Monday, October 31, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/29

It's a Monday once again, and here, as usual, are the books that showed up in my mailbox last week. I'll remind you that I haven't actually read any of these yet, so what I have to tell you about them is based mostly on what these books say about themselves.

First up is the first in a new manga series from Vertical, No Longer Human, Part 1. It's adapted from the influential bestselling novel (by Osamu Dazai) of the same name, by the popular manga-ka Usamaru Furuya. No Longer Human is the possibly-autobiographical story of a young man, an aspiring artist named Yozo Oba, who hides his true feelings of self-loathing behind a class-clown mask. It was officially published last week.

From the newish small press PM Press came two books from their "Outspoken Authors" series, which each pair a new novella with nonfiction by the same author:
  • Published back in August, The Wild Girls by Ursula K. Le Guin, including essays on modesty and the place of reading in the modern world, plus an interview with series edition Terry Bisson.
  • Coming in November, Cory Doctorow's The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, along with an essay on copyright (in case we didn't already know his stance on it) and an interview with Bisson.
Also from PM Press -- from their Switchblade imprint, which looks to be focused on lefty crime fiction -- is the new anthology Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail!, edited by Gary Phillips and Andre Gibbons. The theme here is, more or less, stories about riots and revolution -- very timely in this season of Occupying everywhere in the world -- with reprints by Michael Moorcock and Cory Doctorow & Michael Skeet, plus sixteen original stories from writers including Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Sara Paretsky, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Luis Rodriguez. It will be published in trade paperback in mid-December.

EVE Online is one of the many massively multiplayer online games which I have not played (a category which includes all of them, to be honest; I don't like strangers enough to want to purposely spend time with them), and it has hatched a new novel, EVE: Templar One. The author is Tony Gonzales, author of one of the two previous EVE novels, The Empyrean Age, as well as a couple of novellas in the same world -- he's also the IP development manager for EVE's parent company, which may mean something like "head writer" in tech-company speak. In any case, he knows this world as well as anybody, and he's proved he can put together words into the shape of a novel once before, which is pretty darn good for a licensed book. Templar One will be published by Tor in December as a trade paperback.

And last for this week is Fenrir, a big new novel by M.D. Lachlan which is also the sequel to his Wolfsangel. It's a historical fantasy -- precisely how historical I'm not sure -- in which the Vikings are laying fiery siege to Paris in some year I can't find any reference to. It looks dark and doomy -- as often happens to books with Vikings in them -- including  "the Count," who must decide whether to hand over his sister to the invaders or see his city destroyed. Fenrir was published by Pyr in trade paperback on October 18th.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

So What's the Problem?

From a New York Times article, this morning, about Republican-aligned "Super PACs" raising vast sums of money in preparation for the 2012 elections, a quote about outsourcing the GOP voter database:
“Every time we empower independent third-party groups to do what the party is supposed to be doing, it diminishes the value of the brand and what the party represents,” said Gary Emineth, a former chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, who fought against the Data Trust agreement. 
I thought what the Republican party represents is giving control of everything to rich third parties?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Comics Round-Up: No Connection Whatsoever

And here are four more graphic novels (or similar beasts) that I neglected to write about soon after I read them, when they were fresh in my mind. Let's see what I care to remember...

Mister Wonderful is part of the endless repackaging of Daniel Clowes, though this piece (unlike most of his recent books) didn't first see life as a single issue of his old comics series, Eightball. No, this first appeared in the short-lived New York Times Magazine "Funny Papers" section, one of the few moments when the Grey Lady tried to emulate regular newspapers.

The story has been reworked slightly -- each large NYT page has been broken into two shorter, wider pages, to pad the length up to something that can be called a book -- and there are some other changes as well, but it's still the same, just told in a slightly different form. (And it's also a story very similar to Clowes's last standalone graphic novel, Wilson, which I reviewed here last year.)

Marshall is a middle-aged sad sack, divorced, lonely, nearly broke and with no real hopes of getting any better. He narrates this story -- intensively narrates it, in a caption-filled style very out of fashion in most of mainstream comics, which shoves us directly into his head and holds us there, hostage perhaps, until the end of the book. Marshall isn't great company, unfortunately -- he's obsessive about his own shortcomings, and self-flagellation is only interesting for so long.

