Book Reviews

by Liby Hays

published November 17, 2017

New Releases / Reissues
Cunny Poem
by Bunny Rogers

Cunny Poem is a collection of Bunny Rogers’s poetry written between 2012 and 2014, originally published on Tumblr, then in a limited edition hardback, and now this softcover reissue from Sorry House Books. Bunny is a genius, and probably the greatest living artist, and I’m not interested in a contrary opinion. Art writers always bring up her interest in ‘the forces of collective mourning’ or mention that she ‘draws from imagery.’ But this rhetoric is sorely lacking IMHO—‘collective mourning’ makes you think of some normative psychological categorization, whereas Bunny never generalizes. She is pin-prick articulate, leaves no dark smudges for critics to pathologize or phallologize… And then the ‘drawing from imagery’ line makes her sound like another nostalgic Tumblrite whereas Bunny’s work is never nostalgic, only as droll and inert and ingenius as a pale pumpkin (her sometimes-muse).

As for the book—I find the poetry entirely sufficient; every poem is ungodly... I just cannot believe this book…. I don’t read poetry because it makes me dizzy, but from what I’ve been able to tolerate of it, I LOVE this book!!!!!!! Chilling, cutting, blasé and perfect. 10 out of 10 Shadow Usuls.
Sample Poem:
The Coldest Shoulder
Two childhood animal friends
find themselves forced to become enemies.
Noone breaks up with you
Everyone just goes away

Internal Affairs III by Patrick Crotty

Peow Studio in Singapore has been at the forefront of the alt illustration scene for a few years at this point. They publish gorgeously designed, anime-influenced comics with sensitive MS paint-y linework and volumetric characters  (reminiscent of Masaaki Yuasa’s 2005 series Kaiba in paricular). Internal Affairs III picks up with the story of Onion, an unpaid intern/‘Personal Mech Vehicle’ driver at BANERVELT AMCS, who is “on a mission to infiltrate an office sckyscreapyr (sic) and destroy a powerpoint presentation....” Onion is chill and there is a lot of #relatable BS office banter, intercut with more dynamic action sequences. Crotty’s character designs, with bulbous heads and extremities, have significant appeal and the cyan and magenta printing looks sharp.

Not Recommended
Journal of Fandom Studies
I’m maybe cheating here, because I’ve only read this book as a free PDF. But it really deserves special mention as one of the laziest pieces of academic writing I’ve ever come across. In the very first line of the Journal’s mission statement, we already encounter an excuse: “The multi -disciplinary nature of fan studies makes the development of a community of scholars sometimes difficult to achieve…” The entire issue is about the problems making it nigh-impossible for the field of Fandom Studies to emerge, coalesce or progress... One academic suggests that fan studies scholars adopt a more ethnographic methodology and “try harder to engage with fans themselves,” mentioning with admiration how “[fan studies scholar] Booth has recently been attending conventions (including the large Doctor Who convention where he researched his article).” There is layer upon layer of self-congratulatory stupidity here and it feels as immersive as a Spiderman hell-pit, or whatever fans are into these days (I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t done the necessary field work).

The fan studies discipline is also weirdly gendered... Another article describes how “The group [of scholars] was divided into 22 pairs of one female and one male scholar, and each pair produced a back-and-forth dialogue about their work and approaches to fan studies.” What’s with the gendered structure? This is academia, not speed dating. Who has less game, the fans or the fan scholars?

No joke, this journal contains an article titled “Fuck Yeah, Fandom Is Beautiful.” I think this academic could try a bit harder... The whole publication seems like a small-scale conspiracy for a bunch of lazy professors to get tenure. I wonder if other offerings from publisher ‘Intellect Limited,’ such as Ubiquity: The Journal of Pervasive Media, are in the same vein. 

