Our favorite pick for December 2019.
The Wild Detectives & Laura Pacheco
Every now and then a book comes along that perfectly describes the human condition, and the creatives behind this very bookstore, The Wild Detectives, have created just that. Their new comedic coffee table book, Reading Quirks, is a labor of love between Andres de las Casas Huertas, Javier Garcia del Moral, and Laura Pacheco, an illustrator from their native Spain.
The book began as a series of comics featured on The Wild Detectives’ social media outlets from 2016 to 2018, and was inspired by their personal observations of the Dallas literary community and their fellow readers. These sociological observations are so keen that regular visitors of the store might find several familiar faces in the characters, making the book not only a charming catalogue of reader behavior, but a Dallas treasure, a complete portrait of a local community.
By turns melancholic and hilarious, Andrés and Javier’s script captures the secret life of readers with all its highs and lows, bringing a sympathetic and wry perspective to the true nerd’s unique habits. The panels reveal real-life events, recounted tales, internal monologues, and experiences only a life-long reader could know. Anyone who knows the what it means to be born with a book in hand will find plenty of laughs along the way, and an abundance to relate to.
Laura Pacheco brings it all to life, thoughtfully and poignantly depicting the exact expressions that any obsessive reader will recognize, from the way our bodies manage to settle comfortably anywhere we find ourselves with a good book to the profound irritation of not being allowed to read in peace. Her illustrations are deft and delightful, giving motion to the reader’s innermost thoughts and reminding the most devoted introvert that even reading recluses can find themselves in good company.
Reading Quirks digs deep for its material, including a wide range of scenarios. Panels include the heartache of a devastating breakup and the accompanying divorce of a book collection, the bittersweet euphoria of finishing a great book and needing time to grieve the loss, the chaos of stumbling while trying to read and walk, the nightmare of having to stop reading mid-paragraph, being unable to watch films before reading the book, or worse, the disappointment of a terrible adaptation.
The rich tapestry found in these pages is a fine example of the Wild Detective’s connections to the local literary community, featuring not only Dallas readers but authors as well. Ben Fountain, author of Beautiful Country Burn Again, wrote the foreword to the book, which makes a wonderful addition to the volume.
He writes: “Implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, Reading Quirks poses the question: Is there a place for our tribe in the modern world? A world in which the current leader of earth’s most powerful country hasn’t even read the books he’s supposed to have written. What does it mean to be a reader, to keep faith with the force of words, particularly words printed in ink on actual sheets of paper? ‘Why do you read’ asks the little girl on the very last page of this book. ‘I don’t know,’ answers the man with a book in his hands. ‘The meaning of life?’”
Moments like these take Reading Quirks from being a simple collection of comics and push them beyond the frame to prompt questions that resound in our harried and hectic culture; “What are the ways that reading saves us?”, “Are there people who value what I do?” Though this book is a light-hearted examination of that rare and mysterious reading breed, it also serves as an excellent reminder that we have not lost our cultural compass completely, that reading will always stand as a passion beyond destruction.
Andrés & Javi will be presenting Reading Quirks in conversation with Cristina Rodriguez (Deep Vellum) at The Wild Detectives on Thursday, December 12th. More info here.
Kelsey Capps is a writer and Reader in Residence at The Wild Detectives. Her short stories and reviews have been mentioned in a variety of publications including Hobo Pancakes, Literary Hub, and The Guardian, and she is finishing her second novel. You can follow her work and current reads on Instagram at @readwritethecraft.