Mister Wonderful is the story of one day in Marshall's life -- one night, really -- starting with a blind date, and continuing on from there. Marshall's been set up with Natalie by mutual friends, and Natalie is probably just as damaged as Marshall is, in her own ways -- but we only see her through Marshall's eyes, and only see her when Marshall gets out of the way, which is hardly ever. So Mister Wonderful is primarily a tour through Marshall's psyche, with short stops along the way to take in some real-life events that illustrate that his poor self-image is well rooted in his actual competencies.

It doesn't have the satirical edge of Clowes's earlier work -- Clowes wants us to identify with Marshall and care about him. (Mister Wonderful is most like a work by a slightly more friendly, and less formalist, Chris Ware.) But Marshall is undeniably tedious and suffocating -- though he is nowhere near as horrible as the "hero" of Clowes's Wilson was, so he does have that to (very slightly) recommend him. Clowes can create characters that are damaged, self-obsessed, and fascinating -- recall Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World -- but, these days, he's tending to leave off "fascinating," which is unfortunate.

The New Yorker On the Money is much easier (and quicker) to describe: this 2009 book (edited by New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff) collects cartoons from the New Yorker's long history about finance, economics, and just money. As usual with the New Yorker, there's a decided tilt towards cartoons about either "big business" (a bunch of guys in suits around a table) or "the rich" (either two men sitting in club chairs, or some kind of swanky party). This particular New Yorker collection, I have to say, stints hugely in the guy-on-a-desert-island cartoon.

So this is somewhat an updated and supersized new edition of the New Yorker Book of Money Cartoons (published in 1991, and reviewed here by me, which is why I remember it), organized by decade and substantially longer. If you're looking for the definitive collection of New Yorker-style "drawings" about bankers, conspicuous consumption, and the idle rich, this is it. If you can't stand New Yorker cartoons, this probably won't change your mind.

I'm probably all out of superlatives to describe Rick Geary's "Murder Treasury" books -- eight books were published in the "Treasury of Victorian Murder" from 1995 through 2007, and four since then have comprised the "Treasury of XXth Century Murder" -- since I've reviewed many of them over the past few years. (The Mystery of Mary Rogers, The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans, Famous Players, The Lindbergh Child, The Saga of the Bloody Benders, and The Case of Madeline Smith)

This year's entry in the series is The Lives of Sacco & Vanzetti, an impeccably researched, carefully constructed, and utterly engrossing book about two anarchists convicted and executed for murder in the early 1920s, despite mixed evidence and world-wide outrage about the case. (It was one of the very first times that there really was world-wide coverage of a single event, in that first era in which news truly became global.)

As usual, Geary doesn't pick a side -- he presents all of the evidence, as dispassionately as possible, and ends with a page detailing the best arguments on both sides. (He clearly prefers murder stories that are still mysteries, decades later -- the stories that are unfinished, and will never be fully closed.) And his linework is as precise and detailed -- just this side of finicky -- as ever. I find that the least-known cases make for the most fascinating Geary books, since all of the facts are completely new, but even this heavily picked-over piece of history gives him a lot of scope to retell the story.

Sacco and Vanzetti were both alive, and years from the murder they may or may not have committed, when the strips in George McManus's Bringing Up Father were drawn and published; this book collects the first two years of that long-running strip, from 1913 and 1914. It's from the very dawn of the American newspaper strip, and many of these strips still have the stiffness of the 19th century to them at times, along with the lack of gutters between panels of an art form still figuring out its ground-rules.

I have to admit that I don't find martial violence as side-splitting a running joke as McManus's contemporaries seemed to, but, at this early point, Bringing Up Father wasn't primarily about Maggie hitting Jiggs with the rolling pin -- though that did occur now and then. The core of the strip was Jiggs, that boisterous, glad-handing, common man, thrown against his will into the realms of the upper class, propelled by his social-climbing wife, Maggie. (The strip never did explain how Jiggs got suddenly rich -- never even hinted at it, which is probably for the best.) Jiggs, of course, would much rather prefer to sneak off to a bar, or a card game, to waste time with his old chums -- and practically every working man in New York seems to have been his chum!

Bringing Up Father was a limited strip, but it worked pretty well within those limitations. McManus became a much more interesting and intricate artist later on, but these early strips are still consistently entertaining, which is pretty good for throwaway entertainment nearly a hundred years old.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Today's Favorite Song

Anything I do more than once becomes a tradition, and so, here's the song I'm currently listening to too much (and too loudly) in my car -- "Welcome to Your Wedding Day" by The Airborne Toxic Event [1].

