- Lizard in a Zoot Suit by Marco Finnegan
- Samurai Cat in the Real World by Mark E. Rogers
- Jack Vance’s The Face (Demon Princes, Book 4)
- Jack Vance’s The Book of Dreams (Demon Princes, Book 5)
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 1, by Various Artists
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 2, by Various Artists
- Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses and The Anti-Racist Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia Rose Chavez
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 3, by Various Artists
- Wanderhome, by Jay Dragon
- Elements of Fiction, by Walter Mosley
- Hidden Folk, by Eleanor Arnason
- The Wages of Whiteness (Revised Edition) by David R. Roediger
- The Katurran Odyssey by David Michael Wieger, illustrated by Terryl Whitlatch
- Dragons (Time Life Enchanted World)
- May We Borrow Your Husband? and Other Comedies of the Sexual Life by Graham Greene
- Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada by Anna Brownell Jameson
- The Cursed Chateau by James Maliszewski, illustrated by Jez Gordon
- Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
- Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time by James Gurney
- Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave And Other Tales by David Petersen… and a song!
- Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Caregiver and Other Tales by David Petersen
- Thieves’ World edited by Robert Lynn Asprin
- My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
- Fish F*ckers by Kelvin Green
- Saga Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Scourge of the Scornlords: Meatlandia Book III by Ahimsa Kerp and Wind Lothamer
- Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas
- Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall
- The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
- Sirenswail by Dave Mitchell
- Roman Britain by David Shotter
- Saga, Volume 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Menace Under Marswood by Sterling Lanier
- The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
- Muse Sick: a music manifesto in fifty-nine notes by Ian Brennan
- Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure& Folk Magic From Appalachia by Jake Richards
- Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavić, translated by Christina Pribićević-Zorić
- Modern Jazz Voicings: Arranging for Small and Medium Ensembles by Ted Pease and Ken Pullig
- Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason
- The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer by Ron Pattison
- The Planetbreaker’s Son by Nick Mamatas
- The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems by Michael Ondaatje
- Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
- The Sword of Samurai Cat by Mark E. Rogers
- Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- Vermilion by Molly Tanzer
- The Punch Line by Zzarchov Kowolski
- Embassytown by China Miéville
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
- Gyo (Deluxe Edition) by Junji Ito
- Saga, Vols. 2–3, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur
- Smashed and Tomie by Junji Ito
- Uzumaki by Junji Ito
- The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
- Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito
As with other posts in this series, these #booksread2022 posts get published with some lag. I’m trying to be more punctual, though, and this one’s very recent.
So, this post digs into two manga collections by Ito Junji: Smashed and Tomie.
When I recently posted about Uzumaki the other day, I said I’d probably read Tomie next, but I ended up picking up his anthology of shorter horror comics Smashed the other day, and finishing it within 24 hours. It felt very much like the horror comics I read as a kid: short, spicy, and punchy tales that exploded on impact. The dialogue in a lot of these stories is really simple, but the imagery more than makes up for it.
I’m not going to break down the contents story by story—much less rate my favorites—but if you want that, have a look here. That said, I will say that “Smashed,” “Splendid Shadow Song,” and “Earthbound” all were highlights.
I followed that up by reading Tomie, which took me about the same amount of time to read. To be honest, I enjoyed Tomie a bit less than the other works by Ito I’ve discussed here recently. Even without reading Ito’s afterword, I could see that the first chunk was an early-career work (Ito’s first, I gather?): the art was visibly rough enough that I actually wondered why it hadn’t been redone or touched up for the anniversary republication. (Ito’s afterword makes clear how important it was for his career, despite being rough, so I guess it makes sense that he let the art stand as it was.)
I enjoyed Tomie less than I have the other manga by Ito I’ve read in the past few weeks. Where Uzumaki staged a horrific exploration of overpowering natural phenomena, corruption, and fascination, and Gyo explored historical reverberations of past misdeeds and a natural/unnatural incursion from the sea, Tomie centers lust, fascination, and violence.
Though Tomie is often described as a succubus, she’s actually a lot more like a vampire: somehow simultaneously irresistibly attractive, unphotographable and unkillable, parasitic and replicating through occult means, transforming everyone with whom she comes into contact, cruel-minded and shallow. The odd thing is that Tomie never actually kills anyone: she just goes around generating chaos everywhere, surviving murder after murder, creeping other girls and women out. The main difference is that she doesn’t seem to feed on this in an explicitly vampiric way: she craves the attention, but she doesn’t seem to draw sustenance from it—rather, it keeps getting her murdered, (Though she recovers from each murder, in a way, sort of.)
The uncanny often relies on unsettling juxtapositions of everyday things, amplified beyond recognition. So then what’s amplified here? Misogynistic social attitudes; the sexualization of (and obsession with) young, pretty women; the frequency of violence perpetrated by men against women; the jealousy some women feel toward others? That’s not all there is here, but it is there, and I found it pretty uncomfortable to spend 750-odd pages with. Horror’s supposed to be uncomfortable, as I say, but… this felt uncomfortable in a way I felt more troubled by, and which distracted me from the story at times.
The other thing is that Tomie is very episodic. So is everything else by Ito that I’ve read recently, to some degree, but in Uzumaki and Gyo, the episodic structure leads somewhere: eventually, things that surface and disappear back into the narrative stewpot, only to surface again a while later and play a major role. In Tomie, things are a little less tightly connected, more just thematic and resonant than necessarily “coming together” in the way one sees in the other books I’ve read. But then, it is an early work, and there’s an undeniable creepiness to how the thing develops throughout—like Tomie, fruiting jagged recreations of that first, unsettling narrative in the book, jutting every which way.