The Small Backs of Children

In Lidia Yuknavitch’s New Novel, Women Forge Art out of Loss, Bitch, July 31, 2015

Lidia Yuknavitch’s latest novel, The Small Backs of Children, will wreck you and leave you feeling grateful.lidia-670x450

In an email to me about the novel, Yuknavitch wrote, “Here is the warning label I should have sewn into the cover: I broke every formal rule in the history of the novel. On purpose. Not sorry.”

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Living Apparitions
by Andrew Bolton, Susannah Frankel, and Tim Blanks
Review by Alex Behr, Propeller, spring 2012

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“There’s blood beneath every layer of skin.” —Alexander McQueen

Four models inhabit the clothes as faceless or headless mannequins within Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. … These apparitions-as-clothes allude to people who creep out in perfectly tailored pants that creep down the bum, who cinch their waists to fit into dresses made of iridescent clamshells, who obscure their faces with molded leather and enclose their torsos with plastic bodices laced with worms. The four models—Polina, Katerina, Lyza, and Uliana—had their limbs and torsos and extremities painted with white acrylic paint. In some photos you can see the paint worn off, as if the skin were sanded. These women were dressed and posed. Then they vanished.

Building Stories

Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
By Chris Ware
Review by Alex Behr, Propeller, January 2013

“If all we are is bundles of energy—what is a ‘hug’ anyway and how can we ever really touch each other?” —Chris Ware

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At first, Building Stories seems a clunky title for such a gorgeous, complex package of booklets, books, pamphlets, posters, and even a game board by comic artist Chris Ware. The title uses building as a gerund, an action to undertake—no wonder the box sat unopened in our hallway for a month, a gift from me to my artist husband. It looked like a project, an obligation, and my husband was in school full time. Even the typography on the box cover is mismatched and off-kilter, sometimes shown tilted on the sides of toy building blocks. It’s almost a deliberate strategy of making us work for meaning. I stared at the box on the couch. I moved it against the wall in our hallway. I carried it upstairs, closer to where I might read it. I imagined there were slots to put together or some trick of punching out tiny circles of cardboard and stringing pages together with shoelaces that weren’t quite long enough.

The Dream World of Dion McGregor (He Talks in His Sleep)

By Dion McGregor

Midnight Rambling: One person’s sleepwalk is another’s collectible recording, Tin House, summer 2011 (print only); reprinted in Utne Reader, Nov.-Dec. 2011

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In the early 1990s, I heard a curious audiocassette that was shared among my musician friends in San Francisco. It contained recordings of a man called Dion (rhymes with lyin’) McGregor, who talked vociferously in his sleep. The 10 dream recordings were not the yelps of someone waking in fear, though those sounds existed, too. The dreams spun out bizarre stories that entered my brain as music, with their repetition, rhythm, and Tourette-like utterances.

Cartoonist Chris Ware on Outsider Art, Reading Aloud and the Common Core

Cartoonist Chris Ware on Outsider Art, Reading Aloud and the Common Core,” Salon, March 2014

 At a recent conference with my daughter’s teacher, I expressed my frustration with the increasing lack of time for her to draw in school, and her teacher said that the new Common Core standards not only didn’t include it, they didn’t allow for any extra time for what are considered “non-literate” endeavors. Of course, this attitude is asinine; one only needs to see the drawings that Nabokov did for himself to understand Tolstoy and even his own books.

Building Stories by Chris Ware