Bummer that he was such a jerk (albeit with apparently charming moments). Being an arty person myself, and spending lots of time with artists, I have very little patience for people who feel like they can treat others badly just because they made rad art. But still, as I stood in Uniqlo looking at their brilliant and desirable SPRZNY line of artist shirts, I couldn’t bring myself to feel ok about buying the shirt I liked with Basquiat’s art on the front. He was just too mean to poor Suzanne. (Did I buy garments with other artists’ designs? Yes. Do I feel bad about the sweatshop factor? Yes. Will I probably continue to buy products from this line because it does a genius job of showcasing the artists I love? Probably. Siiiigh. BUT there is hope! J Morrison is an artist who makes some really awesome artist themed shirts. Ethically. There are still a few left. I’ve bought a few and they’ve made my life awesome. BUY THEM, cuz OMG. )
But back to Widow Basquiat— this is a beautifully written book. It poetically explores the lives of both Jean-Michel Basquiat and his longtime off-and-on lover Suzanne Mallouk. Even if you don’t care for the art, or weren’t in NY for the 80’s, you’ll love the story (if you go for that romantic artistic kind of stuff). Check it out!!
Elisha Lim draws attractive comics of cute queers, and often pairs them with poignant hand written text. Their style is super-distinct; if you’re like me, you’ll look at the pages and realize ohhhhhh that’s who does does drawings i’ve been seeing around…
I didn’t read 100 Crushes straight-through, I instead read it in chunks between other bits of reading. It’s a nice combination of heavy, light, and random.
Tell It Like It Tiz is a zine by Nicole J Georges and Marc Parker about what goes on when they do zine workshops at a senior center in Portland Oregon. This is a really fun and engaging anthology of a few of those zines. It’s chock full of portions of life stories, great advice, questionable advice, sayings from another time, fresh outlooks on universal life experiences, animal drawings, transcripts of conversations…
I love, love, love it. You’ll probably love it too.
I really like this graphic memoir by Julia Wertz (of Fart Party, which is not about farts). I’m really tired and I have a headache so I’m not gonna write much– but if you like attractively illustrated creative & cynical misanthropes, awkward bluntness, and truth that is sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad, Wertz is totally your cartoonist. After finishing this book, I immediately sought out more.
This book got pretty famous. The NYT and Booklist and all the other respected reviewers were super into it. A simple google search will lead you to these reviews, and there are many!
My life wasn’t changed. Without doubt, it is sometimes absolutely is beautifully written; there are sentences that are like “omg wtf did the author just do!” It also defies certain conventions, both structural and plot-wise: time in this book is not always linear, and it’s neat that the protagonist is a 1970’s woman who makes art and races motorcycles. Sweet.
But as a “Millennial” reader, I felt in over my head. Were the art world characters in the book based on people in real life? Does our protagonist know more than she lets on? There’s a substantial amount of banter between supporting characters– does any of it matter? Are all of the characters mere shells that are intended to convey a message/critique of a time/scene rather than a story? Also, pace. and sense of place were not as expected, and was this intentional?
I cracked open the book hoping to become BFF’s with the main character, Reno. But she didn’t have enough dimension. I took over 2 weeks to read this book, as the magnetic appeal was not there for me.
Still, a vast amount of information was provided within this 400-page book. The people (mostly 40+) in my book club really loved it. It has awesome sentence structure and an unusual style. Give it a try!
For the past few years I have been keeping a list in the back of my planner of every single book that I’ve read.
At this point it’s mechanical: I finish a book. Jot down the title and author in my planner. return it to the library, shelf, or leave-a-book-take-a-book box. In recent months, I’ve also started writing book reviews/overviews for a lot of them on this blog to complete the process.
I started this year with a desire to give more credit to the independent art and artists in my life. It started with a blog post my friend Emma wrote a bit back (i think that particular post may have gone away- but her writing and projects are really unique and awesome and worth checking out) that explored ideas about being an artist and getting paid for it and what makes us believe that we don’t deserve to get paid for our art. I’ve loved zines and countercultures for years, but that influenced me to start thinking more about the difference in importance that I was applying to formally published works and independent stuff. I relish in so many zines and some of them have certainly influenced my life at least as much if not more than books I’ve read. So I’ve started adding them to my book list too. I have a job that pays more than just my bare rent and bills now. In response, I’ve started trying to spend my money more intentionally. Obviously I devour library books. But if there’s a book that I really want to buy, I try to do my best to buy it from either a local book store or directly from the author (here’s a good one to support). The last bookstore in my neighborhood just closed its doors last week (when I moved in maybe 5 years ago there were 3 in a 2-block radius). I liked those bookstores. I appreciated them much more than the boxing gym and yuppie vitamin shop that now occupy their old shells (as well as god-knows-what that will occupy the newly shuttered space).
