Benn read Best American Comics 2006:
These days, the measure of any good comics anthology seems to be the Chris Ware-edited volume of McSweeney's 13. The early issues of Fantagraphics' Mome came close to recreating this greatness (although, sadly, recent issues seem to be a tad more inconsistent), and this newest edition to The Best American series, comes as close as any traditionally formatted book can get (McSweeney's has a knack for design that, though often imitated, is hard to surpass). Part of that might have to do with the fact that 3 of the stories here are compiled from McSweeney's, and 2 from Mome. The rest, as is the tradition of the Best American series, uses a multitude of quality source material. Editors Anne Elizabeth Moore and Harvey Pekar's selections are, as anyone familiar with Pekar's aesthetic, mostly reality-based. There are no representations of mainstream superhero greatness or Kramer's Ergot-style rich, indulgent artistic flourishes. Presented here are simply the best comics, or excerpts of, that fit the realm of alternative and/or underground comics.
My only real gripes are the dates of eligibility (from January 1, 2004 - August 15, 2006 - does this mean we'll have to wait a year and a half for the next installment?) and the hardcover format which feels rather, um, decadent. Perhaps the hardcover helps to reassert the literary importance that McSweeney's Vol. 13 achieved, and it does do that. This book feels substantial. It feels and reads like quality. And it is, easily, the best comics anthology of 2006.
Eric read Television by Jean-Philippe Toussaint:
This Belgian book, a comical novel with a slight dark edge, memorably deals with work avoidance. As a scholar struggles to avoid television while he works on his thesis, he ends up obsessing over tv, setting elaborate rules for himself regarding where and when he can and can't watch it. In the process, he does just about everything except get any work done, alienating many friends, colleagues and neighbors along the way. I'd read one prior novel by Toussaint called Monsieur, and both make for good, quick reads that remind me of Peter Handke's great run of novels from the 70s; Toussaint might be a little less diabolical in his outlook, but like Handke he has lots of fun presenting absurd and irrational thoughts and actions through deceptively simple, rational prose.
Rachel read Craft:
Craft sort of reads like a craftster who's who/yearbook. If you've been in to crafting for a while there aren't a lot of things in this first issue that you probably haven't seen already (crafting blogs being as ubiquitous and as active as they are), but it's nice to have pretty photos, interviews with successful crafsters and how they got started, and cool projects saved in a handy portable format that sits on a shelf.
There are still people out there who think crafting is something grannies do (yes, it's true) and this is the perfect introduction to what's been going on in the new world of DIY makingstuffedness. I can't wait for the next issue.