Roundup: Cleaning My Desk Edition

Desktop.jpgIt is no secret that my brain and I read a ton of books. For one thing, my job is literally getting paid to read (and, of course, translate) books, so I process a pile of books like that every month. Then there’s the research I do for translations, plus all the manga I need to read to keep up with the industry to some degree, and occasionally, re-reading books I’ve already translated to remind myself of who said what when there is a serious chunk of time between the release of one volume and the next (like with Blue Morning, the series that releases one volume a year if we’re lucky and is also super complicated with political machinations set in a peerage system that no longer exists in Japan. I think I’ve read volume one about fifteen times now.)

And then I read for the sheer pleasure of reading because what a pleasure it is! I came across an article recently about how to make more time for reading, and to be honest, I was baffled by the suggestions. Who isn’t already reading over breakfast? Or carrying a book everywhere they go? What do these people do on the train?? I would like to read more for pleasure, for sure, but I am cramming about as much reading into a single day as a human being can. Unless they come up with a way to read while you’re asleep. Yes, I take the occasional break from reading to watch a movie or play video games, but generally, if I have five free minutes, I am picking up one of the books scattered around my house and reading it. Continue reading

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Monstress: Marjorie Liu/Sana Takeda

monstress_vol1-1

Dang! It has been a very long time since an English book has graced this space. I’ve spent so much time in Japan this year (and am about to fly back across that ocean yet again!) that I haven’t actually had the chance to read much stuff in English. Most bookstores in Tokyo don’t have books in English, and when they do, they’re way more expensive than books in Japanese or those same books in English in a bookstore in Canada. But then there is not the same abundance of bookstores in Toronto that there is in Tokyo, so when I’m on this side of the ocean, it’s a bit more difficult for me to randomly encounter interesting books.

So I suppose it’s not surprising that I ran across this particular English book in Tokyo. The encounter was random, but my interest in it was not. The corner of the internet I inhabit has been aflutter with Monstress since the first issue, and I was very intrigued with what I was hearing about it. But much like I find reading a chapter a month in a manga magazine annoying, I also hate reading single issues of North American comics; I am one of those people that pretty much always waits for the trade paperback. So I made a mental note about Monstress and then studiously ignored all talk of it online for fear of ruining it for myself. But when the first volume of the trade came out this summer, I was, of course, in Tokyo.

However, being a city of weird magic, Tokyo brought the book to me! In the hands of one half of the creative team, Sana Takeda herself! Yes, I live a blessed comics life, friends. Through a series of convoluted associations and events, Sana ended up being a part of a Canadian comics event that I was working at in my capacity as OFFICIAL INTERPRETER for TCAF. As soon as I saw the short stack of the first trade on the table in front of her, I knew I was going to have to get a copy even though I was only a week away from flying back to Canada, and therefore very aware of how much stuff I had to cram into my luggage. But how often does the universe bring a book to you? You can’t just walk away from a gift like that. Especially since she was selling them for what amounted to the US retail price, a steal for a Canadian book buyer! And she kindly threw in issue seven on top of that! Sana Takeda is a pretty nice person, is basically what I’m saying here. Continue reading

TCAFtermath

 

Never Forgets

So as usual, working at TCAF means I don’t really get to see TCAF. Of course, it also means that I get to hang out with a bunch of really great people for a few days and call that my job, but still. The comics nerd in me longs to sit and listen as creators talk about queering comics and sports versus comics, and then run around the exhibition space and buy everything awesome there (so, basically everything). Going to any programming which I am not actually a part of, though, is basically a pipe dream. Because when I am not doing the interpreting thing on panels with Japanese guests, I am doing media with Japanese guests or taking Japanese guests to lunch or [random activity] with Japanese guests (all of which I enjoy. This is not a complaint).

Fortunately, I am pretty quick and TCAF kindly hands out a map of where all the exhibitors are, so I can run around in the ten or so minutes I end up having to myself and snap up all the stuff that I know I totally want. And sometimes I end up walking by something I didn’t know I wanted on the way and I grab that too. This Run-and-Grab (patent pending) I’ve developed over the TCAF years has yielded good results in previous years, and this year was no different. 

Last year, I wanted to check out Yumi Sakugawa’s table because I love her work, but because I had a mere five minutes when everyone was tearing down, I gave up on that idea. So this year, I was especially determined to find her and buy some of her amazing comics. Which I did! Two of them!  Continue reading

Black Paths: David B. (Trad. Nora Mahony)

Black Paths

I would say that I’ll stop talking about TCAF soon, but we all know that’s a lie. David B.’s Black Paths may be the last of the few books I managed to pick up at the festival this year, but the fact is, the party’s happening again next year and I will be at it. And I will no doubt be prepping for it several months in advance, as is my wont. So basically, TCAF is a recurring theme in my brain. It’s not going anywhere.

