Lost Art: What Happens to the Unread? And Why Does It Make Me Feel So Sad?

July 3, 2009 at 1:07 am (Art, Authors, Books, Failure, Obsession, Processes, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Success, The Fantastic, Uncategorized, Why) (, , , )

Darger’s private world centered around seven little blond moppets called the Vivian Girls, whose adventures include … But it’s a 23,000-page story, and while of course I always read every relevant source in the course of writing a review — and boy, was this one a doozy — it’s a bit involuted to go into in much detail. Actually, not even MacGregor has read more than a representative fraction of Darger’s writing, and it’s safe to say that nobody ever will.

-Gavin McNett, Salon.com review of “Henry Darger: In the Realms of the Unreal” by John M. MacGregor

Darger’s main project was a book called “The Story of the Vivian Girls, In What is Known as the Realms of the
Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, as caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.” At 15,000 pages, it is by far the longest novel ever written. (The paintings are illustrations of scenes from the novel.) The book is chaotic, repetitive, and totally insane, but there are many astonishingly beautiful passages. A few years ago I had the crazy idea of editing Darger’s novel into a cohesive series of novels — modeled after, say, Frank Baum’s “Oz” series. I say editing, but it would be more like translating, since Darger’s text is extraordinarily knotty and difficult. With enough work, I felt that his writing would have huge popular appeal. Unfortunately the Darger estate didn’t like the idea[…]

-Nathaniel Rich, questions from Blake Wilson

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July 1, 2009 at 7:57 pm (Authors, Books, Failure, Life, Love, Pop culture, Processes, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

“Because he knew he was a disappointment to you. And that you wouldn’t get mad or yell at him, and he wanted you to. Because he thought that if you cared about him, you’d ask him if he was seeing someone else. He thought if you really liked him, you’d be jealous, and he knew you weren’t.”

-A White Bear, “Enough Rope

You have a chapter that lists all the things that you can’t do when you’re married. All those things are just about living with a roommate.

That’s partly true. But a lot of them are about changing each other, and preventing your own anxiety about the other person stopping loving you. If they don’t come on time, they’re out having an affair–which you wouldn’t be worried about with a roommate. Or how their behavior reflects on you–if they tell a bad joke in public or have bad table manners. I think there are a lot of ways mates try to reform each other just for control–controlling people comes natural to us.

-Laura Kipnis, interviewed by David Bowman

I think if you take a look at the economic distribution, there should be an entire strike of the workforce tomorrow. So how is it that we live in a culture that is so acquiescent that we believe all the lies told by politicians and these economic programs that benefit the rich? Part of what I’m interested in doing in this book is to show how domesticity is the training ground for complacence–all the endless rules and edicts of love are training to larger forms of passivitiy.

-Kipnis, interviewed by Bowman

Nehring uses models such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, Frida Kahlo, and Margaret Fuller to illustrate how women can be consumed with love and still be creative, intelligent, and productive. In fact, for many of the women profiled in the book, love actually fueled their creativity. Wollstonecraft, who had already tried to kill herself over spurned love, wrote her great Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark for a man.

-Jessa Crispin, “Beating Hearts

Kipnis acknowledges that love affairs can feel completely transforming; with this new third party, you can surrender to long-buried feelings; ordinary conversations glisten and gleam. “But what really keeps you glued to the phone till all hours of the night–conversations sparkling with soulfulness and depth you hadn’t know you possessed, exchanging those whispered intimacies–is a very diferent new love-object: yourself. The new beloved mirrors this fascinating new self back to you, and admit it, you’re madly in love with both of them.”

-Stephanie Zacharek reviewing Laura Kipnis

But, good God, that desperate desire to be alone, not because she hates other people but because it’s so complex and impenetrable and anxiety-producing to figure out how to be something other than herself for other people–that’s my childhood, and something I struggle with constantly as an adult. Alone, I’ve always felt held, self-comforting, fine. I crave contact with other people (real friendships, sex, etc.), but I always need to come back to being alone.

I loved the Dork Yearbook pictures because they reminded me of this feeling. Video games, math puzzles, science projects, music, endless reading, hours of daydreaming–it’s all masturbation, right? It’s all finding a way to make being alone more satisfying, more comforting, than being with other people.

-A White Bear, “What’s the Opposite of Nostalgia?


Or Something Like It.

