Category Archives: A.C.E. Bauer
Last year I had to throw out boxes of old comics. They had been stored in our basement, and after a series of storms that brought more water on our property than ever recorded in living memory, they were ruined—mold had set into the pages.
I had to get rid of all of the original 80s Animal Man series, volumes of Love & Rockets from the same period, X-men, and so many more. I saved a few, despite their distinctively musty smell, but most went into contractor-strength garbage bags.
I choked back tears. It felt as though I was burying friends.
I am a life-long collector of comic books. I began as a kid, reading my brother’s 12¢ issue of Hot Stuff. My siblings, my cousins, and our friends joined in the habit. As an adult, I introduced my spouse-to-be and then my children to comic books—we have all read Sandman from the original prints, and still vie to be first when the latest Fables makes it home from the comics shop.
Fortunately, most of our family stash is not kept in a dank basement, but under beds and on shelves in a dry cabin in the woods up in Quebec. On rainy days, and on a fair number of sunny ones, too, generations of children will spend hours reading well-worn issues, sorting series, laughing at Betty and Jughead, debating Batman versus Superman, and generally living in a happy world of imagination.
“Phew,” he said with mild disgust. “Nothing like the smell of old comics.”
She objected. “I like the scent of old comics.” She paused. “Trees and comics. That’s what I’ve smelled each summer of my childhood.”
She made me proud. In her honor, I plan on digging up that dog-eared, somewhat torn, and much beloved 12¢ issue of Hot Stuff. It’ll be visiting an old friend. An old, old friend. They’re good to have around.
Congratulations to the winners, honorable mentions and finalists of this year's Tassy Walden Awards: New Voices in Children's Literature! Presented by the Shoreline Arts Alliance, the awards honor talented unpublished writers and illustrators of picture books, middle grade novels and YA novels. The awards ceremony will be tomorrow, May 16, at 7 p.m. at the Blackstone Library in Branford, Connecticut. Come join the celebration!
I had the great pleasure of spending this morning at Lyme Consolidated School as a guest speaker for their Young Author’s Day. I got to meet all the students there, from kindergarten through 5th grade. I told stories, read a few, and told them what it was like to be an author of children’s books.
The students were wonderful! In turns insightful, curious, and attentive, they asked terrific questions, and were very patient with me as my voice croaked and squeaked (leftovers from a cold and allergies). I had really good time!
I want to particularly thank Pricipal Jim Cavalieri and Media Specialist Shanon Pimentel for making me feel so welcome, and all the teachers who helped and asked questions, too. What a great school!
Here’s what you need to know about Amy.
Twenty eight years ago, when rumor went around that Woody Allen planned to show up for a screening of his new movie, Broadway Danny Rose, she asked me to go with her.
“Sure,” I said.
She turned to her boyfriend’s roommate. “How about you?”
He said, “Sure.”
And then she told us, “Oops. I forgot. I’m supposed to be somewhere tonight. Why don’t you go without me?”
Lying is not Amy’s strong suit. Neither of us believed her, but we knew she meant well. So, standing there awkwardly, I asked, “Uh. You want to go?”
He seemed equally awkward. “Sure,” he replied.
I know I’ve had more disastrous dates, but this one was memorable. It was a cold February night, the rumor was false, and we searched for the screening site, going from one university building to another, in vain. We finally decided on an arts flick, Born in Flames. Let’s just say that a feminist movie about the lives of prostitutes isn’t exactly conducive to romance. He did get points though for not making fun of it afterwards, and we warmed up over ice cream. Somehow our sense of humor meshed, and we agreed to see each other again. We have been together, ever since.
“I knew it’d work out,” Amy told me.
A lot of things have happened since then. Amy and I worked side by side, for years. We attended each other’s weddings. She came to the rescue when I needed help during one of my pregnancies. She stayed with us when her newborn needed to be kept safe from the flu coursing through her house. We’ve celebrated holidays and marked milestones.
So when No Castles Here was published, Amy told me, “I’m throwing you a party!” And what a party—friends, great food, good cheer. We had such a good time, that when Come Fall came out, she threw me another one. “We do this again for the next one, too,” she said. So, on Sunday, we celebrated Gil Marsh: we laughed and schmoozed, ate awesome food and had a grand time, the way good friends know how.
I hugged Amy more than once.
“You’ve got to publish another book,” she said. “These parties are so much fun!”
No arguing with that.
Thank you Amy, Steve, and all those who came. It was a blast!
