I have never read anything quite like Hallberg's Field Guide. It is akin to crossing together an anthropological study with a fictional account of two dysfunctional families. Composed of around 60 non-linear vignettes that tell the story of the Harrisons and the Hungates as they navigate what has become a common narrative thread of families hiding their imperfections and dissatisfaction behind the veneer provided by the American Dream. Hallberg gives us visions of children growing up, of people dying, of love blossoming, of desire, and of ennui.
This slim volume by the Dutch master begins with two Europeans in a cafe as they discuss the gap between how outsiders view Japan as a place of eastern mysticism and profound beauty and how it is in reality: a place bound to the same blandness and imperfections from which all places suffer. It is also a love story between a Dutch photographer and a Japanese model, whose relationship is doomed from the very beginning due to the insuperable gulf between the two cultures. It is a sign of Nooteboom's mastery of his craft that he was able to create two different narratives and meld them into one cohesive whole.
Gauld is at it again with his newest collection of short and witty comic pieces that first appeared in publications like The Guardian, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. His subjects mostly relate to the literary world but he imbues them with dry wit and postmodernism. The targets of his cartoons are often the intellectual posturings of the literary community or constraining conventions in pop culture. It's not, however, mean-spirited. These are cartoons after all, and they are generally gentle-minded ribbing that is sure to illicit a chuckle or two.