Sunday, November 29, 2009  
The Globe 100 Books: Jesus Fucking Christ

:: Posted by BK @ 11/29/2009 12:35:00 AM

The Globe 100

Described by "The Editors" of the Globe and Mail books section, as "[o]ur 12th annual pick of the 100 best and most influential books of the year includes prize-winners and surprises, writers already famous and those about to be, prose and poetry, science and social studies, memoir and manifesto," the Globe 100 is a "best of" list of books reviewed by The Globe over 2009. The list, sub-divided into several categories, including "Canadian Fiction," "Foreign Fiction," "Poetry," "Non-Fiction," and the execrable "Graphica," basically counts down the highlights of the most-hyped and best-reviewed English-language books that received notice in the pages of the revised Globe book review section over the past year.

Generally speaking, the Globe 100 is a helpful guide to these books, including as it does capsule excerpts of the original positive reviews that secure the chosen century of books a place on the list. The list's major role, as an entertaining, argumentative (in the Canadian milquetoast version of argumentative) shopping guide published at the beginning of the Christmas retail season, is obvious, and almost beneath comment, as is its focus on many middling, middlebrow texts, the products of major publishing houses, Globe advertisers, and major award nominees. These aspects of the list are largely self-evident and characteristic of both the Globe Books section, and Canadian book reviewing/criticism in general. (Part of this is forgivable, in the sense that widely-reviewed and popular/bestselling books qualify as general news and must be covered in some form in order for the Globe to retain its advertising dollars as well as journalistic credentials among the literati, and for its own self-esteem as a serious bourgeois journal-of-record and truthiness).

For the most part, the usual suspects are represented on the list. Both Margaret Atwood and Alice Munroe place in the Canadian fiction category. As does the Giller-Award-winning The Bishop's Man by CBC-tv-documentary-journalist-turned-novelist Linden MacIntyre. The Governor-General's-Award-winner, Kate Pullinger's The Mistress of Nothing, however, is curiously a no-show. Of course, Erica Ritter's review of the book was generally negative, taking its cues from a review in Britain's The Guardian newspaper, essentially knocking Pullinger's book out of contention for the Globe list. But this turn of events merely confirms our impressions of the hegemonic narrative of Canadian literary awards: the (more lucrative) Giller prize is ascendant, while the (less-lucrative, state-sanctioned) GG prize is on the downswing.

The real problem with The Globe 100 is the list's attempt to deal with comics. Despite a fairly enervating slate of wonderful, critically-lauded graphic novels published in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere in 2009, the Globe list pays attention to only three books: Asterios Polyp, Logicomix, and The Book of Genesis Illustrated. No Canadian comics make either the Fiction or Graphica list. And of those comics that qualified for the Graphica list, only two are worth reading and only one, Robert Crumb's Genesis adaptation, is truly a book for the ages.

The contenders: David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, ably reviewed by Sequential-friend Brad Mackay, is a wonderful book: beautiful, intelligent, finely-crafted, but a trifle sterile, self-conscious, and formalist in its approach. This book, by the less-famous-half of the creative team behind 1987's Batman: Year One was one of the most-widely anticipated (after Crumb's book, natch) and enthusiastically-reviewed of the past year's crop of graphic novels published in the U.S. (that the book had the budget and press of a major publisher like Pantheon didn't hurt, either). And the less said about the steaming piece of comics known as Logicomix, a sort of 'Bertrand Russell for Beginners' produced by the creative quartet of Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, and Annie Di Donna, the better. This history of mathematics, told in a narratively virtuosic-yet-chatty/post-modern style, marred by stiff, clumsy cartooning, was the subject of a rave review by journalist/memoirist Douglas Bell, for whom the graphic novel seems essentially, if not solely and anachronistically, an "expositional form".

The problem: As to the lack of Canadian comics content in The Globe 100 list, I can only say, what the fuck, Martin Levin et al?

At the very least, a list such as The Globe 100 should have something to say --even in token form-- about comics from the major publisher of English-language comics in Canada, Chris Oliveros' D+Q imprint.

What about Seth? Jesus Fucking Christ, what about Doug Wright?

Holy Hockey Puck, what about the entire annual output of Drawn and Quarterly?

Let's start with the obvious. Seth's George Sprott: 1894-1975 is a god-damned masterwork. It's a wonderful, giant, heaping-helping-of-humanity in comics form, and it's probably one of the top ten English-language graphic novels in the world published in 2009. Granted, Nathalie Atkinson's objective, by-the-numbers, August 27 Globe review was something less than a stellar endorsement, but surely a classic, supremely artful and bittersweet chunk of Canadiana that will be read for generations --a sort of Old Man and the Sea or Death of a Salesman of Canadian Comics-- deserves a berth on the Globe ark more than the ephemeral Logicomix?!?

