Monday, April 16, 2007

Things I Thought I’d Never Say

Despite its countless delays, "The Three Paradoxes" will finally be escaping the confines of my apartment.

Really? Really. For sure this time? As sure as things get, however sure that is.

The book will be debuting at both S.P.A.C.E. in Columbus and A.P.E. in San Francisco, simultaneously, the weekend of April 21st and 22nd.

I am from Ohio, "The Three Paradoxes" is set in Ohio, and S.P.A.C.E. was the first convention I ever attended (as an almost laughingly categorized “professional”), so the decision of which convention to attend seemed obvious: I’ll be singing at S.P.A.C.E., as well as speaking on one of the panels, and doing whatever else it is one does at a convention. Hopefully eating convention hall nachos.

Stop by and say hello and witness the proffered mountains of other creations. If you’re attending A.P.E., the book should be there without me glowering at you, at Fantagraphics’ table. You can ask publishers Kim Thompson or Gray Groth to sign it for you. They waited long enough for the book, they’ll probably be more than happy to deface it.

Friday, April 13, 2007

After the semicolon: Kurt is up in Heaven now

“Do not use semicolons. They stand for absolutely nothing.”
-Vonnegut speaking with OSU students in his last official speaking engagement

"When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon.”
-Vonnegut talking with AP

There’s little I can say that hasn’t already been said in recent articles. Kurt Vonnegut was and is one my favorite authors, and he’s one more person I’m sad to have never met or known. Eighty-four is certainly a good run, and I’d felt for some time that he was ready to go after he’d ceased writing. He was fond of saying that writing stories made one’s soul grow. I suppose his soul was fully grown. So he stopped. So it goes.

I’ll miss the way he saw the world, and I’m glad he affixed as much as he did to paper. I only wish I’d had a chance to shake his hand and say, “Thank you for taking the piss out of most everything. And for caring. Thanks most of all for that.”

"Do you know what a Humanist is? I am honorary president of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that functionless capacity. We Humanists try to behave well without any expectation of rewards or punishments in an afterlife. We serve as best we can the only abstraction with which we have any real familiarity, which is our community.

“We had a memorial services for Isaac a few years back, and at one point I said, 'Isaac is up in Heaven now.' It was the funniest thing I could have said to a group of Humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, 'Kurt is up in Heaven now.' That's my favorite joke. "

-Kurt Vonnegut for “In These Times,” 11/6/03

Monday, April 9, 2007

O Switzerland! O Water Fowl!

It's a little difficult to summarize my recent trip to Germany and Switzerland for the German release of Mother, Come Home (from Carlsen books in Hamburg), other than to say I'm reasonably sure it happened and that swans are nature's pit bulls. Also that there was salmon mousse presented, and this may have been the first time I'd eaten whipped fish.

Mostly the experience was dominated by the throbbing cotton of sleep deprivation and jet lag, which, nearly a week later, I've still not entirely shaken. The trip ran seven days from beginning to end, with a prelude of my laptop melting down entirely (so long, laptop!) and an epilogue of an abusive troll and french toast. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, right? Right.

The laptop business is fairly self-explanatory and dull. I'll just quickly summarize: my computer decided it had had enough and did itself in. It's still being repaired as I write this. Poor guy. Technology be damned, though, let's move on to the mountains...

Despite her better judgment after suffering through a morning of me cursing at an inanimate object, Eve accompanied me to the airport and we touched down some nine hours later in Frankfurt. There we met Claudia, the publicist for Carlsen. Claudia acted as our liaison to all things Germanic until her husband, Michael (the editor for the Carlsen edition) relieved her of duty. Her first act was getting two bedraggled midwesterners on to the train, and to Freiburg for a signing at X für U (this shot below shows me drawing a picture of an electrified Frank Zappa head (for whom, I don't recall) while Uli (the shop owner) and the aforementioned Claudia do whatever it is they were doing (we'd been up for about thirty hours by this point, so I'd given up trying to understand anything). That's Sascha Hommer signing with me):

After the signing, unpronounceable food, and about ten hours of sleep, it was time to hop the train to Lucerne, Switzerland, for the Fumetto festival. I'd never been to Lucerne (or Switzerland for that matter) and was amazed at both how beautiful it was and how desensitized to that beauty the locals were. Anyone who lived in the area seemed to dismiss it with a wave of the hand. "Oh, those mountains? That ancient wall surrounding the cobblestoned city? Humph!"

For us the main entertainment at the festival was Anton, the two year-old wrecking crew son of Dirk Rehm (who lettered the Carlsen edition, and more famously helms the impeccable aesthetics of Reprodukt publishing house in Germany) and Heike Drescher (who worked on editing the text of the translation for the book). There wasn't a set of stairs, a lake, a height, or a bird that Anton was not ready to tackle, often quite literally. On the first day we met him, he looked like this:

On the second day, he had redesigned his forehead and cheeks by jumping from his stroller. This is him drawing with Eve at my book release party (where we all sampled the infamous salmon mousse as well as marshmallow and pineapple kabobs. Really):

The secondary entertainment was the multiple exhibits. This was the startling difference between Fumetto and American conventions: this festival is entirely about art. There was no selling, save one store in the festival's center. There was simply exhibit after great exhibit of comic art. Two of my favorites were Richard McGuire's and Blanquet's. Blanquet's was, to put it mildly, in your face. Disembowelment. Penises with visages. Shadowy murder. "Pretty hardcore," was how a Munich journalist I talked with afterward described it. No one under eighteen was allowed in, so I was silently amused/disturbed when a father wheeled his approximately three year old daughter in the exhibit and she promptly fell asleep in the most undeniably pornographic section of the multi-room art show. Eve took a few photos in one room, which was entirely wallpapered in Blanquet's black and white art, lit by strobe and black light. Pretty hardcore:

The tertiary – and more short lived – entertainment was a boat ride on the lake, past the gathering swans (who would attempt to eat Anton, Dirk and myself a couple days later), surrounded by the mountains and the city. The temperature snapped from frigid to soothingly warm depending on our proximity to the mountains. Eve took a few pictures, apparently to be used later in my "I'm a pompous rich ass on my pompous rich yacht" advertising campaign:

At some point all this ended, and we were back in Chicago. The next morning we had breakfast at The Golden Nugget, where Eve is insatiably drawn to the French Toast wedges, made with half-and-half. We suffered through a thoroughly reprehensible lout telling his infant daughter that he would "slap the shit out of" her if she tried to grab a spoon again. This potbellied beast then commented on how cute a neighboring table's infant was without missing a beat. It all made me think of Anton, his parents, the sleeping kid in the Blanquet porn, and the week that had sidled by us. There were further comparisons to be made, assuredly, but I was still so tired, I just ate my pancakes and seethed.

Good to be back, Chicago.