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From The Champaign Library

Yes, we don't need big letters to find buildings

Over at the Newsarama blog Michael Lorah writes an occasional column titled “It Came From the NYPL” where he highlights some of the graphic novels he finds in the New York public library system. Just the variety of books he finds makes me a little envious. Not that I really want my library to have a copy of the imaginary sons of Superman and Batman stories, but my city’s library in Champaign, Illinois could have a better selection. On past visits I’ve seen copies of the entire Sandman series and the two Age of Bronze books, and Marjane Satrapi’s books about life in Iran. There are copies of different Bone volumes in the children’s section that have yet to cause a controversy as one did for a Minneapolis parent.

Maybe you’re thinking “But you live in some town in the middle of Illinois! What do you expect?” Sure, not an unreasonable thought except we have a huge university here and an otherwise outstanding library in a beautiful new building. Even the smaller library in Urbana, the other twin in the Champaign-Urbana twin cities combo, has a huge graphic novel collection in comparison.

Maybe it’s catching up though because there were several pleasant surprises on my last two library visits. On one visit I turned the corner in the new collection area and zeroed in on the yellow and red cover of The Beats, a roughly 200 paged compilation of stories acting as overviews and a primer of the lives of a number of Beat poets. Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs receive the most attention and also their homo and bisexuality, along with a number of lesser known names. This book brought to light for me the group of women like Diane Di Prima who were also Beat poets. I wish more space had been given over to tell these women’s stories, and I think I’ll save further comments for a review.

Tove Jansson’s Moomin and other works are completely new to me. The cover image is certainly colorful and unmistakably aimed at children, though I imagine her stories are the Finnish equivalent of Peanuts in that adults appreciate it, too. Her line drawings are curvy and playful and the black and white art is printed on cream colored paper. I’m looking forward to reading it.

But noir crime West Coast Blues, Jacques Tardi’s adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette is due back first so will be the next book to read. Also done in black and white, West Coast Blues has back cover thumbs up recommendations from Ed Brubaker and Howard Chaykin.

The biggest surprise of all was Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko. The book caught my attention when it was recently solicited in Previews, but the $40 price was out of my budget even if I’d been certain I wanted to have it. See, going against popular opinion, I’ve never been a great fan of Ditko’s style. Yes, admitting that, let alone thinking it, is heretical to some of you. With just over 200 pages focusing on the life and career of one of comics most singular artists and full of color and black and white reproductions, this book is probably less for the die hard fan than it is for the unacquainted, or like me, someone who previously avoided Ditko’s work whenever possible.

That’s it for me though I’m curious to know what graphic novel and comics related treasures your library has!

Amazon has sneak peek looks to each of these books except for Moomin volume 1 (volume 2, yes). Click the above links!

May 9, 2010
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