It's got a great opening, with almost random musical riffs bouncing off each other until the first verse starts -- and there's a wonderful '80s-style keyboard sound in it, too. Plus, of course, it's the kind of song that makes you want to turn it up loud in your car, which is one of the very best kinds of songs.

(It's from their new record, All At Once.)

Welcome To Your Wedding Day (Album Version)

Edit: That player isn't working for me -- it's supposed to launch the MP3 from the band's (snicker!) MySpace page, but doesn't seem to be doing that. So, instead, have some random person's fan-made video for Assassin's Creed with this song as the soundtrack. (There's also an official live acoustic version on YouTube that's good in its own way, but it doesn't have the looming ominousness of the album version.)

[1] Who also have an eminently literary name, which I appreciate.

Less Exciting Book Titles

Yesterday, the hashtag #lessexcitingbooktitles flashed like wildfire through the status boxes of Twitter -- or, at least, a couple of bookish people were doing it, as a takeoff on a much more popular and widespread meme about music.

These were my contributions; I hope that you find them suitably unexciting:
  • The Pretty Good Storm
  • The Leaseholder of the Rings
  • Fahrenheit 84
  • Lord Valentine's Summer Cottage
  • The Factory-Refurbished Man
  • The Moon Is a Grumpy Friend
  • Peace and Peace
  • The Girl With the Dragon Temporary Tattoo
  • The For-a-Little-While War
  • Man Equals
  • A Connecticut Yankee in Greenwich
  • Darkness at Midnight
  • I, Clarence
  • Fluttering Slightly With the Wind
  • To Have and Have Some More
  • The Da Vinci Acrostic
  • The Mediocre Gatsby
  • A Town Not All That Much Like Alice

Quote of the Week: Eliot on Editors

"Yes, I suppose some editors are failed writers -- but so are most writers."
- T.S. Eliot

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Minority Tastes

I won't say that I'm not an elitist -- why wouldn't anyone want to consider themselves elite? -- but I still deeply believe that the books that I love are intrinsically wonderful, and that enjoying them is something that any half-smart and basically literate person should be able to do.

Unfortunately, the world does not want to agree with me; I've just seen that Harry Connolly -- whose novel Game of Cages was one of the best things I read last year, and whose Circle of Enemies I've been holding onto for an upcoming vacation -- has  just been told that his current publisher will not be buying any more books in that series, for what seem like eminently sensible falling-sales reasons. (I'm in the business; I can access BookScan.)

This is not the first time, of course; one of my other favorite writers, Matt Hughes, had two "Big Six" publishers shot out from under him in three books -- three wonderful, amazing, lovely books, let me emphasize -- but has since gone on to write a number of excellent books for smaller houses.

And there are plenty of others -- Elizabeth Willey, the only writer I've ever found who can do pseudo-Zelazny Amber, and did it well, disappeared after three novels. Before that, there was a writer who had two screamingly funny Bertie-Wooster-as-a-ghost-hunter paperbacks (and whose name I can't remember), and she also disappeared without a trace.

I know you people -- the ones reading these words now -- must be the exceptions, but the world, more and more, seems to be filled with people whose tastes are just inexplicably horrible. Luckily, I still harbor hopes of becoming Emperor of the Literary World one day, and then I will make everything Right.

For right now, good luck to Connolly -- and, if you've been putting off grabbing his books, do it now, since low-selling books are the ones that it's murder to find later on -- and to all of those other absolutely amazing writers whom it seems that only I like.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Comics Round-Up: More Random Books

I have not read as many books as I wanted to this year, nor have I written about as many of the ones I did manage to read. (I didn't manage to save as much from the flood as I would have liked, either; it's a low-batting-average kind of year.) But the year is not over, and I can catch up on one of those fronts very quickly, viz:

