Books Aloud! – January 2008

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Crooked Little Vein
Warren Ellis
William Morrow
Street: 07.24
As a shy, Baptist teenager, I would often sneak peeks at HBO late at night. One night I nearly lost my religion when I saw a man attempt to lift a cinder block attached to his penis with a chain. In Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis makes that image seem as innocuous and mundane as The Family Circus. The story follows a loser private investigator and his "omnisexual vaginalist" accomplice as they search for a purportedly magical, real copy of the U.S. Constitution. More interesting than the off-kilter plot are the disturbing situations Ellis' characters encounter. One extended scene involves the detective, Michael McGill, naively stumbling into and sitting through "Godzilla Bukkake" night. From injecting saline into testicles, to self-insemination with the ejaculate of a hanged man, Warren Ellis has a way of making the most degrading and unthinkable perversions seem commonplace, while still managing to make one squeamish. –Joey Richards

Punk House: Interiors in Anarchy
Abby Banks
Abrams Image
Street: 10.01
For three months of 2004 photographer Abby Banks and writer Timothy Findlen traveled across the country and stayed in numerous punk houses. This book is the culmination of their journey. Punk House features roughly 40 rag-tag punk houses from coast to coast and everywhere in between (Salt Lake City's own Bike House is even featured!). Bank's has very successfully captured the fun, uncertainty and most of all love of adventure of being a young punk in her images. The beat-up couches, sticker-covered bathrooms, hand-scrawled notes, immense amounts of clutter and the portraits of the current residents of said communal spaces are all reminiscent of places that I've been before. It's a bit overwhelming, but incredibly comforting as well. Punk House is an incredible documentation of the communal living spaces with dirt-cheap rent, hot water that usually doesn't work and a handful of rag-tag residents who are living life on their own terms. Fucking brilliant. – Jeanette Moses

Shaolin: Temple of Zen
Justin Guariglia
Aperture
Street: 10.01
Justin Guariglia has done an amazing job documenting the Shaolin temple in China and the monks who inhabit it. With a few sequences of the whole martial meditation routine for each specific style of Kung-Fu that is taught at the temple, you get an idea of how much training and hard work it takes to become a martial monk. Although I enjoyed the images of the routines very much, the portraits of these monks were the most intriguing. My favorite image was a photo of a Wenseng (cultural monk) sitting in deep meditation under some shade of a tree within the temple. The book also features a short history of the 1500 year-old temple, which makes the pictures inside even more interesting. –Adam Dorobiala

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