Friday, April 27, 2012

“No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales”

By Adrian Raeside
ISBN No. 978-1-55017-596-7

The first thing you should know about Adrian Raeside is that he’s lived on Salt Spring Island and Vancouver Island so he draws what he knows: terrible ferry service. Departure delays, high ticket prices, and bad cafeteria food are just some of his nitpicks about a system so broken that it’s beyond political repair. In this collection of 30 years of ferry-themed comic strips, goofy ferry officials, stunned patrons, and inept politicians make regular appearances. Unless you’re an employee of B.C. Ferries it’s hard not to appreciate the humour. Raeside’s trademark, of course, is his lumpy, misshapen characters who convey their level of gullibility by being either chin-less or borderline obese. Few cartoonists do “wide-eyed” characters better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Looking Blackward”

By Arthur Black
ISBN No. 978-1-55017-590-5
www.harbourpublishing.com

Yes, yes, the title is a groaner – but then the author has a lot to groan about: bad tattoos, frivolous lawsuits, and crimes of fashion. That he’s basically complaining about the bad habits of the big cities from the safe distance of Salt Spring Island is probably the most hilarious thing about the book.
If you enjoyed Black on CBC’s “Basic Black” then you know what to expect with “Looking Blackward”: a bit of history, a bit of humour, an affectionate hair tousle of all the stupid Canadians and ex-pats who inspired such chapters as “Internet: You Get What You Pay For”, “The Hundred-Mile Diet. Not” and “Spread Your Tiny Wings” (in which Black says he’s “sexually intimidated by Newfoundland – it’s on page 71 for anyone reading this on a mobile device in a Chapters bookstore). Some of the book is very funny (the first chapter is about using newspapers as gardening tarp); other parts a strrrretch of context (Black compares the business suit to a cockroach. Oo-kay…). It’s an enjoyable book: witty, smart, thoughtful. Still, how you actually ENJOY the book may depend on HOW you read it. If you read it quickly its observations and indictments feel like manic stand-up comedy. Let your eyes take in each and every word and its gentle confessions and clever insights sound just like listening to late night CBC Radio.

“Benevolence”

By Cynthia Holz
ISBN No. 978-0-307-39890-1
www.randomhouse.ca

Attention all writers of fish-out-of-water, courage-under-fire, romantic-vampire-fiction: See how easy it is to write an original story?
“Benevolence” is an original – of sorts. It’s tempered by enough smarts (in character, motivation, plot) to compensate for its clich├ęs (much of the book reads like script direction). The result is a book that feels oddly fresh and inventive.
We are audience to a childless marriage between a psychiatrist and a psychologist. The former assesses candidates for organ transplants; the latter is currently treating a phobic woman who lost her husband in a train crash. This pair of doctors might have been happy at one time but the daily grind of all things academic, highbrow and just plain petty have turned their marital bliss into blitz.
When they take in a boarder (and his secrets) as a kind of child substitute this dyad of a family takes on a whole new dynamic – one better left for the reader to explore at their own pace. Yes, the set-up might ring bells with those partial to stories about people building their own families of “chosen” relatives but the real pleasure of the book is its many illustrations of how people try, fail or succeed to connect with other human beings in a world full of cultural junk food.