Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Freebie: Fantagraphics Threebie

Congratulations to Andi Diehn, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: The Architect of Flowers by Wiliam Lychack.

This week's book giveaway is something extra-groovy.  For the price of one entry, you'll have the chance to win not one, not two, not four, but three books from my favorite graphic-novel publisher: Fantagraphics Books.

If the names R. Crumb, Jason, Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes mean nothing to you, then you're just not hip to Fantagraphics.  You probably also eat your dinner on square plates and drink your coffee from square mugs.  The cool cats at Fantagraphics have been cheerleaders of comics as a legitimate form of art and literature since they began publishing The Comics Journal in 1976.  Simply put, they take comix very seriously.  I have a whole shelf of Fantagraphics treasures--including their gorgeous re-issues of the Prince Valiant, Popeye and Peanuts strips--and they are among the best examples of visual literary art in my library.

In this week's Fantagraphics Friday Freebie package, you'll get:

Castle Waiting, Vol. 2 by Linda Medley:  The Castle Waiting series tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life.*  A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting is a fairy tale that's not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil — but about being a hero in your own home.  With its long-awaited second volume, this witty and sublimely drawn fantasy eases into a relaxed comedy of manners as Lady Jain settles into her new life in Castle Waiting.  Unexpected visitors result in the discovery and exploration of a secret passageway, not to mention an epic bowling tournament.  A quest for ladies’ underpants, the identity of Pindar’s father, the education of Simon, Rackham and Chess arguing about the “manly arts,” and an escape-prone goat are just a few of the elements in this delightful new volume.

Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson:  Loosely based on a teenager’s diary from the 1980s found in a gas-station bathroom, Unlovable details the sometimes ordinary, sometimes humiliating, often poignant and frequently hilarious exploits of underdog Tammy Pierce.  This remarkably touching and funny graphic novel tells the first-person account of Tammy’s sophomore year in 1985, from the first day of school to winter break.  Her hopes, dreams, agonies and defeats are brought to vivid, comedic life by Watson’s lovingly grotesque drawings, filled with all the eighties essentials — too much mascara, leg warmers with heels and huge hair — as well as timeless teen concerns like acne, dandruff, and the opposite sex (or same sex, in some cases).  In the epic saga that is Unlovable, Tammy finds herself dealing with: tampons, teasing, crushes, The Smiths, tube socks, facial hair, lice, celibacy, fantasy dream proms, gym showers, skid marks, a secret admirer, prank calls, backstabbers, winter ball, barfing, narcs, breakdancing, hot wheels, glamour shots, roller coasters, Halloween costumes, boogers, boys, boy crazy feelings, biker babes, and even some butt cracks.  Tammy’s life isn’t pretty, but it is endlessly charming and hilarious.  Originally serialized in Bust magazine, Unlovable includes over 100 new pages created just for this edition, which is handsomely packaged in a unique hot pink hardcover format with sparkly blue glitter that would make Tammy proud.

Special Exits by Joyce Farmer:  This memoir chronicles the decline of the author’s parents’ health, their relationship with one another and with their daughter, and how they cope with the day-to-day emotional fragility of the most taxing time of their lives.   Elderly parents Lars and Rachel, who have enjoyed a long and loving married life together, are rendered in fine, confident pen lines.  Set in southern Los Angeles (which makes for a terrifying sequence as blind Rachel and ailing Lars are trapped in their home without power during the 1992 Rodney King riots), backgrounds and props are lovingly detailed: these objects serve as memory triggers for Lars and Rachel, even as they eventually overwhelm them and their home, which the couple is loathe to leave.  Special Exits is laid out in an eight-panel grid, which creates a leisurely storytelling pace that not only helps to convey the slow, inexorable decline in Lars’ and Rachel’s health, but perfectly captures the timbre of the exchanges between a long-married couple: the affectionate bickering; their gallows humor; their querulousness as their bodies break down.  Though Lars and Rachel are the protagonists of Special Exits, Farmer makes her voice known through creative visual metaphors and in her indictment of the careless treatment of the elderly in nursing homes.  Special Exits gracefully deals with the hard reality of caring for aging loved ones: those who are or who have been in similar situations might find comfort in it, and those who haven’t will find much to admire in the bravery and good humor of Lars and Rachel.

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is answer this question:

After going to this page of new releases, which book (or books) would you add to your must-read list?

Email your answer to thequiveringpen@gmail.com

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on April 28--at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on April 29.

*All blurbs come from the publisher's website.

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