Monday, January 22, 2018

The pen is mightier than the sword, and funnier

I've long thought the late French cartoonist Jean-Marc Reiser was a kind of a genius, the Picasso of cartoonists. I don't know if the French think so, but I do.

For all intents and purposes, Reiser, who died thirty-five years ago, is completely unknown in the US. Not one of his books has been translated into English.  Which is a shame, because not only is he hilariously funny, but no one can do some of the things he did with a drawing pen better.

Resier published in that form of book the French call bande dessinĂ©e, which means "comic strip," but which, as is so common with translation, misses something in English.  These are books, not something that appears in a newspaper.  They're more like our graphic novels or the Japanese anime books.  I first discovered Reiser in one of those sprawling lovely bookstores on the Boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris, probabaly Gibert Jeune.  (I could write an entire post on that little part of Paris, discoveries made there.)

Reiser is not for everyone.  I probably should throw out one of those NPR-like warnings about adult content, etc., but that gets so boring after a while.  Resier writeshe does both words and drawingsabout sex a lot, and sometimes goes, I find delightfully, into the outer limits (read bestiality and more) of that subject.

What can he do?  Well, for one thing, I don't think anyone draws guilt better than Reiser.  When he does, it's usually some forlorn man who's done something wrong and is being chastised by a woman, usually his wife.  To wit: see the story just below.  Basically, a man's wife finds a ticket to a porno movie in his coat.  She's angry—and you can see that quite clearly—because he made her buy all sorts of sex toys and lingerie, etc. 

Let's look at one of the frames in a close-up to see Reiser drawing guilt only as he can.  "It wasn't enough for you all those idiotic things you made me do in front of the mirrors?" she demands.  Then she adds, "And that gave me cramps."  Look at that guy!  How many men have felt that way at one time.  I have!

What else could he do?  Well, for example,
he draws dogs with wit and understanding.  Not with all the saccharine friendliness so many writers give them, but often as long-suffering and woebegone.  In  the case of cats, they can be scheming and vengeful.  He draws children singularly, in his inimitable style, always doing more with less.

By the way, Reiser will often draw stories without wordsthat do not in fact need wordsas in the story just above.  Which means you can enjoy his mastery without knowing a word of French.

There are so many other things he could do wonderfully.  And, in a way, he was just hitting his stride.  Jean-Marc Reiser died of cancer in 1983.  He was just forty-two.  I don't know if libraries in the US carry his books.  Probably not. But in this case, I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

My insane Iran connection

I received an e-mail via my website today.  It was from Iran.  Here is the first line:

"It's so hard to find the best opening sentence when someone wants to write a letter for a great writer."

They think I'm a great writer in Iran!  Well, someone thinks I'm a great writer in Iran!  Unbelievable.  I've never had an Iranian fan, as far as I know.  I wonder how they got my books?  Or what book of mine they read?  I settled back, ready for Persian adulation.  The e-mail continued:

"It's a long time I'm trying to buy or a book of yours ; "how to hide your insanity", i live in Iran and my country is banned by the laws of US government. I can't buy it from amazon or anywhere else or even download it from some ebook websites can you help me by that? from your loyal fan Saj"

For just the briefest second, I thought: Did I write How to Hide Your Insanity?  The thing is, I want to hide my insanity.  I need to hide my insanity.  If I didn't write that book, I should have.  Thinking carefully, though, I realized I probably hadn't written it.  I'm pretty sure, anyway.  Great title, by the way.

So what Richard Goodman did write this book?  And how could I order it?

Google turned up the book on Goodreads, but the author is Richard Goodmoon.  Not me, Richard Goodman.  It's not listed on amazon. You can't buy it anywhere.  A little more poking around, and I conclude that it seems to be a fake book--i.e., ha ha.  There appears to be no person named Richard Goodmoon, either.  At least neither Google nor facebook brings up anything.  But some people really want the book!

On Reddit, somehow they link Goodmoon to me (why?) and to my website, and so I figure this is how Saj found me.

Sorry, Saj!

Then I started thinking about Saj.  (Is Saj a male name? Female?  No idea.)  I wonder if Saj is being observed writing to me, somehow.  Will this mean consequences?  I hope not.  Then I thought, how in heaven's name did Saj find the fake book, How to Hide Your Insanity?  Did Saj do a search for books that help you conceal your insanity?  Is Saj insane? 

Or, like me, does he/she just feel that way a lot of the time, especially these days? 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Thread count

I got an e-mail from a friend telling me about an emerging literary dust-up.  Seems a writer just published a short story in The New Yorker that some people are calling out as being a ripoff of a story by Mavis Gallant.  The writer Francine Prose is probably the most vocal of those in the hue-and-cry camp.

Prose writes, "I find it painful that Mavis Gallant is now so unread that one can claim to have written what's essentially her story and publish it in The New Yorker (where in fact her story first appeared) and it’s okay...It's just wrong."

Prose then goes on to enumerate on her facebook page, with examples, the ways in which the writer, Sadia Shepard, "borrowed" from the Gallant story.

But what really is the most important aspect of this story is the enormous, multi-headed thread Prose has going for her on her page about this.  I did a rough measurement, and it's at least fifteen feet long.  I'm sure I missed some of it, too, passing by a few "more replies" without clicking on them.

I'm so jealous.  I would do anything to have a thread like that.  A thread that went on and on, with all sorts of angry rebuttals and hearty affirmations and sidetrackings and bitter renunciations.  The importance of this person and what they have to say cannot be denied with a thread like that.

Where is my long thread?  Where are my bitter renunciations?

I have none.  Not one soilitary bitter renunciation.  Not to mention my threads in general are threadbare.  They can hardly be called threads.  Maybe threadettes would be more accurate.  Or quasi-threads.  

I want a bigger thread.  I know.  I know.  I can hear you: "Well, say something interesting or provocative.  Then your thread will improve."

That's why I'm seeking your help.  Can anyone provide me with something I can post on facebook that will get me into the big leagues of threads?  I don't mean anything sensational just for the purpose of being sensational.  Sure, I could post something like that.  But that would be cheating.

Is it too much to ask that before I die that I get just one awe-inspiring, jealousy-provoking thread that goes on and on and on as far as the eye can see?

I don't think so.