Drifting Inside for a Mite

As can be gathered from the slipshod updates, and my firm resistance to the idea of giving up blogging during this quasi-hiatus period, current life has reached levels beyond hectic. But I did want to weigh in on a couple of pieces of news floating through the rivulets before morphing momentarily into driftwood.

  • The Rake, if it isn’t clear enough, is a fantastic human being. I’ve been meaning to get back to him privately on this, but I’m hopelessly behind on email (assorted apologies to all on that score). For now, I’ll just state my kudos here publicly. That’s about all I’m capable of right now.
  • As the Literary Saloon points out, Hamish Hamilton has eviscerated the latest McSweeney’s. Having not yet had the pleasure of checking out this momentous comics issue, I agree in part with the Saloon’s assessment. There have been too many insalubrious suggestions from the “comics as literature” crowd without justification or solid arguments. It’s one thing to state it, but it comes across as a callow undergraduate announcing for the umpteenth time that God is dead. It’s another thing to have someone like James Wood or Christopher Hitchens weighing in on the matter and offering a proper historical or critical perspective. Ergo, it’s nice to see someone rock the boat (with admittedly too much gusto), if only to get the pro-comics crowd reconsidering their arguments. I’ll only say that safe ‘n sane hero worship seems steeped in the same “anti-snark” rhetoric that amounts to inexorable backpatting rather than genuine criticism. Why, for example, has the subject of Dave Sim’s decline remained curiously unmentioned? I’m as much of a Chris Ware fan as the next guy, but if the comic book is a form of literature, where is its Ulysses or Canterbury Tales? Get cracking, people. Offer real arguments outside of the Scott McCloud facsimiles.
  • The Complete Review has also reviewed James Cain’s overlooked Sinful Woman.
  • I caught The Red Elvises at Slim’s on Saturday. They have to be one of the hardest working bands around. (The band, apparently, is crazy enough to play in twelve completely different venues for twelve straight nights.) While I was more impressed with their scatological riffs on 1950s be-bop rather than their tired Yakov Smirnoff misunderstandings (they have, after all, been based out of Santa Monica for several years), outside of the ho-hum neverending solos, you’d be hard pressed to find a more endearingly kitschy show. Their new songs, “Love Rocket” and “Juliet” appealed to the fourteen year-old within and have siingle-handedly made Lunatics & Poets a must-buy. Imagine if the staid Stray Cats were tainted by a much-needed dose of burlesque and you have the Red Elvises in a nutshell.

[UPDATE: Since a certain someone apparently seems to think that everything I write on my blog is about her (when I merely alluded to the “comics as literature” crowd, bandied about for several years pre-certain someones and before McCloud), and since this certain someone would like to use enigmatic argot like “certain someone” rather than get involved with an adult and civil discussion on a very interesting issue, I only wish to add that the wholesale subscription to an argument without examples, initiated only by how a particular article enrages, is balderdash. It deadens the discussion and gives ammunition to detractors. It’s no better than a Green Party supporter hassling you at the Haight Street Fair without citing a single reason why. (“Because we’re the Green Party, man!”) What better way to nip these issues in the bud, so to speak, than an all-encompassing response that stands as sui generis? Something which takes McCloud and Ware’s points and hits the ground running. This is the kind of interesting issue that literary blogs can look into. (For example, I’d love to see Mr. Green’s thoughts on the matter.) Fortunately, Maud has looked at this issue from reverse, citing a Rani Dharker article that compares pomo novels with comic book technique. ]

[UPDATE 2: Also, Mr. Sarvas has interviewed Swink Editor Leelia Strogov.]

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  1. Re: The comics issue.
    I’m not enough of a scholar to really take on the issue of whether or not something is literature, but I think that both the “comics as literature” crowd and the literary crowd could use a good shake. Heck, I’m all for a little good-natured shaking in general, really.

    I think that the label “literature” has taken a hell of a lot of abuse over the years, so the desire to draw a line makes sense. But I worry that taking stands against popular art-forms will only reinforce certain stereotypes that people have about literature, since so much of the criticism of comics that attempt to taken seriously seems so damn spiteful and down-the-nose. (I’m not talking about your comments, which I thought were probably the most evenhanded I’ve seen on the issue.)

    On the other hand, by trying to claim a place under the literary banner, comics run the risk of taking on the nauseating pretentiousness often seen in literary circles.

    While I lack the critical skills to write anything convincing, I really think that Maus, by Art Spiegelman, even if it’s not actually literature, comes pretty damn close. (To read a little bit about the book, click here http://store.rabbitvalley.org/item_1777_2529.html .)

  2. Seems to me that you react to that certain someone a lot more than she reacts to your arrogant ass.

  3. Honest Abe: Ever hear of a concept called playful? Furthermore, do you have the cojones to offer a real name? I suspect nay on both counts.

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