The first bit of frost of Online Commentaries & Diversions:
• Review (video):Last Gasp's John Longhi reviews The Lost Art of Ah Pook by Malcom McNeill, a story originally created with William Burroughs. Longhi says, "I can see why Burroughs wanted to work with McNeill because he's one of the few guys who could capture the crazy wacked out details of his story writing. . . [It contains] all the wonderful social discord that made his writing fantastic."
• Review:Blacklung by Chris Wright gets high marks on Paste Magazine. Sean Edgar says, "Blacklung is a weird, compelling creation, telling a harrowing story of redemption and savagery through art that could initially pass as adorable before you get to the tongue necklaces. Highly recommended for those with strong stomachs."
• Review:School Library Journal announces their BEST BOOKS OF 2012 and in the graphics novels section, Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo is listed. "Van Sciver makes Lincoln real by picturing one of the hardest times in his younger life. . . Dickens-style squalor and melodrama plus Austen-style romance, all done in gritty cross-hatching."
• Plug:The NY Times listed Flannery O'Connor: The Cartoons at the top of the Best Bathroom Reads of 2012. Dwight Garner believes "the prints collected here are droll and strange." Two of our favorite words to describe Fantagraphics-style creators such as Flannery O'Connor.
• Review: Roughly translated from Ediciones La Cupula, Jaime Hernandez's God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls is reviewed. "Theexcitementthat overwhelms usafter readingeach of theinstallments ofthe sagaof [Ti-Girls] isdirectly proportional to itsartistic excellence,histalentas a storytellerandhuman greatnessthat livesin his cartoons."
• Review:Lanacion reviews the writings and works of Alexander Theroux (Laura Warholic, Estoniaand The Strange Case of Edward Gorey) and translated, barely, Matias Serra Bradford states, "If left as an untreated rarity,AlexanderTherouxseemsmysteriousto the fantasticand impossible point of determiningthe trajectoryofa particle and itsposition."
• Review:The Snipe News looks at Joe Sacco's Journalism collection. "the decade’s worth of stories. . . are most notable not from any kind of torn-from-the-headlines sensationalism but for the empathy the author brings to his subjects. . . . Sacco has a feel for displaced persons in general."
If you like erudite and sharp-witted cultural criticism you'll want to get your hands on this forthcoming collection of essays by Alexander Theroux, titled The Grammar of Rock: Art and Artlessness in 20th Century Pop Lyrics, when it's released in January. Covering a century of pop music from Ira Gershwin to Ghostface Killah, Theroux deconstructs and evaluates the very nature of the pop song. We're just putting on the finishing touches and packing it off to the printer and, by gum, it's 160 pages longer than when we first announced it. And why yes, that is a vintage Robert Crumb drawing on the front cover.
• Review: "Some of the most interesting travel books happen by accident. If Alexander Theroux’s wife had not gone to Estonia on a Fulbright Scholarship, it is unlikely that he would have spent an extended period in the tiny Baltic republic, an experience that impelled him to write this book [Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery].... Despite all [his] genuine delight in the quaint, not merely linguistic but extending also to Estonian architecture, what Mr. Theroux mostly shows us about the country and its people is exasperation, irritation, furious rage. To say that it — and they — get on his nerves is the mildest of understatements. He takes endless potshots at their food, admittedly an easy target, but by the time you get near the end of the book and find a section titled 'What did I hate about Estonia,' it’s no surprise." – Martin Rubin, The Washington Times
• Plug: "The premise of Pat Thomas's handsome book [Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975] is that this was an era in which revolutionaries such as Bobby Seale and Angela Davis were treated as pop cultural icons, while musicians became revolutionaries – meaning Gil Scott-Heron, the Last Poets, Bob Dylan, John Lennon and more." – Caspar Llewellyn Smith, The Guardian
He'll be speaking at the infamous Strand Bookstore in NYC, discussing what happened when he joined his wife — artist Sarah Son-Theroux, whose work adorns the cover — on her Fulbright Scholarship to Estonia.
