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What It Is

Lynda Barry
Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95/hardcover
Leave it to a cartoonist to one-up the illuminated books of William Blake and the cut-up consciousness of William Burroughs. Lynda Barrys What It Is manages to evoke both, while also conveying a warmth and humanity beyond the reach of either. In this extraordinary book of full-page collages, childhood reminiscences and philosophical musings, Barry explores the artistic impulse, inner (and outer) critics and the primacy of the image in the creative process. I believe we have always done this, she writes, used images to stand and understand what otherwise would be intolerable. Think of this as a magical realist version of The Artists Way, with touches of Joseph Campbell and cognitive theory thrown in. And, maybe even a little Will Rogers. Thinking is not the same as creating, muses Barry, though the thinking part of us seems completely unaware of this. Bill Forman

To get the book: What It Is


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No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever

Aviva Yael and P.M. Chen
Grand Central Publishing, $16.99/paperback
Heres one book you can absolutely judge by its cover: a photo of a bald man with an alien face tattooed on the back of his head, and a crappily executed alien invasion back piece. No Regrets, the culmination of dedicated tattoo-hunting by its author, is simply brilliant . A hilarious foreword by comedian David Cross who predicts painful suicide for at least a handful of the bad tat owners sets the tone, which is continued through sardonic captions accompanying each photo. Though scary, inked portraits of silly pop culture icons such as Alf, Corky, Chuck Norris, Ron Jeremy and others dont compare to horrific blemishes like a bong-smoking dolphin in a recliner, fornicating unicorns or a masturbating Taz. Ponder permanence with this book in hand, and enliven your coffee table banter. Matthew Schniper

To get the book: No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & Most #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever


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Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian

Scott Douglas
Da Capo Press, $25/hardcover
Those of us who love books also tend to love the places where we find books. So I really wanted to love Quiet, Please and its insiders look at the secret world of libraries. And for about 125 pages, I found it amusing. Written by a young librarian at Californias Anaheim Public Library, it debunks stereotypes about librarians (theyre not all sweet little old ladies) and patrons (some prefer watching porn on library computers). But as the narrative wears on, Douglas sounds more and more condescending as he describes the craziness of co-workers and patrons. When he finally describes low-income kids enjoying free popcorn as a scene from a miniature Calcutta, and dramatically recalls an incident when he gave a man with a mental disability a Christmas cookie as if the small gift made him Mother Teresa Id read enough. Jill Thomas

To get the book: Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian

  • What It Is; No Regrets; Quiet, Please

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