Any journey with Alexander Theroux is an education. Possessed of a razor-sharp and hyperliterate mind, he stands beside Thomas Pynchon as one of the sharpest cultural commentators of our time. So when he decided to accompany his wife — the artist Sarah Son-Theroux — on her Fulbright Scholarship to Estonia, it occasioned this penetrating examination of a country that, for many, seems alien and distanced from the modern world.
For Theroux, the country and its people become a puzzle. His fascination with their language, manners, and legacy of occupation and subordination lead him to a revelatory examination of Estonia’s peculiar place in European history. All the while, his trademark acrobatic allusions, quotations, and digressions — which take us from Hamlet through Jean Cocteau to Married… with Children — render his travels as much internal and psychical as they are external and physical. Through these obsessive references to Western culture, we come to appreciate how insular the country has become, yet also marvel at its fierce individuality and preternatural beauty — such is the skill of Theroux’s gaze.
This travelogue of his nine months abroad also brims with anecdotes of Theroux’s encounters with Estonian people and — in some of its most bitterly comedic episodes — his fellow Americans whom he at times feels more alienated from than the frosty, humorless Europeans.
Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery is as biting and satirical as it is witty and urbane; as curious and lyrical as it is brash and irreverent. It marks a new highlight in an already stellar career and a book that continues Fantagraphics’ exceptional line of prose works.
Download and read a 37-page PDF excerpt (176 KB) with the Table of Contents and first 6 chapters.
• Commentary:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon responds to The Comics Journal's Love and Rocketslove-fest yesterday with some thoughts of his own: "I agree with Nadel, Santoro, Tomine and many of the comment-makers that Jaime Hernandez's new work represents a phenomenal achievement. I'm maybe not as interested in finding its place in the pantheon right this second. There's plenty of time for that down the road. One thing that's exciting and should never be denied about a creative achievement on the level of what Hernandez seems to have given us here is what that work might say to us in the future that it doesn't say right now."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins responds, in turn, to Tom Spurgeon's response linked above: "If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s 'Browntown'/'The Love Bunglers' suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps-causing comics combined."
• Review: "The conventional wisdom surrounding Prince Valiant these days characterizes it as a fussily drawn, belabored relic of the past. Of course, critical judgments of a comic stop mattering once you read it. A few pages into the fourth of Fantagraphics’ beautifully reprinted new editions of Hal Foster’s masterpiece and it’s difficult indeed to remember that this isn’t the greatest comic ever.... And the mastery Foster brings to bear on his every panel may have been equaled both before and since his prime, but it’s never been surpassed." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Plug: "I could easily write a whole post about the brilliance of Barks (and probably WILL, at some point down the road!) but for now I will just say that this December Fantagraphics is releasing the first volume of a NEW Carl Barks Library, which is going to finally, finally, FINALLY put Barks's work back into print in America, in an accessible full-color format.... So please, if you have a kid in your life, PLEASE, for ME, buy them this book! And if you have never read any Barks and you don't understand why I'm being so crazy about this, buy one for yourself. I can personally guarantee that you won't regret it!" – Alec Longstreth
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 went to the printer today and series editor Blake Bell celebrates by revealing the final cover art for the book — a snappy number designed by Alexa Koenings in our art department. At Blake's blog you can see the entire cover spread (front, back and spine) and read Blake's thoughts and background info on the book, which is due in December.
Speaking of gorgeous art books that we just got advance copies of... Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture – A Career Retrospective arrived at the office today. Page after page after page of mouthwatering eye candy from one of the undisputed giants of illustration, all wrapped up in Tony Ong's eye-catching carnival-esque design. Just showing one spread like this does not do the book justice AT ALL, so be on the lookout for our upcoming previews!
We got our advance copies of Tony Millionaire's 500 Portraits at the office yesterday and man oh man, what a gorgeous little book. Designed by our Art Director Emeritus Jacob Covey and smartly edited by Jacob and Eric Reynolds (Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Ian MacKaye, Louis Armstrong and Léon Theremin in one spread? Genius), this is going to be the must-have gift book for the holidays. Stay tuned for more and better previews!