Let Theroux's razor-sharp writings transport you to this fascinating country without having to leave your seat in the Rare Book Room on the 3rd Floor of The Strand [ 828 Broadway (at 12th St.) ].
The event kicks off at 7:00 PM, and you can either buy Estonia from The Strand or a $10 Strand gift card in order to attend this event. Both options admit one person.
• Kansas City, MO: The name of this exhibit says it all: "GOOD THING I USED A PSEUDONYM: Work From a Three-Part Career: Frank Stack as Painter, Connoisseur, and Incognito as Graphic Novelist Foolbert Sturgeon." This is the first exhibition that will include Stack’s all-important comics work. The opening reception is from 6-9 PM, and the exhibit runs until March 3, 2012. (more info)
• Kansas City, MO: In conjunction with the aforementioned exhibit "GOOD THING I USED A PSEUDONYM: Work From a Three-Part Career: Frank Stack as Painter, Connoisseur, and Incognito as Graphic Novelist Foolbert Sturgeon," Frank Stack himself will appear at Project Space for a discussion with curators Anne Thompson and Nathan Boyer at 2:30 PM. (more info)
"Through war, animal make-out sessions and film writing, Kupperman takes Twain through the ringer in a hilariously catastrophic epic that the real-life 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' author would surely have appreciated. Although reading it won't score you any points on a history-class term paper, the book will certainly open your eyes to one of the funniest writers working in comics right now." – Brian Warmoth
"The excessive violence is still here, more refined, more imaginative, more disturbing. Ryan pushes himself artistically in the second half of the book, delivering a stunning sequence that still haunts me." – Chad Nevett
"I picture Gilbert Hernandez approaching his drawing board these days like Lawrence of Arabia approaching a Turkish convoy: 'NO PRISONERS! NO PRISONERS!' In a year suffused with comics funneling pitch-black darkness through a combination of sex and horror, none were blacker, sexier, or more horrific than this gender-bending exploitation flick from Beto's 'Fritz-verse.'" – Sean T. Collins
"Leslie Stein burst onto the comics scene this year when Fantagraphics published the collection of four of her self-published comics... The comic is both surreal and mundane, the story of a young woman who moves to a New York complete with humanoid animals and talking musical instruments. ...Stein [is] one of the best independent creators to emerge in recent years." – Alex Dueben
• List:Robot 6's Graeme McMillan picks his 5 favorite books of 2011, including Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti & Claudio Piersanti...
"Way back at the end of last year, I called this the best graphic novel of 2011, and if I’m now a little more reticent to make that claim, it has more to do with the high quality of a lot of other releases this year than anything else because this is still a masterpiece that, were I some kind of unlikely comics czar, I’d make compulsory reading for everyone interested in the medium. Just a breathtaking book."
"Another book that I raved about earlier this year, and another one that I’m still raving about as strongly months later. A tour-de-force of cartooning from a creator who just continually improves, and pushes at the medium in almost everything he does."
"It’s a disturbing book in many ways – questions about exploitation and power are very present in the text – but also a beautiful, seductive one. It’s a book that sticks with you for a long time afterwards, and for that alone, it’s one I’ve returned to many times since first reading it."
• List:Panel Patter's Rob McMonigal names his Best of 2011: Manga Edition, with Wandering Son Vol. 1 by Shimura Takako in the #5 spot: "This is one of the most serious manga series I've ever read, and I finished it unable to come to grips with the best way to review it. Dealing with two children who come to realize they are trapped in the wrong gender, it's a story of secrets, revelations, understandings, and occasional cruelty. The book handles the topic with care and respect, however, which is part of why it is so good."
• List: Another top-10 from Panel Patter's Rob McMonigal, whose Best of 2011: Indie Comics, is topped by 3 of our titles: Jason & Fabien Vehlmann's Isle of 100,000 Graves...
"Isle of 100,000 Graves has Jason's trademark deadpan humor, resolute protagonist, and ending that leaves the reader thinking."
