Celebrity philanthropic efforts often center around a few photo opportunities showcased to further a career. These usually well-meaning events general...moreCelebrity philanthropic efforts often center around a few photo opportunities showcased to further a career. These usually well-meaning events generally turn a fleeting spotlight on the truly needy, such as the numerous Africa plights, conquered Tibet, or the disaster relief du jour. With I Live Here, Mia Kirshner (The L Word) shines an unwavering, informative light on important and troubling non-U.S.-centric issues in a truthful and often disturbing manner. She elevates celebrity philanthropic efforts to an extraordinary new level of sophistication in content and style.
Kirshner visited four ravaged areas, conducting interviews with the women and children most affected. I Live Here compiles her encounters in Ingushetia, Burma, Ciudad Juárez, and Malawi in a graphically intense series of four oversized, thin paperbacks wrapped inside a hardcover case. Each book also contains a graphic novella, and two of the volumes offer related short stories.
The Russian republic of Ingushetia lies on the border of Chechnya. Not 50 miles from the embattled country’s capital, Grozny, more than 15,000 Chechen refugees currently live in Nazran, Ingushetia, primarily in tents and abandoned buildings. Kirshner first encounters the orphaned 12-year-old boy Ruslan at the edge of a dirt lot. Through an interpreter, Ruslan relates stories about his father’s missile-ravaged body and the killing of his mother by a drunk driver. Kirshner then meets Ruslan’s foster mother, Yakha, who fled her home for a different reason:
“Yakha remembers the day. It was February 26, 2001, and her husband was drunk, as always. Eighty thousand Russian troops were in Chechnya, and they had been in control of Grozny for a year. Over the weekend, news spread that a mass grave containing fifty-one Chechens had been found in an abandoned village less than a mile from the main Russian military base. It was on the Monday, though, that her husband beat her with weights in his hands, and she fled. She had to leave her kids behind and go. Can you imagine? She had to leave her children behind. When last she saw her husband, he said this business wasn’t finished. He had threatened to take her body into the forest and cut it into pieces.”
Yakha eventually returned to Grozny and brought her children to Nazran. The set’s best graphic novella, Joe Sacco’s excellent graphic story “Chechen War, Chechen Women,” perfectly supports the rest of the book’s text by skillfully recounting the tragedy’s history through the life of an old Chechen women.
In perhaps the most disturbing volume, Kirshner meets with several Thai sex workers and young Burmese soldiers, ages 13 and under. Graphic stories of rape, abortion, and hunger emerge from the desperate women that work in Mae Sot along the Thai-Burma border. The prostitutes, often conscripted in their pre-teens, powerfully relate the inherent cruelty and desperation of their situation. As in all of the volumes, photographs and pictures by and of the oppressed appear with the words — none as effective as the intense images of the barbaric abortion methods. No pro-life fetuses here, just the starkness of a gloved hand entering an anonymous vagina and a drawing of a “homemade abortion stick.”
This book also contains Karen Connelly’s “The Princess of the Sagawa Tea Shop.” The best fiction in I Live Here, it emotionally shares the trials of an experienced Thai prostitute who wants to retire and raise a family.
The impoverished, international drug-trafficking center Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, attracts thousands of Latin-American migrants to work in the city’s 300-plus factories. Since 1993, some 400 women, many of them factory workers, have been killed, usually raped and tortured, and dozens more have gone missing. Kirshner traveled to this troubled city and met the parents of Ericka, one of the victims.
While complete with images from Ericka’s life, the interview pales next to Margaret Atwood protegé (and Mia sibling) Lauren Kirshner’s “Twenty Poems for Claudia,” a creative non-fiction essay recounting the life of another victim. The story begins with a FedEx box:
“In the box there are photos of gray highways and underpasses. Pictures of you wearing white powder and blue contact lenses, with your mouth closed like you you’ve got a secret you want to tell. There’s an interview with your mother, who says God will take care of everything. There is a photo of the Lear factory where you worked making electrical harnesses for American cars. There’s a photo of a pariah street dog with an empty potato-chip bag on its mouth, one yellow eye visible and disappointed. There are pages from your high-school notebook: a few notes about John Locke, the Enlightenment, knowledge for all. The notes stop halfway down the page, where fat graffiti takes over.”
Lauren Kirshner accomplishes far more than rehashing Claudia’s short life — she experiences it, complete with confusion and disgust over this unsolved murder and the countless others.
