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How We Assembled Indiespensable #13

We've always been on the lookout for a non-traditional narrative to feature in Indiespensable, but, up until now, couldn't find a book that struck precisely the right chord.

Previous contenders lacked the breadth and the universal appeal that we strive to achieve. Plots weren't sufficiently stirring, authors too obscure or too well known, art too cartoony, too generic, or too abstract. We're a picky bunch.

And then the stars aligned. We saw Stitches, published by W. W. Norton & Co.

Like other "important" graphic works [Stitches] seems destined to sit beside...this is a frequently disturbing, pitch-black funny, ultimately cathartic story whose full impact can only be delivered in the comics medium....If there's any fight left in the argument that comics aren't legitimate literature, this is just the thing to enlighten the naysayers.

So says Booklist, and we couldn't agree more. Megan, who up until this point didn't consider herself a graphic novel fan, was considerably moved by both the narrative and the medium.Megan, who up until this point didn't consider herself a graphic novel fan, was considerably moved by both the narrative and the medium. "The memoir transcended the genre. It became something of its own definition," she said.

Dave found it intriguing that author David Small, 64, a Newbery and Caldecott award-winning children's book illustrator (of more than 40 titles), is only now telling his own story. With an inkling that this was worth further investigation, Dave interviewed Small — you'll find a portion of their fascinating exchange included in the package.

Then Jill stumbled across the paperback original from HarperCollins, How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall. Already long-listed for the Booker Prize, the Sunday Telegraph called this gorgeous quartet of artists' voices a "deeply sensual intelligent page-turner which, perversely, you also want to read slowly to savour."

Jill was impressed. (This is no small feat.) "Thematically, in some ways it's similar to Stitches," she mused. "Let's add it to the box." Done.

And finally, it should come as no surprise that we have a soft spot in our hearts for Merge Records, a scrappy independent outfit celebrating its 20th anniversary. Its "get big, stay small" philosophy has allowed it to emerge as a prosperous role model in a volatile industry. We'd like to think it bears striking similarities to another independent business we know... Enjoy this sneak peek into Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records from our friends over at Algonquin Books.

And there you have it: Indiespensable #13. Unlucky? No way.

÷ ÷ ÷

A collective of high muckamucks, the Panjandrums largely spend their time in competitive Bananagram duels and negotiations regarding Pie Friday — not to mention painstakingly designing each installment of Powell's subscription club, Indiespensable, with the help of independent publishers and local merchants. From time to time, they find it entertaining to give you a look at the hows and whys behind the what. But, if you're yearning for more, send questions, suggestions, and random anecdotes to (They especially like stories about pets, babies, and pie fillings.)

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Stitches
    Used Hardcover $9.95
  2. How to Paint a Dead Man (P.S.)
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  3. Our Noise: The Story of Merge... Used Trade Paper $10.00

3 Responses to "How We Assembled Indiespensable #13"

    DeniseB October 1st, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    I am only part of the way through "Stitches" but it is fascinating. I have never considered myself "into" this kind of a book (graphic novel?) but it is incredibly interesting. I study each frame and find something I did not see at a glance (even on the cover of the book) The story is satisfyingly sad and great. I am a new convert! Now, how do I find more??

    DeniseB October 1st, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Go to "graphic novels" and click. Duh.
    You guys make it seem so easy!!

    Dryn Durley November 24th, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    This is truly an extraordinary book that does not, and will not, fit into any pre-existing category of subject or genre. This book is a personal memoir of breathtaking courage.

    Any review of this book would be an exercise in futility. It needs to be experienced.

    The author is a nationally recognized cartoonist published in intellectually sophisticated magazines who is also an illustrator of children’s books. His book, STITCHES, is neither funny nor a story. It is truly a memoir.

    This book is full of power and possibility. Its power is visible, accessible and insightful. David Small reveals that memories are multi-layered realities woven by events/experiences, thoughts/perceptions and feelings/emotions. As possibility, STITCHES is a significant contribution to the health and well-being of human beings, both individually and collectively. This book has the power to open up internal conversations and enrich interpersonal relationships.

    I honor the personal courage of the author and the publisher of this book.

    In my view, this publication offers individuals the ability to glimpse the complexity of human experience, thought and emotion; and our need to ‘make sense’ of it all. I am astonished that the profusion of pictures and economy of narrative can open up the possibility of genuine intimacy and conversation for people.

    For me, the experience of this book increases my sensitivity to understanding the human condition. I ‘see’ the indelible memories that can be created in childhood. I ‘see’ the importance of listening to stories without insisting on managing the meaning of them. I ‘see’ the importance of not assigning blame or guilt to any individual, including myself. I ‘see’ the value of respectful communication. I ‘see’ that being honest with oneself and the willingness to be vulnerable in relationship with others is the path to genuine intimacy.

    This book can be a powerful tool for Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Art Therapists, everywhere. I can imagine this book being read (experienced) by anyone considering seeking professional help.

    The usefulness of this book is not limited to professional therapy or it’s practitioners, as this book may help people appreciate the value of examining their own life experience. It may also inspire someone to grow compassion in relationship with others.

    This book is important. I urge you to discover that for yourself and hopefully share it with others.

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