"At first, The Hidden feels like a typical apocalyptic story, albeit one painted amazingly well by Sala. But as things progress, the tale morphs and twists into one of the best horror comics I've read, with a twist towards the end that I never saw coming. That's what makes a comic stand out, and puts it near the top of my best of list."
• Review: "I found myself turning back and re-examining the pages often, digging through the many details that the words and images delivered. The story unfolds in earth tone – sepia illustrations, not gaudy, in keeping with the artist’s respect for the story and the subject. Clemente’s early life is here and one gets a real feel for his family and friends, and not without humor.... [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] should appeal to graphic novel fans, baseball fans, anyone who likes a great 'bigger then fiction' story, and many others." – Mark Hodgens, Skyscraper Magazine
• Review: "Fantagraphics is now giving Barks’ Duck comics a whirl, and based off this first volume alone if there’s any justice in the comics world, fame should finally (belatedly) be coming for the late, great Barks.... The reproduction on these strips are beautiful; Fantagraphics hired cartoonist Rich Tommaso to re-color the works, and Tommaso wisely uses gentle flat tones to keep with the overall feel of Barks’ crisp, classic art. I also appreciated the essays about the different stories in the back of the book.... Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is a handsome looking book, and trust me when I say it’s just the first of many I plan on reading by Barks." – Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics
• Review: "So cue the squeals, and scan the racks at your friendly neighborhood comics retailer for writer/artist Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7. Beyond a cover whose hilarity strangely if successfully depends on its all-day-sucker coloring — tangerine, lemon, lime — this dadaistic offering opens with a six-page excerpt from Scary Bathtub Stories, a faux-Golden Age comic, and thereafter spirals further and further into neo-psychedelic weirdness." – Bryan Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "I like to imagine [Michael Kupperman] sitting in some tiny hellhole of a studio apartment packed deep into the bowels of New York -- these noble creatures lose their mystique when they own homes -- doing mutant Thrizzle pages until they stop paying him or until he gets a gig in the back pages of Vice. Some feminine if not female voice of reason hovers next to his desk, thumbing through the newest set as he leans back in his chair, wondering if Fantagraphics paid him enough to afford blowing the budget on a beer, wiping entirely imaginary sweat from his brow." – Patrick Tobin, Multiversity Comics
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Oil and Water writer Steve Duin: "I'm too new to all of this to fully grasp how the perfect union of writer and artist is formed... and there were times when Shannon [Wheeler] and I struggled to find common ground. But a great deal of my understanding of what we were dealing with in the Gulf owes to Shannon's perceptions and his sketchbook. He was refreshingly aggressive in dealing with the BP clean-up teams disinclined to give us access. His original poster for the group -- a naked woman starring incredulously at the oil derrick in her bed, and saying 'What do you mean, it broke?' -- is brilliant."
• Interview:Bookforum's John Madeira, who says "...Alexander Theroux’s writing... is grandiloquently lyrical, dizzyingly erudite, and often acerbic," talks with Theroux about The Strange Case of Edward Gorey ("a smart, engaging, and insightful monograph asking as many questions about the quirky artist as attempts at answers") and other topics: "Edward Gorey was very ornate — Corinthian! — in his love of language, and when he was in a chatty mood his conversation, crackling with allusions, was rich and often rare, exaggerated, campy to a degree, invariably tinctured with lots of movie-love, sarcasm, irony. Mind you, it was not that the man was trying to be something, contriving, say, to appear a cavalcade of wit, merely that, rather like Dr. Samuel Johnson, he happened to have sharp, remarkable 'views' on all sorts of subjects, almost all worthy of note."
• List:FEARnet's Joseph McCabe names Richard Sala's The Hidden to their Best of 2011: Books and Comics: "Sala's unique brand of creepy quirk combines Edward Gorey, Chester Gould, and Charles Adams with his own unclassifiable magic. The Hidden, from Fantagraphics Books, is his most ambitious work -- an intimate apocalypse."
