2021: My Year In Books

Already last year I presented a few books I read during the first pandemic year 2020, and in 2021 I could add one more. The pandemic is still here, new variants come and dominate, and that leaves time for reading.

So this year I read 87 non-fiction books, 109 (mostly French) comics, a few picture books, children’s books and lots of magazines. I also acquired about a hundred old Mickey Mouse issues on ebay, which I’m halfway through.

I have the (almost) entire list of comics and books on Librarything, where I’ve been maintaining this content for years.

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The Man Who Loves Comics

How a wacky comic, our French teacher, and a chance find reawakened my comic collecting passion.

In the Floridsdorf district of Vienna, on the eastern side of the Danube, near our apartment at the time was a so-called Gemeindebau, a housing complex built and operated by the city of Vienna in the 1920s that had stores, kindergartens, doctors’ offices and a farmers’ market. Such community buildings were small villages in the city, and as a child these were our places where we gained experience and where our whole world lay.

In the arcades of this municipal building there were business premises, among others a novel exchange store. This has long since ceased to exist, but here is a photo from Google Maps of what it currently looks like.

The Schlingerhof in Vienna’s 21st district, with storefronts in the arcades that housed a novel exchange store in the late 1970s, which I had the privilege of frequenting once a week.

In one of the arcades there was a comic exchange store, and in it I, then still an elementary school student, could exchange 10 old used comic books for 10 new used comic books. For 10 shillings, which at the time was about 1.5 deutschmarks, and according to the conversion rate was equivalent to 71 cents, which adjusted for inflation would be about €1.90 today.

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I Dream of Djinn – An (Erotic) Excursion into the World of Sultans, Goddesses and Maharajas

Anyone who grew up with the television series I Dream of Jeannie is already familiar with the world of genies. In this 1960s series, astronaut Tony Nelson, played by Larry Hagman, found a bottle on a beach that hid the genie (“djinn”) Jeannie, played by Barbara Eden. Her magical powers (and jealousy) kept getting Tony Nelson into trouble.

Almost sixty years later, French scenarist Jean Dufaux and Spanish illustrator Ana Miralles created the comic series Djinn, of which 13 volumes have been published. If I Dream of Jeannie already had a definite erotic undertone in the relationship between Nelson and Jeannie, it becomes much more explicit in this comic series. And even the last names of the protagonists show a reference to the TV series.

There are two interrelated narrative threads in the albums, whose stories take place in three cycles in Turkey, Africa and India. Kim Nelson, who grew up in present-day London, sets out to discover the story of her mother and grandmother, Jade, who is said to have been a djinn. Her magic as a djinn was that she could make women and men fall hopelessly in love with her and give up everything for her, even going to their deaths. For a djinn, however, this means that she herself can never feel love, as much as she wishes to, and thus all relationships inevitably break down.

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Black Burlesque

Great cinema were the film noir in the 50s and 60s, which often helped actors like Alain Delon or Jean Gabin to their fame. Even today, more than half a century later, these films have lost none of their charisma. No wonder this style of film is cited again and again, not only in cinema, but also in comic books like Noir Burlesque by Enrico Marini.

The story, set in 1950s New York, is about the gangster Slick, who commits his robberies with routine and seduces women, but has also attracted plenty of ill will and the envy of other shady and powerful figures in the underworld.

In this first installment, ex-boxer, war veteran, and hardened petty criminal Slick is doing his last heist for his boss when he meets Caprice, a redheaded beauty. As readers quickly discover, there is a backstory between burlesque dancer Caprice and Slick. Years ago, he had gone off to war as a soldier, leaving Caprice behind, who no longer wanted to wait for him and succumbed to the wooings of the underworld boss Rex. The encounter is thus also the beginning of the game with fire.

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Foolhardy Stories

Holding up a mirror image to society is a recurring motif in literary history. What reached a high point in the Middle Ages with Dante’s Divine Comedy continued all the way to Honoré de Balzac, who drew a picture of the mores of high French society around 1830 with his Mad Tales.

Twin brothers Paul and Gaëtan Brizzi, born in Italy, raised in Paris, only to emigrate to Hollywood in 1994 to work for Disney Studio, Pixar and Sony, now took on three of Balzac’s stories in a very lighthearted comic album. Kept in monochrome, they lead the reader:inside in an entertaining way and a brisk drawing style through the world of the 1830s and skillfully take in their drawings the society, the church and morality on the shovel.

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Are there differences in love? Tots philosophize about profound things

Occasionally a comic book falls into your hands where you wonder where it has been all these years? That’s what happened to me with Pico Bogue, a comic book series about a boy, his family and his friends, characterized by tenderness and wit, contrasting the smart-as-nails protagonists with the adult world.

The fact that the style of the illustrator Alexandris Dormal is similar to that of Sempé, who is known among other things for the illustrations for Little Nicholas, makes things easier. In combination with the soulful and cheerful stories of the scenarist Dominique Roques results in a very sweet overall work.

