Jon Paul Fiorentino, illustrations by Maryanna Hardy, 172 pgs, Anvil Press, anvilpress.com, $20
I never know what to expect from Jon Paul Fiorentino. He creates poems out of pop culture phenomena, writes funny books about cringe-worthy situations, and then suddenly he’s making conceptual works out of Archie comic books. His latest work I’m Not Scared Of You Or Anything is a collection of offbeat short stories featuring stalker pen pals, painfully graceless teenagers, a child with an annoying birth defect, and more. Punctuated by illustrations by Toronto artist Maryanna Hardy, Fiorentino’s book plays with the short story the way comedians play with everyday life. No matter where the he takes the story, it ventures into the realm of the moderately disturbing. I couldn’t help but find myself connecting with a few of these oddball characters. These surreal stories are interwoven through the lives of artists, loners, losers, and awkwardly needy friends. It’s a meditation on those who never get a second look or chance. If you’re looking to know how Žižek would sound through the voice of Teen Wolf, or if you are curious to take a peek at the world of competitive pillow fighting, this is your book.