the photographer

February 22, 2013


This one stayed with me for a long time after I finished it, and it’s been a strong Myyear gift and recommendation candidate, especially to anyone with an interest in Afghanistan.

A curious hybrid of photos and drawings that works brilliantly, it follows a photographer’s journey accompanying a Doctors without Borders mission through the country. Harsh but full of humanity.

aya of yop city

May 7, 2009


Another complete gem from that unique Montreal-based comic book publishers, Drawn and Quarterly. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen any comic books set in an African country before. Marguerite Abouet’s main aim was to tell a different African story, one that did not involve war or famine. Her resulting books on Aya, in collaboration with her illustrator husband Clément Oubrerie, is the funnest, and funniest, trip back to 1970s Ivory Coast I have (n)ever taken.

I won’t spoil the fun by giving too much away, but Aya and her girlfriends, like teenagers all over the world, are occupied with homework, chores at home, clothes, plans for university, gossiping, and of course… boys! All against a backdrop of a regular Abidjan neighbourhood, which, again like the rest of the world, appears not to have been immune to the delights of disco music and bell-bottomed trousers.

I raced my way through Aya, and its sequel Aya of Yop City (go here and here to read full-colour excerpts of both) and am now awaiting with bated breath the newest book in the series, due for publication in September 2009, Aya: The Secrets Come Out. Ms. Super-G is in the same state after her May Day visit last weekend, and Mr. Snow is ¾ the way there, having finished 1½  Aya books as of last night. Maybe you will be too?

waltz with bashir

April 26, 2009

Almost May, really? Time flies when you’re having fun! I’m still planning on making good on my 365 post-promise, and the good news is that I’m cherry picking the best of what I’ve seen, read and eaten the last few months for your pleasure.

To start with, a serious, but visual delight of storytelling. Waltz with Bashir was on my Film Fra Sør shortlist last year, but it took me till now to get to see it at the cinema. The first animated film to be nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, it tells the story of how the director Ari Folman uncovers his long buried memories of his personal experiences in the Lebanon War.

If you are at all a fan of the graphic novel, this film is definitely for you, as it’s a graphic novel come to life, grippingly and heart-stoppingly so. Few judgements are made on what happened, why and how, but a solemn reminder that every armed conflict affects and marks individuals, people like you and me.

fuzz and pluck

March 21, 2009


Just when you thought you were safe, here I am again to fill your life with all kinds of irrelevant information. After a little break, I am ready to make the final dash to my 365 posts. I missed being online, and sharing with you all!

Fuzz & Pluck by Ted Stearn is my latest comic book library win. Fuzz is an insecure, and permanently worried little teddy, who has (perhaps unwisely) teamed up with Pluck, a permanently outraged, though sometimes ingenious, er, plucked chicken. The post-apocalyptic times they live in are tough, so Fuzz and Pluck walk to find work in the city. This is the start of their (mis)adventures, which leads them variously through being slaves for a wealthy couple (where the lady of the house develops an unhealthy thing for stuffed animals), starving in the desert with a pontificating monkey, and finally to paid work…  at Lardy’s, the Home of the Lard Sandwich.

Allof which, despite sounding quite desperate, caused both me and Mr. Snow to laugh out loud at many points. This is all down to Ted Stearn’s genius in depicting expressions, his excellent slapstick timing and great storyboards, where you can never tell what will happen next (my favourite was almost the surreal turn that Fuzz & Pluck play in the ‘extra’ Don Quixote adaptation at the end of the book). I’ve already ordered their next book of adventures, Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

burma chronicles

February 19, 2009


Guy Delisle’s latest book was my favourite Christmas present this year. Everyone seemed to think the same, as at one point six of us were reading the book simultaneously. This involved lots of snatched reading while the previous reader was in the shower/had gone shopping/to get a drink. But no fighting (and in fact, quite a lot of considerate leaving outside of bedroom doors after turning in), and I think we all finished it in the end. Surely you couldn’t ask for better testimony.

Delisle seems to have created a bit of an odd niche for himself, depicting life as he experiences it in the more bizzare and/or oppressive corners of the world, like in Pyongyang and Shenzhen. His Burma stay was a little different in that he accompanied his wife there while she worked for MSF, and spent his time mainly drawing and looking after their baby son. His simple line drawings succeed as they have before in describing his adventures in an understated manner (though there seemed to be fairly heavy focus on toilet troubles this time around).

The aid aspect of his wife’s work there may have politicized this book more than his previous ones, but to good effect. That side of his experiences was a bit less developed in his last two books, possibly as the result of his more transitory stay. Even so, I think Delisle struggles here to overcome to ‘otherness’ of the Burmese, perhaps due to the language barrier.

