To Drink and To Eat, vols. 1-2 

Guillaume Long, writer-illustrator of the comic blog À Boire et à Manger for French newspaper Le Monde, collects some of his comics into two volumes. Each comic has a symbol to indicate its category, with a legend at the beginning of the book. Some are recipes with difficulty levels 1, 2, or 3. Others may be restaurant guides, ingredient and cooking tool inventories, and “egotrip”—stories about Long himself, including travelogues. In addition, Long includes cooking tips from “the late Joël Reblochon”; this is presumably a misspelling of Joël Robuchon, a famous French chef who died in 2018. Interestingly enough, Reblochon is a French cheese, so the misspelling may be an intentional nickname.

One highlight is the comics about Pépé Roni, an armchair chef who explains the difference between similarly-named objects. A fun example is, “Don’t confuse work/life balance and work/knife balance.” “Work/life balance” is depicted as a man getting chewed out by his boss, and “work/knife balance” is the same man asleep and dreaming of his boss with a knife in his back. Another one I enjoyed is, “Don’t confuse a mandolin with a mandoline,” which shows someone attempting to play a mandoline slicer like a stringed instrument and, obviously, cutting up their hands. These comics are credited to Mathis Martin in the books’ cataloging-in-publication pages.

Long has a distinctive and funny voice. In one comic, he suggests you use a flyswatter to hit anyone who asks for sugar in their coffee. In another, he portrays the cloud of flour coming out of a mixing bowl as little ghosts. A guide to cooking spaghetti squash first suggests you make Jabba the Hutt out of the squash, then tells you to use your lightsaber to cut it. At times, jokes are weakened in translation. For example, in one comic he says to melt butter “with a little pot,” then shows someone with a joint and clarifies, “No, with a little saucepot.” In English, the joke doesn’t work perfectly, since the original command would likely have been to melt butter “in a little pot,” rather than “with a little pot.” Additionally, a comic falls flat with multiple references to anagrams that were unsolvable in English. One would think these comics that suffer from translation wouldn’t be included in the English editions.

There are other issues that make these books a little hard to digest—no pun intended. At one point, a Black friend asks Long why he doesn’t draw Black people, and he gets visibly uncomfortable and says “I don’t draw Chinese people either. Or Indian people.” Not true; in an earlier comic he goes to a Chinese restaurant where he draws one Chinese man with slits for eyes, and he draws a Chinese language (it’s unclear which Chinese language they’re speaking) as a bunch of messy scribbles. There is also a comic where a man seems to have murdered a woman with a plastic bag along with a joke about composting. Some of these jokes seem to be in poor enough taste that they shouldn’t have been included in the books.

The art style is cartoonish and would have fit well in Mad Magazine. Most of the comics are in full color, though the travelogues are in black pen on a beige background. Long employs hatched shading to add depth to his illustrations, which elevates the otherwise simplistic drawing style. Still, in a travelogue sequence in which Long goes to Venice with friends, one of his friends grabs his sketchbook and draws a few rowhouses in a more realistic style. He comments that his friend “draws so much better than me it hurts.”

Some of the recipes are useful, particularly the few pages in Volume 1 devoted to impressive appetizers that can be prepared quickly. Some of the inventories are useful as well, notably the list in Volume 2 of gift suggestions for foodies. The books are easy to navigate, with the aforementioned legend to indicate what purpose each comic serves. As in a regular cookbook, the index includes a table of recipes as well as an ingredient index. Still, due to some of the comics’ poor taste, I don’t recommend these books. Consider instead other comic cookbooks like Cook Korean!, Relish, or Let’s Make Ramen! and Let’s Make Dumplings!

To Drink and To Eat, vols. 1-2 
By Guillaume Long
Oni Press Lion Forge, 2020
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781620107201
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781620108550

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula

LugosiMost biographies, though classified as nonfiction, still have a narrative. Going beyond simply listing facts in chronological order, biographies will portray their subjects as protagonists in their own stories, having readers cheer for them as they overcome adversity or dread watching them succumb to the tragic flaws in their character. As promised by the title, Koren Shadmi’s Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula beautifully shows both the highs and lows of Lugosi’s life.

Shadmi begins his story with an older Lugosi checking himself into a clinic to treat his drug addiction. In the throes of withdrawal, Lugosi recalls his childhood in Hungary and how his ambition to be an actor was a disappointment to his family. After making his way to America while speaking little English, he eventually lands the part of the captivating vampire Count Dracula, first in the stage production and then in the movie. His portrayal of Dracula not only shapes the image of vampires for the American movie audience, but the role catapults him into the public consciousness. However, Dracula’s cape creates a long shadow that Lugosi could not escape. And soon, the money would run out, the women in his life would come and go, and he would align himself with the man many call the worst director of all time, Ed Wood. Lugosi died still trying to pursue a comeback that was always out of his reach.

Shadmi’s portrayal of Lugosi reveals a deeply flawed but very charismatic person. Readers can see, through Shadmi’s dialogue and how he develops Lugosi as a character, why the actor was so well regarded in his performance as Dracula. This creates a likability in Lugosi even as readers observe his self-destructive behavior, from his addiction to morphine and methadone, to how he treated the many women in his life, to how he mismanaged his own finances. There are even some shocking scenes of drug use showing the tight grip Lugosi’s addiction had on him, but it does so in a way that highlights the very unglamorous side of drug addiction. Overall, Shadmi has depicted Lugosi as someone the reader will root for: a man determined to get back the fame he once had and to extricate himself from his addictions, even as door after door in Hollywood is slammed in his face.

The art style that Shadmi uses is black and white, much like the movies Lugosi is famous for, while making the characters seem vibrant and expressive. Shadmi’s skill for drawing faces means that readers will easily be able to tell the difference between Lugosi as a boy, a man, and an old man. Through Shadmi’s artwork, readers will also recognize many other famous faces Lugosi interacted with, including Boris Karloff, known to classic horror fans as the actor that brought Frankenstein’s monster to life and in many ways Lugosi’s rival. Shadmi is also not afraid to get surreal when, during Lugosi’s withdrawal, hallucinations of the people in his life appear to confront the actor with his failures. Shadmi also gives an understated but powerful visual representation of Lugosi indulging in his drug of choice.

Those librarians looking for something different for their biographies section should look at Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula. Even some teen librarians should check out this title because it serves as an excellent anti-drug message, as well as telling a sweet yet tragic tale. It stands out not just because it’s a graphic novel, but through images, dialogue, and a flawed-but-sympathetic protagonist, Shadmi creates a bittersweet tale of what happens when someone gets a taste of fame early in their career and spends the rest of their life trying to recapture it.

Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula
By Koren Shadmi
Humanoids, 2021
ISBN: 9781643376615

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Israeli-American