I've devoted several thousand words over the past few years to the "Best American Comics" series -- see my posts on the 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and 2009 editions -- so perhaps I'll be forgiven for not diving as deeply into the Neil Gaiman-edited 2010 edition. (Particularly since the 2011 book is out now, all shiny and new, so this is terribly old news.) Each editor shifts the material somewhat -- Gaiman's volume leads off with a long excerpt from the Jonathan Lethem/Farel Dalrymple/Gary Panter Omega the Unknown, the first Big Two story in the series, which feels significant -- but the core of each book is very similar, drawing from the same group of major mid-career "alternative" cartoonists, from Gilbert Hernandez (here represented by a story done with his vastly less-prolific brother Mario) to Ben Katchor to Chris Ware to Peter Bagge to Bryan Lee O'Malley to C. Tyler to Robert Crumb. As usual, the series editors, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, picked a hundred notable works from their year -- September 1, 2008 through August 31, 2009 -- and sent those to Gaiman, who chose from them (and, possibly, from a few things he discovered on his own) to make this collection. Gaiman's introduction makes it clear that this isn't the "best" comics of the year -- nor even the best "American" comics of the year, whatever that may mean -- but it is a big collection of a lot of very good comics (and a few clunkers, though precisely which ones are clunkers may be a matter of personal taste) at a reasonable price. The whole series is a great way to discover what's going on over on the more interesting, less punchy side of the modern comics world, so I recommend this book, as I do its predecessors, for people who like stories told in comics form, though probably not for the kind of people who like the things that draw in the crowds of maladapted boy-men every Wednesday.

George O'Connor's Hera: The Goddess and her Glory is the third in a series of graphic albums -- published to be appropriate for younger readers, but not dumbed down for them, in a neat sidestep that O'Connor has gracefully mastered -- retelling, very faithfully and well, the stories of the Olympian gods and goddesses. (The first two covered Athena and Zeus; they are both also excellent.) Hera is a bold choice for this early in the series; she's the goddess of marriage and childbirth, two very adult (and boring, to kids) things, as well as used in most mythological retellings purely as an antagonist, either the shrewish wife of Zeus who drove him to wander or the nasty cuckolded wife piling torments on her roving husband's blameless sons. O'Connor does get into that side of Hera's life -- much of this book is a retelling of the labors of Heracles -- but she's the heroine of her own story here, smart and poised and utterly in control, even when Zeus goes haring off after yet another pretty mortal princess. O'Connor's knack for telling his stories in ways that are appropriate for smart pre-teens but with buried hints of darker matters for older readers is just as keen as in the previous books, and his afterword -- which is as scholarly as it is enthusiastic -- dives deeper into the mythological underpinnings of his story and O'Connor's thoughts as he put it together. And his art is as evocative and moody as before; his monsters are truly monstrous and his world is full of wonders. This is an amazing series, absolutely perfect for those mythology-loving kids and just as enthralling for those of us who discovered Edith Hamilton much longer ago than we care to admit.

I don't know if I have anything coherent or meaningful to say about R. Crumb's The Book of Mr. Natural, the collected stories of a character who is very much a product of a very specific time -- and that time was before I was born. Mr. Natural is described on the back cover as a "bearded, robed, curmudgeonly guru," but, really, he was just one in a long line of Crumb stand-ins, embodying one particular part of Crumb's own psyche to make particular points about contemporary society. Natural was the hippie side of Crumb, I suppose, forever disdaining all kinds of restraints, seeking mystical guidance from supernatural forces of one kind or another, and, most centrally, nakedly questioning the point of life and what, if anything, we're supposed to do with ourselves while we're alive. He does this, most usually, in pseudo-Socratic dialogues with Flakey Foont -- yes, these characters were conceived in the late '60s, and that permeates everything about them -- who is just as stereotyped an "Establishment" "square" "straight man" as Natural is a stereotype old hippie. (Though Crumb did anticipate what the real hippies would turn into, a couple of decades ahead.) I find it all a bit sad and woolly-headed, forty years later, but I am a well-known grump with no soul; more spiritually-oriented folks are likely to get more out of Natural's antics than I do.

And last for this installment will be Pearls Blows Up, the fifth treasury edition reprinting Stephan Pastis's morbid and pun-filled Pearls Before Swine comic strip. I've written about this strip a number of times before, and I've never had all that much to say about it -- it's a fun, occasionally dark, not-terribly-well-drawn, and usually very fun newspaper strip, and I greatly appreciate with without feeling the need to anatomize what makes it good. So: this was another one, with more Pastis annotations (which make any cartoon collection better), and it was just as enjoyable as the others.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Parallel Lines That Diverge Wildly

Anyone who thinks there's no difference between a billionaire who spends his money to promote social causes and politics he likes, on the one hand, and a billionaire who spends his money to specifically remove or lower regulation and government oversight on the industries he's still making millions from, on the other hand, is a person who just can't be reasoned with.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Two Links That Add Up To a Picture I Can't Quite See

Perhaps someone more plugged into this particular format war can comment, but, for myself, I'll just mention the two things that happened over the last week in the world of ebook formats.