• List:The SF Site's Rick Klaw ranks 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente at #4 on his top graphic novels of 2011: "In this emotionally moving biography, the Puerto Rican Wilfred Santiago magnificently chronicles the often tragic life of this icon.... Santiago expertly traverses Clemente's tribulations, losses, and success with ease and skill. His portrayal of the baseball games rank among the finest ever attempted in this medium. Under the masterful hands of Santiago, 21 evolves into far more than just a biography of a sports figure. It showcases a life worth emulating."
• Review: "I’ve been eagerly anticipating Wilfred Santiago’s graphic biography 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente since I first heard it was the works... Santiago uses black and white and some yellow-orange fill-ins, but really that’s all he needs. His style is clean, ranging in depiction of Clemente throughout the years to religious leaders to baseball action scenes, which he often depicts in a seemingly photo-realistic style with ballplayers drawn against what appears to be a collaged photo background of a baseball setting but is instead a note perfect drawing. ...Santiago does Clemente proud with 21." – David A. Kirschenbaum, Boog City (PDF download)
• Review: "Looking for someone to turn lemons into lemonade? In his own distinctive way, Alexander Theroux might be your man.... In Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery, he mines his disappointment and catalogs his discontents to impressively crotchety effect. ...[L]ike the country's many invaders—Russians and Germans, and, before them, Swedes and Danes—Mr. Theroux largely uses Estonia as a space for his own purposes, transforming this admirable country into a grotesque but clever caricature perfect for use as... a stage for Mr. Theroux's verbal pyrotechnics and some fine jokes... I laughed a lot, but guiltily." – Andrew Stuttaford, The Wall Street Journal
• Review: "After years and years and years, Fantagraphics has finally started their deluxe reprint series of Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo. The first volume is available right now, and it's absolutely beautiful, a big comic book with real heft and majesty.... Pogo always felt, to me, like a strip you should read like a novel, a continuing sitcom about the personality-heavy critters who live in a swamp. This collection proves that I was right. This isn't a book you read so much as sink into: Kelly's brilliant ear for dialect and voice lulls you along, and then you're lost in his beautiful artwork.... The whole book is... a series of packed — but crystal clear — panels that grow together to establish a world of curious characters whose misunderstandings lead to great adventures. If I had to make one complaint about this Pogo collection, it'd be that it ends too soon.... If you like comics, or if you know any kids who read comic strip collections, this is the Christmas book for you." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
• Review: "[My] gripes are minor in relation to the beauty and quality of this book presentation, as well as the stories themselves.... The stories, of course, are outstanding. Most of the long adventure tales are classics in their own right.... Plus, Barks comes up with some of the most brilliant schemes and swindles — most perpetrated against Donald for comedic effect. The super-compressed plotting makes everything more frenetic — and more funny! Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is an excellent start to Fantagraphics’ Carl Barks Library." – K.C. Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
• Review: "It was the best of Momes, it was the worst of Momes. Alright, that’s not quite accurate, and not quite fair, either. But this unwittingly penultimate issue of Fantagraphics’ long-running alternative-comics anthology — page for page the longest-running such enterprise in American history! — is a hit-or-miss affair in the mighty Mome manner. ...[T]he hits... are strong enough to make the book worth checking out.... You gotta take the rough to find the diamonds." – Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
• Review: "The ability to make me cry is not generally something I praise in a book.... But in Special Exits Joyce Farmer pulls off something much more difficult — she takes a true story and plays it straight without any overly dramatic embellishment. Her frank honesty lays bare the emotional core of the story.... Farmer’s black and white line drawings are detailed and expressive, but never flashy. Her art is straightforward, as befits the story.... The end product is as honest and unembellished as a personal journal and we’re lucky Farmer’s chosen to share it with us." – Andrew Fuerste-Henry, No Flying No Tights
• Review: "Despite [Taking Punk to the Masses'] coffee table book appearance, McMurray tries to keep the punk rock do-it-yourself ethic by letting the artifacts and punk denizens speak for themselves.... The quotes from the publisher/artists who created them and musicians who were featured weave together nicely to give a sense of moment. And sometimes the creator and object merge, such as the Nirvana show posters hand-drawn by Kurt Cobain." – Ian S. Wilder, Boog City (PDF download)
• Interview: At Heeb, Eli Valley chats with Drew Friedman about old Jewish comedians and Old Jewish Comedians: "A lot of these guys, they get to a point where they’re angry they’re not getting the attention they used to get. I guess that’s true for anybody getting old who used to be in the limelight. I wanted to capture that. 'Pay attention to me, I’m old but I’m still funny and I want you to pay attention to me.' These guys are still in your face, they never slow down, but basically it’s over. There’s no more work. A lot of them would just be happy to receive an award for their work. You just don’t want to be forgotten."
