Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Multi-format Gekiga by Drawn & Quarterly

I am consistently thrilled and impressed by the ever-growing wave of Japanese comics and literature that reach American audiences. Haruki Murakami is the likely catalyst to all of this, and I think American publishing owes a lot to to his peculiar blend of accessibility and intellect. Smaller publishers such as Vertical and Chin Music (who I've featured here in past posts) have managed to grow out of our national interest in Japanese literature and craft their own individual identities. It's wonderful to watch what these publishers focus on--Vertical, for instance, seems to be venturing away from their Tezuka-grade classics and are experimenting (successfully, I think) with niche manga like Lychee Light Club and 7 Billion Needles. Drawn and Quarterly, a Canadian comics press known primarily for their literary slant, have translated the astonishingly good work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi and are publishing some sharp-looking volumes of gekiga works by many of Tatsumi's contemporaries.

It's interesting to see how apprehensive Drawn & Quarterly seems to make their gekiga look the part of an ongoing series. At first, the collector in me found their different formats frustrating. To see how great Tatsumi's three short story collections look together made me want to see these various titles line up in a similar design. A Single Match came out a lot shinier than previous hardcover editions, and the latest title, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, is softcover with flaps and is to be read right to left.

But, really--syncing up the design for these books makes them no different than a DC Comics "archive" edition. Even if it is because of something as simple as budget reasons, changing the design with each new installment manages to expand the series while maintaining the integrity of each author.

Currently reading:
Between Parentheses by Roberto Bolano

Currently listening to:
John Maus, "We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves"

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles

It feels a little premature to do a post on this, but I'm really excited about John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun and I wanted to share it with you all. I'm currently reading the novel for my next review, so I guess we should consider this a preview.

Similar to Adam Levin's The Instructions, John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun is an enormous, 900+ page novel published by McSweeney's; it's another exciting and ambitious move by them and one that has once again cemented McSweeney's back on my radar as a publisher to watch. A Moment in the Sun is set in late 1890's America and follows a a sprawling cast of characters through the Spanish-American War, the Industrial Revolution, and the rising tensions of post-Civil War race relations. Think of it as Pynchon novel, but trade the zaniness for an astonishing level of research. Vollmann fans will eat this up as well. I'm about 600 pages in, and it's possibly the best historical fiction novel I've ever read.
And, the design is outstanding too! It has an old-world elegance that suits the novel so well. A detailed review will come by the end of the month. Stay tuned--

Currently reading:
A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles

Currently listening to:
The Twilight Singers, "Dynamite Steps"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Penguin Mini Modern Classics

Well, it's been another long gap between posts. Hopefully I'll be able to make up for lost time with some exciting new updates. Admittedly, my mind has been elsewhere; two weekends ago my girlfriend and I got engaged! It's very exciting to get into the world of wedding-planning... but, for a moment, let's get back to the books.

Last February, Penguin UK announced a series of 50 "Mini Modern" Classics, housed in a long cardboard slipcase. If you're the type of collector who loves matching volumes and completing sets, be careful here... you might get into some trouble:

At the moment, these are available in the UK and Canada, and although Penguin would probably love for you to spend 150GBP on the full set, individual volumes can be cherry-picked through sites like The Book Depository and Amazon. It's interesting to see which titles are available and which are not--it seems like the buyer at the Book Depository has similar tastes to me, as all the spooky, pulpy titles were in stock (either that or I'm just a predictable consumer).

Each book retails for under $5.00 US! These volumes look great and are exactly what you should expect to get for your money. The covers and spines bend and crease easily, but that's what they should do with that kind of price point... because really, these are meant for your back pocket.

What first drew me to these is Lovecraft's "The Colour out of Space"--I'd been meaning to pick up a copy but couldn't get excited about all the ugly fantasy-art covers out there. And really, I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a more perfect edition of of that story--it's as if the whole series was designed in "Colour out of Space" gray.

I doubt these will ever be reprinted, so if you're interested in a few you should see what you can find online. It's a great way to read the lesser known stories by some of the best authors out there.

Currently reading:
A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles

Currently listening to:
"Clouds Taste Metallic" by The Flaming Lips (on orange vinyl!)