Between 1956 and 1966, Jules Feiffer drew a satirical comic strip (initially called Sick, Sick, Sick) for The Village Voice.  All the strips have been reprinted in a volume titled The Explainers, which I’m working my way through.  I read a lot of them originally in the 60s, when they started to be collected in paperback editions.

Reading them today, I’m struck by how relevant they remain.  The specific cultural references have dated, but the issues — unpopular wars, political hypocrisy, insufferable hipsterism, manic consumerism and discombobulated gender relations — are depressingly au courant.


They chart the Age Of Anxiety as it transformed into the Age Of Hysteria, neither all that different from the current Age Of Hysterical Anxiety.  Their wit seems as sharp as ever — not always the case with satire as it ages — and their insights as acute.

Click on the images to enlarge.



Ben Katchor is one of the truly great modern comic strip artists.  He has a quirky drawing style, influenced a bit by the work of Ben Shahn, and quirky obsessions.  Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer is a Katchor strip that appears in The Forward and other publications.  Some of the strips are collected in The Beauty Supply District, a book I’m reading now.

They’re set in an imaginary New York that resembles sections of the real New York as it once was, vestiges of which remain — clusters of small-time manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers of modest industrial products and novelties.

When I first moved to New York in the 1970s I lived on a street in Chelsea which housed many such establishments — a maker of flags, a maker of coat-hangers, a maker of trophies.  They’re all gone from my old neighborhood now, but they live on in Katchor’s strips, along with the eccentric salesmen who used to hawk such goods, the local cafes and delis that served the owners and employees of such firms.

They become in Katchor’s strips a kind of self-enclosed universe of desperate hustle and  baffled ambition and weary resignation.  It’s a universe that seems to know it’s doomed but carries on regardless.  Today’s New Yorkers are dining in upscale restaurants that once housed cheap novelty display rooms, living in wildly expensive lofts where flags were once sewn.  Katchor’s world is populated by the characters whose ghosts must still haunt such places.



Complete runs of most of the great strips from the Golden Age of American comics have been or are being issued in excellent editions by the likes of Fantagraphics Books, IDW Publishing and Sunday Press Books.  I’m a collector of many of these reprint series, working my way through them with great pleasure.  Here’s a report on my progress through The Complete Peanuts:

I’m in early stages with this strip, in the middle of 1953.  The tone of the strip at this point, wry and genial, is still a bit bland.  The center of the strip, Charlie Brown, has taken full shape as the good-natured but anxiety-ridden everyman he will remain, but the characters around him have yet to coalesce into iconic figures, though Snoopy is closing in on iconic status.

Charles Schulz, Brown’s creator, still seems to see the strip as a series of observations on childhood, not on Life Itself — in short, the universe of the strip has not yet become mythic.  But it’s getting there.

Click on the image to enlarge.



I don’t open presents before Christmas Day.  Since I’d be on the road then this year, I just took a few presents to open in whatever motel I’d be staying at when the day rolled around (you can see them here) — the rest I left at home to open when I got back.  It would still be Christmas, of course, which doesn’t end until Twelfth Night, 5 January.

The haul was rich.

Mary and Paul sent me two choice Criterion titles:


Adrienne and Bill sent me this terrific Robert Crumb art book — for adult intellectuals only:


J. B. sent me a CD of new tracks he’s been recording over the past year in Nashville — they might be available on iTunes before too long and if so I’ll let everybody know, because they are magnificent:


My sister Anna sent me a gift basket of treats from North Carolina — which are mostly eaten and so can’t be photographed:


My sister Libba sent me a supply of smoked salmon and tuna, which her family makes in Upstate New York — the best in the world:


Jack White sent me a complimentary LP from his label Third Man Records, as a beau geste because a larger set of LPs I’d ordered was delayed:


My cup runneth over — thanks to all!

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David Irving is a brilliant and indefatigable researcher into the history of WWII.  He has mastered the surviving German archives as no other investigator has and he has had a knack for getting surviving German military and political figures to talk to him.  He probably knows more about the German war effort, and in greater detail, than any historian alive.

He also seems to have a screw loose — revealed in a vague sympathy with Naziism and a disposition to anti-Semitism, often conveyed more by innuendo than by direct expressions of opinion — and this wobbly screw drives people crazy, which is understandable.  It should certainly make us question his historical conclusions, if not his facts, which always seem to be in impeccable order.


Irving delights in pointing out that there is no documentary evidence that Hitler ordered or even knew about the Final Solution set in motion by his minions.  It violates common sense to think that Hitler didn’t order or approve the actions of his subordinates in a project of such scale, the surviving documentary record notwithstanding — so why does Irving make such a fuss over the missing “evidence”?  To suggest that Hitler wasn’t the monster every reasonable persons knows he was?  That seems to be his aim.

It’s this sort of thing that has branded Irving a scoundrel — but scoundrel or not, he must be read, read with a degree of skepticism, of course, but read.  You simply won’t find the information he has to offer anywhere else.


His massive biography of Joseph Goebbels, withdrawn from publication in the U. S. due to a campaign of invective against its author, is now back in print in England and can be had from Irving’s web site here.

I can understand not wanting to support Irving personally by buying his books.  On the other hand, if you want to know all that can be known about Goebbels’s life, you will need to place this volume on your reading list, if not on your open shelves.



I just got this book via eBay.  I lost my original copy of it somehow in the course of a break-up in 1977 and have been trying to find another one ever since — that is, for 37 years.

It’s not what a bookseller would call a rare book, because it’s not in much demand, but it’s scarce, because it didn’t have a big print run.  I got it for slightly less than its list price when it was first published in 1973, with free shipping in the bargain.  It’s in very good condition, nearly fine except for slightly bumped corners and a few small tears in the dust jacket, easily repaired.

Patience has been richly rewarded.



Sincere and Romantic

This latest collection of Western short stories from Lloyd Fonvielle presents six tales that are poignant, sometimes humorous, often with a bittersweet tone. My favorite story in the collection is “Hidden Canyon”, set against the backdrop of a silent film production, which Fonvielle depicts in colorful detail. Another standout is “Young Love”, which is quite touching without being overly-sentimental. That describes what Fonvielle has achieved here with these stories, which are sincere and romantic without ever hitting a false note.

For book details go here:

Six Western Love Stories



Fonvielle’s ‘Six Western Love Stories’

. . . isn’t a romance novel. No moon in June, pie in the sky, lovey dovey BS. The love in these short stories is sometimes given and sometimes taken, It’s hard and it’s rough, born of necessity, lust and greed. There are turns of tenderness though but that tenderness seemingly comes with time and life lived. Descriptive and colorful, I found myself living through these stories, being in them for the moments they took me to read. That’s the best I can say about these stories. They draw you in and make you partake. The only disappointment is when they’re over.

For book details go here:

Six Western Love Stories