Kids from the Hudson City Junior and Senior High School created a 32-second video for the Hudson Children's Book Festival.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
Congratulations to those who pulled it together.
P.S. I'll be at the festival, too. On May 5th.
This Saturday March 10 at 11:30 a.m. I'll be at the Alphabet Garden Bookstore to read from Gil Marsh, talk about the book, and answer questions folks might have. We'll have tarte au sucre ("sugar pie"), a Quebec favorite, maple cookies and maybe some lemonade. (Sorry. I couldn't manage poutine.) Come by and say hello!
Charles M. Blow, the New York Times visual Op-Ed columnist, wrote an excellent column today about Americans' perceptions of masculinity, and the corrosive effect it can have on individuals.
[M]asculinity is wide enough and deep enough for all [men] to fit in it. But society in general, and male culture in particular, is constantly working to render it narrow and shallow. We have shaved the idea of manhood down to an unrealistic definition that few can fit it in with the whole of who they are, not without severe constriction or self-denial.
Anyone perceived as not fitting this ideal, an impossible one to attain, is liable to be labeled as other. Men in pink suits are to be laughed at, or beaten. Anyone perceived as fitting a homosexual stereotype is a walking target–to which a third of school-aged boys can attest.
Start with this fact: The truest measure of a man, indeed of a person, is not whom he lies down with but what he stands up for. If we must be judged, let it be in this way.
The whole column is worth reading. It's called Real Men and Pink Suits.
If the strange names, the story of male friendship, and mythological quest sound familiar, it’s because Bauer is retelling the epic of Gilgamesh, supposedly the oldest story every written. This contemporary version is loosely based on the legend, with names, places, and elements throughout that echo the original. The novel is plot-driven and retains a mythlike quality. A worthy addition.
Thank you SLJ!
I joined Goodreads* a while ago and only recently have begun posting reviews on the site. Though I can give each book 1 to 5 stars, I decided early on that I wouldn’t give any. I write what I think, but I leave off ranking the books.
I do have strong opinions about what I like or don’t like. But I find star-ranking reviews to be misleading.
Let me give some examples—three books that I have recently finished (“finished” being a term of art since I only read, from beginning to end, two of the books).
I have tried and failed to read A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin several times now. I’ve picked it up, made my way through the first chapter, put it down vowing to continue reading, but then I was invariably distracted by something else on my shelves and didn’t get back to it. This time I made it part way into the second chapter—it took me three sittings. On the fourth, I read half a page and wondered why I was forcing myself to read something I was clearly not enjoying. That’s when I decided I had finished with the book.
I view this as a personal defeat. There are many people, whose reading tastes I respect, who consider the book to be one of the best stories of their young adult lives—a book, for a few, that drew them into the fantasy genre. And Ursula Le Guin is the grande dame of SF & F. There is much I can learn from her work. Unfortunately, what I learned is that there’s something about the voice in that story that totally turned me off—it prevented me from connecting with any of the characters. As a result, each new plot development became glaring: I could see a fall being set up and all I wanted to do was cringe.
If I were to rank the book among the ones in my library, I’d probably give it one star. Yet, in the greater scheme, I know that so many people have loved the tale that it has become a classic. Clearly the story has captured people’s imaginations—and the book’s voice is far less important to them. In fact, folks may like it, or love it, even.
My ranking would be an outlier—i.e., on the extreme of the scale. And my problem with the book is entirely idiosyncratic. I might have thoroughly enjoyed the plot if I hadn’t been so turned off by the voice. A single star would not convey any of this information—and might mislead a reader who has a different taste for voices.
But it’s not only that the stars don’t convey important information. Stars mean different things to different people.
Two Hot Dogs with Everything by Paul Haven is a middle grade novel aimed squarely for the middle grade reader. It is filled with amusing baseball lore, quirky characters, a satisfyingly evil villain, and a dollop of magic. Now, although I like baseball well enough, I do not love the sport, and I find game play-by-plays tedious. My review for Goodreads: “A fun book for those who love baseball.”
In fact, for those who love baseball, this book might be worth four or five stars. On my shelves, it’d probably get three. And if I gave it three, would it convey how wonderful I think the book would be to a baseball fan? I need separate star ratings: 5 stars for the baseball lover; 3 stars for those with only a passing interest in the sport; 1 star for people who dislike sports.
And what about the books that I wholeheartedly love? The very things that please me might leave someone else indifferent, or be distasteful to others.