• Plug: At NPR's Monkey See, Glen Weldon recommends Pogo Vol. 1 as a "tryptophan-tastic tome" for your turkey-coma reading enjoyment: "Walt Kelly's seminal, satirical, exquisitely rendered, hugely influential (and, not for nothing, actually funny)comic strip is getting a deluxe treatment by Fantagraphics. Crisply reproduced at a generous size that makes it easier than ever to marvel over Kelly's marvelous linework, this book is everything fans and comics historians were hoping for."
• Review: "...[Tales Designed to] Thrizzle returns to form with lucky number seven — and of all things, it seems like Christopher Nolan’s Inception provided the catalyst.... I’ve described director Christopher Nolan’s movies as what stupid people think smart movies look like; Michael Kupperman’s comics are the opposite, stupid comics made by a smart person for smart people, so perhaps there’s some yin-yang resonance there. Regardless, Kupperman recognized Inception‘s Russian-nesting-doll structure of dreams within dreams within dreams as natural connective tissue for his stream-of-consciousness comedy... It’s nice to hold documentary evidence of Kupperman’s comic genius in my hands again." – Sean T. Collins, The Comics Journal
• Review: "The authors [of Oil and Water] show admirable self-awareness in portraying their semifictional companions (and by implication, themselves) as naive voyeurs whose presence mostly irritates their subjects. 'Lemme get this straight,' says one character. 'They white. We black. They blue. We red. They rich…and I got $53 to buy a week’s worth of groceries. And they gonna tell our stories?' Actually, they do a fine job." – Ruth Brown, Willamette Week
• Review: "Full of endnotes, translating many phrases he quotes in their original languages, and graced by a few of the couple’s photos and Sarah’s plein air oil paintings, [Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery] provides a suitably quirky introduction to Theroux as an essayist and critic.... As the author of two Fantagraphics short studies on Al Capp and Edward Gorey, Theroux’s elliptical style and elongated perspective delineates an American tradition of satire that connects him to Thomas Nast’s political and cultural caricatures of a century and a half ago.... Catch the wit and the venom, the depth and the breadth, of this honest account of 'a strange, unlooked-for place at the back of beyond' where 'the fascination of its strangeness' renders it a fitting subject for a curious report by a memorably talented, ever off-kilter, chronicler of oddity. [Rating] 8/10" – John L. Murphy, PopMatters
• Plugs: Our FBI•MINIs have garnered attention from Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter ("I want as many as I can get my hands on"), J.K. Parkin at Robot 6 ("The big chain stores might have cheap TVs this weekend, but how many of them come with a Tony Millionaire mini-comic? Not nearly enough, I tell ya"), Alan Gardner at The Daily Cartoonist ("If you're already planning on picking out some titles for the holidays, might as well get the rare or unpublished work as well"), Paul Constant at The Stranger ("These books are a great idea; a special gift for your special comics fan")
• Interview: "I talked on the phone with Adam Witt of Comics Will Break Your Heart about the early days of the Mome anthology, serializing work, collaboration with other artists, film, and my inability to remember the dates of anything. I apologize in advance for the mumbling bits," says Paul Hornschemeier on his blog
• Analysis: At Robot 6, Matt Seneca examines the sequential imagery in a poster by Victor Moscoso: "The poster Moscoso created for SF-based motion picture company Pablo Ferro Films... is a watershed moment in the artist’s oeuvre, the place where his works in comics and posters unify with perfect elegance. It’s also a fascinating, formally audacious piece of comics, one that breaks rules and innovates furiously without giving up an iota of visual beauty."