Even the first short story (see illustration) shows this vividly. Pico philosophizes over a piece of cake with his little sister about whether love is similar. Is love for a girl comparable to love for a piece of cake? His sister thinks it is, and distracts her brother. When Pico turns around again, her little mouth is seen smeared with cake, and emptiness yawns on his plate where the same cake was before. With wise words she concludes the discussion on love:

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Despite Everything – The Story of a Love

At first I thought I had mistakenly bought the second volume of this comic from the hand of Spanish comic artist Jordi Lafebre, because the numbering started at chapter 20. Very quickly it turned out that the story of Malgré Tout is told chronologically from the back.

The story of the protagonists Ana, a sixty-year-old mayor of a small town, and Zeno, an equally old bookseller, begins with a walk in the rain, which the two take arm in arm. In the course of the narrative, it turns out that Ana is married and has a son, while Zeno had only recently become a bookseller and had spent most of his life far from his hometown at sea.

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2020: My Year of Books

Books are an important part of my being, I would even say I define myself through them. Not only have I enjoyed reading since my early youth, but I’ve also been writing books for almost two decades, on average one a year.

For the past two years, I’ve been keeping my own list (as a Google Sheet and now also on Librarything) of what books and magazines I’ve read. In 2019, I came up with 216 books, comics, and magazines, organized by category: 117 comics (mostly French) and 56 nonfiction, a few biographies, picture books, and even children’s books. I read most of them on my travels, and there were quite a few in 2019. I’ve been to Europe a total of 10 times, and on each trip I managed to read two to four nonfiction books. And yes, I really do lug the books around with me in print form, not digital. And they grace my apartment. I probably have close to 3,000 volumes spread over seven shelves in two rooms.

As a writer, books are also working materials and inspiration. Just as a filmmaker watches films, and artists themselves visit galleries and performances, so too must an author read. I myself read between two and four hours a day, and i spend the same number of hours writing every day. Under normal circumstances, I would be a coffeehouse literate, reading and writing books in the coffeehouse. This year, that was only possible from home, but I still maintain the coffeehouse vibe with proper preparation of my coffee, Viennese style.

Café & Literature (Instagram)
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How Can Men Help Women Against Cyberbullying?

As a fairly active user from social media, yes every now and then a troll or comment comes across that raises doubts about the evolution of man. As a white man, this seems rather annoying to me, but I do not shy away from fighting back. I have had to assert myself rhetorically in the past, namely when the second half of my research project for the dissertation underwent a change of personnel at the sponsoring company and suddenly politics took center stage, as well as several times during my military service. There, too, several people tried to get their way through mobbing and bullying. It’s just stupid when you’re sitting in the middle.

Case 1: Women from Culture, Research and Politics

However, this is no comparison to what I observe when women become the victims. For some time now, I have been following – after a call from the German cartoonist Ralph Ruthe, who asked on Twitter which interesting Twitter accounts of women he should follow – a few of those accounts. QuattroMILF, Natascha Strobl or U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are some of these women. The first, Jasmina Kuhnke, is a mother of four with German-African roots and a comedy writer and comedienne who speaks out with a sharp tongue against racism – which she herself experiences firsthand – against racists and Nazis. Natascha Strobl is an Austrian political scientist, author, analyst, publicist and, above all, an expert on right-wing extremism and politics who razor-sharp dissects the logic and rhetorical tricks of right-wing old-boys, politicians, thundering women and other right-wing hacks. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known by her initials AOC, on the other hand, is the Democratic Party’s youngest congresswoman with Puerto Rican roots, who worked her way up from poverty into politics by working waitress jobs and being valedictorian.

What all three women have in common is that they are very self-confident, experts in their field, eloquent and incredibly smart. I can mostly agree with their positions, arguments and statements, and if not, I find them very interesting in any case. Three very interesting women whose contributions I find very inspiring and enriching.

AlphaSophia and me

FUTURE MINDSET:
Wie man die Zukunft vorhersagt und designt

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Dieser Online-Kurs lehrt eine Reihe von Werkzeugen, mit denen Kursteilnehmer Anzeichen für das, was kommen könnte, selbst entdecken können, wie man die Zukunft beeinflussen kann um heute bessere Entscheidungen treffen zu können.

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Trump’s Revenge on the TikTok Generation

The fact that the American president Trump now wants to ban the social media app TikTok so quickly is a little surprising, and then again not. His just signed executive order orders TikTok to stop its activities in the USA within 45 days. Unless the company is sold to a US company. Microsoft is apparently in negotiations with TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.

The pretext for the alleged danger of TikTok is given with the data collection of the app and some alleged other security related offenses.

Another reason is much more obvious. The TikTok generation – young people – have caused the Twitter president a humiliation that came out of nowhere.

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