We’ve gotten a little lost in some books this week. We blame the authors. And we’re going to continue to blame them, and hope that they keep it up for some time.
We’ve been reading Catherynne M. Valente for a long time, and she always delivers, but with Space Opera, she’s REALLY delivers. This book is pitched as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Eurovision, which only tells you something about the level of humor and the clothing, but what the pitch fails to tell you is the utter glee with which Valente approaches her task (which is to write about the great galactic showstopper that is going to decide the fate of the universe). Space Opera is like Ziggy Stardust headlining one of those mash-up live-action anime movies which compresses a thousand years of history and pop culture references into an hour-twenty run time. You can’t begin to follow all the rabbit holes and so you don’t even bother. You just let it blow your hair back and enjoy the spectacle.
And speaking of watching the spectacle, this week’s Not Quite A Kids’ Book award goes to A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, the picture book story of a special bunny who lives with his Grampa (Vice President Mike Pence—this will be important in a second). On this special day, Marlon meets another bunny and falls in love. This new bunny is named “Welsey,” and yes, but, uh, well, anyway, remember when we said Marlon’s Grampa was the Vice President? Yes, it’s that sort of story: utterly charming, heartfelt, and everyone lives happily together in the end. Except for those who are going to see the end of civilization as we know it in two male bunnies getting married.
[5,100 reviews already on that online retailer, with 96% giving it a 5-star rating. The people are finding ways to be heard, aren’t they?]
And speaking of being heard, James Comey’s memoir abut the last couple of decades is out this week as well. Comey, as you may know, used to be the head of the FBI, until last year when he had the awkward fortitude to stand his ground. A Higher Loyalty offers some insight and retrospection on the last few years from a guy who got to read most of those memos before all the salacious bits got blacked out. Comey will be the first one to criticize some of his decisions (and he looks at some of his last decisions with an unblinking eye), but there’s no doubt that what Comey is writing about here is bigger than some tough choices he had to make. When all the fury of the sound bites have worn off, it’s good to come back to a realization of what makes us who we are and why.
And speaking of knowing ourselves and the world around us, Flow magazine has put together a collection of 50 Ways to Draw Your Beautiful, Ordinary Life. It’s not terribly complicated. You take a pencil and some paper and start drawing. The hard part is getting over yourself and allowing your hand to make that curve. Letting yourself dig for that eraser (or not, as you see fit). What you see and what you draw are your world, you know, and you’ll be surprised at what you discover about yourself as you let go of all manner of pre-conceived notions.
And speaking of letting go, Kathleen Yale and Kaley McKean have written Howl Like a Wolf: Learn to Think, Move, and Act like 15 Amazing Animals. More than just a dry zoological survey of various animal species, Yale and McKean take us off the well-trod path into the deep woods and thick weeds to show us how animals, well, think, move, and act. It’s a fun book that will bring the kiddos closer to an understanding of the world around them.
And speaking of seeking an understanding of the world, Edward Lee is back with Buttermilk Graffiti, a new cookbook about the “melting-pot” cuisine of America. Lee, who is a Korean man who grew up in Brooklyn before becoming an iconic Southern chef, saw a lot of America during the tour for his previous book, Smoke & Pickles. During that trip, Lee saw a lot of people, in a lot of places, and he came to understand that every recipe becomes something else as soon as someone takes it out of a book and makes it their own. And in doing so, adds a bit of their history and culture to it. America, as Lee has learned, is not a straight out of the box recipe, and Buttermilk Graffiti is an attempt to record some of the delightful ways that this great recipe of a nation has been altered by those living in it.
And speaking of mixing and remixing, Christopher Moore returns with Noir, a mixed-up romp through the streets of post-WWII San Francisco with a bit of alien abduction, madcap hijinks, and at least one snake. If Carl Hiaasen has staked out Florida and the East Coast as his stomping grounds for absurdity and satire, then Moore rules the West Coast, and Noir takes on everything that has gone into the off-kilter persona that this coast has tried to pass off as its true identity in the last sixty years.
And speaking of making things your own, Maria Carluccio’s Dress Me Up! is a fun little mix-and-match board book. You get to pick the patterns our little protagonist wears as she goes about her day. It’s a great introduction to the concepts of collage, color, and pattern without all the terribly messy scraps of paper underfoot.
And finally, a reminder that we have Write Time and Book Club next week. We might have a new thing for you to make your own at Write Time (Tuesday at 7pm), and Book Club will be talking about Natasha Boyd’s The Indigo Girl, a historical novel that we were quite taken with when we first read it. And the book we’re going to read after that is quite . . . different. But that’s how we roll at Book Club, right?