The New Yorker Cartoons of the Year

When someone says a publication has  “great articles…” it may be the pictures they are really looking at.  With The New Yorker – hard not to find at least one article I really want to read – even if it’s months later from the stack of magazines I’ve saved for a long plane ride.

But I always read the cartoons immediately.  Someone recently gifted me with a whole year of their cartoons in The New Yorker, Cartoons of the Year – what fun –  I can flip through and get a laugh – again and again.

from The New Yorker:

Cartoons of the Year

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Double, double, toil and trouble…

With characters named after Shakespearean heroines and dialogue sprinkled with quotes from the Bard, Eleanor Brown delivers on the reference in her title – but without Macbeth or witches.  And, if you have sisters or daughters in your family, some of the scenes will resonate.

Set in a small college town in Ohio, The Weird Sisters has a predictable plot of family problem-solving and relationships.  Three unmarried sisters, named Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia by their English professor father, return home to care for their mother who has breast cancer.   But each also has her own unresolved life issues to confront.

..we love each other, we just don’t happen to like each other…

Brown uses a clever device to tell the story; at times, all three sisters are telling the story as one voice.  She has you inside their heads, seeing each other, themselves, and the world around them – in a kaleidoscopic view.  Can be strange (weird?) at times, but keeps the cauldron bubbling.

They are what they are, and yet not:  Rose, the eldest, most responsible and accomplished; Bean (Bianca) most beautiful; Cordy, youngest, most spoiled, and looking for something that is not a hand-me-down.  As the story develops around their mother’s cancer – chemo, surgery, embolisms – each sister confronts her own demons to face her destiny: Rose’s fear of leaving, Bean’s professional life as a “thief and liar,” Cordy’s irresponsibility and pregnancy.

Brown teases with some drama, and a little sex – and works in convenient plot twists to solve all problems – all’s well that ends well – maybe a little too neatly.  The characters, especially the sisters’ father, reference Shakespeare in their general conversation, but the quotes get a little overdone and, sometimes, you will wish Brown would just get on with it, and say what she means.

The Weird Sisters is a good story for a quiet afternoon – a Hallmark channel kind of luxury.  I cried and laughed a little, related to some scenes, recognized most of the Elizabethan references, looked forward to the ending…

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day… “

It’s A Book

In less than 100 words, illustrator Lane Smith sends a message to children – and adults – who have forgotten the joy of reading a real – not electronic – book.

With only three characters – a mouse, a monkey, and a digitally savvy donkey, who doesn’t know what to do with a real book – this picture book is clear, concise, meaningful – repeating the words in the title – It’s A Book.

I could tell you where to find the video version of the book on YouTube, but then you’d miss the fun of reading it; besides, the video version deletes the controversial last word that Smith uses to end the book.

Get it from the library, or find a copy at the local bookstore – and give yourself a treat.  I’m still smiling…


Books I Decided Not to Read

Someone once suggested that I check out as many books as possible from the library at once – creating my own shelf of choices – a mini library at home.  Here are some books that made it home, but never appealed past the first 50 pages, or less.

If you’ve read any, and can recommend that I try again and persist, let me know.    As the Tracy Chapman song goes

…Give me one reason….and I’ll turn right back around…

Where Writers, and Readers, Feel at Home

My kind of town – home to local independent bookstores with people who read – and sometimes write.

The New York Times travel section article, Where Writers, and Readers, Feel at Home, recommending Norwich, England for its independent book stores and cafes, author readings, comfortable nooks for reading and “eavesdropping” – reminded me of one of my favorite “wouldn’t it be loverly” places.

I remember finding one in a little town off Route 7 in Vermont – they served the best pumpkin soup in their cafe – and the owner (he told me he was) suggested a book I’d never heard of.   When I looked in the back of Ingrid Hill’s Ursula Under, the publisher had cited the person I was talking to –  in his review of the book.   Now that’s doesn’t happen in the big chain stores.

I do not remember the name of the bookstore but hope I’ll find it, if I am ever traveling in green Vermont again.

I do remember that Ursula fell down a mine shaft, triggering a rescue attempt by the town – and a series of interrelated stories that connected her past ancestry to the present.  And, I remember liking it.  So far, it’s the only book Ingrid Hill has written.