The massive weight of the AIDS crisis crushes Malawi, where one in five residents is HIV-positive, and the humanitarian needs far outstrip the available aide. Mia Kirshner talks with AIDS victim Miriam, who like many in this poor African nation cannot afford the treatments. Kirshner relates the sad moment when Miriam learns that her daughter, too, has the plague: “She doesn’t normally cry, she says, and asks me if I know why tears are hot.”
In the same volume, Kirshner visits the Kacher Prison for boys. The inmates, all between 11-19, are are often locked up for petty offenses for years at a time. No one claims them, not because of harsh penalties but rather the epidemic. Kirshner intertwines the story with the young men’s own words.
The magnificent design by Michael Simons and Adbusters alumnus Paul Shoebridge weaves the disparate elements into one of the finest looking publications ever produced. In toto, the package forms an amazing work of art. An exceptional book of rare quality, I Live Here exceeds all expectations.
The perfect bathroom book, this entertaining collection is both interesting and insightful. Sure to send you looking for many obscure movies and books...more The perfect bathroom book, this entertaining collection is both interesting and insightful. Sure to send you looking for many obscure movies and books.(less)
Fanzines emerged out of the 1930s science-fiction fan culture, eventually propagating among such active fandoms as music, role-playing games, and comi...moreFanzines emerged out of the 1930s science-fiction fan culture, eventually propagating among such active fandoms as music, role-playing games, and comics. Zines played a pivotal role in the development of new talent often publishing the best and brightest before they were well-known: Ray Bradbury, Greil Marcus, Robert Crumb, and Bruce Sterling, among others. The advent of the Internet ushered in the webzine, seemingly dooming the traditional zine, but experimental, postmodern science-fiction fanzines like Electric Velocipede and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet keep the print form alive and pertinent. The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet reprints the finest fiction, essays, poetry, and other oddities from the zine's first decade.
The first two pieces, written separately by co-editors Kelly Link – "Travels With the Snow Queen," a nonlinear tale of forbidden love – and Gavin J. Grant – his insightful nonfiction exploration "Scotch: An Essay Into a Drink" – quickly establish the tenor both in quality and content for this stunning anthology. Excellent and unconventional pieces abound: Margaret Muirhead's profound Swiftian parody "An Open Letter Concerning Sponsorship"; Sarah Monette's tortured romance "Three Letters From the Queen of Elfland"; Jan Lars Jensen's frightening study of the dangers of television nostalgia, "Happier Days"; Gwenda Bond's twisted Dear Abby columns, "Dear Aunt Gwenda"; and David J. Schwartz's comical letter "The Icthyomancer Writes His Friends With an Account of the Yeti's Birthday Party," to name a few. Interspersed within the stories, the editors sprinkle trivial tidbits about literature, movies, music, and other strangeness.
The compositions appear in order of original publication, creating an odd, uneven flow to the book. Later in the collection, as the editing duo became more comfortable with their craft and their writers, the contributions get stronger. Showcasing a selection of the top new and exciting writers working today, The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet presents a wondrous playground for lovers of experimental and avant-garde literature. If this is the 21st century zine, the form can be taken off the endangered list.
