Saturday, January 25, 2020

Metaphorical Love

Here's a song I'm liking a lot recently. I gather from the comments on this YouTube version that the singer/songwriter, Kate Davis, has been playing it different ways for years, but this is the first time I've heard her stuff.

I am a sucker for tricky, sneaky metaphors, and I love that about this song. But she also sings it compellingly, and lets the song do its own thing without getting in its way.

The video is oddly more impactful than just listening to the song -- visuals are pretty simple, but it really leans into the heart of the metaphor.

Anyway, here's "Open Heart" by Kate Davis. I gather it's on her new record, Trophy.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/11/19

Most of this stuff came in last week, but you may have noticed by now that this blog is in extremely low-content mode. (You may also have guessed that I've been neglecting it.) But I did get the following books recently, and I wanted to mention them.

One came in from a publisher -- bless their hearts! I have no idea why I'm still on anyone's publicity lists at this point -- and three were purchases from Fantagraphic's big Cyber Monday sale that were delayed in transit to me for various reasons.


Hilo, Vol. 6: All the Pieces Fit is the latest in the young-readers graphic-novel series by Judd Winick, who probably wishes people like me wouldn't still think of him as "that guy from an early reality show, you know, the one whose gay friend later died". Hilo is the kid with glowy hands on the cover: he's a robot superhero, more or less, and he's been chasing the Big Bad (Razorwark! a very appropriately Big Bad name) for five books now. This is promised to be the big finale. I read the first book a few years back, and buried a quick note about it in a long post covering everything I read for two months. All the Pieces Fit is a hardcover from Random House Books for Young Readers, on sale February 4.

Fantagraphics Sale:

Free Shit is a collection of a minicomic Charles Burns has done for shows and festivals for years -- and maybe just made up to send to friends -- with sketches and little drawings and random stuff. (Doesn't seem to have any story content, as you'd expect from a sketchbook.) This book collects the first twenty-five issues.

Reincarnation Stories is the new graphic novel from Kim Deitch, which means two things: it's going to be largely about some oddball corner of the entertainment world in the early 20th century, and Kim Deitch is going to be a major character in what seems to be a fictional, even fantastical, story. In this case, it's all about how he is -- or may be -- the reincarnation of minor (fictional) Hollywood figure Sid Pincus, and how that's manifested throughout his life. Reviews have been great, and Deitch is a master, so I'm looking forward to it.

And last is Tonta, the latest collection of stories from the current incarnation of Love & Rockets by Jaime Hernandez. (As opposed to the latest collection of stories from the current incarnation of Love & Rockets by his brother Gilbert, which I'd have to check to figure out which book that was). It's about The Frogmouth's goofy half-sister, the one Jaime draws with the face he previously reserved only for old ladies, though I think she's just supposed to be a not-conventionally-attractive teenager. (Jaime, for all his skill and ability, has not spent much time drawing people who are not conventionally attractive. Like, hardly any time.)

Friday, January 03, 2020

Quote of the Week: Retail Politics

Normally, officeholders in a state like Texas have differed from eminent public servants in the federal government  primarily in the way some social scientists claim that lower-class Americans differ from those Americans who have arrived in the middle class -- an inability to defer reward. A commissioner of an important federal regulatory agency is content to live on his government salary, secure in the knowledge that his next job may be as a highly paid executive or counsel in the industry he has been regulating. Distinguished Washington lawyers who serve as deputy secretaries of one department or another are ordinarily not given large retainers to use their influence until after they resign their posts. In some states, though, it is understood that such patience is too much to ask of a poor frail human being who happens to find himself governor.
 - Calvin Trillin, "Reformer," originally published 1972 in The New Yorker, available in Trillin on Texas, p.174

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Favorite Books of 2019

So this is not going to go the way it used to.

Typically, I have a long explanation up front -- see last year for a type specimen -- about how I do this, and why there are twelve books, and then list one top book for each month along with a few other things worth mentioning.

But there are several months in 2019 where I didn't finish a single book: 2019 has been a massive outlier in my reading life (and, I hope, not the new normal). So that style simply won't work.

To be more specific, I only read 44 books in 2019. That's not just down from 2018's record-breaking 433, it's less than a third of the previous low, 2017's 139. I just don't have a regular time or place for reading actual books in my life now, and it shows.

I started typing this thinking that I would end up with a shorter list -- four or five books, maybe -- of recent things I read this year and can recommend. But I also almost completely stopped reading new books as the year went on, instead trying ever-more-powerful re-reads and classics to try to jump-start my reading enthusiasm (current candidate: Catch-22).

So that shorter list would actually be the first three things I read, back in January -- Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology, Charles Stross's The Labyrinth Index, and Steve Erickson's Shadowbahn. And that seems more than a little pointless.

In the end, I do not have a list of favorite books that I read in 2019. In fact, I'd like to forget the way I was reading in 2019, along with a lot of other things about 2019, as quickly as possible.

(Also: in past years I would do another first-of-the-year post linking back to the first and last posts of the prior year. Since I've also been posting vastly less often this year, I'm not going to do that at all.)

I have no idea how 2020 will go. I'm coming to think I need some kind of structure in my reading life, as I did in 2018 (when I had basically the same physical set-up and working life as 2019). And "do this every day" clearly works well for me. But the book-a-day metric tends to push me to often-junky graphic novels and manga, which isn't what I want. So I may need to set a page goal: we'll see.

Anyway. I hope 2019 was less frustrating for you (in this way, at least) than it was for me. And best wishes for a better 2020.