A lovely set of writings that draw inspiration from the natural world.

THE GARDEN

PERENNIAL REFLECTIONS ON BEGINNINGS AND ENDS

A collection of meditative essays centered on the practical and spiritual aspects of gardening.

Frode, the author of the short story collection Dreaming of Fish & Other Apocalyptic Stories of Foreboding and Grace (2018), among other works, assembles 56 short reflections inspired by his life and his love of gardening. Each chapter features small, full-color illustrations that include garden images. The mood for each essay is set by an opening quotation from a thinker and writer, such as Henry David Thoreau, Mohandas Gandhi, Wendell Berry, W.S. Merwin, or Thich Nhat Hanh. The entries cover a wide range of topics, from the practical to the sublime, making the volume of interest to both seasoned and novice gardeners. Frode explores the myriad possibilities of the garden’s revolving seasons, which he describes as “metaphors for life and death.” His reflections are sometimes highly personal, giving the volume a memoirlike quality. The chapter “Hands” features a photo montage of the author’s own hands, front and back, and reflections of what they’ve handled over a lifetime, including model cars, a concrete Japanese lantern, and, of course, garden vegetables. In another essay, he pays tribute to friendships and lessons that he learned during his younger days at a Trappist monastery.However, the volume is most successful when the reflections consider universal themes, such as the wonders of the natural world; the meanings of longing, memory, and healing; and the notion that “Gardening is an exercise in beginnings and ends.” The chapters vary in form, from original poetry in “Garden Poems” to spiritual instructions in “How To Grow a Garden.” Although the author suggests that gardening is a form of prayer, the emphasis throughout his book is on contemplative practice rather than religious faith. The work’s meditative qualities, attractive design, and evocative, graceful prose make it a treat for well-read gardeners.

A lovely set of writings that draw inspiration from the natural world.

Pub Date: March 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-79483-116-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Lulu.com

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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