Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour (Vol.6)

At midnight on July 19th it truly was Scott Pilgrim’s finest hour.

To celebrate the midnight release of the final Scott Pilgrim book there was a huge party, courtesy of The Beguiling, that unofficially closed down Markham Street in downtown Toronto.  There were bands, video games, a costume contest and the man of the hour – Bryan Lee O’Malley – signing until the wee hours of the morning.

The Scott Pilgrim series began in 2004 with Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. O’Malley has written 6 amazing comic books and on Monday night unveiled the final volume. Scott Pilgrim is a 23 year old with a rating of awesome. In order to win the heart of his girlfriend Ramona he must defeat her 7 evil exes. He’s also in a band.

Not only is Scott awesome, he also lives in Toronto. He and his friends ride the Rocket, hang out at Sneaky Dee’s and perform live at Lee’s Palace. Whether O’Malley likes it or not, Scott Pilgrim has become a Canadian icon.

And next month Scott Pilgrim will meet the world on the big screen played by another Canadian icon, Michael Cera. On August 13th Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (directed by Edgar Wright) will open nationwide to a growing fan base.

But the question remains: will Scott defeat Ramona’s final evil ex? Find out in Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour available in our Graphic Novel/Comic Book section!

*Photography courtesy of Karin Stonehouse. Thank you:)

Market Day by James Sturm

Market Day by James Sturm

978-1-897299-97-5, $23.95

Reviewed by Bookstore Staff, Karin Stonehouse

My relationship with Graphic Novels has always been a bit dicey. As an English student, I was very sure that I knew exactly which qualities a Legitimate Piece of Writing Worth Studying would possess — among those qualities, “heavily illustrated” was nowhere to be found and “able to be read in an afternoon” was in the maybe sometimes ok category. Glorified comic books, I thought, had no place in the serious study of prose. But then I had to read Seth’s It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken for an English class and it was… actually pretty good. Much better than I thought it would be, and certainly more enjoyable to read than I’d anticipated. After having dissected and put the book back together in a tutorial, I was a bit amazed that such a thing was even possible if you were studying a comic book. I was better prepared, then, to attack Chester Brown’s Louis Riel when I had to read it the next year. Since then, the Graphic Novel has been stalking and haunting me. Graphic novels line the shelves of friends who are smart, literary, and well-read (one of whom can recognize a Drawn and Quarterly book at 50 paces) and I started to realize that I should probably learn a lot more about that which I was snobbily and irrationally judgmental of and opposed to.

Enter James Sturm and Market Day. This isn’t the first Graphic Novel that I’ve read since I decided to rethink my position on the genre, but it’s the one that’s given me the most pause at the end. It’s also one of the only ones where I kept flipping back in the book to look at the art again, or take in a particular panel.  Market Day follows Mendleman, a quiet and pensive early 20th Century weaver who arrives at the market early one morning to discover that the single outlet where he has been selling his expensive hand-woven rugs has suddenly changed owners, and his wares are no longer in demand.  Desperate, upset, and concerned about his ability to provide for his expectant wife, Mendleman acts on a tip from a fellow artisan who suggests that he may be able to sell his rugs in a nearby town.

As we follow Mendleman on his desperate voyage, he tumbles deeper into despair. A deplorable businessman, Mendleman has no secondary source or outlet through which to sell his rugs and decides that this one day of failure foreshadows the demise of his entire career (which it sort of does, but in a “beginning of industrialized modernity” kind of way). He decides that when he arrives home, he will sell his loom and give up his art, despite still finding inspiration for new rugs in the people and commotion surrounding him, and later in the sunset.

As night falls, and with emotions still high from the disappointment of the day, he joins a group of derelicts drinking under a bridge. As he becomes more drunk, and as the group gets more rowdy, Mendleman wanders away and is consumed by guilty fantasies about leaving his wife.  Daylight reemerges and Mendleman is forced to reexamine his real life once again. Caught between conflicting needs and desires, the last few pages of the novella find Mendleman trying to reconcile his desires to continue his art and to provide for his family.

I picked up this book without a lot of expectations–I wanted to like it, sure.  And like I’ve said, it was important that I expanded my literary horizons (my pleasure reading preferences fall, almost completely without fail, to some sort of female protagonist-led fiction set within the last oh, 80 years or so), but even without expectations, or perhaps precisely because I didn’t have any, I was pleasantly surprised. Reading a graphic novel forces me to slow down and enjoy the experience–I’m a fast reader and often find myself skipping ahead in novels, anxious to get to the next part. I can’t do that when I read a graphic novel–I have to make an effort to absorb and appreciate both parts of the story being told simultaneously. Could I have had the same experience with another graphic novel? Possibly. Am I giving Sturm and Market Day the credit anyway? Absolutely. The combination of stunning art and a captivating and touching story line means that even this graphic novel-doubting book lover will be back.

Case Closed by Patrik Ourednik

Czech Literature Series from Dalkey Archive Press

Translated by Alex Zucker

978-1-56478-577-0, 143 pp.

$17.50

Sometimes, you just have to read a book more than once, not because it changed your life or you fell in love with the characters, but because you didn’t quite understand what was happening.  Such is the case with Case Closed, by the Czech expatriate Patrik Ourednik.  I really liked it–it’s a funny, clever, and engaging novel of the type that appeals to me.  From moment to moment I enjoyed the wordplay, puns, and intellectual and cultural references.

I just wasn’t following the plot.

I take a lot of the blame for this.  Even though it’s a short book, I stretched my reading of it over much too long–a week and a half or more.  And for what is described as a book that “confounds expectations with what seems, on the surface, to be a detective novel” I was not giving it anywhere near the amount of focus it deserved.  To be honest, I have trouble following detective novels at the best of times, even when they’re not “a wily and sophisticated parable about the dangers of language itself, in which the author takes aim at human nature with a devastating arsenal of genre-mixing, wordplay, and whimsical, biting satire.”

So I apologize to Patrik Ourednik, as well as his translator, Alex Zucker.  I really should have been paying better attention.  And the next time I read the book–because I’m definitely going to read it again–I’ll make sure it’s a time when I can really focus on it.

But this is supposed to be a review, not a chronicle of my shortcomings as a reader. So in the interest of convincing you to read Case Closed I’m going to leave you with some quotes from the novel that I hope will spark your interest…

//

“You’re right.  They don’t even give their opinions.  They just go on and on about things.  Every idiot.  Before, only some idiots talked.”

“That’s democracy.”

//

Yes, some people toss off blankets while others toss off verse; some make blanket statements and some make blanket loans; some folks have knees that knock with cold and others’ knuckles knock on doors.  So it goes with words, my friends.

//

Mr. Hroznata’s face clouded over with disappointment.  The spoken word is like a fart: it draws attention for an instant, but then immediately dissolves into the ether; whereas the written word is a bequest to future generations.

//

By now our readers have definitively understood that they definitively understand nothing: what could be a more sensible conclusion to our novel than that? Acceptance of fate, acceptance of one’s lot, acceptance of one’s imperfection.  How simple, how biblical!  Of making many books there is no end; much study is a weariness of the flesh.  Yes!  We are born into a novel whose meaning escapes us, and depart from a novel we have never once understood.