This is a French graphic novel that came out a couple of years ago that I was noticing in lots of year-end “best of” lists, and kept wanting to read. I was lucky enough to get it as a present in a gift exchange we did at work, and really quite enjoyed it. Lovely art and a fun tale of a bunch of geezers who come together in an unexpected way. I see now that there are two other books out in the series, and I really want to read them as well.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed quite a few of the “Best American” short story anthologies – especially the Comics one and the Nonrequired Reading one – and so the other day I was quite happy to catch a one-day sale on Amazon, with each Kindle edition of the 2015 series available for $2. I bought all 9 (although I later learned that there’s another one, The Best American Infographics 2015, which wasn’t in the sale, but that I would also love to get). I’m pretty far in the Comics one, which is as solid as always, and I’ve started reading the Science Fiction & Fantasy one, which is the first edition in the “Best American” series, and curated by Joe Hill, whose Locke & Key series I quite enjoyed. This should keep me busy for a while.
I read a lot of comics – and I mean, A LOT – but one thing that I noticed in 2015 is that I gradually started losing interest in pretty much all of the super-hero series being put out by the Big 2 (DC and Marvel). One exception is a series that is only on its 3rd issue (out this week), The Vision. Yup, the Vision of Avengers fame, but this is not your typical super-hero tale. The setup is that the Vision creates himself a family (a wife and 2 kids) and tries to give himself a life in suburbia. Weirdness ensues. It’s written by Tom King, a person who is very much turning into my favorite writer in mainstream comics (I’m also currently reading his Sheriff of Babylon series), and that alone was a sign that this would be a book to check out. It’s by far my favorite super-hero I’m reading right now (despite that fact that I’m not reading a lot of them these days).
Following my enjoyment of the Undertaker series, I decided to try and find some more work from the creators of that book, and came across this 3-book series by the same artist, and written by Tome, whose work I’ve also enjoyed in the past (Spirou & Fantasio, Soda). Berceuse Assassine has a rather interesting concept, telling a noir story 3 times, with each book seeing it from the perspective of a different character. The kicker is that the character featured in the 3rd book did not appear to be important at first, but ends up being the lynchpin. It’s an older series – was published in the late 90s – and well worth a read.
As I mentioned in my favorite media of 2015 post, when it comes to graphic novels, I tend to play a lot of catch up at the end of the year, as the year-end lists start to come out. On the French side, a new Western series called Undertaker piqued my interest, and so I decided to give the first book a try (there are 2 out). I’m a big fan of the Western genre in general, no matter what the medium, and this is definitely one of the better entries, with a great story – and killer cliffhanger ending – and solid art. I immediately had to read the second book, which offered up a satisfying conclusion to the first story arc, and sets up things nicely for future books. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.
As a kid, the Yoko Tsuno series of comics was one of my favorites – foreshadowing my future life in Japan perhaps – and I’ve continued to read them throughout my life. It’s been a few years since I’ve read one though, and over the weekend I read the latest book to come out, Le secret de Khâny (no. 27). It wasn’t a bad read, but I found myself feeling lost a bit trying to keep track of the larger cast of characters that have been introduced over the last few books. It also refers a lot to stuff that happened in the earlier books, which in a way is quite nice, but at the same time it made it hard to completely understand why stuff was happening. It was nice revisiting the series though, and I’m feeling the urge to read through more of the recent books.
I’ve definitely been doing a lot of reading of late – which may explain why I haven’t played as much Fallout 4 as you’d expect – and one of those reads has been The Pickle Index. It’s a project that can be taken in through 3 formats (deluxe book, paperback, or app) and although they all pretty much tell the same story, the way they present that story is quite different. I’m reading it through the app, on iPad, and on top of loving the presentation – it’s done in the form of an interface that people in the story would be using – I also really like that the story opens up over a period of 10 days, meaning you read a “chapter” (the basics, with bonus material available as well), and then have to wait one day for the next batch of story to become available. It’s a cool way to be reading something, and I quite enjoy the forced pacing.
So for quite a few years now, I’ve had a hard time getting through novels. I of course read tons, but it’s all on web, magazines, and comics. I’m better at reading non-fiction, but I recently tried to get recommendations for some fantastic non-genre, fairly recent novels (literature/fiction) that I could sink my teeth in, real page turners. I wanted to avoid sci-fi, adventure, etc. as that’s the stuff that I usually turn to. I got a great bunch of recommendations from friends, and the first book to kick off this reading spurt was The Room, by Swedish author Jonas Karlsson (and nothing to do with that infamous movie). It’s a quick read, and so it was the perfect thing to get me started, and I absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t want to say too much about it, but it’s the strange Kafkaesque story of a man dealing with working in a new office environment. I definitely recommend it.
W. David Marx’s upcoming book on the popularity of the American Ivy League fashion style in Japan in the 60s, Ametora (short for “American Traditional”), comes out on December 1, and you can pre-order it from Amazon.
This is a project that David has been slowly cooking – let’s call it a crock-pot of a project – for quite a while, and seeing it finally get to a point where it’s almost out and already getting some great coverage – like a recommendation in the latest issue of Monocle, pictured in this post, and an excerpt in Lapham’s Quarterly – is really fantastic. There’s no one I know who is more knowledgeable about this topic – and to be honest, the history of modern fashion in Japan – than him (he even wrote a thesis on A Bathing Ape).
This all gets me feeling quite nostalgic. David is one of the very first friends I made when I first moved to Tokyo over 15 years ago. We became acquainted slightly before my arrival, through a Pizzicato Five mailing list, which is how I made all of my first friends in Japan.
Yes, even back then, electronic communications were a thing, imagine that.
Over the years we’ve each had our own entertaining journeys, and his involved producing some excellent music (under the Marxy monicker), and before launching the Néojaponisme website with Ian Lynam, he was quite well known for some epic online essays about Japanese culture that evolved into some of the most pointed and heated discussions, usually with Momus playing the role of foil.
So yeah, Ametora, can’t wait to read it.
I was happy to see that top shelf pictured at the Junkudo book store in Ikebukuro, bringing together that great little collection of Japanese pop culture books from Kodansha International. I remember that when Arcade Mania came out, because we were the first, it was actually challenging for bookstores to place the book, as it wasn’t obvious where it should go. But with the addition of all those other books that ended up using the same format — Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda’s Yokai Attack and Ninja Attack, Brian’s Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential, and Patrick W. Galbraith’s The Otaku Encyclopedia — it now makes sense to display them together. I think the next step is the creation of a box set — how great a Christmas gift would that be!