The world of books evens the playing field-- delivering truth, connectedness, and beauty across miles and generations. These are a few of my favorite reads that have inspired, shaped, and motivated me.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recommended: "Point to Point Navigation" by Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal's second memoir (2006) gives more
insights into the man behind the mythos.

There are plenty of behind-the-scenes in Hollywood
tales, proper gossip and dirt-dishing, more than a
fair amount of name-dropping and arrogance, and
a slice of life from another time laid bare.

Particularly of interest to me were the reminiscings
of the final days of longtime partner, Howard,
which showed both a vulnerability to Vidal as
well as the very dated onus of men who grew up
in an era where self-awareness was so clearly
not acceptable. This environment impacted
even someone as robustly individualistic as Vidal.

There's a good bit of intimacy regarding aging,
building new identities, loss, and coming to
terms with life.

There are politics (including some revelations
about Vidal's personal political career I was unfamiliar
with,) and above all a sense of survivorhood that is
made clear is accessible to all who seek it.

Worldly and shrewd, "Point to Point"
is typical Vidal, yet exposed, with a map
of an unexpected life laid bare.

Love him or hate him--or, alternately,
a little of both--Vidal is never boring.
His lush command of language and
nuance captivate from start to finish.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"And So It Goes" - Linda Ellerbee

One of my earliest experiences with being duly
impressed by anyone in the media, let alone to the
point of considering them a role model, had to have been
Linda Ellerbee.

The stoic, even-paced, high-minded anchorwoman--
who had been the antithesis of glitzy and vapid fake
news that had already started filling the air waves in the 1980s--
was a stellar figure to me, and made a great impression.
Reading her autobiography in my teens was an equally
meaningful affair.

With evocative, deliberate, engaging words which
create a picture and tell a personal tale, Ellerbee's
written word is as formidable and hypnotic as her
speaking voice. Casual strength. Reserved potency.

Her riveting--and quite revealing--look of the behind the scenes
television market over a lengthy career made for some
shocking insights. Remarkably, Ellerbee stimulates you with
the personal nature of her victories, her tragedies, and her
attacks without becoming a victim or a martyr. It's all
just as matter-of-fact as the protagonist's signature
"And so it goes."

Even now, a few decades later, there is much that can be learned from
the pragmatism and style of this gracious humorist and observer!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Comfort and Joy" by Jim Grimsley

"Comfort & Joy" is a novel that continues the story of
Dan Crell--(from Grimsley's "Winter Birds")--
a southerner with a hard past who's known poverty
and all that is linked to such an origin. The holiday setting is
prominent as, in both flashbacks and the present, Dan and his
upper crust partner, Ford, are dealing with the demands
of a relationship in conjunction with career, family obligations,
and awkward uncertainty about pursuing intimacy.

Packed with nuance and character, "Comfort & Joy" is
not--contrary to the title, in the best of contradictory manners--
a happy feel-good piece. It's unpredictable, human, complicated,
and real. Things don't go smoothly, people don't act as we would like,
and not all the answers come rushing in at appropriate times.
Thank goodness.

The conflicts arise from a variety of sources, including
a class divide in the two men and varying degrees of
contentment with their own sexuality. Throw into the mix
the normal difficulties of two men being in love (aptly
outlined here in both inner monologues and fight
sequences,) as well as an HIV diagnosis, and there
is a plenitude of engaging material.

To read a free section preview
or to order a copy, go to


Saturday, January 26, 2013

"The Good Neighbor" by Jay Quinn

"The Good Neighbor" is, as one might suspect,
not a title given to complete accuracy.
There may be a touch of facetiousness involved!

Eternal southerner Jay Quinn dishes up a
lively and intriguing story of an established gay
male couple living well in an indistinguishable
home in an upscale Orlando community.

Barely averting midlife crises themselves,
how will they respond when their new
neighbors--a married straight couple with
children--become wrapped up in their vortex?

I loved that this story effortlessly weaves all aspects together;
two very different relationships that nonetheless
have parallels, a back story that is indulged in
stops and starts, sexual tension that is splitting
open everyone involved, and a pot-burner
style that leaves you unsure what dastardly
or unseemly thing may happen next.

The story didn't go where I expected it to,
but the ending was nonetheless satisfying
and rewarding. Jay Quinn scores again, with
another great work that reads like something
I would have written to satisfy myself!

Another aspect of Jay's writing I love is that
characters are murky and imperfect and don't
fit into neat little boxes, and their motives
remain difficult to understand, if not unclear.
They're real.

