The B pipe on my Honda needed replaced, so I sat in a Starbucks all morning and drew the people passing by. I liked the drawings so much, I thought, what the hell, why not make them a comic?
Yesterday, for the first time since spring hit, Meg and I went for a walk in Lakeview Cemetery. It’s my favorite place to walk in Cleveland Heights, close to the apartment, way better than any park, and massive enough that you can get lost. When it was warm and I had the day off, I’ve gone there to draw and read. (I also like to look at the names and the dates and make up stories about the families.) Next pretty weekend, we’re going to take some salami sandwiches and books over there and camp out for the day.
I didn’t have my camera or my sketchbook with me yesterday, so I drew the picture above from memory. Instead of a traditional marker in the center of the family plot, these folks had planted a magnolia tree. The flowers from the tree blossoms were falling, so the petals made a perfect, beautiful blanket of pink and white over the graves. It was the prettiest thing I’ve seen all year.
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. He must learn them again.
—William Faulkner, “Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech”
I got my copy of George Saunder’s In Persuasion Nation in the mail a couple days ago, but I’ve found it really hard to get into, because I’ve already read most of the stories elsewhere. (“CommComm“, “Adams“, “Bohemians”, “The Red Bow,” “Christmas,” “93990,”…if you’ve got the Complete New Yorker you’re halfway there.) It’s like an album of previously released singles. The new website has a bunch of goodies on it, including a chapbook of non-fiction and an MP3 of Tony Danza (!) reading “The Barber’s Unhappiness.”
I’m also listening to Kevin Brockmeier’s THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD. He got the idea for the novel from the epigraph of one of my favorite books in high school: Jame Loewen’s LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME. Here’s a list of songs about death that Brockmeier likes, and the original story from the New Yorker.
I am still very excited for the new Walkmen album.
There ought to be a man with a hammer behind the door of every happy man, to remind him by his constant knocks that there are unhappy people, and that happy as he himself may be, life will sooner or later show him its claws.
— Anton Chekhov
Yesterday was one of those days that make you want to hang up your hat. Throw in the towel. Etc.
Chalk it up to reverse seasonal affective disorder. Or maybe it was all the meat last weekend.
Anyways, the man with the hammer was knocking, and if you know me, you know I don’t have much of a poker face. I’m a pretty good liar, but my face tends to read like an open book. Good thing my great ambition is to be an open book. Ho ho. Thank God for Castrato Rock.
“You two are GETTING MARRIED??? Oh man, I LOVE being married!!!”
Long story short, we took a detour on our way back home last night and ended up at a bar with Lynda Barry, Dan, and a bunch of other nice Oberlin folks, talking about marriage, writing, world-building, video games, ink sticks, George Saunders, smoking, and Skoal rings.
Lynda gave a downright marvelous talk and reading of her novel CRUDDY to a packed lecture hall at the Oberlin Science Center. “I feel like this must be the Make A Wish Foundation,” she said, admiring the audience. “I have a tumor right?”
Lynda lives in rural, southern Wisconsin. “I’m the daughter of a meat cutter and a Filipino house cleaner. Most people look at me funny when I say I’m half Filipino, but Norwegian blood will suck the color out of anything.”
There was little talk of comics, and a lot of talk about writing. For her, telling a story in images is the most important thing. “When you’re in that image state, the language takes care of itself.” She outlined a process of telling the story of your life with an image–a car, for example–focusing on that image, and then describing the world around it. I mentioned to her my ideas about worldbuilding and she said, “People ask me if my stories are autobiographical. I say, ‘my stories aren’t, but my settings are.'”
She talked about “the state of play,” and the importance of play in our creative endeavors. “I love kids, man. They can teach us so much.” She said its essential to recapture that youthful, unfettered creativity that we all possess as children. On English class: “There’s nothing wrong with taking apart stories, but for the longest time I thought that was how you put them together.” On that pesky editing monkey on the writer’s shoulder: “When did the asshole become the voice of reason?”
She’s wary of computers and a champion of drawing and writing by hand. “In the digital age…don’t lose your digits!” She said when writing her second novel, the computer was a burden, making it too easy to delete things. After ten years of working on it, she decided to start writing the novel with her Japanese brush, and it worked like magic.
