Saturday, September 30, 2006
Kent Osborne, one of the stars of an upcoming short film based on a story I wrote, is quite the polymath: a writer (The Spongebob Squarepants Movie) and artist as well as an actor, and some other things we can't go into here. That sad little character you see in this "blog" entry is a creation of his. It's no wonder that Sad Sack is Kent's all-time favorite comic book character from back when he was a boy. Sad Sack, by the way, also makes a significant appearance in "The Golden Anvil," a novella by Jeff McNeil. There's a pretty fascinating history of Sack at Donald Markstein's "Toonopedia" site. In fact, that brings us to today's "blogging" tip: The internet is full of all kinds of information! Check out the internet some time!
Eli Horowitz is an astute and powerful editor over at the McSweeney's corporation. I'm not aware of everything he has edited, but I know he oversaw a fantastic (in every sense) book called THE PEOPLE OF PAPER by Salvador Plascencia. Mr. Horowitz was also kind enough to make some top-notch suggestions about a story of mine called "The Big Dud," which appears in the twentieth issue of the McSweeney's magazine, on sale now. In this, Part VII of our continuing look at comic books as the root of all literature, Mr. Horowitz chimes in with an elliptical remembrance that raises more questions than it answers: "Our only comic books were free ones," he writes, "like 'Spiderman and the Fun Reading Gang.' Oh, except actually I remember finding in our basement a comic in which Conan the Barbarian is in outer space. There are also some space wenches involved at some point." How did that comic book get into the basement? This is one - but hardly the only - mystery that emerges from Mr. Horowitz's brief but fraught account. Perhaps in the future we shall discover some answers - together! - as members of the blogging community! This is what it's all about, people.
From today's mailbag, despondent correspondent Jeff McNeil claims, "I never said I liked Little Dot. I said I liked the humorous comic books (Archie and Jughead, Beetle Bailey, Peanuts, etc.) because instead of dragging a plot out forever they CLOSED THE DEAL AT THE END OF EVERY STRIP!! There was a joke at the end of every 4 (or 5?) panel strip, and therefore a payoff pretty quickly." McNeil is referring of course to Part One of our controversial series on the earliest influences of our nation's towering literary titans. (This, by the way, is part six of that series, the fifth part having remained unnumbered due to an error on the part of one of our less experienced interns.) McNeil does bring up one cogent subject: Archie and the Riverdale Gang. Through another intern-related oversight (different intern), I have failed to realize until now that BY FAR the cartoon characters referred to most often in the emails of various authors (among them Karen Spears Zacharias, Mark Childress and Pia Z. Ehrhardt, not to mention McNeil himself) are Betty, Veronica, Reggie and the rest. Archie, then, is the primary progenitor of modern American literature, outstripping the former champ, the Legion of Superheroes, by an astounding two-to-one ratio. As the results continue to pour in we vow to keep you posted, even if it means giving up "actual" writing forever. In conclusion I reassure the publisher of my books, who fears that I may be alienating women readers by talking too much about comics, that there is nary a blogger who has as much of true substance to say about the Gilmore Girls as I do.
Friday, September 29, 2006
The man in the picture was a very nice man. His name was Eugene Walter, and he was a real mentor to me. Aside from my family he was the earliest and most enthusiastic supporter of my writing. It turns out that this year I'll be part of two events that have something to do with Eugene. That makes me happy. On Oct. 6 I'll be on two panels at the Eugene Walter Writers Festival in Mobile, Alabama. It takes place downtown at the Admiral Semmes hotel, come on by! I'm not sure if it costs money. Later in the month, from Oct. 18-22, it's time for the famous Southern Foodways Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. I - and some vastly more sophisticated co-panelists, one of whom is a famous editor who knew Eugene in Paris - will be talking about what it was like to have dinner with Eugene (he was a gourmet cook, too, and the author of numerous books on food, in addition to doing a whole lot of other stuff, like acting in the all-time classic film 8 1/2). Don't confuse Eugene with the other Eugene Walter, a playwright who died in (I think) the 1930s! Last year when I was on my book tour, I got to see some of James Joyce's papers and some of Eugene's papers at the Ransom Center at the University of Texas, thanks to our good friend Leslie Delassus, who worked there at the time. I saw an early draft of Eugene's English translation of the Fellini film SATYRICON, which had some of his doodles on the cover and in the margins. You can see one of his drawings, a cat, at the homepage for the festival named after him.
