Give graphics a go 2

Dogs and water is a worthy addition to the not-so long but honourable  tradition of the coming-of-age story done graphic novel style. It was named one of the best graphic novels of the year 2003-2004 and it well deserves this accolade, strange though the story is.

An unidentified young man wanders through a desert with bear strapped to his backpack. He is pursued by wild dogs; first he runs away from them, then he joins the pack and they move off into the far horizon.

None of this is explained and the whole atmosphere of the drawings is one of alienation and loneliness, but in a good way. Nothing is spelt out as the subtle, ashy colours and the nicely simple line drawings invite the reader’s interpretation.

Chance in hellGilbert Hernandez’ last book, Sloth, was a much acclaimed graphic novel and his new one, Chance in hell is just as interesting. It’s the story of Empress, a little orphan girl who lives in the slum of slums, a place where an unnamed city dumps its rubbish and its unwanted children.

Despite the horrors she witnesses as a child Empress looks as though she’s going to manage a happy ending when she is adopted by a kindly man who gives her a good upbringing and then finds a handsome and successful husband.  But her past continues to haunt her as her new life proves to be just as much a prison as the old one.

The direct cartooning style is reminiscent of the classic Marvel and Archie comics Hernandez grew up with, but his combination of sharp drawing,  politics, magic realism and strong characterisation makes something new and memorable.

David Crosby

David Crosby is a fascinating figure; proud owner of a new liver, biological father of Melissa Etheridge’s children and alleged inspiration for Billy, Captain America’s sidekick in Easy rider, as played by Dennis Hopper.

Since then: how I survived everything and lived to tell about it is his autobiography and it’s all here – guns, drugs and rock and roll.  Crosby has been around the music business for a long time, he’s done a lot and he’s seen a lot and refreshingly he doesn’t try to gloss over any of his excesses which is good because loving descriptions of excess is what most of us read rock ‘n roll memoirs for.

Flower Power

CrocusFloral frocks meant summer for about a hundred years and if they don’t any more they should. Whether you wore them yourself or just have fond memories of your mum and nana wearing them this is the book for you. Floral frocks: a celebration of the floral printed dress from 1900 to today will set you afloat on a sea of summery nostalgia for the days when English ladies ran themselves up a nice print frock before motoring off to the seaside when the seaside wasn’t in Spain. From tiny Laura Ashley sprigs to the huge prints we called ‘psychedelic’ in the ’60s the dresses are all here, most poignantly worn by real women in real snapshots.

The book features dresses from an exhibition called Pick of the Bunch at Bath’s Fashion Museum and while the ladies in it are setting off to Eastbourne and Blackpool it could just as well be the Caroline Bay Carnival as the floral frock was as much a part of summer in the Antipodes as it was at ‘Home’.

So I married a Beatle

The George HarrisonPattie BoydEric Clapton love triangle is one of pop music’s most famous. Now Boyd has broken her silence with a new book Wonderful Tonight.  Harrison and Boyd met on the set of A Hard Days Night, and  married after a short courtship.  Their marriage ended when Eric Clapton (who had been dating Pattie’s sister) admitted he was really in love with Pattie.  Pattie was a face of the swinging sixties and inspiration behind many songs, most notably  Harrison’s Something and Clapton’s Layla and Wonderful Tonight.

JohnI’m hoping the book is an honest account of the times.  I didn’t really enjoy Cynthia Lennon’s John, but that might be because I am pro-Yoko Ono.  Her album, Yes I’m a witch has been one of my favourites this year.  On it she collaborates with such noted contemporary musicians as The Flaming Lips, Cat Power and Antony, and it’s interesting to hear how Ono’s distinctive vocals fit quite nicely into the electro-clash sound.