McSweeney’s always publishes beautiful editions — that’s one of my favorite things about their books, the idea of them as objets d’arte is as important as the literature inside — which often is, of course, worthy of such a beautiful form.
On the other hand, most ’70s underground comix, while undeniably art themselves, often took the form of the trashy and disposable; one could be forgiven for assuming the worst if they had no idea of what the contents were.
Even though, like most people, I loved Maus, I think it was Breakdowns that really cemented me as a fan of Spiegelman’s work. So I was pretty excited when it turned out that McSweeney’s was publishing a three-volume set of his sketchbooks.
For a long time, I’d been somewhat interested in checking out Donald Barthelme‘s work. I’d heard him referenced near and by some of my favorite authors — most recently, an issue of McSweeney’s was half-devoted to him. Recently, in a used bookstore, I stumbled across a few Barthelme books on the “we recommend!” shelf — if I recall, it was this, Sixty Stories and one other that completely escapes me, but I don’t think it was Forty Stories (though it may have been — but I know that reprints some of the stories in this volume, and I remembered checking the table of contents against all three books to make sure that whichever one I chose would have been worth it and not, like, wholly reprinted in something I’d buy later if I liked it). I believe, too, that this was the cheapest of the three and given that — and the relative slimness of the volume — it was probably a pretty good entry point. Not too expensive (and on sale to boot), but not too long (either leaving me wanting more nor being a long, terrible slog, depending on what I thought of the author’s work).
Full Disclosure Time:This book was written by Ivan Henley, whose name you may recognize as a Kittysneezes contributor. (In fact, I’d hope you WOULD recognize it, as he wrote the piece before last.) However, I had nothing to do with this book — I hadn’t read any previous drafts or anything like that; Ivan just sent me a copy asking for a review; here is that review. Even though Ivan is a friend of mine, rest assured that this review is an HONEST one; I wouldn’t write or post anything but. But that desire for honesty forces me to be completely up front about the connections between myself, the site, and the author. Kittysneezes is not necessarily adverse to reviewing materials done by other Kittysneezes authors, but all such reviews shall be honest and done by a KS author whose only connection to the work is that s/he experienced the finished product and ONLY the finished product. Thank you for understanding.
Ivan Henley’s a busy guy. He’s got a couple webcomics, quite a few books, and he writes for this site, even. Escape From Achrinom, the first in his new Captain Exetre series, is worth checking out, particularly if you’re a genre sci-fi fan.