The Artistic Condition

summertime

August 12th, 2006

grass

I’ve been slowly hacking away at my overgrown thatch of email, but I’ve given up on my lawn. In fact, my mower died. I’m considering getting a scythe, one of those grim reaper things. That seems like it would be a lot more pleasant than a noisy stinking mower.

I feel bad that I haven’t been keeping up the regular posts I was managing on my travels. But I’ve been working, which pretty much precludes blogging, but of course is what ultimately gives me something to blog about.

Here’s a story about me and Fun Home that ran this week in my local daily paper, the Burlington Free Press.

IMG_0437

weeding

July 21st, 2006

fun home

On Monday I drove nine hours to Pennsylvania. On Tuesday I met a reporter who’s doing a story about Fun Home and wanted to see the actual house I grew up in, and that my father so painstakingly restored. The place is for sale. It was very odd being there because in many ways, it’s just the same as it was when my mom sold it over twenty years ago. The trees and shrubs and flowers are badly in need of pruning, though. They’re threatening to swallow the place up.

Just like, upon my return to Vermont, my sadly neglected email and lawn are threatening to swallow me up. I have so many things to do, I can’t seem to begin any of them.
my emailmy lawn

overload

July 13th, 2006

I’ve been trying to post about the reading I did last night at a local independent bookstore, Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. But I’m feeling immobilized. Partly from all the email and snail mail and bills that have been piling up while I’ve been flying around the country. Partly by the news, which I’ve been too distracted to follow closely. Now the reports from Gaza and Mumbai are making posts about my book tour seem a little ridiculous. I know, you’re not checking in here for insights on the international situation. But I had to get that off my chest.

The Bear Pond reading was very pleasant. I love this bookstore. I even like their bunting.
bear pond

Moving right along…

July 6th, 2006

Man, I’m totally crazed. I know it might seem like lately I’ve just been sitting around musing on the ethical implications of success, but I’ve actually been hard at work. Doing my comic strip, for one thing, plus an ongoing barrage of Fun Home interviews. And tomorrow morning I set out on another leg of my book tour, this time to the Twin Cities, Wisconsin, and Chicago.

My email has reached a state of advanced entropy. There’s stuff from three weeks ago I haven’t even had a chance to open yet, let alone answer. But I promise I’ll buckle down to that after I get back from the Midwest.

For now, here’s the latest Dykes episode, a week early, as evidence of my industry. A slight disclaimer: because I’ve been so busy, I had to abandon any attempt to squeeze current events into the strip. Normally I spend a lot of time trying to figure out connections between what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with my characters. But I just couldn’t keep up with the news properly this month. So you’re spared any mention of military atrocities, constitutional amendments, and limitless executive power.

Read the rest of this entry »

On recognition

July 4th, 2006

Uh…I feel like my last post might sound kind of ungrateful, like I somehow had a problem with the NPR piece. That’s SO not the case. In fact, I’m insanely, ecstatically happy about every droplet of mainstream recognition that Fun Home, and incidentally DTWOF, have received. But at the same time, I’m disturbed about just how happy it makes me. Over the years, I convinced myself it was something I didn’t need or want. So perhaps my ambivalence is seeping out as whininess.

It seems to me there are two major pitfalls one faces upon escaping the ghetto. One is to leave and never look back, to consider it your own individual achievement and willfully ignore the power structures that hold everything in place. Two is to refuse to leave, to cling in a nostalgic way to your own marginalization. I think I’m in danger of the latter, and will try to stop it immediately.

There has to be some kind of middle way, of acknowledging the whole cultural sausagemaking process (what kind of stories cross over from ghettoized subcultures, what kind don’t, who gets let in, how much of it is about the inherent quality of the work, stuff like that) while taking advantage of the new opportunities it brings.

Hey, as I was writing this post, I heard a crackling in the yard and went to see what it was.

moose in my yard

A young moose! The yearling males get sent off on their own when the mothers have new babies, so often at this time of year you can see them wandering around bewildered in the big wide world. Kind of like me. Here it is next to my Subaru, for scale.

moose to scale

Revisionism

July 4th, 2006

I started this as a comment to the NPR post, in response to some of the topics people raised there. But then it got really long so I’m making it into a post of its own.

1. Yes, Liane Hansen mispronounced my name, to the great annoyance of my mother. (It’s BECK-dull) I didn’t notice during the interview. I think they pasted it in later.

