by Glen Weldon
Last year at this time, we offered suggestions for books ideally suited to long, gray Friday-after-Thanksgiving afternoons when the relatives have gone, the house is quiet and the loginess caused by the tryptophanic residue in your bloodstream hurls you inexorably couchward.*
Such afternoons are meant for books, we said; great, thick, yak-stunning slabs of booky goodness. The ones we highlighted were rich, fully imagined and deeply immersive works. What's more, you could polish any of 'em off before 5:00 rolled around.
Which is to say: They were graphic novels. Mail Order Bride, From Hell, Blankets, Box Office Poison, and Bone. Those recommendations stand. (Again, you can read about them here.)
Here's some more suggestions for books to take with you to the sofa.
After the jump: Math, seizures, rootlessness, bearded ladies and more.
For our present purposes, single volume editions work best. Which is not to say that a perfectly good afternoon couldn't be spent with the collected trades of some long-running series or another -- Fables, say, if postmodern twists on fairy tales are your thing; or Queen and Country, if you're interested in a realistic take on modern espionage -- and the messy political infighting behind it; or the recently completed 100 Bullets, a sprawling crime comic with an internecine plot that goes down easier in one long gulp.
But that's not ideal, as having to continually switch from volume to subsequent volume means kicking yourself out of the book's fictive universe, however briefly. Besides, nothing hangs a giant Do Not Disturb sign on your interpersonal doorknob like the solid, satisfying heft of a really big book perched atop your abdomen. It says to your visiting uncle: Look, dude, I've heard enough about your knee surgery for now, thanks.
Any of these should do that work nicely.
Logicomix, by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitrou, published by Bloomsbury USA. 352 pages.
If the very notion of taking an afternoon off to read comics triggers in you a Puritan abhorrence of sloth, you'll want to pick a book of sufficient intellectual rigor to give yourself a pass. Enter: the recently published Logicomix, the story of philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell and his lifelong quest for the comforting structure of logic and mathematical certainty. Not for everyone -- I couldn't follow author Doxiadis through every logical thrust and parry in Russell's arguments with Wittgenstein, Godel and others -- but thanks largely to the friendly, open (and strangely reassuring) art of Christos Papadimitrou, it was a lot of fun to try.
Epileptic, by David B., published by Pantheon. 368 pages.
In pages heavy with beautiful, impenetrably dark swaths of India ink, French cartoonist David B. depicts growing up in the shadow of his older, epileptic brother, and the astonishing and heartbreaking lengths to which his family went in search of a cure. Epileptic rises above -- far above -- similar "disease narratives" by virtue of that soaring, expressionistic art. David B. does more than simply illustrate the emotions mentioned in his text -- he lends them the power to shape the readers' thoughts and understanding, just the way this own understanding of the world was shaped, all those years ago.
Local, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, published by Oni Press. 384 pages.
This book is just as gorgeous, funny, and wise as it was when I wrote about it last year.
Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley, published by Fantagraphics Books. 472 pages.
Medley's light, gentle but exquisitely realized fantasy series, set in the castle left vacant after Sleeping Beauty wakes up and trots off with her prince, is about .... well, a great many things, including: Bearded nuns, knights with horse heads, the culinary preferences of various demons, ghosts, hobgoblins and unwed mothers. Written and drawn over the course of 10 years, which explains why the 12 stories collected in this first volume make for such a discursive read, Castle Waiting's a wryly funny fairy tale narrative that's both women-centered and women-powered.
Palomar, by Gilbert Hernandez, published by Fantagraphics Books. 512 pages.
Dense, vividly realized and both literally and figuratively magical, Palomar collects several stories from the justifiably revered comic series Love and Rockets, which author/writer Gilbert Hernandez produces with brother Jaime. Hernandez peoples the fictional Central American village of Palomar with complex, flawed characters, frequently sudsy plotlines and some of the most crisp, clean, resolutely efficient black-and-white art out there. Page by page, Hernandez builds the town and its history; by the end of the first story you'll be struck by his sense of place and his feel for its people, and that sense will only deepen as you read further. A perfect intro to the Love and Rockets universe for those who haven't yet visited.
The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, published by Abrams ComicsArts. 352 pages.
If you've got the time, but not the attention span, to immerse yourself in a long, hot bath of sustained narrative, this anthology of kids' comics from the 40s to the 60s lets you enjoy a series of quick, refreshing dips. Featuring high-quality reproductions of the work of such greats as Walt Kelly, Carl Barks and Sheldon Mayer, each vignette functions as both a mini history lessons and a stand-alone entertainment (Little Lulu as ur-feminist! Sugar and Spike as li'l subversives!). Plus, those early Captain Marvel stories are, as we've noted before, goofy as all get-out.
*Scientists will tell you that any post-Thanksgiving sleepiness you may experience is caused by during-Thanksgiving overeating, and not the action of a single amino acid. Joykillers, every one.