“What frustrates me is that–and it became apparent tonight–is that you do italics adhere to some kind of code of good manners, proper behavior, or the right things to do, and yet you are so emotionally lazy that you are incapable of implementing the only valid reason that any such code ever came about: to put people at ease, to make them feel better, to promote social communion. If you ever achieve that, it’s only to the credit of whoever designed the behavior code a hundred years back. The only way you seem to be able to criticize your own conduct parenthesis at one point I watched the thought march across your face; you aren’t very good at hiding your feelings; and people like that simply cannot afford to count on appearances close parenthesis is that your version of the code was ten years out of date. Which is to so monumentally miss the point I almost wanted to cry.


Maybe because you quote feel you love me unquote you feel I should take you on as a case. I’m not going to. Because there are other people, some of whome I love and some of whom I don’t, who need help too and, when I give it, it seems to accomplish something the results of which I can see. Not to mention things I need help in. In terms of the emotional energies I have, you look hopeless.”

-Samuel R. Delany, Trouble on Triton

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Is It Horrible? or What Is Failure Anyway?

April 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm (Art, Failure, How, Obsession, Processes, Success, The Fantastic, Why) (, , , )

“I remember a distinct moment when I was about fifteen or sixteen when I made a decision. This is an awful thing to say, but I realized, Friends are taking up too much of my time, let’s put that on the back burner. My parents were a little weirded out. I was the opposite of most teenagers, and the opposite of my brother, where they had to try to keep him inside because he was always wanting to go out. But I made this really distinct choice where I had to be selfish, that was the only way I could see this, being an artist, working out for me. And I think, from that moment until this month, seriously, I’ve been going like a maniac. By the time I got to a point in my career where I could quit my job and focus only on making these drawings, it killed me to even take one night off. I mean, it would drive me insane, which is horrible, it’s a horrible way to be.”

Robin O’Neil, interviewed by Hillery Hugg

“The only thing that comes to mind is that I’m really interested in why things fail, or why I’m not happy with my work. It seems to make interviewers uncomfortable, or maybe feel that they will come across as arrogant, or that I will be offended. Of course, I’d be a little defensive if someone asked, “why is all your stuff so bad?”, but somewhere in the middle there are very interesting conversations to be had about what goes wrong.”

David McKean, interviewed at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

“It felt lazy, and I didn’t like that, so I guess I enjoy the sort of punishment I give myself. Making mechanical-pencil drawings that are of this scale is completely ridiculous, and when people find out that’s how I make them, they don’t know what to think-I mean, I look at this [points to a photo of one of her larger drawings] and I know it took me maybe three months of solid work, and I always think people looking at it won’t know-they’ll think it took me a couple of weeks or something. There are two sides to that, though, since I don’t want it to be all about how much time it takes me. Whenever I give a talk or a lecture, people are really obsessed with talking only about my process and I usually put a stop to that early on because I want to make a point. I don’t want people just to go, “Wow, you’re really a slave to your work,” because that’s not all it’s about-the image is what it’s really about, even though the process is obviously a part of it, too.”

Robin O’Neil

“And then the actual battle begins. Usually, I spend a few days feeling that I’ve forgotten how to draw – and eating and going out for coffee and reading and playing the drums or the piano or watching a film until I just can’t put it off any more. Then I get into a routine, as soon as the first few images are done that are genuinely good and seem to have the right tone of voice; then I can see the whole book done, and it’s a gallop, or at least a determined canter, to the finishing line.”

David McKean

“But really, this floating world is based on the legendary tales of Magonia. The word originally came from a series of events in France around 800 AD, with folklore about ships navigating the clouds, and it was used to describe the place in the sky from which things-animals, objects-mysteriously fall. People really did believe in this story, that there were people who lived in the skies and had these cloud-ships, some people claimed they fell from these ships onto Earth. And there are thousands of reports all over the world about organic materials raining down: ants, blood, eels.”

Robin O’Neil

“To be sure, this aspect is critical and [O’Neil] often gets together to talk about invented stories with her friend Trenton Doyle Hancock, an artist who has developed an extraordinary cast of characters of his own. As undergraduates at East Texas State University, they both studied with Lee Baxter Davis who taught them “the labyrinth” approach to narrative drawing-starting with an idea and letting each new work dictate the path of the twisting plot.”

Michelle White

“There are usually two starting points, the text and what I’m interested in at the time. Sometimes they are irreconcilable, in which case I will exclusively concentrate on what the story demands, but usually it meets me half-way. I’ll make lots of notes all over the manuscript and make doodles in my sketchbooks, any ideas that come to mind. I will research appropriate references, if necessary, and start to draw main characters over and over again, until they start to feel right. I’ll usually plan out the whole book (if it’s a graphic novel) or the illustrated sections of the book thoroughly before starting finished work.”

Dave McKean

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