Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository by Christina Zamon (2012)

A little light professional reading sometimes sneaks into my pile, and that was exactly the case with The Lone Arranger: Succeeding in a Small Repository by Christina Zamon (2012). Archivists refer to themselves as "Lone Arrangers" if they, like me, are a one-person outfit. Aren't archivists hilarious?

In this book, Zamon seeks to give an overview of all the different aspects of running an archive (setting up policies, collecting material, providing access, controlling the environment, processing and describing collections, doing outreach, and more), but with an eye towards adapting the usual archival best practices to the reality of a one-person shop with a small budget.

This book came out of Zamon's leadership with the Society of American Archivists Lone Arrangers Roundtable, and she was able to bring in case studies from many of the roundtable members to add different perspectives to her text. Her experience as a lone arranger makes her well qualified to write an overview book like this one, and it was so refreshing to read some professional literature that spoke to the realities of a small repository like mine (yes, I know archival theory and best practices and ideal procedures, but those seldom work when you don't have enough time or money to implement them). While some of the chapters were shorter than I would have liked, I think the length and pacing was just right for this kind of overview. I'd love to see some more in-depth pieces on different aspects of archival enterprise from a lone arranger perspective sometime. Maybe we can get a sequel!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Best American Comics 2008, edited by Lynda Barry (2008)

My latest read from the St. Denis bookshelf is The Best American Comics 2008, edited by Lynda Barry (2008), another in the extremely satisfying "Best American Comics" anthology series.

As with the other volume of this series that I've read, the anthology brings together a nice mix of familiar names (Ware, Barry, Geary, Bechdel, Groening, Derf), and a sprinkling of enjoyable new artists. Barry, true to form, presents her introduction as a comic where she leads us through her changing relationship with comics and art and the importance of the much-maligned comic strip in the world of "Graphic Novels" (especially for the children of today who will become the artists and readers of the future).

That being said, some of the entries in this volume were a little too comic strippy for this graphic novel devotee to really get into, especially without a little more context for the characters in the strips. I did come away with some new (to me) artists that I'd like to check out more of, including Nick Bertozzi, Lilli Carré ("The Thing About Madeline" was one of my favorite pieces in the book), Jason Lutes, and Sarah Oleksyk.

What can I say -- anthologies are fun, and anthologies of comics are even funner. 2008, you were a pretty good year (comically).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jack: Adventures in Texas' Big Bend by Chris Ruggia (2010-2014)

I picked up the three volume set of Jack: Adventures in Texas' Big Bend by Chris Ruggia (2010-2014) from the author at Austin's STAPLE! convention this past spring and I'm so glad I did!

Ruggia lives in Alpine, Texas and through his experiences in the region crafted these adventures of Jack (a non-native jackrabbit who finds himself in Big Bend due to some unusual circumstances) and his new friend Mel, an extremely extroverted and charming kangaroo rat with a very big imagination. In the course of their time together they come across predators, friends, rainstorms, vegetation, and, of course, some serious adventures. Ruggia ends each volume with a scientific look at the real flora and fauna that make up the fascinating Big Bend region. The straightforward and compelling drawings and nice paced stories seal the deal: these are really fun comics that work equally well for adults or kids.

Find out more or buy your own on Ruggia's site here:

Support a great Texas artist and storyteller and learn about Big Bend at the same time -- you can't go wrong!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Austin's First Cookbook: Our Home Recipes, Remedies and Rules of Thumb by Michael C. Miller (2015)

I really couldn't be happier with Austin's First Cookbook: Our Home Recipes, Remedies and Rules of Thumb by Michael C. Miller (2015) [in partnership with the Austin History Center], and not just because Mike is a fellow-archivist and good friend.

When Mike and his colleagues were researching an exhibit on early foodways in Austin, they came across an intriguing book in their collection, the Our Home Cookbook compiled by the women of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church as a fundraiser in 1891. Few other libraries held the book, the earliest known published cookbook from Austin, and the copy at the Austin History Center was very fragile, but filled with fascinating information reflecting the lives and values of the women who put it together. Mike and his publisher decided to reprint the volume, including all the penciled in notes from its previous owners, in order to share the history with the Austin community (and beyond!).

To add to the fun, Mike wrote a well-researched introduction delving into Austin life in the 1890s and the biographies of about a dozen of the women who contributed recipes. Rounding things off are an essay on the history of cookbooks in Austin and an exhaustive bibliography of every cookbook written, published, or about Austin, Texas. The beginning and concluding essays include lots of historic photographs, reproduced from the collections at the Austin History Center.

The book is nicely printed and the reproduced cookbook is crisply scanned and easy to read. The recipes are fascinatingly vague, sometimes pretty gross sounding, and often intriguing (you can broil deviled eggs?). If you buy this, you will never need another recipe for fruit cake! An unexpectedly fascinating part of the cookbook are the many ads that local businesses put at the beginning and end of the publication, a common practice at the time, which give a little more flavor to this piece of Austin history (see what I did there?).

Y'all. Go buy this book. All proceeds benefit the Austin History Center, and you will get some serious enjoyment from it. Great job, Mike!