First, EPUB 3.0, the next generation of the format used by most electronic reading devices, was officially made a Recommended Specification at the Frankfurt Book Fair by the IDPF.

A few days later, Amazon -- which is the sole user of their proprietary, competing format, derived from a format invented by Mobipocket -- announced a new generation Kindle format for their devices, without mentioning EPUB or the growing global standard.

There had been chatter that Amazon was going to converge to EPUB -- or, at least, allow EPUB files to be read on Kindle devices -- sometime late this year or next, but, from this evidence, that does not seem to be coming any time soon.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/22

I find that the most important things need to be said repeatedly, for emphasis. For example, I start every one of these weekly posts with some variation on the same topic: that I've just gotten the books I'm about to list in the mail, from publicists at the various companies publishing them, and that I haven't read any of them yet. And so, as I sometimes mention, the word "reviewing" in this post title is a slight misnomer: I'm not really reviewing these books so much as glancing at them and telling you what they seem to be. [1]

With that out of the way, first up this week is a very old story retold by one of our best contemporary novelists: The Death of King Arthur, by Peter Ackroyd. The book is actually co-credited to Sir Thomas Malory, and is Ackroyd's adaptation and interpretation of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur into modern English. Ackroyd's version is a zippy three hundred pages, which I recall is substantially shorter than Malory's. (I used to have a two-volume Penguin Classics edition of Malory, but it was destroyed by the recent flood.) Ackroyd is a fine novelist (Hawksmoor) and non-fiction writer (London: The Biography), just to mention a few books I'm personally familiar with; he's also fearsomely smart and piercing, so he's an excellent writer to turn his hand to the Matter of Britain. His new book is coming in hardcover from Viking on November 14th (in the USA; it appears to be already available on Ackroyd's own side of the Atlantic already.)

Also retelling someone else's stories, though in a way much less honored by the literati, is the new novel by Karen Traviss, Halo: Glasslands. It's the first in a new trilogy based on the popular Xbox video games -- none of which I've ever played, I have to admit -- and it hit stores as a Tor trade paperback on October 25th.

And then there's Unicorn Being a Jerk, by C.W. Moss, which is an expansion of a self-published (and web-published; much of it is still up here) book about, well, one particular unicorn, complete with rainbow horn, doing rotten things. It's a funny gift-y, impulse-buy book, of the kind that I keep suspecting the Internet is going to completely smother (though I hope not; I have a lurking fondness for silly books like this). HarperCollins's quirky It Books imprint is publishing this on November 1st, and I'm sure we all know someone who would really appreciate it.

David Moody is a horror writer, and I'm beginning to wonder if he ever sleeps -- though not sleeping could be a benefit in several ways for a writer of horror novels -- since I have in front of me what seems to be his fourth or fifth book this year, Them or Us. It's the finale to his "Hater Trilogy," following Hater and Dog Blood, and I, to be brutally honest, don't intend on reading any of those books. But, if you do like the kind of horror in which most of the human race dies horribly and then the survivors behave appallingly to each other, Moody seems to be just the writer you want. This one is a St. Martin's Press hardcover, coming November 8th.

And last for this week is something completely different: Caroline Preston's The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, a novel told in the form of a scrapbook, with vintage postcards, advertisements, and other paper ephemera arranged with typewritten text to tell the story of a young woman in the 1920s. I'm always interested in novels using odd formats and appropriation -- and Frankie went to Vassar in the early '20s, making this Vassar '90 man more interested -- so I asked to see this book as soon as I knew it existed. It was published by Ecco on October 25th in hardcover.

[1] Not that there aren't reviewers, now and at various times in the past, that did exactly the same thing and pretended that they'd actually read the books in question. This is, I must admit, a massive time-saver, but it can very easily be discovered, which causes problems.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Incoming Books: October 22nd

Yesterday, my two sons -- the now alarmingly large and ever-more-teenaged Thing 1, and his still somewhat smaller younger brother, Thing 2 -- and I went into the City (there's only one on this continent, you know), for various activities.

