Fashion! Turn to the left!

Pattern Behavior: The Seamy Side of Fashion, Natalie Kossar. Running Press, 2017. 9780762462742.

Natalie Kossar never learned to sew as a kid, despite the efforts of her mom and grandmas. She was too busy pretending to be a horse and building forts (don’t skip her introduction, it’s hilarious). As an adult, her mom asked her to find an old sewing pattern. She searched online and found hundreds and hundreds of patterns people had scanned. She started a sort-of-comic using the images she found, in which the long-gone garment “models” have conversations about their improbable poses and odd facial expressions, or are just plain silly. Your conservative aunt who sews may not like it, but you will, whether or not you sew.

In addition to her Tumblr site, her comics ran on the now-defunct humor site The Toast.

He was real

Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman by Box Brown. First Second, 2017. 9781626723160.

(This conversation started with me talking about a British documentary show on Netflix called Embarrassing Bodies. Gene sends his daughter screenshots from it. You should watch it.)
Gene: I’m a recovering pro wrestling fan.
Sarah: Coming into this, I was like, he’s this comedian…
G: Did you like him?
S: Not my favorite but I respected his funny meta-comedy, practical joke sense of humor, but it wasn’t something I tuned in for.
G: I remember watching SNL when I was really little, I used to stay up all night watching TV. (This and letting me read anything I wanted are what I owe my parents for.) I watched the first season when it aired when I was 7. I remember seeing him do the Mighty Mouse thing. It was crazy.
S: I saw an HBO special he did that was all the hits, so I saw all of his famous bits compressed into like an hour.
G: I saw him on Taxi, too. I remember seeing him wrestle women. I remember seeing him apologize to his parents on Letterman.
S: I saw some of those too.
G: Weird, right?
S: Not as weird as Crispin Glover, but weird.
G: Glover never really seems to be having a good time. Andy Kaufman seemed to be having fun.
S: We start in Kaufman’s childhood, and it was funny to see so many of his later bits reflected in his childhood. Obsessed with Elvis, watching Mighty Mouse…and it didn’t feel artificial, it felt like we were finding out this was the kind of kid he was.
Continue reading “He was real”

Og-la-di Og-la-da

Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel. Harper, 2017. 9780062351265. 170pp.

I introduced Sarah to Elise Gravel’s sketchbook last week (as I write this). She and I are both huge fans of Gravel’s Disgusting Critters series and the friendly monsters she draws. This hybrid chapter book/graphic novel features more of the same sense of humor and silliness. (Grumpy little Olga resembles the grumpy self portrait Gravel drew in her sketchbook.) Olga loves animals (except mosquitoes), so there are lots of drawings of them throughout. She proves animals beat humans in head-to-head cuteness contests, and shows that even their farts are cute. Her closest friend is a spider named Rita who she pretends speaks French and to whom she says, “I’d like to give you a hug, but you would die.” Olga makes observations galore, which leads her to find the coolest animal poop ever (it looks like Skittles). Her new friend, the smelly animal of the title, looks “like a cross between an inflated hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old.” All it says is “meh.” (You’ll want one of your own, too, even though it smells like sardines.) Olga does some research to find out what Meh is and, perhaps more importantly, what it eats. It’s a fun way for a young scientist to explore the scientific method — there’s even a simplified two-page summary of the scientific method at the end.

How to tell if your cat is trying to kill you but your pit bull isn’t.

The American Pit Bull Terrier (An Owner’s Guide to a Happy, Healthy Pet) by Jacqueline O’Neil. Howell Book House, 1995. 9780876053836

Guest review by Murphy’s Mom

I am the proud owner of a shelter rescue dog named Murphy. Because Murphy is a Heinz 57 variety mutt with predominant pit bull, beagle, and basset hound features, he is very striking. As my seven-year-old niece, Hadley, says in her raspy Bette Davis-like lisp, “I wuv Moophy; he looks like a tiguh and I want to kith him.”

My husband is actually the one who found Murphy on our local shelter’s website. Murphy was listed as a “basset mix.” But when we were introduced to the dog, we realized the he definitely had some pit bull in his genetics. We had been told (wrongly) that pit bulls were angry, fighting dogs that would attack, maim, and even kill. But we realized early on that the only way Murphy would victimize someone would be to cuddle with them too much. Since adopting him we have proudly called ourselves Murphy’s Mom and Dad (hence, my pseudonym). My husband and I have become more educated and aware about pit bulls, and I even support local rescue groups whose objective is to find homes for pits. I decided to review this book by Jacqueline O’Neil because, honestly, I judged the book by the smiling, beautiful dog on its cover. When I realized this was an owner’s guide to raising a healthy dog, I was instantly smitten. It’s a great resource teaching the proper ways to take care of pit bulls and what makes the breed unique, plus info on the origins of the breed. And I found out pit bulls are mated with other breeds more than any kind of dog, which explains Murphy’s origins. (There are other books in the series about other breeds.)

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal. Andrews McMeel, 2012. 9781449410247
I am one of those who don’t really read graphic novels much, much to Gene’s and others’ chagrin. But when I saw this one I laughed out loud. Being a former cat mom, I know Mully (my late tuxedo feline) loved me and only me; he would pounce on guys that came over and bite their toes. I guess this was his way of protecting me or weeding out the weak? Mully eventually warmed up to my husband Neale after we had been dating for a while. It was great seeing the two guys in my life get along, finally.