• Review: "Every now and then, if I’m lucky, I might just bump into a stone cold masterpiece. The kind of art that makes you just want to shout and scream it is so good. So, in the interest of doing just that, let me say that this Jaime Hernandez’s 'The Love Bunglers' (Love and Rockets: New Stories no. 4) is such a work. I don’t even need to qualify it for myself (i.e. 'what’s coming later; what’s come before; shouldn’t there be a cooling period?') when I say: This is not just Jaime’s finest work, but one of the best (at this moment I’d rank it in my top five of all time) works ever created in the medium. You can hold that over me in twenty years and I’ll still be right..." – Dan Nadel, The Comics Journal [SPOILER WARNING]
• Review: "Jaime Hernandez is my favorite cartoonist. I think he is the greatest cartoonist of all time. My opinion.... No art moves me the way the work of Jaime Hernandez moves me. I am in awe of his eternal mystery." – Frank Santoro, The Comics Journal
• Review: "I picked up a copy of the new issue at a signing Jaime was doing here in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. It was a packed house, and there were a lot of people I was happy to talk to. Amidst all the socializing, I allowed myself a quick glimpse inside the comic, and when I randomly flipped to pages 92 and 93, I felt like I’d been blind-sided. I had to look closer to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing." – Adrian Tomine, The Comics Journal
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins spotlights the above TCJ links, saying "Paying off thirty years of continuity and character development. Delivering shocks, gasps, cheers, and tears in equal measure, seemingly at the author’s whim. Offering a master class in everything from laying out a double-page spread to drawing clothes. Telling a story about beloved characters so emotionally engaging that even their most ardent fans wouldn’t mind if this were the last one ever told. Any way you slice it, Jaime Hernandez's 'The Love Bunglers' — his contribution to the recently released Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 and the conclusion to the already wildly acclaimed 'The Love Bunglers'/'Browntown' suite from last year’s issue — is a hell of a comic. But you don’t have to take my word for it."
• Review: "As I finished reading Love and Rockets: New Stories #4, I had to sit back and just take a moment to take it all in and collect myself, as I know that I had just completed reading one of the greatest works in comics for 2011. Love and Rockets has been a source of inspiration within the comics industry for years, so it’s not like I’m the first one to praise the Brothers Hernandez for their contribution. But it’s even more incredible to see that after nearly 30 years, both Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez are creating some of the best comics of their careers and making them completely accessible to new readers. Love and Rockets: New Stories #4 is an achievement for the Brothers Hernandez and has earned a permanent spot on my required reading list for anyone interested in reading the great works of modern comics creators." – Ron Richards, iFanboy "Book of the Month"
• Review (Audio): "The artwork [in Pogo] is fantastic because Kelly, coming from a Disney background, had really great technical chops and he was able to put a lot of detail into a small daily strip while at the same time giving it breathing room despite the fact that the characters are quite talkative…. He crowded an awful lot into each panel without making it feel crowded, which is a neat trick. He really pulled it off well. …It's just a joy to look at, and it's so much fun to read too because the characters all have really funny personalities that are… very dimensional… It is beautifully designed by Walt Kelly's daughter Carolyn Kelly, and she and Fantagraphics did a really good job of finding all these strips… lovingly scanned and restored so that you get to see the line art in all its detailed glory…. I highly recommend it -- it's going to be one of my prize books... that I'm going to hang onto for a long time." – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing "Gweek" podcast
• Review: "When you read the first volume of Fantagraphics' complete reprint of Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse — the first of its kind anywhere — you understand quickly why Disney decided to keep him on the daily strip. He was simply a natural talent." – Matthias Wivel, Nummer 9 (translated from Danish)
• Commentary: "...Jim Woodring is not one to rest on his laurels where his funny-animal protagonist Frank is concerned. Lately he’s been posting breathtaking images... to his blog on a surprisingly regular basis. They appear to show Frank up to his old mischievous tricks, and to augur another Frank book on the horizon. Check them out here and here, and marvel that a cartoonist of Woodring’s caliber is tossing these things out there for free like it ain’t no thing." – Sean T. Collins, Robot 6
• Review: "Comic strips, as printed in American papers, have been linked to advertising since their very inception, and have been a constant staple of ad campaigns. Now a good-looking, large-format book shows much of the history of advertising cartoons: Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising 1870s - 1940s... Many of the cartoons in this colorful collection are handsome, and in hindsight, many are so silly that they call into question any 'American Intelligence,' despite what Lucky Strikes told us. That cartoons made such pitches, and with seeming success for their time, is a little embarrassing; either people were dumb enough to fall for the ridiculous pitches here, or high paid advertising companies thought they were. It is, however, all part of the enormous fun of this volume." – Rob Hardy, The Dispatch
• Review: "Jaime has not only managed to maintain the standard that he set in his Locas stories back in the 1980s and ’90s, at times I would say his work is better than ever.... [Love and Rockets: New Stories] #4 sees the end of 'The Love Bunglers,' a story that is every bit as tragic, funny, and ultimately life-affirming as one could wish. In the incoherent words of Reno, Jaime sums up what his stories and his characters are about: 'there’s somethin’ that happened once in our lives that keeps us … keeps us livin', hopin' that…'." – Tony Keen, FA
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