And speaking of playful, historical-literary post-modern mash-ups that are better than Logicomix, the D+Q-published Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak surely qualifies as grist for the top-100 mill. Globe Books editor Martin Levin himself reviewed the collection of strips by RAW-alumnus Sikoryak, which take familiar comics icons and uses them to re-tell classic works of literature, with Levin calling the collection "wonderful," "funny," and "oddly deep," and asserting that "[t]here isn't anything here that is less than excellent." For Levin, Drawn and Quarterly is an "indispensable" publisher. So, where's the love for D+Q in The Globe 100?

Item: Outside of his own self-published work, the delightful, internationally-worshipped Marc Bell's Hot Potatoe is the first major published work from the artist since 2004's Worn Tuff Elbow (Fantagraphics) and 2006's Nog a Dod (Conundrum). Where is it on the Globe's comics list? Nowhere.

Likewise, Yoshihro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, the epic biography by the manga master praised by Brad Mackay in the Globe, is also slighted. Sure, it's translated from the Japanese and not an Anglo product, but it's still a major piece of art and its publication, not to mention Tatsumi's triumphant appearance at TCAF last summer, was a seismic event in comics internationally.

In the English-language category, Rutu Modan's follow-up to her widely-praised Exit Wounds, Jamilti and Other Stories is superior in many ways to her 2008 book. A heart-wrenching, hilarious, and gorgeous glimpse into the world of oddly ordinary Israelis, Jamilti is a "best book" in any year.

Last but not least, Drawn and Quarterly's huge The Collected Doug Wright: Canada'a Master Cartoonist is nowhere on The Globe's "Graphica" list, really calling into question the whole Globe enterprise. If a giant collection of strips by the artist who basically defines the graphic look and nostalgic memory of several generations of Canadians doesn't rate a place on a list of best books of 2009 published by Canada's national paper, then the list is garbage. As is the category. What is "Graphica" anyway and why does it deserve pride of place (albeit at the end of the list) on the Globe 100, instead of other categories of books like photography, art monographs, kidlit, etc? I'm on record for my objections to the whole "Graphica" nomenclature as well. Maybe the Globe still feels embarrassed reviewing comics at this late date, or perhaps they have experienced the same ambivalence for the term "graphic novel" that comics fans and critics have wrestled with since the 1960s, and "Graphica" is the solution for a category of book that includes fiction, reportage, memoir, and avant-garde painterly pseudo-narratives, all in comics form. But if it is a marketing- and audience-friendly catch-all term for what we used to call comics, the Graphica category should include comic strips, and it should include Doug Wright.

The Globe 100, like most of the Globe books section, is a deeply-flawed, sinking-ship of a cultural taste-maker. Too bad it has to drag comics down into its boring vortex.

george sprott sequential serial serialized stories to be continued read reading comics seth

Labels: , ,

   
         - Stumble It!  - Leave a comment!| 0comments  -  - we honor OpenID - 

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Hi, welcome to the blog! If you want to let us know about an event or share PR, write us at Sequential@Spiltink.Org.

For discussion of posts, corrections or relevant links to the story feel free to fire away and post here! We love hearing from you guys. cheers! :)

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home







Archive by Region
Alberta - British Columbia - Calgary - Gatineau - Halifax - Moncton - Montreal - New Brunswick - Newfoundland - Nova Scotia - Ontario - PEI - Quebec - Saskatchewan - Saskatoon - Toronto - Vancouver - Victoria - Winnipeg -

Archive by Month
August 2002 - September 2002 - October 2002 - November 2002 - December 2002 - January 2003 - February 2003 - March 2003 - April 2003 - May 2003 - June 2003 - July 2003 - August 2003 - September 2003 - October 2003 - November 2003 - December 2003 - January 2004 - February 2004 - March 2004 - April 2004 - May 2004 - June 2004 - July 2004 - August 2004 - September 2004 - October 2004 - November 2004 - December 2004 - January 2005 - February 2005 - March 2005 - April 2005 - May 2005 - June 2005 - July 2005 - August 2005 - September 2005 - October 2005 - November 2005 - December 2005 - January 2006 - February 2006 - March 2006 - April 2006 - May 2006 - June 2006 - July 2006 - August 2006 - September 2006 - October 2006 - November 2006 - December 2006 - January 2007 - February 2007 - March 2007 - April 2007 - May 2007 - June 2007 - July 2007 - August 2007 - September 2007 - October 2007 - November 2007 - December 2007 - January 2008 - February 2008 - March 2008 - April 2008 - May 2008 - June 2008 - July 2008 - August 2008 - September 2008 - October 2008 - November 2008 - December 2008 - January 2009 - February 2009 - March 2009 - April 2009 - May 2009 - June 2009 - July 2009 - August 2009 - September 2009 - October 2009 - November 2009 - December 2009 - January 2010 - February 2010 - March 2010 -