From pandemic-inspired poetry to a graphic novel based on a Mayan legend, this holiday season offers titles for every taste. Below is a list of books from local authors to add to your Black Friday shopping cart or wintertime to-read list.
(Penguin Random House)
When Austin writer Ernest Cline's Ready Player One emerged in 2011, its Willy Wonka-meets-Tron adventure story was an exhilarating apology for all things escapist.
Cline's sequel to his wildly popular novel (made into a similarly kitsch-crowded film by Steven Spielberg), can be seen as a kind corrective reset regarding the reality-bashing tendencies of gamers as well as the addictive dangers of hiding in a retro world.
Still sticky with '80s in-jokes and Easter eggs, Cline deftly manages to address the antisocial issues that are inherent in living a virtual life while playing up the viable kinks of a consumer-based total recall.
In The Ancestry of Objects, a suicidal young woman enters into some educational masochism by having an affair with a married man, and in doing so harnesses a world of almost Emersonian awareness of the bric-a-brac of her inherited surroundings.
Ryckman's arresting yet detached style recalls The Story of O by way of an IKEA catalogue.
The matter-of-fact investigation of purpose will remind some readers of Sartre's Nausea, while the spectral prose recalls Susan Sontag's Death Kit.
Ryckman is the editor of the Austin-based publisher Awst Press.
(University of Texas Press)
Shahla Ujayli's latest collection, A Bed For the King's Daughter, implodes the codes of fairy tales to crack into the underlying apartheid that motivates even the most innocent and innocuous treacle and manages to put Socrates in the same world with Cinderella and Honda Civics.
An unsettling (yet psyche-soothing) feat of fictive displacement, the twenty-two stories in this collection of instructive surrealism will delight while they indict.
The University of Texas Press published the book.
(Cinco Puntos Press)
Hatched from an egg, Sayam, the hero of David Bowles's latest graphic novel, is raised by a witch and possesses a humanitarian itch to help those in need. The boy who would be king marshals his magic to meet every test and even gets to best a netherworld serpent along the way.
David Bowles, an expert on Mesoamerican literature, has partnered with Charlene Bowles, a comics artist/illustrator, to offer middle school-aged readers an exciting and engaging take on some ancient Mayan lore that features the antics of a brave Elfin-boy, the schemes of a sneaky sorcerer and the loyalty of a spider monkey.
Both the author and illustrator are based in Texas, with David in South Texas and Charlene in Austin.
(Aztlan Libre Press)
Edward Vidaurre, a border poet currently living in McAllen, Texas, tackles grief and the cosmos with a kind of casual theological bravery, assessing that: "God is an open wound. A kung-fu movie and a celestial sicario."
The work in Pandemia & Other Poems moves from toilet tissue and water bill worries of sheltering-in-place to classroom epiphanies of the 1986 Challenger explosion.
Vidaurre's poignant asides on the juvenile joys of cloud-gazing take on an ominous caution in a book where John Coltrane and Covid-19 share a nervous juxtaposition.
The collection was published by Aztlan Libre Press, which is based in San Antonio.
Austin poet Taisia Kitaiskaia's Nightgown & Other Poems is a nightcap of dream-dowsing assurance, a chthonic tonic that stills the reader into contemplating the agendas of monks, the tenacity of Thumbelina and the dark comforts of an evil twin.
"Saints are those who do not live amongst the people," the poet notes with the authority of a Brothers Grimm-savvy Simone Weil.
Earthy yet ethereal, Kitaiskaia's art argues that "shame and rebellion are integral to the angels."
American Utopia, conceived as a standalone companion to David Byrne's 2019 Broadway show of the same name, is a kind of Goodnight Moon for adults who want to calmly put the social stress and political duress of 2020 to bed.
Slogans of acceptance and simple understanding such as "we're only tourists in this life" are warmly rendered by Maira Kalman's wry watercolor work.
The authentic inclusiveness of this picture book project is made obvious with its nods to places like Bullfrog, Utah; Goofy Ridge, Illinois; and Lubbock, Texas.
Byrne, who has often evoked both the principles and panache of a Dadaist, quotes Hugo Ball's assertion that Dada exists "to remind the world that there are people of independent minds — beyond war and nationalism — who live for different ideals."
American Utopia is the kind of poetic picture book of authentic optimism that we need today.
It is based on Byrne's stage show of the same name, which he performed in Austin in 2018.
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Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff is here to stay as the Club announced he signed a three-year contract extension.
Wolff, who was previously an assistant coach for the U.S. Men's National Team, will coach Austin FC through the end of 2025 under the new contract.
Wolff has been the Austin FC head coach since November 2019. In the team's first year, some hoped to oust Wolff as the team was at the bottom of the Western Conference. But this year, the team is at the top, ranking No. 3.
“This is still a young, growing Club but seeing our vision for Austin FC come to life on and off the field has been one of the great honors of my career. My staff and I will keep working every day to represent the city, and to develop our team both competitively and as human beings. The best is yet to come," Wolff said.
Austin police are investigating the killing of Moriah "Mo" Wilson after she was found with gunshot wounds inside an East Austin home.
Wilson, a gravel and mountain bike racer, was visiting Austin from Colorado in preparation for the Gravel Locos race on Saturday taking place in Hico, a small town 2 hours from Austin.
On Wednesday, her roommate came home and found Wilson unresponsive with "a lot of blood near her,” police said, on Maple Avenue near East 17th Street. Officers and EMS performed life-saving measures before she was declared deceased at 10:10 p.m.
The Travis County Medical Examiner's office conducted an autopsy and determined the official cause of death to be multiple gunshot wounds, and the manner of death was a homicide. It is being investigated as a suspicious death and as of Saturday, police said they have a person of interest.
Wilson, 25, recently had become a full-time biker after winning a slew of races in the past year.
This story was updated on May 15 to include that police have determined a person of interest.