We here at the Pendarvis Building were excited to get word from Rome, Italy, where friend-of-the-blog Tom Bissell is engaging in a prestigious year-long fellowship. You must understand that a lot of our staffers are new to the "blogging" game, and once in awhile, in their admirable enthusiasm, they go overboard in an effort to express their youthful high spirits. Such was the case in the course of a previous rumination, when Mr. Bissell's affection for a superheroine called Dream Girl was described in language that can only be classified as misleading. We would like to state clearly that Mr. Bissell's feelings for Dream Girl were entirely aboveboard, the normal feelings of any young man for a comely cartoon character, an innocent passing fancy of more carefree days of yore. Furthermore, Mr. Bissell has provided several links to representations of Dream Girl, one of which will have to suffice here. Mr. Bissell's intent, which I believe has been hereby satisfied, is to demonstrate the charms that said Dream Girl would naturally arouse in a healthy young man of the Reagan era. With some savvy "internet" research, of the kind Mr. Bissell has employed, you can enjoy looking for your own favorite picture of Dream Girl. I conclude with a caveat. A representative of my publisher (I have two books of short stories) has gently hinted to me by email earlier today that "blogging" about comic books will do little to win the hearts of women, who make up so much of the reading public. Some of my helpers are looking into this opinion as we speak, to ascertain its veracity. My wife loves the Silver Surfer, Wonder Woman and Hammer Horror Films, which I know is anecdotal evidence at best, and proves nothing except that I am a lucky man. In any case I would not like to alienate any women ever, even if my life depended on it! Whether or not they happen to enjoy reading! So I would ask any persons, male or female, who do not like to look at sexy comic book ladies, NOT to "click" on the "link" above.
One of the staff members here just did a Google search for the term "ye olde blogger" and got 1,070 hits. This term - which only hours ago felt so fresh and hilarious to everyone here in the Pendarvis Building - has therefore been retired from our arsenal of fun. Please do not be concerned! If anything, this setback has only doubled our determination to work for you.
This is part 4 of our series on the early comic book influences of our modern writers living in this strange world of today. If you will glance to your right you will see the blurry image of Jim Ruland, a wonderful short story writer whose book BIG LONESOME has some good stories in it about Dick Tracy and Popeye, to name a few. But those are not his favorite characters, according to what he just told me! Growing up, Mr. Ruland preferred the imaginary company of Conan the Barbarian and a bunch of crazy elves, pictured here. What does this mean? Are we approaching some universal truth about the creative process? My assistants are busy putting this information into the large computer, which I have built with my own two hands for the purpose. Soon we will have some information of use to humanity! That will be awesome.
Ye olde blogger, as I humorously refer to myself, was in quite a tizzy today, as it came to my attention that one of our junior level employees had referred to Phil Oppenheim as a "mean, mean man" in a recent posting. It turns out that Mr. Oppenheim is actually very nice and sweet. Also, the quotation marks around the word "busy," when describing Mr. Oppenheim's attitude toward his job, may have conveyed the wrong impression. He apparently works very hard at whatever it is he does.
We've received word here at the blog from Mr. George Saunders, recipient of a recent and highly deserved genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation. "I was a Charlie Brown guy, straight down the line," Mr. Saunders tells ye olde blogger (as we now refer to ourselves). "Or more accurately: A Snoopy/Linus/Charlie Brown guy. I could feel my psyche objectified in those three characters, exactly." As we continue to amass data here about the youthful comic book preferences of our nation's finest thinkers and writers we have hired a small staff of 32 very enthusiastic and helpful young men and women who will continue to tabulate the results and plumb the significance of the accumulated information. By the way, here's today's helpful "blogging" hint: If you "click" on a word or phrase that appears to be light blue, or some other delightful color, you will be sent to a "link." Try it! It's easy and fun!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Just when I thought I had stopped blogging... I heard from Mark Childress (pictured, left; he's less blurry in person), renowned author of modern classics like TENDER, CRAZY IN ALABAMA and ONE MISSISSIPPI. Now I feel compelled - nay, charged! - to complete Pt. 2 of my in-depth series about the youthful comic book preferences of our nation's literary elite. My one fear is that it will nudge the picture of me down to the bottom of the page where everyone will forget to look at it. I know I described it in an earlier posting as "simpering," but I was just being humble. Well, today I was working on a new novel and I included a long speech about Richie Rich. Imagine my surprise when Mark Childress, on this very same day, sent me a nice email about his childhood affinity for that selfsame Richie Rich! Mark wrote with equal eloquence on the subject of Jimmy Olsen, Superman's pal, another of his favorite characters. Maybe if I can get permission from him I'll post his whole email. Anyway, in a second astonishing coincidence that is bound to shake the blogging world to its core, just THIS LAST WEEKEND I spent the last of my money on a couple of reprints of Jack Kirby's short-lived stint as the writer-artist on the Jimmy Olsen series. It's some WEIRD Jimmy Olsen! Jimmy Olsen vs. aliens and clones. DON RICKLES (!) appears in two of the stories, no kidding. It's Superman, Jimmy Olsen and Don Rickles fighting aliens. I'm not fooling. Mark also mentioned the Legion of Superheroes, like Tom Bissell in the previous entry. Based on statistical analysis I can state with total accuracy that the Legion of Superheroes is therefore the primary inspiration of our great modern fiction writers - a startling discovery! I will leave you with the opportunity to click on this link to an unappealing Richie Rich rip-off. I think this is what blogging is, right? This thing I'm doing now?
