hair.

S: Really? Because it looks a lot like fun fur.

G: But it falls straight down. And when they dance it goes every which way.

Wow! Sweeet, Bro!

(We’re calling these posts where we try to surprise and delight each other with a book Book Wows!  Please let us know about amazing books we should look at together.)

sweet-broSweet Bro and Hella Jeff by Dave Strider. Designed with help from KC Green (, John Keogh (, David Malki ! ( and Andrew Hussie ( Topatoco, 2013. 184 pages.  9781936561032

You can still read the comics in this book online at

From Topatoco’s press release:

“Since the days of Gutenberg, publishers have tried to marry form with content in pleasing and impressive ways. And while there have been fancy books, and there have been bad books, never before in the history of the codex have the two been mismatched in so dramatic and pointless a fashion. Like a wrench torquing a bolt too hard and shearing off its head, so too does Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff completely and irrevocably break the notion of the printed book.”

G: There’s a fake coffee stain that’s part of the cover’s gloss laminate.

S: And it says “woopps.”  And there’s more on the back cover. A skate sticker. A piece of cheese with misplaced laminate. And there’s a raised area.

G: How long is this bookmark thing?

S: Pull it out. I had to wrap it up.

G:  It’s like 3 feet long.

S: And this is a commemorative coin.

G: On the inside front cover? Is it stuck there?

S: Yeah. I haven’t tried to take it off. I think it’s glued down. It says “Scotch tape zone.”

G: Oh my god. Ha!  Why are there pictures of Owen Wilson in this book? And what’s his name — is that Ben Stiller with a fake beard? Oh my god. (snorting)

S: The reason I had to purchase this is KC Green, one the people who helped with design of the book. The printers sent him page after page after page of “mistakes” telling him about problems with it. And he was like, no, that’s supposed to be like that. It’s full of these crazy meta book issues that upset the people who printed it. It reminds me of the first book of Barry Yourgrau’s NASTYbook series which was bound upside down on purpose, so you looked like an idiot while you were reading it (because the cover was upside down). The library rebound a couple of copies so it was right side up. They didn’t realize that it was a prank.

G: I can imagine. This is the craziest book with some of the weirdest layouts and the shittiest computer-aided drawing I’ve ever seen (though clearly it was done with purpose).

S: Bad drawing, bad reproduction.

G: Is this a coupon?

S: A fake Subway coupon.

G: For a sandwich that’s the size of bigfoot’s penis. (laughing) I don’t understand this book at all. WTF is this?

S: An animated bookmark of him falling down the stairs. There are two or three bookmarks in the book. And there’s a job application for Subway. A notes page. A picture of Jared. Page after page of nonsensical author notes.

G: What is this?

S: A fold-out page that says centaur fold. It’s a picture of a centaur.

G: (more snorting) Here’s a voucher for an overnight stay in a Subway restaurant.  And there’s a pocket in the back cover.

S: Yes, with a bookmark.

G: Is this a giant paperclip?

S: No. What does it say?

G: “Paperclop.”

S: And there’s a map, sort of. It’s the entire book.

G: $40 huh?

S: Totally worth it. This book is insane. It upsets people.