Vermont-based poet and artist Meg Reynolds’s first collection of poetry comics distills a post-breakup year, its peculiar euphoria, its relief and despair, the booze, the longing, the fear, the inner explorations making way for a widening outer world. “A Comic Year” (Finishing Line) moves through 365 days as Reynolds moves through the stages of a love lost and living on. In ink-on-paper, she documents a year “of tapping, cajoling, & smacking my life against the page.” The emotive drawings speak to the ache, tallies of drinks, blankets, and hand gestures on nervous Tinder dates; the written lines have a lyric vulnerability. She drives through “the shredded edge of a spring snowfall,” reads Rilke to see “the good unknown living in my sadnesses,” and wonders if some new someone will be able to see the ineffable in her, her “spiritual clitoris ringing in the dark.” Some drawings bring to mind the mythical etchings of Leonard Baskin, as when she feels the press of a mastodon inside her, and some lines hold truths walloping in their simplicity: “I can’t unlove him.” It’s a hopeful, sensitive sinking in to what it is to seek out finding in the loss.
Drawn and decorated
A rectangle, three large triangles, two small triangles, a tiny half-moon, a circle, a few squiggles, some coloring, and from these simple shapes, step-by-step, appears a giraffe, a wolf, a Christmas tree. Such was the ingenious drawing method of Ed Emberley, whose instructional drawing books taught generations of kids how to draw. Dragons, owls, trains, trees, elves, elephants, grimacing bats, top-hatted penguins, all sorts of characters and creatures appeared on the page, undergirded by the idea that everyone could learn how to draw. Following his simple steps, everyone can. Emberley, who has illustrated over 50 books, was born in Malden, studied art at Mass College of Art and Design and RISD, and now lives in Ipswich with his wife, Barbara. Last month, he celebrated his 90th birthday, and was well-feted by the town and the state. He received recognition citations from the Town of Ipswich, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the state Senate, the office of Governor Charlie Baker, and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. Honors aside, he also signed books for kids and made drawings of some of his iconic figures.
In awards news, Martín Espada’s poetry collection “Floaters” (Norton), which we described as “a work of grace-laden defiance,” won the National Book Award. And the Massachusetts Center for the Book has announced the winners of the 21st annual Massachusetts Book Awards. In fiction, Somerville’s Andrew Krivak took the prize for “The Bear” (Bellevue), with honors to Asako Serizawa for “Inheritors” (Doubleday) and “The Yellow Bird Sings” (Flatiron) by Jennifer Rosner. Hingham’s Jerald Walker won the nonfiction prize for “How to Make a Slave and Other Essays” (Ohio State). Honors go to Nicholas A. Basbanes’s “Cross of Snow” (Knopf) and Sara Hendren’s “What Can a Body Do?” (Riverhead). Swampscott’s Enzo Silon Surin’s “When My Body Was a Clinched Fist” (Black Lawrence) took the poetry prize, with honors to Peter Gizzi’s “Now It’s Dark” (Wesleyan) and Kirun Kapur’s “Women in the Waiting Room” (Black Lawrence). In the middle grade/YA category, Northampton’s Mike Curato won for “Flamer” (Holt), with honors to J. Albert Mann’s “The Degenerates” (Atheneum) and “Trowbridge Road” (Candlewick) by Marcella Pixley. And “Wherever I Go” by Westport’s Mary Wagley Copp won the picture book award, with honors to “Seven Golden Rings” (Lee & Low) by Rajani LaRocca, and “Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness” (Candlewick) by Ethan Murrow and Vita Murrow.
“It’s Getting Dark” by Peter Stamm, translated by Michael Hoffmann (Other)
“Mothers, Fathers, and Others: Essays” by Siri Hustvedt (Simon & Schuster)
“The Women I Love” by Francesco Pacifico, translated by Elizabeth Harris (FSG)
Pick of the week
Phil Lewis at the Bennington Bookshop in Bennington, Vt., recommends “Disappearing Earth” by Julia Phillips (Vintage): “Much more than a simple crime novel. It is a beautiful evocation of Kamchatka, its people and peoples. Phillips skillfully portrays the tensions between the Native people, now largely confined to the north, and the settlers who live in the coastal towns. She deals with the customs and culture with respect, bringing this remote area to life, while weaving a wonderful tale that is rich and profoundly moving. This is a marvelous book.”