Collecting the first four issues of the infamous pre-code crime comic, this full color hardcover collection of lurid tales features work by some the e...moreCollecting the first four issues of the infamous pre-code crime comic, this full color hardcover collection of lurid tales features work by some the era's finest artists including Charles Biro, Woody Hamilton, Harry Lucey, Carl Hubbell, Bob Montana, George Tuska, Dick Wood, Dick Briefer, Frank Giacoia, Bob Wood, and Dan Barry. Most importantly, the volume contains Biro's grotesque covers that even today would be considered disturbing. One such illustration features a man forcing a woman's head onto a lit stove, igniting her hair. For the most part, the unflinching true crime stories themselves read well and are magnificently illustrated. The book's main flaw lies not with the original Crime Does Not Pay comics but rather the Dark Horse presentation. Beyond the brief Matt Fraction foreword, the archive offers little in the way of background material. The back cover and Fraction allude to the series being "partially responsible for the creation of the stifling Comics Code Authority," but not the hows and whys. No backgrounds or biographies of any of the creators are included. Nor the origin of the title or concept. Also, the series started with issue #22. Why? What title preceded it? (For the completist out there, it bore the title Silver Streak Comics for the first 21 issues.) Establishing historical context elevates any collection of older works and in a $50 volume, these facts often justify the price.(less)
Beginning in the late 40s through the mid-50s, Wallace "Wally" Wood created memorable stories for the legendary EC stable of crime, horror, and scienc...moreBeginning in the late 40s through the mid-50s, Wallace "Wally" Wood created memorable stories for the legendary EC stable of crime, horror, and science fiction comics. Came the Dawn and Other Stories collects all 26 of Woods horror and crime tales from that period. The initial stories, usually with the aide of artistic partner Harry Harrison (the same one who later created The Stainless Steel Rat) and written by Gardner Fox, offered fairly run of the mill horror riffs on werewolves, ghosts, and the like. The relatively crude art pales in comparison to Wood's later brilliance but the occasional extraordinary image or panel crops up. The first story to offer a glimpse of the future EC and Wood tales, the Al Feldstein-scripted "Death's Double-Cross" delivers an excellent romantic thrill that effectively showcases Wood's talents. The creepy "Judy, You're Not Yourself" ushered in a sea change in the quality of stories. The tale effectively shatters the illusions of the supposed idyllic suburban life in a story that could only be described as an EC-type tale. The further stories tackle controversial topics such as racism, anti-semitism, police brutality, and sexual morality, all subjects that were not discussed openly in the uptight, restrictive morality of 50s polite society. Beautifully crafted, as typical for a Fantagraphics book, Came the Dawn and Other Stories showcases the creative evolution of one of the true masters of the form. Further rounding out this excellent collection are an introductory essay examining each story, creator bios, and a short history of EC Comics. (less)
This book is exactly what the title suggests with contributions from Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, China Miéville, Jeffrey Ford, Kage Bak...moreThis book is exactly what the title suggests with contributions from Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, China Miéville, Jeffrey Ford, Kage Baker and many others. Where else could you read about post-traumatic placebosis, female hyper-orgasmic epilepsy, or vestigial elongation of the caudal vertebrae?(less)
From the 1940s through the early 1980s, the anthology of original short stories served as the backbone of the science-fiction field, reaching its zeni...moreFrom the 1940s through the early 1980s, the anthology of original short stories served as the backbone of the science-fiction field, reaching its zenith in the 1970s with original anthology series such as Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, Terry Carr's Universe, and Robert Silverberg's New Dimensions. Fresh ideas and new writers often emerged from these books, which were sold in bookstores and therefore able to reach mass audiences. Recently several new series – Polyphony, Adventure, and Leviathan to name a few – have premiered to revive the formerly moribund format. With Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction From the Cutting Edge, acclaimed editor Lou Anders joins the fray.
Behind the dazzling John Picacio cover, Fast Forward opens strongly with the Hugo-winning Robert Charles Wilson's "YFL-500," a tale of futuristic art and the dreams that fuel it. Several stories throughout equal the quality of the first. In "Aristotle OS," Tony Ballantyne presents an insightful glimpse into a world-changing operating system. Elizabeth Bear pens a unique take on alien invasion and childhood autoerotic asphyxiation with "The Something-Dreaming Game." "Jesus Christ, Reanimator" by Ken MacLeod, possibly the best short-story title of the decade, posits the inherent conflicts in the Second Coming.
In his introduction, Anders states that his goal is to emulate previous groundbreaking science-fiction-anthology series, most notably Fredrick Pohl's Star SF (six volumes from 1953 to 1959) and Damon Knight's Orbit (21 volumes, 1966-1980). If successive volumes equal the quality of this excellent debut, Fast Forward will go a long way in achieving Anders' hope and might even inspire a new generation.
Kazu Kibuishi's follow-up anthology to the award-winning Flight series, Explorer: The Mystery Boxes continues in much the same vein with an eclectic m...moreKazu Kibuishi's follow-up anthology to the award-winning Flight series, Explorer: The Mystery Boxes continues in much the same vein with an eclectic mix of beautiful stories geared toward readers of all ages. While the seven shorts, all centered around mysterious boxes, feature excellent art and superior storytelling, several of the tales excel. The creepy opening contribution "Under the Floorboards" by Emily Carroll, the clever "The Keeper's Treasure" by Jason Caffoe, Rad Sechrist's charming "The Butter Thief," and Kibuishi's foreboding "The Escape Option" showcase some of the best of the form. (less)