Thanks to the popular demand in my head, I thought I'd fill you in on the comic book characters treasured by our nation's greatest scribes. One of my favorite novelists, James Whorton, Jr., claims to recall with fondness a fellow called The Phantom Hitchhiker, star of a horror comic, the exact title of which Whorton has since forgotten. Tom Bissell, author of the riveting, thrill-a-minute, but starkly serious (well, sometimes hilarious) travel book CHASING THE SEA and the harrowing, sometimes hilarious book of short stories GOD LIVES IN ST. PETERSBURG, professes a boyhood fascination with Nightcrawler, Aquaman and Iron Fist. He also cops to an - if I may characterize it thus - unsavory relationship with Dream Girl of the Legion of Superheroes. Another daredevilish, globetrotting writer named Tom (this one Junod, of ESQUIRE) cites Cyclops, because he wore glasses that kept him from blowing up the world... a perfect hero for a nerd, Junod says, casting his younger self in that role, but I don't believe it. I'm just saying, he's a handsome man. My friend Jeff McNeil claims that he found the comic book Spider-Man "too slow" and preferred the animated TV show... which is his way of admitting, I think, that this is more his speed. And if you've ever read the tough-as-nails short stories of Pia Z. Ehrhardt, you'll be flabbergasted at the identity of her favorite character. Wow, this entry seemed like a great idea when I started it. I wanted to practice linking to things. Now I'm just weary. It seems like a fine way to avoid writing a novel, though. In conclusion, I do have to thank Phil Oppenheim, a Senior VP (or something) at TNT, who took time from his "busy" day to teach me how to put pictures (see below) and links on my blog. He gasped with glee and delight, I feel comfortable telling you, when he saw that one of my recent posts was about THE GILMORE GIRLS. It turns out that Phil has been the subject of much ridicule from his underlings in the once-mighty Turner Empire, because they have cozened out his devotion to that long-running comedy-drama. You have to know what a mean, mean man Phil is to appreciate the contrast. His favorite comic book character, by the way, was Mr. Nick Fury. And with that, I give up blogging forever.
Hello, web friends. I feel as if we are all friends here on the web. Here's another picture. It's easy to put pictures on your blog once you get the hang of it. This photo represents the grand opening of the amazing independent bookstore Turnrow Book Co. in Greenwood, Mississippi. I was there to read along with (from left to right, not counting me) William "Provinces of Night" Gay, Dennis "Mystic River" Lehane and Tom "Smonk" Franklin. Fascinatingly, Smonk is both the name of Tom's new book AND his actual middle name. Psych! I'm the one in the picture who appears to be cringing and simpering as though, despite the fact that I had no idea the picture was being taken, I instinctively assumed the odd-man-out stance so appropriate to this scenario, which puts one in mind of that old Sesame Street ditty in which one was supposed to... dear Lord I'm exhausting myself with my tortured logorrhea. I'm just trying to say these men are great writers. Not pictured, Ashley Warlick, another great writer who read that lovely day. Go to Greenwood and visit Jamie and Kelly at Turnrow Book Co.
Have you ever seen a blog with a picture on it before? Well now you have! This is a shot from a movie that is just now being edited in Austin, TX, by director Dan Brown of Rollergirls fame. It's an adaptation of a short story I wrote called "The Pipe," which appears in my first book, THE MYSTERIOUS SECRET OF THE VALUABLE TREASURE. Anyway, I heard from Mr. Brown today, and he says he's getting the film ready to enter in a few festivals with fast-approaching deadlines. I'll let you know how it goes. Then you'll be excited and happy. What is going on in this enigmatic picture? Maybe one day we'll have a caption contest.
I am afraid I should have been more thoughtful and explained DEATHLOK in my very first "blog" entry (below). The way I remember it he was part robot and felt kind of tragic about it. Man, I sure knew where he was coming from! For more information on Deathlok, visit your local library.
Did you ever read that story "Winky" by George Saunders? You should look it up! Also, "Animals in Our Lives" by Tom Bissell. That's a sad one. They're both sad! But one has hobbits in it. You'll have to do your research to find out which one! Finally, on an unrelated topic, I'll just say that my editor has convinced me to cut out an entire page about THE GILMORE GIRLS from the title novella of my upcoming book YOUR BODY IS CHANGING. Don't get me wrong, there's still some Gilmore Girls stuff in there (I don't want to give anything away, but a certain Someone comes down from above in the form of Luke, the scruffy diner-owner on THE GILMORE GIRLS) but there's no longer a recapitulation of seasons 4 and 5 in the form of a prayer by a young fundamentalist. Oh well, you can read that part after I'm dead and my relatives are trying to milk every last drop out of my meager estate. My goal of establishing a flourishing "Gilmore-Girls School" of serious fiction in my lifetime has withered before my eyes. But a sliver of the original version did sneak into an anthology called A CAST OF CHARACTERS, edited by Sonny Brewer. Check it out from the good folks at your public library, and start working on your dissertation about it right away!
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Hello, everyone! My publisher thought I should have a "blog." Here it is! I know that almost everyone cares about what comic books I enjoyed when I was 12. DEATHLOK was good. And THE METAL MEN. Is this blogging? Because I love it! One day I will figure out how to link you to DEATHLOK and THE METAL MEN, and then this blog will really take off. I have seen the internet before, and I know a lot of times you can click on something and something happens. One day maybe this dream will become a reality right here on my blog.