Recommended: Art & Design

The Language of Design...
because great places are 
all about design

by Maureen Steele-Bellows 
and Barry Petit

Oh man, I love this book, The Language of Design... This book is written by two designers, Maureen Steele-Bellows and Barry Petit, whose job is to transform preexisting strip malls from a “D-minus” to a “strong C” (in their words). This is done mostly by removing superfluous “birdhouse features” like tiny fake roofs and windows and adding olive green detailing so the names of the stores really pop. The opening chapter, in which the designers make an appeal for regionalism, might seem at odds with their job as stripmall refurbishers... They are sympathetic to the concerns of architectural preservationists, but seem to believe that, the economy being what it is, we might as well try and make generic chain-store architecture as effective as it can be. (“While some fear design standards may create sameness, the real fear should be the possibility of circus-like chaos…”) There is something disturbingly pleasurable about seeing glossy reproductions of non-structures like Jared Jewlery Galleria or the Christmas Tree Shops and reading criticism of their awning placement... And Bellows and Petit’s design philosophy can be lucid to a sometimes disarming extent: side-by-side stock images of a lambchop and glass of champagne are captioned, “Choices change as conditions are added…” The book is best, I think, when the personalities of the designers really come through.

Krazy Kat 1937-1938:
Shifting Sands Dusts 
its Cheeks in Powdered Beauty

by George Herriman

If you don’t know Krazy Kat, you can check out these full-color full page comic strip collections from Fantagraphics Books. Originally running in William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal, these are some of the most highly regarded and influential commix ever created. Herriman projects the slapstick projectile gag (Ignatz throwing a brick at Krazy Kat’s head) into hallowed desert terrain, carving out a neat flat space for all breeds of surrealist wonkery. Peppered with alliteration, faux-rhetoric, Latin quotations, and idle poesy, the work is as erudite as it is deranged. (Intellectualism even leeches onto the Wikipedia page... supporting characters are described as “an inconsequential heterodox coyote,” “a transient, bearded insect,”et cetera....) Reading Krazy Kat is taxing, but gainful. Punchlines skew diagonally, or set up a scenario and leave the reader to imagine how it might unfold. You can also recognize Herriman’s aesthetic influence in the unscrubbed, gumshoe-chumbly vibe of Philip Guston’s paintings.

Meet the Artists!
The First Collaboration 

by the Phenomenal 
Pop Combo 
Jake, George, Paul and Dinos

This is a super fun one... It’s documentation from Deitch Projects (a high-profile NYC pop art gallery) of a 2006 collaboration between four famous artists. The participants would start on the canvases independently and then pass them along, “rotat[ing] in sequence from one artist’s studio to the next” on fourto six-week intervals. Sixteen co-authored artworks emerge in total, documented at every stage of the process. The great joy of the book is turning the page and discovering how the paintings evolve, depending on the order in which the artists received them. George Condo (a painter favored by Kanye West and Jay-Z) is the most predictable of the group, sticking to his trademark clown-face anagrammatics... Scottish twins, Jake and Dinos Chapman are too clever for their own good and make some sly reference to the canvas surface (cutting it up, adding a door, a big signature, coloring book outline of a child painting). And then whenever it gets sent to Paul McCarthy it’s a complete disaster, everything is lost, so you’re always hoping he gets the painting first so the other artists can fix it up a little.
The book is very nice as an object, I might mention—the size and shape of a vinyl LP, parodying the iconic Meet the Beatles record.

Recommended, with reservation

Peeps: A Candy Coated Tale  
by Martin Ohlin and Mark Masyga

People make fun of me constantly for loving shitty bathroom books with bad photocomposite art... I mean constantly… but bear with me for one second here. This book is a lot better than you would expect. It’s an epistolary novel of sorts, presenting us with all these primary sources from the Peeps world: a newspaper, a yearbook, Peeple Magazine (please don’t groan, it’s terribly rude...) They strike a subtle balance between dessert recipes and visual puns, and there is also a kidnapping mystery, the Peeps go to Easter Island or something and there is a history of the Just Born company at the end. It doesn’t sound so bad, does it? I always thought Peeps were on par with Hershey Kisses as the mass-manufactured candy fetish par excellence because their shape embodies the process of extrusion…

Will this book look cool on your shelf? Is it going to enrich your life in any way? I can’t make any promises. But, I mean, I like it. And Barnes & Noble sells the hardcover for only $1.99. Goodreads reviewer Micheal perhaps puts it best:“Why not.... it’s just fun. Of course, it helps if you’re a fan of Peeps!”