Book Reviews


Unpredictable and Kinetic

“An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, And True Stories: Vol. 2”, edited by Ivan Brunetti

New Anthology A Stand Out

The second volume of this anthology series from Yale University Press is representative of nearly everything comics outside of the mainstream have to offer, making it a sort of alt-comics family portrait.

Ivan Brunetti (”Misery Loves Comedy”) is back as editor and variety seems to be his goal here. He mixes alternative comics superstars like Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes with art comics upstarts like CF and Paper Rad. The comics themselves range from a collection of early 20th century Sunday funnies to dirty scans of self-published mini-comics. And where the last volume had a tribute to the late Charles, here we’re treated to a similar, albeit much shorter, tribute to Mad Magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman.

A lot of attention is also paid to readability. The first section takes the slow and steady approach with a series of one page gags and generally lighter fare building up to the more serious works. And since it’s not culled from one specific year or era, Brunetti is able to bring together a fantastic mixture of styles.

Brunetti’s own comics are often a bit too self-involved, but that trait serves this book well, setting it apart from other anthologies. Some of Brunetti’s favorite themes (sex, sardonic humor, self-loathing and dysfunction) are the building blocks of many of the stories included.

“An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories: Vol. 2” is a fantastic sampler plate, particularly for those unfamiliar with comics beyond superheroes. And whether or not I agree with all of his choices, Brunetti outlines and implements a clear vision. The result is one of the most unpredictable and kinetic anthologies on the shelves.


“Green Christmas“, by Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander, with Anne Basye

Tips on Keeping Christmas Out of the Landfill

Picture this: It’s Dec. 30, and there are four garbage bags at your curb, all filled with what was once rolls and rolls of colorful, decorated paper. Several cardboard boxes sit next to the bags. Peek inside them, and you’ll see tattered cellophane, plastic wrappers and crumbly foam packaging. Leaning against everything, shedding its needles, hiding an errant ornament and wisps of wrinkled tinsel, is a sad-looking pine.
Wasteful? You bet. According to authors Jennifer Basye Sander and Peter Sander, our trash output rises by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In their new book “Green Christmas,” you’ll find ideas on how you can cut the waste and have an eco-friendly holiday season.

Cut back at Christmas? Bah, humbug, right? Not so, say the authors. Even if you back-off buying, wrapping and decorating just a little bit, it adds up. Change doesn’t mean loss of traditions; it means new traditions for your family.

Take, for instance, the feast. Leftovers are great … if they’re eaten. The authors say that if every American throws away just one uneaten tablespoon of mashed potatoes each year, that adds 16 million pounds of waste to our landfills. Their advice: buy locally-grown produce, don’t over-prepare food and donate extra to the local food pantry or shelter.

You may think an artificial Christmas tree is “greener,” but the authors prove that’s not true. Instead, consider a live tree that you can plant in your yard, or skip a tree altogether and decorate with leftover branches from a tree lot. If your family insists on a “real” tree, recycle it after the holidays. And if you’re tired of the same old ornaments, consider an ornament swap with like-minded friends.

So how do you tame the “gimmes” and go green with gifts? Be creative, the authors say. Give the gift of time. Make presents, or give gift certificates to a local resale store, where there are all sorts of gently used treasures. Donate something meaningful in the recipient’s name. Be clever with your wrapping or give something that doesn’t have to be wrapped at all.

Reading “Green Christmas” is a little like eating holiday fruitcake: some parts are delicious and in good taste. Other parts will make you wrinkle your nose.

The authors have some obviously valid, valuable ideas, but they also contradict themselves. Shop at locally-owned stores, they say, and then later, trumpet online shopping. And some of the ideas are downright odd. Like, take the kids on a fun-filled, magical Christmas trip to the town dump so they can see how much stuff is wasted.

There’s an abundance of ideas on greening Christmas, but few tips for getting the family on board, an omission that may make implementing the hints difficult at best.

If you’re adamant about a totally green lifestyle and can risk being called a “Grinch,” then pick up “Green Christmas.” If you love the holidays just as they are, though, don’t waste your money.

Categories: Galleries