Monday, December 14, 2020

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/12/20

This week's list is a lie. The first three books -- two from the library and one from the mail -- arrived late last Saturday, after I'd written up the previous week's post and set the publish time.

But if we can't manage our obsessions to suit ourselves, what can we do?

So I held those three books for this week, thinking I probably wouldn't have anything else to mention. (Spoiler: as I type this, there are two more books on hold for me at the library. Further Spoiler: two more came in the day after that. See the end of the list for the non-lie titles.)

Publicity Copies in the Mail:

Allergic is a new graphic novel from the powerhouse program at Scholastic, written by Megan Wagner Lloyd and drawn by Michelle Mee Nutter. (As far as I can tell, this is their first work together, and their first major work of comics, though Lloyd has written a number of picture books, which are not a million miles away from comics.)

It is somewhat in the tradition of Raina Telgemeier, though Scholastic is (smartly) not playing that up: the story of a pre-teen girl with an unexpected medical issue, somewhat based on the author's life, and how that plays out for her and her family. This time, as the cover implies, it's about young Maggie, who really wanted a dog but realized as soon as she got one that she's allergic to animal fur.

Allergic publishes on March 2nd in both hardcover and paperback formats.

The Mighty Emmanuel Einstein Free Public Library:

Piranesi is the new novel by Susanna Clarke, author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

(I almost want to leave it at that.)

I was one of the many people who read and loved JS&MR back in 2004. My memories are hazy, but I'm pretty sure it came in to the "mainstream" clubs first, rather than the SFBC -- since it was Classy and Serious and from a non-SF publisher (Bloomsbury). I did get to it before publication, as I recall, though I have no memory if I (or the SFBC in general) was any part of the decision to offer it in the clubs. Anyway, it was a great book, and then it was a Big Book: bestseller, Hugo winner, et cetera.

And then Clarke went quiet. There was a small book of stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, two years later, collecting mostly work she'd published in magazines and anthologies during the decade-long writing of JS&MN, some of which were loosely related to that book. But that was it.

Then, earlier this year, there was news: Clarke had finished a new novel, which was not the rumored loose sequel to JS&MN, set among much lower-class English folk. Instead, Piranesi was short where the earlier novel was long, with a small cast, set in a Gormenghastly structure that may be the entire world and where only two people live.

And of course I have to read it.

Clyde Fans took even longer than Piranesi to emerge, though we knew it was in progress, and sections have been published separately over the past twenty years. It was supposed to be the "second book" by Canadian cartoonist Seth (just Seth, born Gregory Gallant, and you'd think up a new name too if that was your original name), after the sublime It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken, but...well, he's been working on it since 1997, and some other things have leapfrogged over it during that time, most notably the lighter George Sprott.

But it's finally complete: the bug-crushing slipcased edition was published late last year, and (somewhat more recently) I realized a copy was in a library system I had access to, so I didn't have to actually pay the full price for a bug-crushing slipcased edition. (When you lose five thousand books at once, as I did in 2011, you lose something of your enthusiasm to spend lots of money on books forevermore afterward.)

Further Books from Emmanuel Einstein's Hallowed Halls

This is going to be difficult on desktop; I got four more books in series where I already have one at home, so I've just written about all of these, in exactly this context, only a week ago. And, as I have been complaining about recently, on the desktop version of this blog, there's an ugly gap of whitespace if the text about a book doesn't run longer than the image of that book's cover.

On mobile, the image shows up full-width, so the issue doesn't apply. I suspect this is a responsive-design thing -- the old Blogger editor used to wrap text fully around images on desktop, which was a cleaner look there but may not have worked as well on mobile. (I like the idea of responsive design, but in practice it seems to be an exercise in deciding where most of the readers are and making giant sweeping design decisions based on that, so that the minority platform of the time gets the crappy look.)

So, anyway, I don't have a lot to say, and those of you reading on desktop would suffer visually because of that. So, instead, all of you get to suffer from me vamping -- isn't that better?!

H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, The Second Volume concludes Gou Tanabe's adaptation of the Lovecraft novella of the title. I've already read the first book, and now (I hope) I can read this one and write one post about the thing as a whole.

The Arab of the Future, Vol.4 is the latest in the series by Riad Sattouf about his childhood, which has been mostly in Libya and Syria up to this point, though I gather much of this volume sees him living in France. Sattouf's father was Syrian and his mother French, which created a certain amount of tension in that childhood -- that's underlying all of the books. (See my posts on one and two.) Again, I've already read #3, and I believe this one is the end -- it covers five years and gets Sattouf to about the age of fourteen, so it will stop being a "childhood" somewhere in the middle there. And we know Sattouf ended up in France as an adult, making comics and directing movies.

Giant Days, Vol. 9 is another book collecting the great comics series written by John Allison, about three women at a fictional British university and some of the other people surrounding them. This time out the credits are slightly different -- Liz Fleming is still credited as inker, but there's "with" credits for Jenna Ayoub (issue 35) and penciller Max Sarin (issue 36). I don't know if that means Fleming got behind and needed some support, or if there are specific sequences in those issues that needed a different artistic look. I guess I will find out when I read it -- once more, I read #8 a few days ago and am hoping to hit more than one in one review. (Well, I'd love to get all the way to the end at Vol. 14 in one big post, but I doubt the library will get me all of them in time or let me hold onto them long enough to do that. As usual, we navigate between what we want and what we can get.)

Last up this time out is By Night, Vol. 3, written by the same John Allison I mentioned mere moments ago. This one is drawn by Christine Larsen and colored by Sarah Stern, and it concludes the series. At the danger of being a broken record -- here's my post on book one, and I have already read the middle one.

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