Sexy, lurid, dangerous, and filled with realistic
everyday bits that people in and out of relationships
will identify with. If you love waiting to see 'what
might happen next,' "The Good Neighbor" is for you.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Best American Comics 2009 (edited by Charles Burns)

"The Best American Comics" series has been producing annual
volumes since 2006 for the "Best of" in the comics field for each
year. It's an excellent series that highlights predominantly Indy
and alternative/small press comics, as selected by the rotating
editor and series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, and gives
readers the opportunity to sample a wide array of lesser-known
(or less-widely-distributed) talents.

Included in this stellar volume are hundreds of pages of various
styles, insights, and viewpoints, including;

*Tim Hensley's oddly disjointed cross-generational Sixties-send ups,
(featuring 'Gropius',) placing sharply-colored cartoonish Archies/Bingo/
Scooter style kids comics with politically incorrect/incoherent asides.

*Daniel Clowes brilliant as always with a scathing review of a
fictional film critic (Justin M. Damiano.)

*A riveting tale of tape dispensers by R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-
Crumb. (below)
*Michael Kupperman contributes a hilarious and retro copper buddy
story with beautifully muted colors and crazy 'ads' running alongside the
feature, Twain and Einstein!

*Dan Zettwoch gives flashbacks to some intricate and bizarre old
church bulletins he drew!

*Matt Broersma's "The Company" is a mysterious tale with a noir
quality and a great eye for simplified layouts (think Rizzo from "100
Bullets" or Sale.)

*Adrian Tomine provides one of my favorite (and linear) lengthy
stories about obsession, real life, friends, and reminiscence. (below)
*Mimi Pond details an artist's search for a place to draw from in
 'Over Easy.' (below)
*Art Spiegelman does a brilliant job showcasing the abilities of the
comic as a morphing, living creation, in short order.

*Gabrielle Bell gives a fantastic autobiographical aside with a nice piece
called "When I was Eleven" (Think 'Alison Bechdel.')

*Gary Panter's "Daltokyo" gave my mind a workout!

*Jerry Moriarty's grotesques laid over 1950s imagery (no words) were
extremely powerful and evocative

*Dash Shaw's "The Galactic Funnels" tells a weird story of Dan Dak and
Stan Smart with romance, competition, intellectual property theft,
and science fiction as a few of the cool themes employed.

*Jason Lutes' Berlin is excerpted with its devastatingly realistic slice
of domestic violence in the midst of war-torn Germany. Survival isn't pretty.

*Tony Millionare's quirky monkeys and birds never fail to satisfy.

*Chapter Two of Sammy Harkham's "Black Death" is a two-tone treat
of whimsical art that belies a darker story nature. Some gorgeous work
(think Herve', Peyo, and other masters.)

*Chris Ware's "Jordan W. Lint" is a massive (seemingly) autobio-
graphical journey through some key points of the man's life, with
extraordinary layouts and structure as we have come to expect from Ware.

*A warm and nicely developed story of some latchkey kids, "Freaks" by
Laura Park is a great piece. (below)
*An excerpt from the awesome graphic novel "Skim" (previewed by me
here:"Skim" ) by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki is also included.

*Appropriately titled (har har!) 'Antoinette' by Koren Shadmi is a hoot.

*Al Columbia gives a shocking and subtle insight into a dark side of the
American dream, with a scant few panels and no words, merely intricate,
spookily-detailed art that paints a picture that draws you in.

*A disturbing journey from Gilbert Hernandez called 'Papa' details a
man's difficult trip filled with hardships and maladies surreal and scary.

*Anders Nilsen does a beautiful job of creating a macabre and mysterious
scene with a style reminiscent of Moebius.

*"Glenn Ganges in 'Pulverize'" by Kevin Huizenga is a wonderful tale of
the appeal of video games to grown men, a sliver of the dot com bubble's
impact, an indictment of bosses who want to be your friends, and other
joys of auto-biographical comics. (below)
Best to read one at a time, so the taste savors. Reading through causes the
bleed and every tale has such a distinctly different feel it's not as satisfying.

I do love crazy and discombobulated flotsam and jetsam, and art for
art's sake, but I'm still predominantly a fan of actual stories, points of
views, tales. This has plenty...but it also has anthropomorphic hi jinks
and acid-tripping wing nuts depicting chaos-filled minds, too!

A splendid collection showcasing the diversity of sequential art story-tellers
and a great introduction for someone who still doesn't realize the depth that
'mere comics' can have.

Order "Best American Comics 2009" online