Cold War Graphic Novels

laikaThe Cold War and the post-Cold War era gave authors and artists a lot of grist to mill.  While the novels and plays are famous and plentiful, there isn’t much in the way of graphic art that conveys the history of the time while also telling a great story.  Here are four graphic novels that tackle that history in different ways, all with beautiful results.

  • Laika by Nick Abadzis follows the imagined life of the first creature in outer space, the Russian dog Laika, along with her trainer Yelena and the Chief Designer, a survivor of the gulag.
  • A Jew in Communist Prague by Giardino is a three-volume story of a boy who loses his father to wallthe authorities during the Cold War.
  • Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco is a devastating work of journalism as the author interviews survivors of the Bosnian War of the 1990s.
  • The Wall by Peter Sis tells the author’s own story of growing up in Cold War Czechoslovakia and how the invasion of Western culture overwhelmed the invasion of Soviet tanks.

Cozy up with a Northwest mystery author

Alpine Traitor book coverSeattle author Mary Daheim’s “Alpine” mystery series takes place in a gorgeous town in the Cascade Mountains where newspaper editor Emma Lord solves murders and still meets her weekly deadlines. Wondering where to start with this series? Daheim brilliantly titles these in alphabetical order, starting with The Alpine Advocate, The Alpine Betrayal and so on up to the newest entry, The Alpine Traitor, just out this spring. For more cozy nights, try Daheim’s Bed-and-Breakfast mystery series.

But wait! What in the world is a “cozy”? My friend asked me that Continue reading “Cozy up with a Northwest mystery author”

When you can’t get enough … a trio of literary trilogies

What if you love a book so much you can’t bear for it to end? There may be a solution: Read books that have a sequel or — even better — read a trilogy. One of the best known general fiction trilogies is Robertson Davies’ famous “Deptford Trilogy,” which focuses on Deptford, Ontario, and its inhabitants and begins with the act of a small boy throwing a snowball and its resultant consequences. Each beautifully written novel of the trio — Fifth Business, The Manticore and World of Wonders — takes the same action from a different character’s point of view.  Davies can keeping you going for quite a while (he wrote three other trilogies), but you might also want to consider these three authors’ trilogies: 

NY Trilogy book coverThe “New York Trilogy” by Paul Auster, perhaps best described as postmodern detective fiction, features three interlocking novels, City of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room  — all on the nature of identity. In a more exotic vein, Egyptian novelist and nobelist Naguib Mahfouz has written “The Cairo Trilogy” – Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street. Continue reading “When you can’t get enough … a trio of literary trilogies”

Comics 101

image of comics extravaganza program at Seattle Public LibrarAs you may know, comics are a big deal in Seattle. We’re home to a number of nationally recognized cartoonists (Ellen Forney, Pete Bagge and Jim Woodring to name just a few), Fantagraphics Books and The Comics Journal. In honor of all the great cartoonists in our midst, The Seattle Public Library threw a Comixtravaganza this past January, with events at various branch libraries and a big finale at the Central Library featuring a cartooning workshop (pictured above) led by David Lasky and a multimedia presentation by Ellen Forney.

If you missed Comixtravaganza, or if you’re just curious about comics and want to learn more Continue reading “Comics 101”

Parallel stories

When Possession (A.S. Byatt) came out in 1990, readers of literary fiction swarmed libraries and bookstores to get copies of this story-within-a-story relating the modern day characters to famous people in the past. In Byatt’s tale, a scholar finds an old letter written by Randolph Ash, which leads him into delicious research that in turn reveals connections between that past and his present. Later Martha Cooley invented an even more intricately plotted story, The Archivist, in which a librarian at an Ivy League university guards the letters of T.S. Eliot to his lover, Emily Hale, from the eyes of the world – at least until 2020 when the letters’ owner will allow academic access to the collection. The archivist, Matthias Lane, did not anticipate the tenacity of Roberta Spire, however, and eventually the treasure trove is plundered. As a result, the relationship between Hale and Eliot comes to light, while simultaneously Lane’s past is revealed as he works through a new relationship with the much younger Roberta. The lives of those in the present mirror those under scrutiny. A trend toward this parallel story line novel yields a Continue reading “Parallel stories”