Later on, I told her I worked on the computer to do my woodcut-styled comics. “Yeah, but you use a Wacom tablet,” she said, “so at least you’re still drawing.”
I mentioned to her that James Kochalka, another great cartoonist, also emphasizes the importance of play, but that his emphasis comes from his love of video games. “I don’t know about video games, man. But I trust young people. That many young people can’t be wrong.”
What else can I tell you about the woman? She spent an hour signing books and talking with her fans. She likes to sing. She can even sing with her mouth closed.
The Sunday NYTimes came a day late to Circleville this Easter, so Meg, Mom, and I read it over a breakfast of leftovers. I was reading what looks to be the last installment of Ware’s Building Stories series, and Mom said, “What do you think of that?” And I said, “well, I read it for the technique, but the story lines are pretty boring.” And Mom said, “That’s what I thought, but I was afraid that you liked it.” Then she explained to me that she found it really hard to read, after a lifetime of teaching kids left-to-right, up-and-down. So I told her that I thought everybody who comes to his work basically has to re-teach themselves to read. And she said, “Oh, good. I thought I was the only one.”
THEN I was reading in the Book Review about Flaubert, and I had remembered that somewhere (?) someone had suggested that Jimmy Corrigan would make a great companion to Madame Bovary on a reading list. About Flaubert: “Sentences were laid as carefully as fuses. Progress was excruciatingly slow.” And: “The romantic in him wanted to soar above it all, to write a book of pure music, “a book about nothing,” a book held together only by the “internal force of its style.”
That’s all I’ve got. I’m going to grab my old copy of Madame Bovary to take back to Cleveland for further rumination.
Tonight we’re going to drive straight up to Oberlin to see Lynda Barry. I’m really interested to see what a fiction “reading” by a comics writer looks/sounds like. Since I always bring my sketchbooks to these things, I’m going to use Brandy Agerbeck’s graphic facilitations and Alison Bechdel’s recent renderings of a visit to the Center for Cartoon Studies as inspiration. (Check out the program at CCS, by the way. That’s what I’d like my MFA studies to look like. If only CCS had funding and accrediation…)
In celebration of Easter, I’ve decided to give the gift of Commando.
I sure am…
I’ve been traveling a lot lately. I was over in Australia during Easter. It was interesting to note they celebrate Easter the same way we do : by commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus by telling our children a giant bunny rabbit left chocolate eggs in the night. Gee, I wonder why we’re so messed up as a race. You know, I’ve read the Bible. Can’t find the words “bunny” or “chocolate” in the whole book. I think it’s interesting how people act on their beliefs. A lot of Christians, for instance, wear crosses around their necks. Nice sentiment, but do you think when Jesus comes back, he’s really going to want to look at a cross? Maybe that’s why he hasn’t shown up yet.
– Bill Hicks, “Easter,” Rant In E-Minor
- “Once upon a time, a group called the Clash sang, ‘We’re a garage band.’ But who can afford a garage nowadays?” Ian Svenonius explains the current rock scene in terms of space and buildings. (Thanks, Mike.)
- Also, check out the Weird War site. And my write-up from the Miami days.
- Archive.org has the whole Power Of Nightmares documentary (never shown in the US) available for free download. Sean shared this with me last year, and I highly recommend it to anyone who, like me, wants to learn more about the rise of fundamental Islam and neo-conservatism in the second half of the 20th century.
- Bill Hicks’s solution. More Hicks quotes.
- Finally, these Fibonacci poems are getting out of hand. The NYTimes has a report. Don’t forget who showed you how way back when.
- More articles from the Columbus Dispatch and the Cincinnati Enquirer about the demise of my alma mater.
- Tractor beams! Now where’s the clean, unlimited energy supply that will save the world?
- In our library, this would be located in my baby, the graphic novel section. Did I ever mention that Mr. Vonnegut loves librarians?
- God, I hate Peeps.
- The Arcade Fire are rocking me this morning. Here’s a great sketch of the dude with the Motorcycle helmet. (I didn’t draw it, Matthew Derby did.)
- Everybody’s going crazy for the Fibonacci poem! What about the Fibonacci SONNET?
It was a beautiful tree, two doors down. i stood next to the cooks from the chinese restaurant across the street and watched it disappear…