Friday, July 31, 2020


I loved this graphic novel by Emil Ferris: My Favorite Thing is Monsters! It's set in 1960s Chicago and, via memory/tape, World War II. Since I lived in Chicago for 20 years as a grownup and was alive in the 1960s as a kid, I recognized a lot of places and major events, including the terrible and heartbreaking assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Chicago's devastating response to it.

The story is "told" by a young girl, Karen, who is drawing it as she goes. She's got a tough, interesting life, that's for sure, full of mystery and, yes, monsters. The girl and author see something wonderful in some monsters. "The bad monsters want the world to look the way they want it to. They need people to be afraid... Bad monsters are all about control... They want the whole world to be scared so that bad monsters can call the shots..." Yep. Good monsters are dealing with what's happened to them in ways that can include kindness, love, smarts, vulnerability, and resourcefulness.

It was great to see the Aragon Ballroom, Graceland Cemetery, and paintings from the Art Institute in this book. I think I did a poetry reading once in one of the old buildings. And my path has crossed with the fellow in the story seen as a genius by Karen's brother. The art is fantastic. It recreates the girl's notebook, down to the lines and metal spiral binding.

This is book one, and I can't wait for book two, but I'll have to; it's been delayed, as was book one. The first delays had to do with West Nile virus, a change in publishers, and a freight company going bankrupt, leaving 100,000 copies of the book stalled in a ship at the Panama Canal. I think book two is now delayed till the fall of 2021. But so is everything else!

Random reading coincidences: References to Greek myths + a character named Sonja in both The Untelling and My Favorite Thing is Monsters, along with the death of MLK, Jr. A cat in a cemetery scene in both Monsters and Empire Falls (another Richard Russo book.) It's like everything I read is fitting together. And today's random coincidence was another cool graphic novel, this one a noir story, also connected to other books, by Jules Feiffer, who I always thought of as a playwright and cartoonist. Now he's doing this, too: Cousin Joseph, a prequel to Kill My Mother (need to read), to be followed by The Ghost Script (still to come).

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