Although the blogging wind fell away from my sails for a while there, this post had to be even more delayed as it was a surprise birthday present to Ms. D… which then took ages to arrive. And when it did, the Bean Counter promptly took control of it during our recent reunion weekend. A charming little read about a country and people that deserve better than the government they have today.

life sucks

December 18, 2008


If life seems to be tough for you right now, don’t fret, as it could be worse. Like it is for vampire slave Dave in Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece. To make ends meet, he’s condemned to working the night-shift at a convenience store run by Lord Radu, his old-school Romanian vampire master who bit him to gain some cheap labour for his undead empire.

Exposure to sunlight will make Dave sizzle – try explaining that to your new Goth girlfriend when she wants to picnic in the park, and who has an idealized image of the glamorous, velvet-clad lives vampires lead. Oh, and Dave’s a vegetarian. The sight of blood makes him go green, so it’s only plasma for him, much to Lord Radu’s disgust (no good American ‘vooss’ vampires).

Every vampire detail in this book is spot on. Clever and funny. Don’t miss if you can help it.

la perdida

November 11, 2008


By coincidence I had two encounters with Mexico City in as many days this weekend. Contrary to its (unfair) reputation as a polluted, crowded megapolis, I have happy memories of visiting with Mr. Snow some years ago, finding instead a dynamic, romantic, down-to-earth working city with world class sights.

Our closest intimation to the crime level many people point to were the various police, army and security crews patrolling the city in their trucks, bristling with semi-automatic weapons. Crime was also one of the main themes of both my encounters. The first, the graphic novel La Perdida by Jessica Abel (check her cool website by the way) follows Carla, a naïve American girl who moves to Mexico City in the hopes of finding her Mexican roots (her estranged father is Mexican) and presumably in the process jazzing up her life.

Carla doesn’t speak Spanish and has never previously visited when she first arrives, but vigorously sets about trying to differentiate and distinguish herself from the American expat community. Maddeningly for her she is never fully accepted as being Mexican by the ragtag group of local hobby Communists and small-time drug pushers that she has fallen in with.

At first, the book appears to follow Carla in her superficial, slightly whiny manner as she stumbles to find her way in her new Mexican life, but the pace soon picks up, and it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. It’s testimony to the very strong story-telling in this book that I not only read it from cover-to-cover in just two days, but (after having read a string of biographical graphic novels) also realized just ten pages from the end that the book was pure fiction, so convincing were the characters.

As a note, when she checked the book out for me, my friendly comic book librarian also promptly reserved Abel’s second book for me, the jolly-sounding ‘Life Sucks‘. I’ll report back on that too once I’ve gotten my hands on it.

my city secret

November 9, 2008


The Guardian’s Travel section has started a meme to get people to share their city secrets: a special place in their city that they love, yet that few people know about. I had to think a while about mine, as I’m a relatively new Oslo-ite (and a too-long removed KL-ite). There are lots of great restaurants in this town, including the surprisingly quiet Elvebredden where we recently had a fantastic evening celebrating Pa Snow’s 60th birthday in Christian’s able hands. Not to mention the forest for skiing and the fjord for sailing, no secrets there.

But I am continually surprised by how few people have even heard of, and much less been to Oslo’s comic book library, or Serieteket, housed on the second floor of the Deichman Library’s Grünerløkka branch on Schous Plass. They’ve got more comics and graphic novels than you could think of, from manga and Peanuts to fantasy and biographical books. The staff there always have great recommendations so do stop to chat if want to try something new. Not only is it open till 7 pm Monday to Thursday and on Saturday and Sunday, it’s also the venue for the annual Oslo Comics Expo. That’s where I got to meet the funky Martin Kellerman, of Rocky fame, above.

I’m tagging Tulipgirl, JL, Manu, Mithi, Reasons and Barry, in Amsterdam, Canberra, Leiden, Bristol, Haarlem and back in Oslo respectively. With theses, bars and babies, not to mention plain old work, I know all of you have lots of things to do, so here’s the perfect distraction. This is my city secret, what’s yours? Photo/illustration please if possible, so we can all imagine being there!

lene ask visits tanzania

September 8, 2008

Hurray, hurray, more Lene Ask, and this time it’s all up online! Unfortunately, so far only for Norwegian readers (and the very patient). The creator of ‘Hitler, Jesus og Farfar’ was invited to visit Tanzania by aid agency Norad, to highlight the issue of child and maternal health through her drawings. No easy If you want to see the drawings themselves in real life, they are on show at Literatturhuset for a week starting today.

Her simple but well-formed drawings take on an additional poignancy within this theme, although they also take on the issues of poverty, illiteracy, female circumcision, and more. No easy answers to any of the problems, but an interesting and beautiful way to raise awareness of the agency’s programmes while supporting local artists.

the night bookmobile

September 2, 2008

I had caught an intriguing episode of this comic strip by Audrey Niffenegger in print while visiting the UK but only realized today that the whole series is available online. Now busy catching up and awaiting new installments!

Edit: Found out today that this is the same Audrey Niffenegger (how many can there be!) who wrote the haunting The Time Traveller’s Wife. Talented lady!