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Posts Tagged ‘cartoons’

Staff Picks: Unspooling, Erupting, and Recoiling

April 22, 2016 | by

An image of Tambora taken by the Space Shuttle in 1992, with a view of the caldera produced by the 1815 eruption.

An image of Tambora taken by the Space Shuttle in 1992, with a view of the caldera produced by the 1815 eruption.

On a sad, sad morning, thanks to J. J. Sullivan for sending us this 1989 cover of “When You Were Mine,” by the Blue Rubies. —Lorin Stein

Since Mary Ruefle’s 2008 book Most of It, I’ve watched for a second collection of her short prose. So I was pleased when we published two such pieces from her upcoming book, My Private Property, in our Spring issue. (NB: they’re nestled under Poetry, but as Ruefle told me over the phone, she doesn’t think them poems, per se.) I’ve since gotten my hands on a galley of that book and have read it twice over: Ruefle is as good as ever. In forty-one ambrosial bits, she muses on everything from programs littering a concert-hall floor to menopause to what a bird might think as it watches a woman die. Many of these begin simply—with a golf pencil or a string of Christmas-tree lights—but they unspool into larger existential meditations, on language and death, on creation and sadness and boredom; some are even doused in whimsy. Ruefle’s is a soothing, enlightening voice—always playful, always gentle, and always unfettering some ineffable truth. There’s a closeness I feel toward her as I read this book, as if she’s telling me all the secrets of this world—or at least of hers—and that I’d be wise to listen. “And if you sleep through a truth,” she writes, “you will wake at the bitter end.” —Caitlin Youngquist

This summer marks the bicentennial anniversary of “Frankenstein”—not the book itself, but the spoken nub of the story, which Mary Shelley first narrated by firelight in Switzerland in the summer of 1816. The eighteen-year-old Shelley had traveled with her lover, Percy Bysshe Shelley, their infant son, and Mary’s stepsister to the shores of Lake Geneva. Their idea was to spend the season with Lord Byron, far from the dreary chill of London. This part of the story is well-known: incessant rain confined the group to the house, and to fight off cabin fever, they each wrote a ghost story. Shelley summoned the tale of Frankenstein, whose frequent confusion with his nameless creation became a great gift to two centuries of pedants, and, lately, to Twitter. What I learned this week, however, from a recent episode of In Our Time, Melvyn Bragg’s indispensable BBC radio show, is that the bad weather that night had its own traceable origin. A year before the Lake Geneva gathering, the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history occurred in Indonesia. The explosion, of a mountain called Tambora, threw thirty-eight cubic miles of rock, ash, and magma into the air. The airborne cloak of sunlight-reflecting ejecta circled the globe and was ultimately responsible for the “ungenial” weather of 1816, which became known as the Year Without a Summer. Tambora’s explosion likely killed some seventy thousand people, so it was hardly the innocuous butterfly of classic chaos theory. Still, we can guess that Shelley might have appreciated, at some level, the distant and violent origins of her tale. “Every thing must have a beginning,” she wrote in the 1831 introduction to Frankenstein, “and that beginning must be linked to something that went before … Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos.” —Robert P. Baird
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Bodies Moving Through Space

April 12, 2016 | by

How Blutch’s graphic novel Peplum shatters the Satyricon.

In an interview after Peplum’s first publication in book form, Blutch tells of a reader who asked him why he was such a difficult author. “But I don’t feel like I’m difficult at all!” he exclaimed. “I don’t understand why I get asked that. What I do is fairly simple, and not at all intellectual. In my stories, I try to favor action.” And in action, Blutch’s book abounds: stabbing, stoning, amputation, eye-gouging, sex, seafaring, Attic dance, pirate attacks. Yet these sequences are as artificial as they are visceral, feral, and formal at once. 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. Read More »

Time for Spring

March 10, 2016 | by

From To Spring, the season’s all-time creepiest creation story.

Though the calendar disagrees, for the past two days it’s been spring in the northeast. Everyone is going wild. Premature sunbathing is rampant. “Spring fever,” an old man winked at me—but then, that’s what I get for sitting on a traffic island in the middle of West Broadway. 

In 1936, MGM released the “Happy Harmonies” cartoon “To Spring”—a lighthearted celebration of the season, on the face of it. And it is physically beautiful. But as with so many animations of the era, there’s a serious dark side. Read More »

And to All a Goodnight

December 18, 2015 | by

Easy there, big guy.

The Paris Review’s offices are close to a small square of green space called Clement Clarke Moore Park, at West Twenty-Second and Tenth Avenue. Moore, a scholar and theologian, owned the piece of land—he donated a large part to the General Theological Seminary, which still stands there—and indeed, his forebears had owned the estate simply known as Chelsea. And of course, Moore’s poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is essentially responsible for our contemporary notion of Santa Claus: “a right jolly old elf,” drawn by reindeer, who arrives on Christmas Eve to swoop down your chimney. Moore is said to have been inspired by a local Dutch handyman—this 1926 New York Times piece explores the creation legend. Read More »

The Brief and Bitter Encounters of Ambrose Bierce

June 23, 2015 | by

See more of Jason’s work in our new Summer issue.

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When I was a kid, I came across Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary and found it to be a revelation of cynicism—even somehow liberating in its bleak honesty.

Bierce’s writing has fallen out of fashion over the past century. His specialty was the dispensation of devastating aphoristic truths. If I had to name a single literary antecedent, it might be Blaise Pascal. While Pascal was content to note the pain and weakness of humankind, though, Bierce injected his epigrams with a dose of fanciful weirdness. Take this one, for example, which almost reads like stage directions for a vaudeville routine:

Meeting Merit on a street-crossing, Success stood still. Merit stepped off into the mud and went round him, bowing his apologies, which Success had the grace to accept.

Most of Bierce’s works are so direct and evocative that illustrations might only cloud their effect. But these unusual exchanges between virtues personified—many of which are collected in A Cynic Looks at Life (1912)—cried out to me as mini-comics. I hope this form brings out their idiosyncrasies. Read More »

Gabrielle Bell on Her Book of … Series

May 27, 2015 | by

My First Time” is a new video series in which we invite authors to discuss the trials of writing and publishing their first books. Consider it a chance to see how successful writers got their start, in their own words—it’s a portrait of the artist as a beginner and a look at the creative process, in all its joy, abjection, delusion, and euphoria.

Our second installment stars Gabrielle Bell, a cartoonist who began to self-publish her work in the late nineties. Every year she would release a new thirty-two page comic: Book of Insomnia, Book of Sleep, Book of Black, Book of Lies, Book of Ordinary Things. In 2003, these were collected in When I’m Old and Other Stories, but before that, “I was selling them for about three dollars each,” she says, “which is about how much they cost to print.” She talks about her struggles to remain disciplined and the intensity of her yearning for a role model. “I remember having fantasies of some great cartoonist just taking me under their wing and teaching me everything they knew ... I was really struggling with depression a lot, I think ... I was almost able to directly translate it into the comics.”

If you missed yesterday’s interview with J. Robert Lennon, you can watch it here—and stay tuned for videos with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Christine Schutt later this week. There’s also a trailer featuring writers from future installments of “My First Time.”

This series is made by the filmmakers Tom Bean, Casey Brooks, and Luke Poling; we’re delighted to collaborate with them.