Posts Tagged ‘Kafka’

Stitches

Published March 2, 2010 by Molly

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Graphic novel and memoir are two genres that, if fused right, can harmonize as beautifully as Brian and Carl Wilson. Marjane Satrapi, Harvey Pekar, Joe Sacco, Phoebe Gloeckner…the list of successes goes on. There’s something about combining the expressiveness of words, images, and narrative that can tell the story of a life like nothing else.

A recent addition to the canon is David Small’s memoir Stitches (W.W. Norton), which tells the story of the author’s youth in images as lucid as they are dreamlike. We begin with the author as a young boy, often sick, living with a distant, unhappy radiologist father and a depressed, pathologically stingy mother. When a possibly-cancerous cyst is discovered on David’s neck, he undergoes an operation leaves him literally unable to speak for nearly a decade.

What follows is a dark chronicle of the family’s dissolution rendered in images that can only be described as lovely. Lovely? It’s hard to explain how a young man’s notions of invisibility and rage can resonate so deeply when portrayed as Small portrays them, but that’s the mystery of the medium.

The melding of memoir and graphic novel is one of those alchemical developments which we can point to, gratefully, as a recent beacon of hope for the printed word. Paging through Stitches, a reader is certain that there is no other way that Small’s story might have been told.

The Uncertainty Principle

Published September 22, 2009 by Molly

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“Clocks, calendars, timetables and guidebooks assure us: there is an order to things,” begins Dr. Clock’s Handbook. “In Dr. Clock’s absurd world, on the contrary, things are not always what they seem. Logic leads to surprise, paradox reigns with looking-glass rules, things quickly slide from the sublime to the ridiculous.”

Indeed. A hefty book of thick many-colored pages, Dr. Clock’s Handbook is a collection of absurdist writing and thinking published by the legendary Redstone Press. Among those represented are Ed Ruscha, Flann O’Brien, Franz Kafka, Damien Hirst and David Shrigley. No kidding!

To page through the book is to feel a rush of mental pops and fizzes. Concrete teepees! Zebra stew! Nonsensical proverbs! (”Cold meat lights no fire”.) Every possible form of off-the-wall thinking is included in this compilation, which combines photographs with recipes, manifestos, diagrams, charts and essays. The editing is shrewd––there’s no filler––and the content is endlessly generative. You could use this as a creative manual for any type of project; just keeping a copy perched on your desk could induce boundary-pushing ideas to bubble up from the ether. Dr. Clock’s Handbook is one of those volumes that you might read every day and never get sick of. A desert island book, for sure.

Books You Might Not Have Read Yet: The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard

Published September 22, 2009 by Molly

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Born in Shanghai in 1930, J.G. Ballard studied medicine at Cambridge and authored sixteen novels, getting his start as a die-hard Science Fiction scribe. His stories combine an impeccable politesse with a perversity reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s adult fiction. Some end with a twist. Others are written in such a tone of subdued weirdness as to make you shudder between paragraphs (with pleasure).

Anthony Burgess and Martin Amis were both fans of Ballard, and the writer was often compared in his lifetime to Saki, Borges, Kafka and Poe––not a shabby bunch. Amis wrote that “It is a solecism to talk about degrees of uniqueness (either you are or you aren’t), but Ballard was somehow uniquely unique.” The impression holds true after paging through a new volume that contains more than 1,000 pages of Ballard tales and weighs more than a large cat. This is one for the permanent collection.