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Posts Tagged ‘graphic novels’

Roth’s Reading Room, and Other News

October 27, 2016 | by

A postcard of the Newark Public Library.

  • Today in hometown heroism: Philip Roth, having recovered from yet another year without a Nobel, is donating his book collection to the Newark Public Library. Young readers will be able to flip through them and look for the dirty bits—just as he once did—for generations to come. (The library will likely see an uptick in visitors, as well. T-shirt idea: I VISITED THE NEWARK PUBLIC LIBRARY BEFORE PHILIP ROTH’S BOOKS WERE THERE.) “Roth’s library, some 4,000 volumes, is now stored mostly at his house in northwest Connecticut, where it has more or less taken over the premises … The books will be shelved in Newark exactly as they are in Connecticut—not a window into Mr. Roth’s mind exactly, but physical evidence of the eclectic writers who helped shape it … He chose Newark, he added, because like a lot of people of his generation, especially those who had attended Weequahic High School, he retained a singular attachment to his old hometown. ‘It may also be true of people who grew up in Cleveland or Detroit,’ he said. ‘I don’t know. I do know that kids who graduated between when Weequahic opened in the ’30s and the great population shift that occurred in the 1960s remain very devoted to their memories and to the school.’ ”
  • Claire Jarvis on reading Sarah Waters—whose latest novel, The Paying Guests, has a graphic abortion scene—while pregnant: “For the past two decades, Sarah Waters has been the best-known contemporary novelist of women’s sexual history. Her novels all develop, in some way, from her earlier work as a researcher focused primarily on lesbian and gay historical fiction. Her first, Tipping the Velvet, which Waters conceived of while writing her Ph.D. thesis, details the hidden-in-plain-sight world of what we would now call queer life in Victorian London. An unexpected success when it was published in 1998, it was followed by two more Victorian pastiches, Affinity and Fingersmith, both bodice-ripping lesbian reworkings of nineteenth-century sensation novels. Waters’s three most recent books, which have been set in the twentieth century, are moodier, and more self-consciously literary, combining the suspense plotting of her earlier work with domestic fiction’s absorption in the details of everyday life. To these genre pastiches, Waters adds graphic descriptions of the bodily experiences of people—particularly women—in the past, making the blood, dirt, and pleasure of those lives as explicit as possible.” 

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Here Comes the Moon

October 17, 2016 | by

The hopeful dystopia of Pushwagner’s Soft City.

From Soft City.

Where does art begin? In the case of Soft City, the straightforward answer is this: it began in Fredrikstad, Norway, in 1969, in a sea captain’s house converted into a writer’s retreat by the novelist Axel Jensen, after Pushwagner had ingested Sandoz LSD. He doodled a man in a car, whom he intuited was called “Mr. Soft”—five years before Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel would have a hit song of that name—and, along with Jensen, envisioned a day-in-the-life narrative structure for the character, along the lines of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and James Joyce’s Ulysses. And then?

A hiatus of some three years (hardly the only sharp left turn in Pushwagner’s tumultuous life), during which time he lived on virtually nothing in London (subsisting by selling drawings on trains for pennies) and Oslo, went back to his mother’s, was arrested for trying to board a flight to Madeira on his hands and knees, was institutionalized, walked back to Fredrikstad, escaped a hotel in Paris, sojourned in Lisbon, returned to London, and became a father. After these adventures, he once again began Soft City, with, he’s said, his beloved baby daughter, Elizabeth, on his lap, and with thoughts of the future in mind. Mr. Soft now had a family of his own, and a fearful projected dystopia to live in. Pushwagner finished the book, or rather the 269 bleak yet blackly comic ink drawings that would comprise it, in 1975; and then, after a few luminaries of the London music world had admired it (including Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood), he lost it. Read More »

It All Started with Algae, and Other News

September 8, 2016 | by


  • If I know you, reader, you were about to throw your hands up, abandon your career, move to a small town, and eke out a living as a substitute teacher. But wait! Nicholson Baker spent the first half of 2014 as a sub in Maine, and he wrote everything down, and the outlook is grim. Here’s what he took away from his time in the trenches of our public-education system: “In my experience, every high-school subject, no matter how worthy and jazzy and thought-­provoking it may have seemed to an earnest Common Corer, is stuffed into the curricular Veg-­O-­Matic, and out comes a nasty packet with grading rubrics on the back. On the first page, usually, there are numbered ‘learning targets,’ and inside, inevitably, a list of specialized vocabulary words to master. In English it’s unreliable narrator, or ethos, or metonymy, or thesis sentence. This is all fluff knowledge, meta-­knowledge. In math, kids must memorize words like apothem and Cartesian coordinate; in science they chant domain! kingdom! phylum! class!, etc., and meiosis and allele and daughter cell and third-class lever and the whole Tinkertoy edifice of terms that acts to draw people away from the freshness and surprise and fantastic interfused complexity of the world and darkens our brains with shadowy taxonomic abstractions.”

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Summer Hours, Part 3

August 24, 2016 | by


Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 of Vanessa Davis’s column. Read More »

All Hail the Refrigerator, and Other News

August 23, 2016 | by

View of Brent Birnbaum’s “Voyeur Voyager Forager Forester,” 2016, Denny Gallery, New York.

  • Writers generally hate to get on in years, because they’re soulless cowards who fear death. (I say this with authority, even at age thirty.) One good thing about getting older, though, is that you can sell your papers—you know, all that junk that records your “process.” Phillip Lopate was looking forward to cleaning house, but the process, he discovered, was more injurious than it seemed from afar: “For years I had been hearing of people selling their papers, and often these writers were, in my humble judgment, no better practitioners of the literary art than I—indeed, in some cases, inferior! How did they do it? … In due course I was approached by a bookseller who handled such transactions, which suddenly made it a concrete, attractive possibility. He contacted the New York Public Library, a logical place for my papers, given my lifelong involvement with the city of my birth, and two representatives from that estimable institution came to my house to examine the lot … In preparation for the librarians’ visit, I had laid out letters, manuscripts, and diaries on the kitchen table and in boxes all about the room. I tried to steer these two examiners, a man and woman, to what I thought might be juicy bits, but their blank emotionless faces (so like those of funders or oncologists, who don’t want to get your hopes up) gave away nothing, and after two hours of idly sifting through the records of a lifetime’s labor, they departed.” 

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Unconventional, Part 3: Norman Mailer and the Pigs

June 27, 2016 | by

chicago 68 mailer hero 1000

In anticipation of the Republican and Democratic national conventions later this summer, Nathan Gelgud, a correspondent for the Daily, will be posting a regular weekly comic about the writers, artists, and demonstrators who attended the contested 1968 DNC. Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2.Read More »