This week's comic shop shipment is slated to include the following new titles. Read on to see what comics-blog commentators and web-savvy comic shops are saying about them (more to be added as they appear), check out our previews at the links, and contact your local shop to confirm availability.
"It’s certainly Fantagraphics’ week, with the release of two amazing reprint volumes." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
240-page full-color 7.5" x 10.25" hardcover • $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-474-0
"Fantagraphics' reprinting of the complete Carl Barks duck comics, wisely, starts not with the master funny-animal cartoonist's earliest material but with a period in which he was firing on all cylinders: the late-'40s era of grand adventure stories, four of which appear here alongside some shorter stories, one-page gags, and explanatory material. Shorter version: this is where you'll find the square eggs." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"I was so impressed by Fanta’s Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley, a book that I would have never guessed I would enjoy so much, that I’m eagerly looking forward to discovering this hidden treasure." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
308-page black & white/color 11.25" x 9.25" hardcover • $39.99 ISBN: 978-1-56097-869-5
"And if I’m really binging, I’d add the first volume of Fantagraphics’ Pogo collection..." – Brigid Alverson, Robot 6
"Splurge-wise, how unfair is the universe for making the color, one-volume Bone available on the same day as Fantagraphic’s Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Volume 1?... Bone and Pogo are especially impossible to pick between, even with the massive price difference." – Michael May, Robot 6
"...[T]he collection of Walt Kelly’s Pogo that hits stores this week is gorgeous. I have some of Fantagraphics’ previous Pogo volumes and this one blows them away." – Roger Ash, Westfield Comics Blog
"It’s difficult, when contemplating reading such an acclaimed classic, not to worry that the material won’t live up to the expectations created by the praise, or to wonder if the strip was fresher in its original time. (Especially with strips that comment on contemporaneous events, especially political ones.) I have no fear with Pogo, because if nothing else, the characters are so darn cute and well-cartooned, I know I’ll enjoy seeing them." – Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading
"Fantagraphics has been promising a complete reprint of Walt Kelly's wonderful comic strip for four years or so now (after reprinting the first few years' worth in paperback in the '90s). They apparently had some difficulty finding high-quality sources, but they've really gotten it right -- this looks fantastic. And this volume actually delivers more than its title suggests: besides the 1949 and 1950 syndicated strips (daily and Sunday), it includes Pogo's four-month run, from October 1948 to January 1949, in the New York Star." – Douglas Wolk, Comics Alliance
"Another big, big, BIG one is Walt Kelly. Essential satire from a master, Kelly's strip ran from 1948 until his death in 1973. This collection was first announced in 2007 and has finally arrived. Necessary stuff, comics fans." – Librairie Drawn & Quarterly
144-page black & white 7.75" x 9.75" hardcover • $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-60699-492-4
"...[A]ll the really cool, must-have books are in the splurge category this week (as usual). In one corner, after years and years of fits and starts and delays and promises galore is the first volume of Fantagraphics Complete Pogo collection, Through the Wild Blue Wonder. In the other corner we have the first volume in Fantagraphics other, other, other big reprint project, Donald Duck, Lost in the Andes, which collects some great stories by the masterful Carl Barks.... Just forget about your budget this one time. Your bank account will understand." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
"CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: Oh shit, Disney animation showdown. Walt Disney’s Donald Duck Vol. 1: Lost in the Andes presents the first in a line of hardcover Carl Barks reprints, newly re-colored with all of the supplements you’d expect; $28.99. In the opposite corner, Pogo – The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Vol. 1: Through The Wild Blue Wonder begins a comprehensive 12-book collection of the Walt Kelly strip in b&w and color; $39.99. And while I don’t think the 144-page, Deepwater Horizon spill-focused graphic novel Oil and Water has anything to do with Disney, it does mark a comics-writing appearance by longtime writer-on-comics Steve Duin, teamed with artist Shannon Wheeler; $19.99." – Joe McCulloch, The Comics Journal
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.
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