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Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe by Cullen Murphy

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 272 pages, 2017

Connecticut, and more specifically Fairfield County, used to be the cartoon capital of the world. In the 1950s and ’60s many famous comic book artists lived in Fairfield County including Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Bud Sagendorf (Popeye), Stan Drake (Blondie), Charles Saxon (who did more than 90 covers for The New Yorker) and John Cullen Murphy, editor at large of Vanity Fair and the artist behind Big Ben Bolt and Prince Valiant. In this new work, Cullen Murphy, son of John Cullen Murphy, who collaborated with his father on Prince Valiant, chronicles these cartooning giants with a healthy dose of heartfelt and fascinating nostalgia. The book also is, quite fittingly, a beautiful collection of images from the comic strips so many grew up reading. — Erik Ofgang

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Brass: A Novel by Xhenet Aliu

Random House, 295 pages, 2018

Xhenet Aliu’s debut novel is about what happened to people and romances and dreams when the factories in and around Waterbury closed for good. There’s an irony hinted at in the title. They call deindustrialized America the Rust Belt. But proper brass, the stuff they made in Waterbury, doesn’t actually rust. When everything turns to rust, what happens to that which doesn’t rust? The novel is almost startling in its honesty, in its rawness. It’s focused around the lives of the Albanian and Lithuanian communities in Waterbury, told through parallel stories of a mother and daughter set 17 years apart. When something or someone leaves, what remains? Aliu’s story sits right at the heart of that tension, between coming to and leaving Connecticut’s Brass Valley. — Michael Lee-Murphy


This article appeared in the January 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. 

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The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University