Anyway, The Oatmeal penned this graphic novel about the Bobcats — two of the most unlovable, raunchy, and hilarious felines on the planet. Their sole desire is to torment their human coworkers at the engineering firm where they work. Their neckties are the perfect touch for their corporate environment. Each day, the Bobs get loaded up on coffee and make the cubicle mongers stressed and miserable. It really is funny since I had no preconceived notions about the artwork or the storyline. My favorite moment was when the Bobcats got into a crowded company elevator and played “Gas Chamber.” They pressed all the buttons and then farted in the nasty way only felines can. Because I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy, I thought was hysterical.

The book reminded me of the movie Office Space. (If you haven’t watched it already, that is sad and unfortunate — rent it today!)

What do you need?

Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz And The Art Of Peanuts by Chip Kidd and Geoff Spear. Abrams, 2015. 9781419716393. 304pp.

Sarah: People ask what is the use of core strengthening classes? Look, I can grab a book from behind me and move it out front.
Gene: (revealing the book with a flourish) A heavy book like Only What’s Necessary?
S: Ooooh.
Gene: It’s beautiful, so you can tell at a glance that it was designed by Chip Kidd, who is the best book designer in the world because he’s the only book designer I can name.
S: And I can’t stop touching the cover because the ink that makes up Charlie Brown’s face is in relief.
G: The thick boards make it feel like a box, so they give reading the book the sense of opening up a box of treasures. The endpapers are comic strip art. But after the title page, there is a two page spread of those tiny paperback Peanuts comic collections we grew up with. These pictures elicit pure joy from me because I read them as a kid. They’re creased and imperfect and wonderful.

S: I have no idea why we loved Peanuts and Garfield so much because I think we didn’t get any of the jokes!
G: I disagree — I think we did. Chip Kidd has designed several books on comic books for Abrams. One is on Batman, and it’s full of objects and art from Kidd’s collection. It’s also got what I think is the first Batman manga translated and published in the US. It convinced me that I don’t need to own every collectible that I love, I can just have photos of them. Then Kidd did a similar book on Shazam, who was my favorite superhero when I was a kid. I think I loved him because he’s a kid who magically becomes a super powerful adult. And this is his Peanuts book in that vein. It is full of so many amazing things.
Continue reading “What do you need?”

Travels of a Brooklyn Boy

Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg: One Comedian’s Tour of Not-Quite-the-Biggest Cities in the World by Todd Barry. Gallery Books, 2017. 9781501117428.

Sarah: I recently read The Not-Quite States of America, too, so this is my year for “Not Quite” books. Todd Barry is a working comedian, really well established. I wouldn’t say he can work wherever he wants, but he does mention several times in the book that he opened for Louie CK at Madison Square Garden.
G: Right. He’s not super famous, but he’s been in a lot of movies.
S: People know him.
G: You would recognize him instantly. But it feels like he’s a comedian’s comedian.
S: I can see that.
G: One of the things people kept saying to him that he interpreted as “this show may not go well” was, “I’m a little worried you’re too smart for this audience.”
S: Yes. And he might be a little to smart for any audience. This is about his year of going to secondary markets, as he calls them. Not the big towns, but the next ones down or the college towns, partly because he likes playing those venues but also because he likes finding indie coffee shops…
G: Coffee shops that make him feel like he’s still in Brooklyn.
S: Yes! Which is kind of hilarious. He lives in Brooklyn and tries to have the same experience everywhere. Continue reading “Travels of a Brooklyn Boy”

Wyld Boys Always Shine!

Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. Orbit, 2017. 9780316362474. 544pp.

The last fantasy novel that made me laugh this hard was Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself with its aging barbarian, Logan Ninefingers. This book has more swearing, weird tech and magic, and references the entire AD&D Monster Manual. It’s also got great characters and a whole lot of heart.

The adventurers formerly known as Saga, aka the Kings of the Wyld (a deep dark wilderness where everything will try to kill you), are legendary. They’re also retired. Gabriel’s daughter has become a successful badass adventurer in her own right, but she’s trapped with thousands of others in a city besieged by a horde of monsters. So Gabriel decides to put his old band back together and go rescue her. His first stop is to find his buddy “Slowhand” Clay Cooper, a man with an unbreakable shield who has settled down, has a daughter of his own, and helps guard his city. Clay initially says no to his friend and feels terrible, but where the hell would the book be if he stuck to that? So he goes off, leaving his wife and kid, determined to help Gabriel and return to his family. (As motivation, this works.) They get Gabriel’s sword out of hock from the man who stole his wife, and who also used to be their agent. Then they find their buddies: a wizard marketing his cure for erectile dysfunction, a knife fighter who’s a sedentary cuckold, and the greatest warrior among them who is currently turned to stone.

The violence is offhanded and often hilarious. The destruction is rampant. It’s the characters you’ll come back for again and again. My favorite among them is the immortal, undead bard who, I have a sense, refused to die when Eames planned. Oh, and if all of that isn’t strange enough, the story’s Big Bad has bunny ears. And somehow it all works wonderfully.