But in the spirit of fully appreciating art and writing, here are some of the Zines I’ve been reading lately. I recommend them all.
LB teaches high school in Chicago and plays in a band over school breaks. This is the first issue of Truckface I’ve read, and it’s really really great and I want more. It includes really great details about how fucked up academic policies can be, stories about real life that mirror some of my own (explosive homemade alcohol, gender presentation, etc), student interactions, and more. It’s touching and smart and well-written. Get it at the Doris distro.
shortandqueer 14: the best thing that happened today was… 2009
I liked this one! It’s a full-year daily journal of the best thing that happened to Kelly every day for a year. Kelly is way more social than me, and the entries are exciting to read because they are *so* full of interpersonal relationships and activities. It reads diary-like, which sometimes means depression. But it doesn’t make you want to stop. Buy it from Kelly here.
Rad Dad #22 Riot Parent
I can’t believe I waited so long to read the Rad Dad zine. it’s fucking great. In this particular issue, multiple (artistic/zinester-y) parents reflect on Riot Grrrl and how/whether it and the revolution has affected how they’ve been raising their kids. It’s so good that you don’t even need to want kids to enjoy this zine. Along with Truckface, I’m definitely going to be buying more issues of this zine. Get it HERE, in the right-hand column.
And then there’s Doris. I will always love this zine. Cindy writes with such an awesome exploratory honesty. That’s a really dorky sentence, but I mean it, and her writing’s not dorky at all. This particular issue discusses queerness and mini horses and way more. Get a copy at her distro. I also really like the Encyclopedia of Doris, which looks like this and can be acquired on the same page.
So I don’t really think it’s reasonable to think about I Love Dick as a typical memoir or novel. It’s, like, some kind of experimental art project? Maybe a paper documentary? I’m being all question-marky because it’s unlike other books I’ve read. It hits lots of clear chords of femaleness and obsession and feminism and failure– and lots of distorted chords of art-life, maybe love, and some other stuff– but the structure of it all is somewhat other-worldly. There’s second person narration that’s simple to follow– but the real brunt of the book is delivered through letters (written in the first person by Kraus (or her very similar narrator!?)), and then more letters– but kind of in a memoir-ish form– that are about artists and theorists and writers (it gets very deep into stuff that I don’t know a bunch about). Also, there’s the foreword and the afterword, which are both pretty important to read…
Though officially classified as fiction, I Love Dick is about real people and (I assume) real events. I figured this out late. About halfway though the book I figured that maybe I should Google the names of some of the characters just-cuz– and sure enough they were actual known people with their own wikipedia entries and stuff. Knowing this made Kraus’s project a little more omg.
It took me maybe a week to read I love Dick— and with the pace I’ve been reading at lately, it felt like years. The well-worn library tome would be sitting right next to my lazy body, and I would get up and walk across the room to get some magazine I didn’t care about instead. Not that I Love Dick sucks. It’s fucking rich with thought and research and experience. There are tons of literary allusions that I didn’t get (It reminded me of trying to read Kathy Acker’s books that I’ve been stockpiling because I know they’re important– but that I find obscure and hard to understand all the references in). I was particularly drawn to the part on Hannah Wilke and female/feminist artists– Kraus makes some good points about how sexist stuff can be.
Find a copy HERE
I got this one as an e-book from the library. It was one of those quick and desperate selections– I was out of books at home, needed something to read, and Zero was available.
It’s actually a pretty great multidimensional YA novel. Our protagonist Zero, a punk rock painter, has just graduated from high school and been accepted to the art college of her dreams. Great! Until her lack of technical painting skill prevents her from getting the scholarship that she would need to pay the tuition. And then everything kind of crumbles. She realizes that since she can’t pay the tuition she’ll be stuck in Arizona with her parents, attending community college in a place she can’t stand. Her mom is desperate and overbearing and her dad’s alcoholism is getting worse and something has gone really wrong with her relationship with her best friend Jenn.
What propels from this premise is a really nice sort of coming-of-age novel. Our hero Zero typically has something clever to say, which means that as a reader, you’re stuck on her. She possesses a realistic combination of inconsistent self-esteem and artistic brilliance that I felt was really well crafted. There are lots of Salvador Dali quotes, good descriptions of punk shows, and a great over-all essence of what that weird post-high school not quite a kid, not quite an adult time can be like.
Find a copy HERE