Posts Tagged ‘cartoonists’
July 28, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- James Alan McPherson, the first black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, has died at seventy-two. An obituary in the New York Times quotes his memoir, Going Up to Atlanta, in which he writes about reading comics at the library in Savannah, Georgia: “At first the words, without pictures, were a mystery … But then, suddenly, they all began to march across the page. They gave up their secret meanings, spoke of other worlds, made me know that pain was a part of other peoples’ lives. After a while, I could read faster and faster and faster. After a while, I no longer believed in the world in which I lived.”
- If we watch TV mainly as an exercise in escapism, then a show devoid of people—or even trace elements of the anthropomorphic—would offer the greatest escape of all. We’re in luck, because there’s How It’s Made, a half-hour paean to manufacturing that is, as Alexandra Kleeman writes, closer to full-on post-human than anything on television: “The show begins to take on a post-apocalyptic flavor. Its images of manufacturing, you realize, are oddly depopulated … Humans are so scarce, in fact, in this world of throbbing, gleaming machines that when part of one comes into view, the first reaction is not recognition but confusion. ‘What is that pink thing?’ you might ask yourself, before realizing that it is a hand. Against the swift exactitude and raw power of machinery, the human anatomy—with its soft, squishy shapes and nerve-riddled interior—looks vulnerable at best.”
- And why not surrender to the conveyer belts? There is much to escape from in this world, especially as an enclave of elite technocrats begin to rebuild it from the ground up, finding ever more novel ways of infantilizing us in their quest to monetize. “I have been obsessed with figuring out why I hate the Seamless ads in the New York City subway,” Jesse Barron writes. “ ‘Welcome to New York,’ one reads. ‘The role of your mom will be played by us’ … We’re in the middle of a decade of post-dignity design, whose dogma is cuteness. One explanation would be geopolitical: when the perception of instability is elevated, we seek the safety of naptime aesthetics … We cannot find food on our own, or choose a restaurant, or settle a tiny debt. Where that dependency feels unseemly in the context of independent adult life, it feels appropriate if the user’s position remains childlike, and the childlikeness makes sense when you consider that Yelp depends on us to write reviews, and therefore must, like a fun mom, make chores feel fun, too.”
- Maybe you’d been hoping that literature could offer some solace from all this. Should you attempt to write in your effort to flee from despair, proceed with extreme caution: there is only more suffering ahead. Robert Fay writes, “One occasionally glimpses the true existential cost of the so-called ‘writer’s life,’ where writing is both an act of self-abnegation—with all of its consequent anxieties—as well as a struggle against such a personalized nihilism … The daily act of sitting alone for hours and purposely conjuring up emotions and disturbing memories—precisely the kinds of things people use Percocet, vodka, food, and Netflix to forget—serves as the ideal petri dish for anxiety.”
- Might as well bookend this one with obituaries. The cartoonist Jack Davis—known for the defining style he brought MAD Magazine, where he was one of “the Usual Gang of Idiots”—has died at ninety-one. “Davis’s final cover for the magazine came in 1995—a picture of magazine-mascot Neuman plunging radio-presenter Howard Stern in a toilet bowl, which the spokesman said ‘remains a MAD classic.’ ”
May 10, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- So you’ve bought an English country house—great! And you have a time machine, allowing you to choose when you’ll reside at said country house—great! May I recommend the interwar period? It was a truly exceptional time to own an English country house. Adrian Tinniswood has a new book about the era, arguing that it was “a world of energy, invention, and change … The loosening bonds between family, mansion and local community meant the country house was changing, but it was not dying … A ‘spirit of restlessness’ characterized the age. Country-house parties could last from forty-eight hours to three weeks. The word week-end entered common usage as expanding rail networks and car ownership meant that people could dash to the country on Friday and return on Monday exhausted after a race, a ball, a shoot, or a political gathering … Women, in particular, were confronted with grueling social expectations: a seven-day shooting party, for example, would require multiple outfits for every day of the week.”