And thank goodness for that! Have you been? It is fun central. Seriously. The most amazing comic artists come from all over the world. Like David B. You know, the guy who co-founded one of the most influential French comics publishers and wrote the incredible Epileptic? Yeah, he came to TCAF. And he signed my book! In a Glyn Dillon and Frederik Peeters sandwich! And he made an approving noise at my French name. Perhaps he was simply glad to be given a name he knew how to spell. (I know this pain. Signing my own book, the question I ask the most is “How do you spell that?”.)

I was so excited to meet him and get him to sign his latest work in English, and then I totally forgot about it. Which is basically how I work. I am a chronic list maker because if I did not make lists of what needs to be done, I would never do anything. Continue reading

Sandcastle: Frederik Peeters, Pierre Oscar Lévy (Trad. Nora Mahony)

Sandcastle

After all the BL and Japanese action around these parts lately, I was starting to turn every scene around me into Japanese romance. Which got really weird when I caught myself shipping the bus driver with the old man freaking out about the detour on the route. Maybe they fight because they love, I mused. Maybe this fight about the detour is really about something deeper, something neither of them could ever say out loud, something they both want more than anything in this world. And this is when I realized I needed to read something in English, far from the world of men who love men for the sake of women.

Fortunately, Sandcastle was right there on the shelf of unread books, waiting for me. I picked it up when I was doing my OFFICIAL INTERPRETER work, but every time I opened it in a casual moment, looking for a quick read while I had a snack before going back to work, the first pages told me that this was not a book for a casual moment. I was going to need to devote my brain to it entirely. So I did. On a rare day off, I sat down on my bright blue sofa and read it from cover to cover. It was an experience I would recommend. All the urgency and panic contained in these pages just has so much more of an impact in a single sitting. Continue reading

The Nao of Brown: Glyn Dillon

NaoofBrown-620x853Are you sick of hearing me talk about TCAF yet? No? Oh good. I still have stories to tell.  This story is about how I never get to enjoy all the amazing comics on display there because I am too busy following Japanese people around. I love following the Japanese people around; they are always nice people, we have a good time. But you know, I work for a comics festival because, well, I love comics. And I don’t really get to check out many comics during a comics festival that is basically one giant party of all the things I like. The best I can usually manage is a quick dash to tables belonging to friends to pick up their latest works, and then dash back to my role as OFFICIAL INTERPRETER. (I think it looks better in caps. More officious.)

And this year, in my capacity as OFFICIAL INTERPRETER (it’s growing on you, isn’t it?), I got to join a bus full of artists on a trip to Niagara Falls. Basically, terrorists could have crippled the European art comics scene by taking out our bus. And perhaps they tried, but they missed the target of the engine and instead inflicted a mortal blow on the air-conditioning system. We sweated all the way there and back! The there was not so bad, being morning and overcast, but the back gave everyone dark pit circles. One of the more hilariously vocal grumblers about this situation was Glyn Dillon, who I got the chance to chat with at one point while the Japanese entourage were focussed on a particularly attention-hungry squirrel. We chatted about his book and I remembered reviews I had read of it and the nagging sensation that it was something I meant to read.  Continue reading

Tamara Drewe: Posy Simmonds

Everyone is always saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. And I get that it’s supposed to be a kind reminder that looks are not the most important thing, blah blah blah. But when it comes to actual books, and not just the metaphoric placeholder for people, I judge the hell out of covers. I am a very cover-judgey person. I am an eyeball-rolling, vocal critic of book covers. There are so many bad ones. So, so bad. Especially among, but not limited to, indie publications and self-published books. Seriously, indie publishers of the world, you do your books and your authors a great disservice by taking that book by its cover thing to heart. Judge them!

I say this in particular today because I should’ve judged the cover of Tamara Drewe more closely. I only bought it at the recommendation of P. over at The Beguiling, who generally has interesting taste and who has never steered me wrong before. But the cover looked dull as hell and a quick flip through the insides did not do anything to dispel this first impression. And so it has languished on the shelf of books to be read, always passed over for something with a better cover. But then one day, I was looking for something that would lay flat while I read it (a book to eat a sandwich with, basically), and it was either this or a French non-fiction book about military strategy. You see how much the cover put me off?  Continue reading