Friday, April 10, 2009

Comics and Coincidence

I had planned on posting one more tw0-part comic before calling season 2 to an end. That was until the coincidence, which happened just this week. Unfortunately, in order to give myself time to generate new material and upgrade my 5-year-old laptop, I'm going to have to bring this season to an early close.

I'll go ahead and set a tentative launch date for season 3: July 3rd.

As the old platitude goes, art imitates life—especially in a semi-autobiographical web comic. Though—as the disclaimer on the sidebar states—the events depicted here are fictitious, all the material is drawn from real-life experiences. I have, for example, been mistaken by coworkers for one of my African American colleagues (in more than one job). As well, I do volunteer at an organic garden from time to time, but fortunately I am not forced to win my freedom by earning scrip.

Other times, life imitates art. I wrote the comic that was to run today way back in December, mere weeks after my real-life interracial relationship ended. I imagined it being the first comic of a second season, one that was to be more introspective, more focused on why, exactly, Beau is so hung up on race issues.

Without getting too specific, much of what transpires in the script for the comic that was to run today actually occurred this week. So for the sake of keeping my disclaimer believable, I'm saying an early goodbye to season 2.

What's in store for season 3? Something exciting and provocative or nothing at all. To be honest, I'm getting tired of blogging about race in and of itself; it's so tedious, and race issues as they are now, I think, will only be resolved by an eventuality of time.

... Maybe it's just a matter of waiting around for the next salient coincidence.

Thanks for reading!
Back up on July 3rd.
As always, feel free to peruse the archives.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hitting the Bricks

A plummeting home
A ruby-slippered ingenue
(in plaits)
And a little dog, too
(a pitbull)

Friday, Cake and Potatoes enters
the Kindom of Odd

Friday, April 3, 2009

Of Fools and Fiction

Meg: You told me once that you’d go on acting until you were eighty, and they’d have to wheel you up to the book flats.
Karen: That was before I discovered I hadn’t as much talent as I thought.
Meg: Talent? Aw, what’s talent? Being able to get away with something, that’s all. You got away with some very effective performances.
The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, dir. by José Quintero, novella by Tennessee Williams

It was this past Wednesday: A red, digital heart on the Facebook main page. A relationship status update—engaged—disseminated across the social networking stratosphere. A photo of the happy couple on a personal profile page tagged with comments of surprise, joy, congratulations. Phone calls: “Did you know?” “Had he told you?” “Who is she?” Online messages sent to the mysterious female fiancĂ© and replies received, typed in a polite, matter-of-fact tone. Then messages sent to the male friend expressing gladness yet not quite concealing senders’ underlying shock. His simple reply: “Have you checked your calendar today?”

This April Fool’s prank struck me as ingenious, playing right into our hunger for unfettered access to information and up-to-the-minute updates, our pervasive and obsessive fascination with marriage and desire to pin down what it takes, who it takes, how, exactly, to secure a loving partner. The stunt held up a mirror—intentionally or not—to our culture and, to the degree that a “reader” became invested in the “text,” forced one to come to terms with one’s own values and attitudes in regards to marriage by creating an interactive exchange on a public forum.

This occurrence, story, gag (whatever one might call it) gestures back to the very origin of “public” or published fiction. Some of the earliest novels won critical attention by passing as recorded histories and likewise delving into the engrossing realm of love and relationships. The narrator of Oroonoko, Aphra Behn’s 17th-century novel, describes her intimate friendship with an enslaved African prince in the Americas, hinting at their amorous interactions. And Moll Flanders, of course, well … Daniel Defoe’s narrator could’ve given Rick James’s “Super Freak” a run for her title. In both cases, though, the original narrative professed to be true and was regarded as such by the receiving public—convincing productions, like the prank, whose creations required a great deal of talent.

And talent is a term that, perhaps, gets overused nowadays, especially in creative circles, and has become problematic, I think, semantically in its relation to the longevity and trajectory of the literary field. The word implies one’s ability or at least potential to compose works of critical merit and publish. In the times of Behn and Defoe, by contrast, a mere ability to write well wouldn’t have been enough to grant them acclaim or, in Defoe’s case, publication. The very reason these authors attempted to pass their works off as recorded histories was because the novel form didn’t yet exist or, largely, wasn’t taken seriously in 17th- and 18th-century England; well written or not, a manuscript that wasn’t true didn’t merit the serious attention of an audience.

Talent in this context refers to an ability to “get away with” something, to create a convincing production without its having a firm foundation in truth. Behn and Defoe’s accomplishments weren’t so much literary (in terms of creating great writing) as they were genre-bending and genre-spawning, particularly in Defoe’s case, where the prose in his sprawling narrative often takes on the concise clip of journalism—his paying profession. Perhaps having not pushed far beyond 19th- and 20th-century literary “navel-gazing” in American fiction, we as writers have been removed for too long from and lost sight of the larger conceptual thrust of “talent” in its historical context.

So should we qualify the April Fool’s joke as having literary merit? Not quite, perhaps, but I think it lies in the same methodological vein as the types of works that will need to emerge in order to keep the literary world vibrant and true to its origins: captivating, unexpected, and packaged in a manner that not only bends genres but forces readers to examine their assumptions about cultural issues by presenting them in a novel fashion.