Monday, December 26, 2011

I enjoy the wanting

This year I gave a lot of gifts made by Wendy MacNaughton and last year I gave a lot of gifts made by mgealach. I also gave M. a copy of Of Recklessness and Water. And M. gave me things that only she could. Sometimes I bookmark a lot of stuff, like this Rye Bread and this t-shirt, but probably I enjoy the wanting more than the getting.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

jack didn't know what was going to happen next

Jessica Serran, "I am waiting for something amazing to happen" (detail). Mixed media installation at West Oakland, CA train station via Art21 blog

Monday, December 19, 2011

the crocodile's snout in the lily pond

I frequently write about love and therefore about jealousy. It’s part of the deal; it’s what comes with love, for most people, in most societies. Of course, it’s also dramatic, and therefore novelistically attractive, because it’s frequently irrational, unfair, boundless, obsessing and horrible for all parties. It’s the moment when something deeply primitive breaks the surface of our supposedly grown-up lives—the crocodile’s snout in the lily pond. Irresistible. Julian Barnes in The Art of Fiction, No. 165, Paris Review

a novelist's normal condition

But then, such is my nature—and I assume I share this with lots of other writers—I thought, What if I only have one book in me? So the second novel is always harder, though in my case it was at least quicker. I still find myself thinking, Well, I may have written seven or eight or nine novels, but can I do it again the next time? But I’m convinced that a high anxiety level is the novelist’s normal condition. Julian Barnes in The Art of Fiction: No. 165, Paris Review

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

the tuesday interview: gene luen yang

I first read Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese when I TA'd a children's lit class as a graduate student and was, without reservation, completely blown away. He lives here in the Bay Area and right after that I had a chance to hear him read at SFPL and then again, this summer, I head him read as part of The Diversity in YA Tour. He strikes me as genuinely curious and is thoughtful and creative in ways that inspire my own work.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?
Gene Luen Yang: I've got three different projects going on right now.1. I'm doing a graphic novel continuation of Nickelodeon's popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender for Dark Horse Comics. I'm writing and a Japanese art team named Gurihiru is drawing. I'm a huge fan of the original cartoon, so I'm very excited about this. Of all the main characters, Zuko is my favorite. I relate to his struggle to do -- or even know -- what's right.

2. I'm writing a superhero comic for First Second Books. Sonny Liew is handling the art. The story is set in Chinatown in the 1930's. I can't say much more about the project at this point, but I'm super-excited about this one, too.

3. I'm writing and drawing a graphic novel about The Boxer Rebellion for First Second Books. I've been working on this one for years and years, ever since American Born Chinese came out. The Boxer Rebellion was a war that occurred on Chinese soil over a hundred years ago. At the time, the Chinese government was incredibly weak so the European powers were able to set up concessions all over China -- pieces of land that the Chinese government had no control over. A group of poor, illiterate teenagers from the Chinese countryside decided to take things into their own hands. They performed rituals that called down ancient Chinese gods to possess them. Then, emboldened by the gods' superpowers, they marched through China killing foreigners and Chinese Christians. There are many parallels between The Boxer Rebellion and what's happening in the Middle East today. Of all the projects I'm currently working on, this one is closest to my heart.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?
GLY: I have to confess, I'm pretty comics-y. I read a lot of comics and I am primarily inspired by other cartoonists. My musical tastes are lame. I mostly like pop music from when I was a teenager (late 80's, early 90's -- Rick Astley is totally underrated, as are the Fine Young
). Even my movie tastes are comics-y. Like pretty much every other cartoonist, I love Studio Ghibli movies.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?
GLH: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. As for prose books, I love Silence by Shusaku Endo.

RQD: What are you reading now?
GLY: I'm reading a collection of Father Brown short stories by G.K.Chesterton. I recently read The New New Thing by Michael Lewis. (I really wanted to read the Steve Jobs biography, but my library didn't have it so I settled for the biography of another Silicon Valley

As I mentioned already, I also read a lot of comics and graphic novels. Comics that I've read in the past month or two: Picket Line by Breena Wiederhoeft, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Merrick, Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, a
volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that I borrowed from a friend, Chris Giarrusso's G-Man with my kids, and the new Wonder Woman comic from DC Comics.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
GLY: I read a lot of comic books. :) I also loved Orson Scott Card, Lloyd Alexander, Judy Blume, Clifford Hicks. Remember Clifford Hicks' Alvin Fernald books? I *loved* them when I was a kid. I wanted to be Alvin. I seem to be the only one, though. Nobody else my age knows what I'm talking about.

I remember reaching the end of the J section at my library and feeling lost in the adult section. That's when I latched onto comics. There wasn't much of a YA section when I was growing up.
Illustration: Still from Studio Ghibli via Cartoonbrew

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I am not me the horse is not mine

William Kentridge asks “how does one find a way of not necessarily illustrating the society that one lives in, but allowing what happens there to be part of the work?” William Kentridge via PBS Art21

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

the tuesday interview: peter orner

I used to carry my copy of Peter Orner's Esther Stories around with me in case I ever got stuck somewhere without something to read. I could open it up to any page and just fall in. Then I heard he was going to read at Dog Eared Books, so I packed in with a bunch of other people and followed along with my book in my lap. Now he has this amazing new book, but he still feels like our own neighborhood storyteller.

RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?

Peter Orner: I have
a new novel out, so I wish I could say I was working at the moment. I think I'm in the process of saying goodbye to characters I've spent so much time with. They are slowly fading away to me and having lives of their own as they get read (or not read) by other people...What interested me for so many years (the book took about seven) was how my people seemed constitutionally incapable of learning from the past.

RQD: What art or artists interest you?

PO: The South African artist
William Kentridge I find him amazing; his huge imagination, the way he uses history and politics in his work.

RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?

PO: A novel by great Nebraskan novelist Wright Morris called
Plains Song, I re-read it every year. This and Moby Dick. And also the sea stories of Alvaro Mutis.

RQD: What are you reading now?

PO: Right now I am reading The Book of Ebenzer Le Page, one of the strangest novels I've ever come across, and loving it. Its about a guy on an island off the UK who remembers nearly every single detail about his life. I can't get enough of it.

RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
PO: The Phantom Tollbooth. I often think about it at least every day, how easy it seemed in that book to pass from one reality to another. When we're a kid and we read a book like this, we almost take it for granted. These days it's like I'm wandering around looking for that weird and wonderful tollbooth. Where did it go?

Monday, December 5, 2011

and occasionally, very occasionally

I would rather have the 200 imperfect books that comprise my history and mark the vectors of my path through my art form than to have one perfect book which would comprise nothing but its own perfect self and denote no vectors of a life lived, and an art form struggled with and occasionally, very occasionally, bested. Barry Moser via crankreport

Thursday, December 1, 2011

500 words

A couple of years went by, while I flailed around like this. But one day I sat down at my desk and wrote the first page of Middlesex, 500 words that contained the DNA for the protein synthesis of the entire book. I still had a million things to figure out about the plot and the characters, but I had my voice, my tone, and I was on my way. Jeffrey Eugenides on Middlesex in The Guardian.
Richard Serra, To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted (1970)