First -- after the usual dreadful NJ Transit bus experience, which must be expected -- was lunch at Schnipper's Quality Kitchen, which is coming to be our favorite quick-stop food place in NYC. It's amazingly convenient -- right across from the bus terminal -- and the food is really good, and reasonably priced for where it is. (Thing 2 and I split a full order of their wonderful mac & cheese this time -- it's huge and gooey and tasty and comes hot, just the way it should.)

Then, we made a quick flying stop at Midtown Comics, in part because I was two books behind on the "read a novel, tell me the story, get a free manga" program with Thing 2 -- he's been on a tear through the Narnia books, after finishing the Lemony Snicket series, and is now also reading the first Artemis Fowl book as well. [1] While I was there, I got a few things for myself, but let me delay telling you about them just slightly, so I can shoehorn in the ostensible purpose of the trip:

We had tickets for the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete World of Sports (Abridged), the first of this season's shows as our favorite theater, the New Victory. (I've wanted to see the RSC for ages -- I read their original show, The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), when it was published as a playscript in the early '90s, but they hadn't hit NYC between 1993 and last year, when Shakespeare had a run at the New Victory, and I couldn't convince the boys that they'd enjoy it.) Sports was a hoot and a half: it zoomed along at a quick clip for almost two hours (with an intermission) and was really, really funny almost every single second. (There were a few moments of sports-appropriate pathos.) My boys both loved it to death; it's a great entertainment, particularly for boys, and I recommend it even to people who don't like sports all that much (like me, for example).

(It's running for another two weeks  or so at the New Victory, and it's on tour beyond that -- so it will probably be close to many of you sometime soon.)

But the real purpose of this post is the books I got -- there were a half-dozen for the boys (the two Thing 2 had already earned, another one that he got for telling me the plot of The Horse and His Boy later that day, and three more to have in reserve), plus slightly more than that for me. I haven't been to a comics shop since sometime early this summer, so I didn't even get half of the books I was looking for, but here's what I did get:

The Great Northern Brotherhood of Canadian Cartoonists, the second "sketchbook" graphic novel by the cartoonist known only as Seth -- he really should work with the Norwegian cartoonist Jason sometime, possibly on a biography of Cher. It looks at least mildly silly, and I'm hoping it's not too insider-y about cartooning and being Canadian and things like that. Seth's work to date has been remarkably consistent, though, even his previous "sketchbook" work, the slightly less serious but still smart Wimbledon Green.

Hellboy: The Bride of Hell and Others by Mike Mignola and compatriots. The flood wiped out all of my previous Hellboy books, so this is now the only one I have in the house. (Although I am starting to look at those fancy recent hardcovers...)

Similarly, I also got B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth Volume 1: New World, also set in the Hellboy-verse, by Mignola with John Arcudi and Guy Davis, which begins a new series of stories after the giant war with the frog-creatures.

And there was a new Roger Langridge book, The Show Must Go On, collecting a whole passel of random Langridge cartoons from the past twenty years. Since I've only gotten into Langridge recently -- and because, I think, all of his Muppet Show collections are upstairs with the boys -- I don't think I actually lost any of his books in the flood, which is a rarity.

There's a new annual edition of Love and Rockets: New Stories -- the fourth one -- by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, and I'm pretty sure it's now the only book I have in the house by either of those guys now. (I had the full old Fantagraphics run of Love and Rockets, as the twenty-odd individual numbered books, plus the more recent books.)

Richard Sala had a new graphic novel, The Hidden, and I snapped that up.

And last was the new reprint of Gahan Wilson's great strip for the '70s National Lampoon, Nuts. I actually did have the old paperback edition of Nuts that was published twenty-some years ago -- by whom, I don't remember -- but I was going to get this to replace it anyway, so I don't feel bad at all about losing that one book in the flood. (Which, I suppose, is a start.)

[1] And, yes, I am plotting for what I can give him next. (Actually, I did hook him on Snicket, but both Narnia and Master Fowl were recommendations from school -- I think his teacher, but it could be the librarian as well.) I'm definitely going to get him a copy of The Hobbit, especially with the movie coming, and I might toss him either Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, Diana Wynne Jones's Chrestomanci books, or Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising (though that one doesn't start as strongly) as well.