This week we swing towards the darker stuff for a few months as we hunker down and wait out the chilly season. Make sure you have enough schnapps for your hot cocoa, dear readers, along with a stack of books to read!
This week’s surprise is Elevation, a novella from Stephen King. We’re pretty sure his publisher felt the same way. “What? Oh, King just wrote something the other day? Why? Oh, of course, yes. ‘Because he could.’ Right. Right. Well, make some room in the schedule for it, then!” And here is it. Elevation is that rarity of stories from Mr. King: one that purports to not be a total stay-up-all-night-with-the-lights-on sort of read. It’s even being spoken of as downright “tender” and “winsome.” We’re not entirely sure this isn’t a sneaky way to get us to let our guard down, but . . .
Anyway, Elevation is the story of a man who is losing weight, but not mass. Scott Carey is a feller who seems quite down-to-earth, except for the mysterious weight loss part. And it being a King story, there’s more to it than that. This isn’t Thinner (one of his older Backman books), nor it is Insomnia (one of his, um, mid-period Dark Tower tie-in books). This is something new. Something fable-ish without being too sugar-coated. A nice post-Halloween palette cleanser, perhaps. Right?
Anyway, now that it is officially post-Halloween, we can start talking about holiday books, and we’re going to lead off with a graphic novel. Klaus: The New Adventures of Santa Claus is another round of festive holiday ‘xplody bits with Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, who apparently had enough fun the first time around with Klaus (what? this one is a sequel?) that they’re giving it another go.
This time around Klaus must fight an ageless ice queen and an army of robotic snowmen built from enchanted wood and—what? yes, we know: it totally seems like it’s something right out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. And there’s an evil soda company that is trying to trademark Christmas as well. Good golly! How can things have gone so wrong? Where’s the spirit of Christmas when you need it? Who will rescue us!?
(And you know that the entirety of BOOM! Studios’ conversation with Morrison went something like this: “We want to do some work with you. What is it going to take?” And Morrison was: “Well, my schedule is booked up through the holidays and . . .” BOOM!: “Fine! A holiday book, great!” Morrison: “No, booked up. Okay, look. A holiday story? Fine. How about . . . I dunno . . . the secret history of Santa Claus with magic and stuff blowing up?” BOOM!: “WE’RE SENDING OVER A CHECK RIGHT NOW!”)
And speaking of being rescued by holiday spirits and comics, let’s not forget that Dark Horse is reissuing all of the Hellboy books in an Omnibus format (aka proper chronological reading order), and they've gone past The Wild Hunt, which is the basis for the new film next year, starring that pudgy sheriff dude from Stranger Things and directed by the guy who did The Descent and Doomsday. Which is to say it’ll be a bit darker in tone than del Toro’s Hellboy, but it’ll still be Big Red smacking monsters around, which we always enjoy.
And speaking of smacking things around in a graphic novel format, the winner of this week’s Most Curious Addition to Your Bookshelf award is The Dead Rabbit Mixology & Mayhem. It’s a graphic novel tell-all, but it’s also a cocktail book, but it’s also a post-mortem discussion of some genius marketing.
Basically, the Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog team (Sean Muldoon, Jack McGarry, and Jillian Vose) have won about every cocktail award possible (and several might have been invented so as to give others a chance, but the Rabbit Gang won those too!). What’s an award-winning cocktail bar to do after that? Well, revamp their menu as a series of graphic novel stories, of course!
Amazingly, this isn’t the most impressive book we got this week. Actually—hang on—it might be, but giving it a run for the title is Lost Words, a gorgeously rendered book of poetry and art by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. Now, the genesis of this book is the simple fact that a recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary has decided to drop some words from its lexicon—words that are no longer widely used by children of the world. MacFarlane and Morris have taken umbrage at this decision, and decided to put together a collection of pictures and letters to remind us of the value of these words.
Oh, and do you know why these words were removed? They had to make room for words like broadband and bullet-point, and voice-mail. Honestly, what kid uses voice mail anymore, anyway?
Anyway, Lost Words is an attempt to conjure twenty of these misplaced words back into our everyday lexicon. What words are they? Well, they are all words that celebrate the natural world, and we’ll just let that sink in a bit.
And speaking of reclaiming things thought lost, Ed Asner’s Grouchy Historian is out in paperback this week. Asner, a life-long “dauntless Democrat,” has had enough of the modern right’s claim that they know what the original framers of the Constitution meant when they wrote it. Grouchy Historian presents us with some historical details that skew towards “factual,” but are delivered with a healthy dose of “entertaining polemic” and “wry commentary.”
And speaking of factual records, we’ve got copies of the University of California’s biography of Carleton Watkins. Watkins, as you may know, was kind of the Edward Curtis of landscape pictures during the 19th century. Much of Watkins’ own documentation was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco fire, and so Tyler Green, the author of this splendid biography, had to do some serious detective work to put together this book. And we’re completely delighted that he did, because—as Green himself points out—no one did more to make the West part of the United States than Watkins and his photographs.
And while we’re talking about curious historical records, how about Rose George’s Nine Pints, which is not about that time we went to the Battered Casket and stayed waaay too late, playing bingo and singing karaoke. George’s book is about blood—that strange stuff that is the same color inside all of us, regardless of what color we are on the outside. Blood is, she notes, a commodity dearer than oil, and in Nine Pints, George takes us on a whirlwind tour of the historical uses, the weird taboos, and our incomplete understanding of how it works.
And speaking of things we don’t entirely comprehend, Justin Timberlake has a picture book/tell all/self-musery book out this week. It starts with the reveal that Justin used to be a Mouseteeker before he went off to Boy Band Camp, and it carries through a whole lot of stadium tours and candid conversations about what it is like to be a mega-star. It’s not quite a scrapbook for the screaming teen set, nor it is quite a gossipy “unauthorized biography.” It’s something in between, and we have to give Timberlake some credit for making what is essentially an exercise in narcissistic navel-gazing into a rather presentable coffee table book.
Too bad no one has coffee tables anymore. We bet that “coffee table” isn’t part of the Oxford Junior Dictionary either. Probably replaced it with “photo-bomb” or something.
Anyway, speaking of the old and the new mixing it up, Michael Connelly is back this week with Dark Sacred Night, which is billed as a “Ballard and Bosch Novel.” Bosch is, of course, Connelly’s long time detective character, who has been solving crimes since the dawn of time (not really), and Ballard is his new female detective character who debuted in last year’s The Late Show. Naturally, they run into each other, because all of Connelly’s characters inhabit the same universe. Given how enjoyable previous character team-ups have been, we’re sure Dark Sacred Night is going to be a compulsive page-turner. And check out that big old yellow moon on the cover. It’s like someone knew it was a Halloween release . . .
And finally, we’re going to circle back around to graphic novels with the first trade paperback of Isola, a new series from Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschi. We can’t tell you much (because not much has been revealed), but apparently the Queen of Maar has been turned into a tiger and she’s traveling across a spooky landscape filled with crackpot shamans and antler-headed cultists, with only Rook, the exiled Captain of the Guard, as company. Fletcher doles out the story like a miser with Halloween candy, but Kerschi’s art makes up for the long tease of the mysterious backstory. Isola is a phantasmagoric road story, and we’re eagerly waiting to see where it goes next.
[P.S. Don't forget our Authors in Conversation event this coming Saturday, at 6:30pm. More details can be found at the FB event listing]