- The photographer Bob Adelman has died at eighty-five. “In his college years, he studied philosophy to try to figure out the point of being alive,” Ann Beattie wrote of him in 2014. “In the civil rights movement, he found his answer.” Mary Reinholz remembers him as “your quintessential New York Jewish intellectual turned artist and activist … For me, Adelman was also a big daddy figure, a superman at the supermarket who always seemed to be there for this lowly scribe, offering sensible career advice, recommending prospective employers he knew, warning about a sportswriter boyfriend who had broken my heart. I wondered why he chose to live alone after the breakup of a relationship with a much younger woman … He didn’t drink or smoke but struggled for years with his weight and photographed his ‘shrinking’ size in nude pictures he took of himself for Esquire magazine. He once said in an interview: ‘When I photographed, I was intent on telling the truth as best I saw it and then to help in doing something about it.’ ”
- Ian Penman on Patti Smith’s new memoir, M Train, which finds her visiting writers’ graves a bit too fashionably, if not too regularly: “The spell-casting mood of M Train demands that Smith fly off on a moment’s whim, spurred on by nothing more than a lovely line in a new book she’s picked up: she realizes she loves Writer A, who either lives or is now buried in City B, decides she has to be there NOW, and before you know it she’s graveside again, the Intercity angel of death in dark Helmut Lang pants and Ann Demeulemeester cloak. It’s all so smooth and hassle-free … There are things in M Train that niggle at me in the same way [Bruce] Chatwin’s work often did: the feeling that for all their much vaunted ‘realism’ these treks occurred in a rather privileged sphere. There’s always a rich pal to provide a bed, a dinner table, a handy castle to stay at for the season; there’s always someone in the background to make sure the plane tickets arrive; fresh figs on the bedside table. Special people, living by special rules. Like Chatwin, Smith is also a bit of a consumer fetishist: the simplest things have to have a special aura or signature—or, let’s get real, a high-toned brand name. It has to be a certain Moleskine notebook. The pencil has to be Conté. The ink has to be from a little shop no one knows in the backstreets of Florence.”
- The landscape architect Adriaan Geuze (pronounced “Huh-zaa”) is changing our notions of what a park can be. But to understand his work it helps to understand his past in the Netherlands—unless you’ve never wondered about the formative years of an influential landscape architect: “‘Ecology in Holland is in grids,’ Geuze said. ‘Every frog in Holland is in a line, because all the water is linear … The smell of the tide near Dordrecht, it intoxicated my brains … All the boys were into soccer, but I could not play soccer.’ Waiting out the school day, he would think, he said, ‘I have a tree hut. I have secret places you don’t even know where they are.’ When Geuze was a teenager, his father took him along to international industry and agricultural shows. ‘We went to the German Hanover machinery expos, where there would be not five machines but five thousand machines. He took me on very big boats, at least in my imagination—ocean steamers—and even an oil platform. Even into the engine rooms, where the violent noise was there. When I am romantic, I am thinking about these things.’ ”
- Ben Jones and Christopher Forgues, cartoonists who collaborate under the name Paper Radio, have been quietly breaking the mold since 1999: “Working together, often under pseudonyms, they changed the form and content of comics as few other artists have, radically distorting extant storytelling genres and emphasizing experimental approaches to drawing and printing … A Paper Radio publication could contain subversive fan fiction about the Muppet Babies, elaborate fantasy adventures, psychedelic space operas, or crude slapstick gags. All of these works circulated in small editions among an audience of like-minded artists and musicians, members of a largely unchronicled New England subculture whose aesthetic continues to seep, credited or not, into popular visual forms, from music videos to subway advertisements.”
April 12, 2016 | by Blutch
Blutch’s Peplum, a graphic novel, is out this month from New York Review Comics. A phantasmagoric take on the Satyricon, it was originally serialized in the French magazine À suivre in 1996; this is its first appearance in English. In his new introduction, Blutch’s translator, Edward Gauvin, writes, “Taking as its title the European term for the sword-and-sandal cinematic subgenre, Peplum offers a decidedly different take on the toga epic—one of aporia and ambiguity, a fractured tale of antiquity in all its alien majesty.”
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March 6, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
A letter from George du Maurier to his mother, March 1862.
My dear Mamma,
I have just received your letter which is disgustingly short and disappointing after I’ve been waiting day after day—as if you didn’t owe me a letter—fact is, you don’t care half so much for your firstborn as you used, and I’m not going to stand it Madam. I must have you over here to remind you by the fascination of my manner and the charm of my conversation that you ought to have quite a peculiar pride and affection for me. Read More »
June 16, 2011 | by Joe Ollmann
Recently, I went to Bar Pam Pam, a mysterious old-man bar in my neighborhood that I have often passed but never had the courage to enter. My friend Murray and I asked what was on tap, and the owner said, “Vieux Montreal” and stopped there. I liked that—it was like an old-time saloon. What kind of beer do you have? Just beer, stranger. This bar was wonderful, genuine, unmanufactured focus-group atmosphere, no loud music and a welcome refuge from hipsters and young people. The old-man bar, like many old men, is an institution that is dying out. It made me think of all of the other old-man bars that I know and love in Montreal. Come with me, I’ll show you …
Bar Pam Pam
I’ve already told you the appeal of this little gem, mere footsteps from my home! But a few notes from my visit there are worth the telling. A tipsy woman took out her guitar, randomly sang “Me and Bobby McGee” in heavily accented English, put the guitar back in its case, and continued drinking. No one else clapped or even seemed to notice this performance. Later, a heavy, bearded dude came in, and the bartender immediately brought a pitcher and glass to his table.
“Why you bring this? You never see me before,” said the bearded man.
“My friend, every night you come, this I know,” said the bartender, with a smile that was met by one from the bearded man. This was obviously their ritual.