Bake Sale by Sara Varon is the example here. It’s a graphic novel set in a Brooklyn populated by food items that live human lives. The main character is a cupcake who owns a bakery. His best friend is an eggplant who paints (buildings and such). Both play in a band with a doughnut, an egg, a pear, and an avocado.
What follows is an affecting story about friendship. We get to tour some of the memorable if less famous wonders of Brooklyn and NYC while learning a great deal about baking. The art is simple and colorful but cleverly detailed. The only (non-food) human characters appear on a handbill advertising a boxing match. There are plenty of animals—who remain animals—which leads to the wonderful incongruity of a giant cooked turkey leg walking a dog in the park.
The gentle story will please children, and adults who revel in graphic novels (or yummy recipes). If I were to grant stars, the book would get five.
But hold on. I am a fan of naive art. I am amused by the idea of a bag of sugar eating a brownie, but someone else might be turned off by food eating food. The point for me is to revel in the absurdity while capturing the human story portrayed by the characters. My five stars would mislead a reader who might view the book as a bizarre paean to cannibalism.
My point in all of this is that what affects my likes and dislikes is personal. Though others may agree with me, it’s just as possible that what matters to me may not matter to anyone else. No star can convey personal quirks—and so I prefer to leave them out entirely.
*For those unfamiliar with Goodreads, it’s a social site where members post information about books they read.
From: I’m working on it
December 31, 2011 at 01:22PM
The cover got me. I spent as much time admiring Jillian Tamaki’s illustrations of people wearing gorgeous hats made from comics pages as I did any of the pieces in The Best American Comics 2011. And the pieces are a revelation.
The title of the anthology is misleading. It’s not the best comics of 2011 (where’s Marzi?): the entries are chosen from graphic novels, pamphlet comics, newspapers, magazines, mini-comics and webcomics published between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010. But never mind. The book provides a window into what Alison Bechdel (of Fun Home and Dykes to Watch Out For fame) views as the best comics for that period, as sent to her by the series editors, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. Her choices are idiosyncratic but are truly the best—from her point of view.
A word of warning for those not familiar with the format: despite the fact that these are called comics, they aren’t the funny pages. The stories are about adult matters for an adult audience. And Bechdel’s selections do lean towards the darker side.
The subject matter can be dark enough to make some stories hard to read—Joe Sacco covers a massacre of Palestinian men in 1956; Chris Ware follows the consequences of a parent physically abusing his child; Jaime Hernandez describes repeated sexual abuse between children; Julia Gfrörer portrays a man in love with a dead woman who wants to be killed by a witch. The art, too, can be unsettling—in Michael DeForge’s fantastic world an imaginary beast gives up its teeth and skin to transform a creature into a parody of a pin-up girl.
But there is plenty of humor as well. Kevin Mutch explores the meaning of quantum mechanics in a bar/diner filled with zombies. Joey Alison Sayers follows the misadventures of a syndicated comic strip over time. Kate Beaton tells you probably everything you want to know about the Great Gatsby—if you paid attention. David Sayers gives the funniest rendition of comics tropes in six succinct panels.
And in between the tough subjects and hilarity, there are love stories, psychedelic wonders, art and feminism, science fiction, history, fantasy, memoirs, all the oddities that come when writers and artists explore the human condition.
No one will like all the selections. That’s only to be expected. (I was less than fond of Dash Shaw’s off-kilter world.) But the overall effect of the compilation is to give a sense of the richness of the comics realm. As Alison Bechdel explains in her introduction:
Most of these cartoonists are looking just a little beyond the horizon. It doesn’t take anything away from comics to recognize that some of what you read here is also great literature.
From: I’m working on it
December 13, 2011 at 05:04PM
This article in io9 describes an in-depth study about the longstanding myth that there is a biological difference in how the men and women approach math. The conclusion:
"None of our findings suggest that an innate biological difference
between the sexes is the primary reason for a gender gap in math
performance at any level. Rather, these major international studies
strongly suggest that the math-gender gap, where it occurs, is due to
sociocultural factors that differ among countries, and that these
factors can be changed."
Essentially, as the study illustrates, the solution to any gender gap is to "increase the number of math teachers in middle and high schools, decrease the number of children currently living in poverty, and take greater steps to reduce gender inequity."
From: I’m working on it
December 06, 2011 at 08:43AM
For those of you who have joined Goodreads, I have posted a giveaway. Anyone indicating an interest between now and February 28, 2012 will have a chance to receive one of two signed hardcover copies of my new YA novel GIL MARSH. There's more information here.