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Staff Picks Category: Northampton

Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques []



Questionable Content is a long running, slice-of-life, web comic focusing on a large cast of humans and robots living in a small college town which resembles Northampton to an extent that cannot be ignored. (Scenes are occasionally set at the Smif College library, and a number of characters have been Smif College students or employees. And there are a lot of scenes set in coffee shops and bars.)

The comic includes sci-fi elements, as evidenced by the many artificial intelligences amongst the cast, but the plot is driven by the interpersonal relationships and struggles you would expect in a college town. Dedicated readers return to the comic again and again to follow the evolving story of favorite characters such as Marten, Faye, Dora, and Hannelore and their struggles which include workplace romances, anxiety, addiction, sexual identity, poverty, social awkwardness, and difficult family dynamics.

Despite these weighty topics the tone is generally light. The humor can be crass (Jeff Jacques has a fondness for jokes about sex toys and farts), but is never unkind.

Given the evolution of the strip, I can’t recommend you start at the beginning unless you feel absolutely compelled to do so. New reader’s might instead start with Number 1719 in which Hanelore begins working at Coffee of Doom or Number 2201 just before the introduction of the new library interns Emily, Claire, and Gabby. There are currently well over 4000 comics, so that still leaves plenty to read, and dedicated fans of the comic can always backtrack to explore the comics roots.

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A House, a Street, a City : the Story of 17 Summer by Lu Stone []



Published as part of Northampton’s 350th Anniversary Chapbook Series, Lu Stone’s remarkable history of the house and street she called home is a fascinating portrait of the many interwoven stories which make up our neighborhoods. Finely illustrated and impeccably researched, the book is a rich tapestry of the many lives whose fates crossed in the neighborhood in the 110+ years before she purchased the house in 1983. The subjects range from working class families and Olympic athletes to Lewis Warner, the President of the Hampshire County National Bank who suddenly absconded with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the bank in 1898. The book remains one of the finest examples of a ‘people’s history’ we have in the region, of dusty stories forgotten through the ages but rediscovered through neighbor’s anecdotes, dusty old newspapers, library microfilm and aging photographs cherished by relatives. The house in question, which sits today mere yards from 7-Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts, around the corner from the generic strip that is present-day King St., stood on the edge between a neighborhood of working class families and the stately homes and towering trees of 19th century King St. The book provides a priceless snapshot of local history, illuminating lives forgotten, reviving cherished memories and in the process helping us to understand the town’s history as a whole. This book is, as always, available to borrow from the library’s collection but is also, along with others from the 350th Anniversary Chapbook series, available for purchase at the Forbes Circulation Desk.

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