Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Autopsy, the offseason

Don't worry, we're not giving you repeats for several months. Autopsy has actually gone over splendidly, with no readers, and not many posts or thoughts on the stories. I couldn't be more proud [half-sarcastic]. I'm very happy to have started something and actually seen it through to the finish, although while writing I also uncovered a whole packet's worth of more stories, so we can have season two of more of the same, and perhaps more after that.

This is "Where I'm From" where I just sort of talk about stuff for a thousand odd words. We're getting to the nitty-gritty end of "blogaday," I imagine it is my own version of "Brand New Day" which restructured Spider-Man and his comics for forty odd issues. "Blogaday" was here daily for a month. Or at least will have been. That is something to be proud of, I feel.

Autopsy Presents wasn't a one-off situation either. I thought of it like Marvel Comics Presents or some sort of anthology comic, the sort of concept I'd like to gamble on. Consider getting a big name to produce a comic, presenting new writers and artists out into the world. I'm sure it's been done and failed and maybe succeeded for some people, but I dream about that sort of thing.

A note from my little pink pocket spiral I wrote today: "imitator in prose now as well as poetry; let's hope, like we do with them all, that this is some self-realization, a greater understanding of my work, than the more likely scene of regression." Meaning, of course, that I would like to think that my recent obsession with structures of novels and how I might use them is not a recent occurrence but rather something of which until now I have not been aware.

I'm reading U and I: a true story and Dear James which oddly echo. As both are about writing or at least art-making, I see no better space to discuss them while reading than in Autopsy's little bookend. (It's also mainly the former book that inspired the previous quote.) Nicholson Baker's nonfiction is not all that much different but it's perhaps less fluffy. Reading it now, after A Box of Matches and Vox (my last two by Baker), it's more difficult to get through, but that's my problem. This could be simply early Baker, because when I think back to reading The Mezzanine, I do remember the same sort of complexity of language.

Dear James is also a good match for Pictures that Tick; I read and linked an Ian Gibson interview in a post about The Ballad of Halo Jones and I've become interested in reading the words of artists, as I feel my poetry is more akin to something visual or illustrative than what I get from actual writers' interviews. Pictures that Tick has these cool, little almost poems written before the various comic pieces, and it was really a stroke of luck to find Dear James in a dollar store no less. Dear James is even more relevant to me and my art, as it is modeled after Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, only written for a young illustrator instead. I was attracted by the John Ashbery quote on the back cover that said exactly what I've been thinking: that this type   of book was larger than the immediate purpose. And R.O. Blechman, who wrote it, and I probably should have mentioned him before now, would ultimately agree with me, I believe. He's talking about all this stuff in the book, just like you would expect from an artist who is writing a book. Referring specifically to multiple focuses for an artist.

Multiple focuses can mean any number of things, both structural and content-wise. A book like The Gum Thief might look like every other novel on the bookshelf, but reading it you realize its epistolary form is quite odd, consisting of almost a scrapbook potentially made by one of the characters and a journal, various correspondences, and  parts of a novel. Compare this with Douglas Coupland's more outlandish projects, such as chewing up his novels to make his personal version of wasp nests from them. These two projects show the great difference in range that an artist can create, by innovating both in how one writes and how one views the paper being written. Another comparison can be made of earlier Coupland, with a book like Girlfriend in a Coma being called "when Douglas Coupland got metaphysical," content changes also reflect an artist either shift or broadening in over all scope.

Having written a book and then evolved artistically quite a bit (or so I believe), these sorts of concepts interest me. Baker talks about in U and I, the feeling that, having written something, you cannot return to it unless you wish to lessen it, but for me this is not always true. Returning to a concept shows a preoccupation that interests me as a writer for I have preoccupations of my own which I often revisit, as loyal readers of this blog might know. The important part is to find the unique preoccupation: for Milligan in a couple of comics' series his preoccupation is with a monster that sucks out the brain of its victims. For me, this passes the lit-mus test for originality with preoccupation. I think you find the idea of something sucking out our brains throughout weird fiction, so you can see you walk quite the fine line.

When I consider my second book or perhaps second "work," I begin to think a lot about this progression. One can show stasis through a preoccupation, while moving out into completely new directions. But while I do have ideas that recur to me, a good many of them are not in the book anyway, so I am not dealing with any "written preoccupations" at least in my books. I foresee them, as another badge to earn as a writer, and can already predict their existence, but they are somehow too personal, for to write about my preoccupations in my own work is to write about myself in ways that I am unnecessarily overly-attached to, hence preoccupied. Ultimately, I feel these images are rarely happy (unless brain suckers make you crack a smile), so to write these preoccupations or rather to create the preoccupations through writing would be to hold up a dark mirror, so an externalized existence of some of my worst fears.

In closing, I recall the subtitle to my most recent "long" unfinished work of fiction. Smitten is or at least was also known as "my worst nightmare."

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