Books: 575

The Sacred Era
Yoshio Aramaki
University of Minnesota Press

A tale that includes a past history of a parched and barren Earth might seem an obvious trope for today, but the author of The Sacred Era (Shinseidai) was born in Japan in 1933, while Era, considered his magnum opus, was written in 1978. A work of speculative fiction, the book melds the post-apocalyptic with space travel, religion, heresy, family, romance, and sex. In a distant future, youthful protagonist K arrives at the Papal Court of the Holy Empire of Igitur to take the Sacred Exam. He succeeds, and passes on through far worlds, mysterious, dream- and nightmare-like, and trackless space to planet Bosch, a giant, floating plant world where…where it’s best to hie yourself and personally experience K’s epiphany with the assumed centuries-dead heretic Darko Dachilko.

A Hiss Before Dying
Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown

Brown and Brown take the reader again to Crozet, Virginia, for their 26th mystery alternating adventures of present day inhabitants (particularly human sleuth “Harry” Harristeen and cats Mrs. Murphy and Pewter with Corgi, Tee Tucker) with the town’s 18th century founders. Now, the animal posse finds an eyeball and strip of skin on their wanderings, while a wealthy private investigator and art collector’s corpse is found nearby. Native American art thefts, slave chits used by earlier citizenry, and the lives of original owners and slaves are woven skillfully into this intriguing tale. As always, the Browns make the history of the area and the lives of the departed, on whose lands Harry and the others live and whose toil created their town, as absorbing as the present.

John Stanley: Giving Life to Little Lulu
Bill Schelly
Fantagraphic Books

John Stanley’s personal life is more opaque than many of his contemporaries. In this oversized volume with many color illustrations, Bill Schelly, author of several other excellent biographies, here presents what is known through interviews with Stanley, his son, Jim, and others. Stanley started as an opaquer for Max Fleischer in 1934, moved on to Western, illustrating Tom and Jerry for Our Gang Comics. Litte Lulu, created by Marjorie (Marge) Lyman Henderson in 1935, came to Stanley through Western in 1944; the rest is history. He both wrote and drew from 1945 to ’59, writing for himself (or co-worker Walt Kelly), “but never the faceless mass of kids.” And it shows. Schelly writes clearly and accessibly, never letting his ardor for his subject slide into fanboy apotheosization.

The Atheist and the Parrotfish
Richard Barager
Evolved Publishing

Science and religion; often strange bedfellows. Stories here twine around nephrologist Cullen Brodie, his patient and heart-kidney transplantee, Ennis Willoughby, and others whose past lives and sins drive their various, often compulsive, behaviors. Ennis, 63, a somewhat down-and-out is a cross-dresser who finds that he will be a recipient. Unusual in these cases, Brodie knows the donor, his superior’s daughter-in-law, wife of a co-worker. Ennis begins to get “messages” from his new organs and divines, correctly, her gender and name, her favorite tastes. Atheist Brodie poo-poohs Ennis’s rantings, putting them onto his guilt at cross-dressing as “Elaine,” (who he feels is antagonistic to donor Carla) but he, too, is immersed in old guilts and misdemeanors. In this tale, religion (Roman Catholicism) wins the day.

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