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Hazel & Wren Staff Shelfie: Aaron King

2015 September 2
by Aaron King

The Writing Life

Editor’s Note: Dear readers – today, we take a break from the normally scheduled What We’re Reading reviews to share with you something so personal, it might just make some of us blush: our shelfies. Aaron share his first today, with more shelfies from other staff coming up in the next few weeks. Read on, into our dear, writerly souls. 


Here are my only shelves of “real books.” Most of them are fiction, organized solely by author’s last name since I don’t believe in genre as an organizing hierarchy. There are lots of books that I love that aren’t here, which maybe makes my shelves a bad representation of me as a human. I refuse to buy something unless I (a) can’t get it from the library or (b) want to read it multiple times and mark it up. What I end up having are perennial favorites (Frankenstein, everything by Louise Erdrich) or weirdies I’ve had to hunt for (everything by Fritz Leiber).

Up top there are books I’ve borrowed from people along with an awesome paper statue of Don Quixote that a friend brought me from Mexico.


Below the fiction is everything else: poetry, history, pop stuff, and so, including a few books on maps since I’m obsessed with them. It’s also where my books about comics end up. Oh, and all my roleplaying game books are here along with all my notes on our long-running D&D campaign. It might be slightly embarrassing, but it’s a straight line of inspiration from those books to a lot of the stuff I read now, and I still get a lot of entertainment out of those old things. No shame!


And here’s the weight of my library: three shelves of comics. Since so many comics have multiple hands involved in their creation (from scripter + artist to scripter + penciler + inker + colorist + editor[s]), my organization method is a little arcane.

Most of these shelves are alphabetized by the last name of the person I consider primary to my interests. Sometimes this is the scripter, like with the works of Warren Ellis. Sometimes it’s the artist, exemplified by Jack Kirby. Occassionally, it’s even the editor, as seen in the row of anthologies edited by Mark Chiarello. It would never work for a library, but since it’s only here for me, it’s perfect.


“Books about Vikings” is probably the most particular genre of books I have. It all started in undergrad with the best class I ever too, Icelandic Sagas. From there, I started using the saga voice in short stories and comics I made. There are also tons of great novels that use a similar voice: Iceland’s Bell by Halldór Laxness (Iceland’s only Nobel laureate), the works of Sigrid Undset (a Norwegian Nobel laureate), and Frans Bengsston’s The Long Ships/Red Orm, which did not win a Nobel Prize, but it’s still an excellent adventure tale.

For a more modern take, Dustin Long’s Icelander is a saga by way of Nancy Drew with some meta commentary on the construction of stories.


One think I don’t like about all the comics I have is that a lot of them end up in boxes in a closet. Lately, though, I’ve been able to move many of them into these Comic Cartel boxes. I use them to display my longer runs of comics, particularly those that will never be issued in collected editions (like the first volume of Resurrection Man or my strange obsession with Marvel’s Machine Man) or comics that were created to be consumed as single issues, like Criminal and Casanova (although the latter has moved away from that format).


Speaking of books that are hard to display, here are all my comics that aren’t “standard” pamphlet size that don’t have a spine. There are a bunch of minicomics, including some Chinese bootleg Tintins and the gone-to-soon Oily Comics. From there, it moves up to some sizable beasts like Mowgli’s Mirror and an old issue of the “prozine” witzend that I bought for an Alex Toth story.

Getting new minicomics is great; it feels like getting an art object directly from an artist. It helps remind me that comics are a vibrant and living medium, and that the comics I read today will be the sought-after archival editions in following decades.

So, reader, what would your shelfies look like? Stay tuned for other Hazel & Wren staff shelfies in the coming weeks.


Three Things: The Lovers Edition, II

2015 August 31

Three Things Banner

Wren gets hitched this Saturday! In honor of the bride and groom, let’s write some words for lovers this week.


P.S. You have until tomorrow to apply for the open editorial positions here at Hazel & Wren!



Edward Gorey. Pen and ink illustration from The Fraught Settee, 1990. Published by The Fantod Press.



Unknown photographer, None but you, date unknown. Found photograph. Via Shorpy.



Max Ernst, La Cour du Dragon #24 from Une semaine de bonté ou Les sept éléments capitaux (One week of kindness / Goodness week or The seven deadly elements), 1934. Collage of wood engravings. Published by Éditions Jeanne Bucher, Paris.


What We’re Reading: Fall Book Preview

2015 August 27

What We're ReadingThe weather is hinting at autumn here in Minnesota…we’ve had a slew of cooler temperature days with fall-colored skies. While I’m still a little in denial about the end of summer, I’m not-so-secretly looking forward to my favorite season. Fall is the season where I cut back on my social butterfly schedule, and take deep joy in staying home in sweatpants with my cat and a book. Here are a few books I’m looking forward to reading this fall.

brightdeadthingsBright Dead Things by Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions, September)
You’ll see a review soon of this gem. It’s one that I’ve already read multiple times since receiving the review copy. My love of Ada Limón is well documented (previous review  here), and Bright Dead Things only makes me fall deeper in love with her writing. The poems examine the human heart through loss of a close loved one, moving from New York City to Kentucky, and love. It’s contemplative, proud, and heartaching, all wrapped up in Limón’s delectable command of language.


The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Coffee House Press, September)
There’s already a lot of buzz about this book; folks are saying Luiselli pulls you into the weird world of the main character, Highway, and his collection of famous teeth. Both Luiselli and Highway are master storytellers, creating a space that is unlike any other, and hard to shake once you’ve entered.

The Walls by Matthew Henriksen (Black Ocean, Fall 2015)
I enjoyed Henriksen’s Ordinary Sun collection (brief review here), and am looking forward to this upcoming collection. His poems teem with honesty and imagistic wonder, both of which I gravitate towards. I haven’t heard much about this collection at all, which makes me all the more curious to see what Henriksen comes up with.

cat is art spelled wrongCat is Art Spelled Wrong
by Caroline Casey, Chris Fischbach, and Sarah Schultz (Coffee House Press, September)

Speaking of cats, I went to the CatVidFest recently, a participant of this internet-age phenomena of YouTube, cat humor, and community. Coffee House Press is devoted to exploring our contemporary world, and this collection of essays from 14 different writers will get you thinking about our society and it’s identity.


What books are you eagerly anticipating this fall?


Three Things: The Search (for You!) Edition

2015 August 24

Three Things Banner

Are you an industrious bookworm looking for something to do in your spare time? A critical reader looking for a home? A literary-type looking for a way to get involved in the literary community? We’re looking for you!

We’re looking for two or three Editorial Contributors to join our team of masterful book reviewers. (Please note: Hazel & Wren is an all-volunteer organization, so these are unpaid positions. We pay in hugs, beer, books, and good karma.)

For more details on the positions and how to apply, go here. You have until September 1st to apply!



Ramón Casas, After the Ball, 1895. Oil on canvas. Museo de la Abadía de Montserrat, Barcelona, Spain.



Lynn Skordal, The Singer, Not the Song, from the Chair Series. Paper collage.




Rodney Smith, Collin with Magnifying Glass, Alberta, Canada, 2004. Photograph.