The Page Boy

By E.B. Boatner November 4, 2010

Categories: Books, Our Affairs

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The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition
Michael Nordskog; Aaron W. Hautala, photography
University of Minnesota Press • $34.95

A glorious holiday gift for any Finnish or sauna-loving friends (or for yourself), The Opposite of Cold traces in loving detail the history of the sauna—its arrival and practice in North America. The book richly is illustrated with black-and-white historical photos and 167 enticing color images. Far from a unique, antiquated activity, sauna still is part of many people’s lives in the areas covered here (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and Finland). The Duluth Family Sauna, built in 1923, is a place that keeps the tradition alive today. An entire chapter is devoted to modern sauna designs, and “Keeping the Wood-Fired Sauna Tradition Alive.” “Finland’s Sauna Culture” makes clear to the skeptic the wealth of health and social benefits of the sauna. And yes, though not de rigueur either among Finnish bathers or new practitioners, some follow winter saunas with a plunge through a sawn ice hole into the frigid waters—“perhaps,” Nordskog notes, “the most feared and the most respected activity of sauna culture.”

A Novel Bookstore
Laurence Cossé
Europa Editions • $15

It’s curious, intricate, and very French sort of mystery. Two kindred (yet disparate) souls, Ivan and Francesca, start a unique sort of bookstore at 9bis rue Dupuytren, Paris, near the Odéon. This shop, The Good Novel, will consist only of “splendid” books, whatever era or country, paying no mind to the seasonal blockbuster offerings of the big publishing houses (unless one of them should happen to publish a “splendid” work). The books are chosen by a secret committee of eight, unknown to one another, whose lists are combined and updated, continually furnishing “good novels” to The Good Novel. The idea caches fire with the cream of the reading public, but also ignites a fire under the publishers and booksellers touting blockbusters. Written attacks are made upon “elitism,” and physical attacks upon several of the committee. Cossé weaves a fantastical yet believable tale from threads of envy, hope, love, and unrequited love. Plus, as detective Heffner notes, the case requires “a dead body.”

The Peculiar Boars of Malloy
Doug Crandell
Switchgrass Books • $13.95

Funny, peculiar, and cautionary, Crandall’s paean to the hysterical nature of humankind is the tale of two boars acquired as inseminators for a Midwestern hog farm. However, they have eyes only for each another. The farmer, a diminutive man, and parent of the teen narrator, has been a hapless failure since his own school days, a laughingstock in the eyes of the town and his family—in particular his son, whose life’s duty is picking up after the follies of his parents. Ridiculed as the owner of homosexual boars, the father becomes totally deranged, hiding out in the cornfields. Sentence by sentence, page by page, The Peculiar Boars of Malloy becomes darker and more ludicrous, until the tiny town of Malloy is thronged by mobs of press and anti-gay-porker citizenry, overflown by media helicopters. The humor and poignancy are followed inevitably by chastisement and death. Intrigued? Then look up Crandall’s The Flawless Skin of Ugly People and Hairdos of the Mildly Depressed.

Tunes: A Comic Book History of Rock and Roll
Ed. Vincent Brunner
Universe • $24.95

Here’s a stunning graphic overview of the more-than-half-century history of Rock and Roll, linking portraits, bios, and a graphic story with the artists as protagonists. Brunner is a journalist immersed in music and comics. Mathias Maizieu, Dionysos’s lead singer, penned the edgy introduction: “On the menu: thinly sliced Pixies with a drizzle of Nirvana, and a hint of a tidal wave; some crisp Nick Drake and an electrifying scoop of AC/DC, and other blood-red pastries, with a dab of White Stripes.” The energetic prose and dizzying cartoon treatment of the stories, combined with the biographies, appeal—whether you grew up on Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” in the 1950s, or LCD Soundsystem’s “I’m Losing My Edge” in the 2000s. Among many others, the Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Elvis Presley are all here. A-wop-bop-aloo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom!

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