Sunday, January 27, 2013

An Ilse Content Anthology

I've been reading An Ilse Content Anthology by Alexis Wolf for a long time.  It's dense and emotional.  I love the speaker's poetic imagination.  I love the amazing use of words with images.  And I love the tone and the feelings.  It makes me feel like I'm okay, like it's okay to feel things and need things.  And it's okay to think a lot about our pasts and our ancestors.

A theme running through this book, which is an anthology of the zine Ilse Content, is Ilse, who is Alexis Wolf's grandma who died.  The way the reader is so often pointed back to Ilse is comforting and good.  As a reader, I developed strong feelings toward Ilse right away, and throughout the course of the anthology, my feelings deepened.  Oh, how I love her.  Oh, how I wish she were alive and could spend time with Alexis again.  But she's so real, despite death--the speaker's poetic imagination draws me in, and I feel like I have always known Ilse, though I never will.

This is a very important example of this book's strength, but it's just an example.  Everything is handled with this type of dexterity and intent skill: friendship, death, travel, the natural world, sex, gender, typewriters, the revolution, time.

I found myself reflecting on my own past and my own deceased grandma, who I used to pray to when I was a little girl.  I would lie in bed at night, praying and praying to her instead of praying to God.  An Ilse Content Anthology makes me want to make zines about my relatives who have passed away too.

The images--birds, water, flowers--are beautiful and help my mind do a different kind of work that compliments the work that's required by the text.

The tone is sweet and wistful and nostalgic, but not in a syrupy way.  There's a stark realism too.  There's a juxtaposition of the very real with the dreamy, or the very real and the dreamy are merged so that the real and surreal are merged.

What we're left with is a magical whole which is not easy to read but very rewarding.  I want to come back to this book again and again and give copies of it to the women I love. 

My favorite sentence of this book is "I feel blissed, like everything is talking to me."

Coincidentally, I was at a reading in Berkeley a few months ago, and Alexis Wolf was reading selections from this book.  I liked them, but I like them much more now, in the context of the whole of the book, with the intimacy of being alone and reading words that seem whispered just to me.

I suggest this book to anyone who knows how to feel things or would like to learn.  Ten stars!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dodo Comics #3 Winter 2013

I've been reading Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, which I checked out from the library.  But nothing prepared me for Dodo Comics #3 Winter 2013 by Grant Thomas.

It's abstract comics, something I had never really seen before.  There are no words, and there are no pictures to speak of.  There are just lines.  What do the lines represent?  They just seem to be lines.

I started reading with high spirits.  Despite the lack of words and lack of pictures, I tried really hard to feel the feelings I thought that maybe I was supposed to be feeling.  I tried really hard to open my mind and understand.  I think my efforts paid off for the first comic, Sonnet #1.  I did get something from it, though I don't know how to articulate what.

By the next comic and the next, my spirits were lower.  I tried to go with Sonnet #2.  The lines in Sonnet #2 are all curves.  I tried to feel the curved feelings, or the reponse-to-curved feelings.  I didn't do so well.

By Sonnet #3, I was feeling like I Just Didn't Get It.  Something was happening that was beyond me.

The three untitled poems that end the zine were lost on me.  I clung to the text on the back cover where Grant Thomas talks about his accomplishments.  But that wasn't the comics.  That was blurbs. 

Overall, I would have to say that despite my efforts, I failed as a reader.  Dodo Comics #3 is not meant for someone like me.  I think the audience is a die hard comics person who has a deeper understanding of comics theory.  Or someone who's really good at abstraction and who doesn't need words.  Or pictures.