Amy Fusselman is the author of The Pharmacist’s Mate (McSweeney’s Books, $16) and editor of the art-and-writing Web site SurgeryofModernWarfare.com. Here she lists her recent favorite books and on-line comics.
The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again by Caleb Carr (Random House, $19.95). I’ve been hungry for art and writing that deals with 9/11, and I’m not talking about another “I was standing at my kitchen window when…” article. This book was a gigantic relief to read, because it deals intelligently and straightforwardly with the problem-that is, the war we’re now in-without either dancing around the gravity of it or wallowing in hysteria. I’m praying it’s on Rumsfeld’s reading list.
Get Your War On by David Rees (www.mnftiu.cc). Right after 9/11, Rees published this brilliant series of comics online. They were a joy to read, because unlike a lot of other artists, Rees didn’t comment on the attacks by striking a grieving pose. Instead, his clip-art depicted office workers saying things like, “Good God, these are some powerful antidepressants I’m taking! Even my smiles are smiling!”
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The Impossibly by Laird Hunt (Coffeehouse Press, $24). This is a smart, heart-wrenching meditation on perception, masquerading as a noir novel. It’s also hilarious. His unnamed, immensely likable narrator bumbles through an ominous landscape, enjoying the simple things: pear pastries, or the feeling of wearing shorts. Hunt, a gifted poet, also has a way with asides: One about fighting robots is worth the price of the book.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, $52). Like many people, I read the trilogy this fall, and was mesmerized. But after completing the series (and seeing the movie, natch) there is the problem of what to do until next Christmas’ film is out. As someone who fell head over heels in love with the wizard Gandalf, I found it very satisfying to follow up LotR with:
Autobiography and Other Writings by Benjamin Franklin (Penguin USA, $8). Franklin, whose writing voice is very Gandalf-like in its restraint and humility, might be the original American wizard: His jaw-droppingly ambitious attempt to achieve moral perfection (or, as he puts it, to "live without committing any Fault at any time") is nothing short of heroic, particularly in light of the fact that he attempted this without having any access (that we know of) to wizardly powers-other than that of wielding a pen.
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