2. Yes, they edited the bejeezus out of what I said! I had lots of cliffhanging pauses and rambling digressions which they snipped right out, to my great relief. I wish I could do that in real life.

3. Yes, it was very cool to hear Liane say “Dykes To Watch Out For” right there on the radio. But it’s peculiar to me how all of sudden, DTWOF is being perceived as some kind of established cultural fixture. Liane Hansen said that I’ve “received quite a bit of critical acclaim” for my Dykes cartoons. Huh. No one sent me that memo. It’s true I’ve gotten my fair share of acclaim in the LGBT universe. But I don’t think that’s what she meant, or what other reviewers who’ve alluded to my “success” have meant. There’s a strange revisionist mechanism at work, I think, the culture attempting to right itself by saying, “we didn’t notice you before but now that you’ve attained a measure of respectability, we’re going to pretend that we did.”

What do you think?

Maybe I should just shut up and enjoy it while it lasts.

Planes, trains, automobiles and dissonance, or, The Complicity Polka

June 25th, 2006

I’ve gotten kind of addicted to blogging all my daily activities. I’ll stop now that I’m home and have no life again, but first I wanted to say a few things about what it was like ending my book tour yesterday.

I began this trip on airplanes, flying to the west coast and back. Then I switched to trains on the east coast. Then yesterday in Boston I rented a car for the last leg. It turned out to be a big honkin’ SUV. And it was really fun to drive. At last I understand.

My objective was Northampton, MA, where I had to give a reading at 4pm. But I decided to take a slight detour to the new Ikea in a suburb south of Boston. I needed to get some plates and silverware, and I knew that was sort of crazy since I’d never been there before and I only had a half-hour to spare and Ikea is an all-day venture at best. But I was all hopped up and feeling omnipotent in my giant vehicle, so I went for it. On the way I listened to a horrific radio program about what’s going on in the Congo. Normally I just can’t compute the news from Africa, it’s so brutal and baffling. But this reporter, Johann Hari, put things into lucid context.

It’s not some kind of inexplicable tribal violence. It’s simply global corporations at work, doing what corporations do–mining resources as cheaply as they can. Hari talked in particular about the diamond trade, and the terrible violence that stems from it so that westerners can have engagement rings. “At least I don’t have any diamonds,” I thought idly to myself as I barrelled along in my SUV. I’ve never understood why people invest diamonds with so much power. They’re gaudy, ugly things.
cloudburst

The trick of capitalism is the way it obliterates the trail of cause and effect. The news from Africa is baffling precisely because it refuses to connect the dots. And who wants to connect them anyway, when going to Ikea is so much more pleasant? And then there I was, with thousands of other SUVs, pouring into the sprawling parking lot.

As an aside, I must say that I made perhaps the quickest and most efficient visit to an Ikea ever in the history of the world, somehow navigating the vast, unfamiliar terrain, not getting distracted by all the alluring objects but homing right in on my plates and a box of silverware, using the auto-check out system and getting back to my rig in half an hour flat.

ikea

Still, it was disconcerting to find myself so caught up in this manic consumption fest. Back on the road, I was playing with the radio in the truck. There were controls for it on the steering wheel, in case it was too much of a strain to reach out and operate it from the dashboard. All of a sudden I came upon a song which was the perfect soundtrack for the moment. I grabbed my camera and attempted to capture the insane dissonance of it all in a brief movie. I still haven’t figured out how to embed videos here, so if you want to see it you have to click here and watch it on YouTube.

Later that afternoon, after my reading in Northampton, I had dinner with my aunt and uncle. I mentioned in my last post that my Aunt Mary gave me a pair of cufflinks. It was a very thoughtful gift, an implicit reference to a scene in my book where I talk about my cross-dressing tendencies, in particular my fixation with cufflinks.

But I didn’t mention that each cufflink sports a tiny diamond.

Tuesday morning

June 21st, 2006

stonewall

Yesterday was so complicated I’m going to have to make multiple posts. In the morning, I went to Christopher Street to meet a guy from Newsday for an interview. A photographer came too, and took pictures of me in Sheridan Square, which figures into a scene in Fun Home. As does the legendary Stonewall Inn. This used to be a bagel place when I lived here in the eighties. Now it appears to be a bar again. Here’s what it looked like in 1969.

stonewall cartoon