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Books, Big And Less Big

Not that less big is an indicator of inferior quality in any way! It’s just that two of the books we’re talking about are gargantuan; they are bookzillaesque.

  • The less big book in question is the print collection of Mary Cagle’s Let’s Speak English, a diary account of her 2.5 years teaching English to elementary students in Japan. Loved the comic while it was running (roughly October 2013 to summer 2016), backed the Kickstarter earlier this year, and received my copy over the weekend, ahead of the promised July delivery date.

    It’s a fun book for a one-sitting read-through, watching Mary-sensei adapt and learn alongside her students (most strips seem to show her interacting with second graders, who are fearless about asking her anything). It doesn’t appear to be in her store yet, but will presumably be added after fulfillment is wrapped up; in the meantime, maybe check out her Patreon?

  • The first big book is Evan Dahm’s illustrated edition of Moby-Dick, and like the eponymous white whale, this thing is a monster. As you can see from the photo up top, it’s too big to even fit in the picture. Seriously, though, it’s a serious book.

    To give you a sense of scale, I have a slipcased two-volume annotated edition of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories, and a slipcased one-volume edition of the complete Lord of the Rings; Dahm’s Moby-Dick is larger and heavier than either¹. That copy that Fone Bone carries around that’s the size of his entire torso? It’s this book. The binding is thick and substantial, the pages are heavy stock, the slipcase is the thickest I have ever encountered, and the edges of the pages are dyed black.

    The entire effect is BLACK and WHITE in stark contrast, with the page composition matching. Heavy, beautiful BLACK letterforms² against stark WHITE pages. Each illustration is BLACK ink on a WHITE background, or in the cases of the titular whale, so much BLACK on a WHITE background as to appear to be WHITE ink on a BLACK background. In each case, fine crosshatching gives an effect somewhere midway between engraving and woodcut, underscoring the time of the book and its mood perfectly: brutal and aggressive, full of contrast and anger, like Ahab and the White Whale themselves.

    Some illustrations are manic, some contemplative, some presage disaster, all are insanely detailed. Individual characters, both named (mates Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask; harpooners Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo, and Fedallah) and unnamed (many, many crew) are recognizable and distinct. I’m certain that certain background characters are, in Dahm’s mind, the same individual that is followed from post to post, job to job, about the Pequod.

    I’ve never read Moby-Dick, and travel for work necessitated I not dive into it just yet; I did spend a couple hours on Saturday afternoon when it arrived paging through to the illustrations, and reading the surrounding pages for context. This will be a book to luxuriate in, to spend weeks reading; the US$45 it cost in the Kickstart is a bargain, and if you are a fan of either literature or design, you should be grabbing this at the first opportunity when it goes into Dahm’s TopatoCo store.

  • The second big book is related to TopatoCo as well; I was perusing the listings of what comes to the comics shops this week, and I was surprised to see a 25 year one-volume collection of Tom Tomorrow’s This Modern World comics. One may recall that TopatoCo subsidiary Make That Thing did such a volume via Kickstart in 2015, which looked like this.

    However, the promoted book is via IDW Comics, not TopatoCo. I inquired with TopatoCo and learned that Mr Tomorrow did a deal with IDW in the course of the campaign, and that TopatoCo’s position on the matter is Godspeed, ye who have to lift 50 pound book sets. Those of you wishing to save on gym memberships, apply at IDW, Diamond distributing, or perhaps your local comics shop.

Spam of the day:

If Your Dog’s Breath Smells Bad – Do This

Brush them? I mean, I’m just spitballing here.

¹ Also, it contains 100% less Tom Bombadil.

² Dahm devotes notes to his choice of typefaces, and the intent to honor the original.

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