11/04 Front Table Newsletter

November 3rd, 2023


On This Week's Front Table, delve into stories of the every-day along with narratives of unchartered territory; whether that's through essays about every-day life from one of the masterminds of the genre, to a study of how ordinary friendships in low income communities create support networks of care,  to the often unthought of dream life of animals and it's subsequent moral implications, to combining both elements of the known and the unknown in creating an abolitionist world based on the principles of adaptation, transformation, and interdependence. Explore these titles and more at semcoop.com.

(Fantagraphic Books Inc) 
Daniel Clowes

Five years in the making, Monica marks the apex of creativity from one of the defining voices of the graphic novel boom over the past quarter-century. A new book from Clowes is always a huge event in comics and literary circles; Monica is a series of interconnected narratives that collectively tell the life story -- actually, stories -- of its title character. Clowes calls upon a lifetime of inspiration to create the most complex and personal graphic novel of his distinguished career. Rich with visual detail, an impeccable ear for language and dialogue, and thrilling twists, Monica is a multilayered masterpiece in comics form that alludes to many of the genres that have defined the medium -- war, romance, horror, crime, the supernatural, etc. -- but in a mysterious, uncategorizable, and quintessentially Clowesian way that rewards multiple readings.

Practicing New Worlds
(AK Press) 
Andrea Ritchie 

Practicing New Worlds explores how principles of emergence, adaptation, iteration, resilience, transformation, interdependence, decentralization and fractalization can shape organizing toward a world without the violence of surveillance, police, prisons, jails, or cages of any kind, in which we collectively have everything we need to survive and thrive. Rooted in analysis of current abolitionist practices and interviews with on-the-ground organizers resisting state violence, building networks to support people in need of abortion care, and nurturing organizations and convergences that can grow transformative cities and movements, Practicing New Worlds takes readers on a journey of learning, unlearning, experimentation, and imagination to dream the worlds we long for into being.

When Animals Dream
(Princeton University Press) 
David M Pena-Guzman 

Are humans the only dreamers on Earth? What goes on in the minds of animals when they sleep? David Peña-Guzmán uncovers evidence of animal dreaming throughout the scientific literature, suggesting that many animals run "reality simulations" while asleep, with a dream-ego moving through a dynamic and coherent dreamscape. He builds a convincing case for animals as conscious beings and examines the thorny scientific, philosophical, and ethical questions it raises. Once we accept that animals dream, we incur a host of moral obligations and have no choice but to rethink our views about who animals are and the interior lives they lead. A mesmerizing journey into the otherworldly domain of nonhuman consciousness, When Animals Dream carries profound implications for contemporary debates about animal cognition, animal ethics, and animal rights, challenging us to regard animals as beings who matter, and for whom things matter.

The Devil's Treasure
(McNally Editions) 
Mary Gaitskill

Mary Gaitskill is unique among American novelists in "her ability to evoke the hidden life, the life unseen, the life we don't even know we are living."* In this searching biography of the writer's imagination, Gaitskill excavates her own novels, revealing their origins and obsessions, the personal and societal pressures that formed them, and the life story hidden between their pages. Using the techniques of collage, The Devil's Treasure splices fiction together with commentary and personal history, and with the fairy tale that gives the book its title, about a little girl who ventures into Hell through a suburban cellar door. A rare work of criticism, memoir, and mythography from an author "aware of all the hidden chambers of the heart." (Greil Marcus, New York Times Magazine)

A Year and a Day
(New York Review of Books) 
Phillip Lopate

In 2016, Philip Lopate, who has been writing essays and thinking about the essay for decades now, turned his attention to one of the essay's offshoots, the blog, a form by that time already thick, as he knew, with virtual dust. Lopate committed to writing a weekly blog about, really, whatever over the course of a year, a quicker pace of delivery than he'd ever undertaken and one that carried the risk of all too regularly falling short. What emerged was A Year and a Day, a collection of forty-seven essays best characterized as a single essay a year in the making, a virtuosic (if never showy) demonstration of the essay's range and reach, meandering, looping back, pressing reset, forging on. Lopate's topics along the way include family, James Baldwin, a trip to China, Agnes Martin, Abbas Kiarostami, the resistible rise of Donald Trump, death, desire, and the tribulations, small and large, of daily life. What results is at once a self-portrait, a picture of the times, and a splendid new elaboration of what the essay can be.

The Perfect Bastard
(Curbstone Press) 
Quinn Carver Johnson 

Quinn Carver Johnson's debut collection, The Perfect Bastard, follows its titular protagonist, a nonbinary and queer professional wrestler, as they travel across Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, working for a booker known as the Puppeteer. Inspired by their idol Adrian Street, the Perfect Bastard strives to positively represent queerness and resist the Puppeteer's stereotypical and demeaning kayfabe. When offered success on the grandest scale--the championship belt--in exchange for mocking their own queerness, the Perfect Bastard questions their path: Will they betray their identity to achieve their dream, or will they walk away from the world of professional wrestling--a world that refuses to make a genuine, healthy space for them?

My Girls: The Power of Friendship in a Poor Neighborhood
(University of California Press) 
Jasmin Sandelson 

My Girls explores the overlooked yet transformative power of female friendship in a low-income Boston-area neighborhood. In this innovative and compassionate book, researcher Jasmin Sandelson joins teenage girls in their homes, at their hangouts and parties, and online to show how they use their connections to secure the care and support that adults in their lives can't give. Friendships among young people in poor, urban communities--often framed as "risky" sources of peer pressure and conflict--offer crucial support and self-esteem. In a new, positive take that reveals the primacy of phones and social media in contemporary friendships, Sandelson demonstrates how girls look to one another to battle boredom, find stability, embrace adulthood, and process trauma and grief. This illuminating study--one of the first to combine digital and in-person fieldwork--blends firsthand narratives with tweets, Snaps, and Instagram and Facebook posts. My Girls places young women of color at the center of their own stories to illuminate the worlds of love and care they create.