January 1st, 2007 § 2 comments § permalink

Weekends in Taiwan are happening, in an old car, upon small towns where your uncle remembers some regional delicacy, sold by a man in an apron from a cart the only other time he’s ever passed through. He was probably in college then, but still favored the same Hawaiian shirts. The cart is now a storefront packed with people, on whom the man your uncle met looks down, from a framed photo on the wall, beside the copy of some certificate, recognition, or signed newspaper from the day the president passed through and had lunch—handshakes and beaming faces all around. This is at the one crossroads around which the town clusters, a graph of rooflines in all directions quickly nearing the zero of neatly furrowed fields or, below field level, concrete-bordered paddies in which float the somber distant mountains over clouds. Still, the center bustles; girls cross against the only light, between mopeds, in full view of the miniature precinct; kids bounce for fifty cents on snub-nosed planes or plastic motorcycle rides with scratched paint, while siblings try their luck at bubble toy vending and a lone eighth grader sinks hoop after sideshow hoop. His grandmother tends three trays of steamer buns from a pushcart; his cousin wraps betel nuts in a glass booth. Up and down the street, buildings thrust forth their signs of a shameless carnival air, here adorned with a trio of revolving lights, there fanning a neon rainbow. Your uncle passes by, remarking the crowds but not recognizing the place which only a farmer on the edge of town, straightened from his toil, tells him is the one he seeks: he hangs a U across the empty two-lane and in minutes the concrete houses shack up again, crowding out the fields between; there’s the fairground where fresh garlic, chives, dyed pussywillow boughs are being sold. Cars begin to clot the shoulder before storefronts where hang fruits, roast meats, and through a gap, by the brook behind town, the brilliant temple can be glimpsed. At that store, once a cart, now an institution, the large round tables are still full at a quarter to four downstairs and above, a level not immediately obvious and reached only by squeezing past the entrance to the kitchen. You watch a party of five file after a waitress there while the air buzzes with the hostess broadcasting names and orders. The canteen’s renown seems disguised in the total lack of décor, from the red plastic stools exactly like its emptier neighbors’ to the open storefront through which its cement floor flows indistinguishably into the sidewalk. People are still milling there, in and out of that range within which nearby vendors loose cries to buy or sample that hang in the air, invisible ripples around them. Five girlish secretaries hand a local man their tiny cameras and huddle in front of the famed eatery. The wait for take-out is forty minutes.

Qui fut et qui n'est plus

January 9th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Le Hong Kong qui m’a ébloui, dès que je suis descendu de l’avion pour me retrouver dans l’humidité étouffante de 99%, a disparu, cédant sa place à une ville désormais familière, connue de tous ces films que me poussait à voir cette fascination initiale, née de ma visite en été ‘97, lors de sa remise à la Chine. J’ai beau le chercher, il n’existe plus. De temps en temps me viennent des tours de la ville présente, en vision fugitive, les contours de cette autre, alors terriblement exotique, dont l’étrangeté m’avait englouti, et je me rappelle que dans cette ville des gratte-ciels, ne resplendissant que d’argent boursier, se mire quelque chose comme le monde de l’avenir tel que le concevrait un garçon de cinq ans, où se lancent, des grands boulevards, les escaliers évidemment mécaniques dans une course aux passerelles élancées, tapissées de transporteurs, qui sillonnent la métropole des tours étincelants. Une légèreté presque utopienne, comme la bénédiction du soleil, surgirait de cette ville dont les résidents, pour la traverser, n’avait nullement besoin de mettre pied sur terre.

Movement Is A Chimera

April 30th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

Hegel, halfback, on the bench, says: “You have to take in the season as a whole to understand what motivates the other team right now.

“It all adds up to this very moment.”

Captain Kierkegaard, fists clasped and elbow on knees with his head hanging between, thinks: no one knows the loneliness of quarterbacks. The ref whistles. They rise and take their places on the line.

The captain’s tall, blond, of Danish blood, girls call him the Seducer. Sometimes, in concentration, he looks like the mast of a listing ship. Sometimes, on the edge of the field, running ahead of the pack in the floods’ sharp glare, thoughts besiege him of the ilk: do I do this for my joy or for the good of the team, their greater glory or my own alone? His Lutheran folks drag the family to mass every Sunday. His father, a townsman of good standing, owns a grain silo and a feed yard. The coach says, “You think too much. Maybe you should try baseball.”

From upside down between his legs Hegel whispers, “They score, we score, the game goes on. You’re surrounded by large men made larger by padding. The bleachers are chock full. Feel the weight of it all on this moment!”

Hegel snaps the ball. Surprise!

The quarterback breaks left.

Concern for Others!!

May 9th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

In a café with flowered half-curtains Brent saw a stuffed bear with a great belly alone, at the window table, on his only plate a hardened bagel and laid above it, where the butter knife would be, a bamboo fork of a size that might have been used to serve salad. The bear wore a shirt that proclaimed, like the name of a baseball team, Concern for Others!! — the exclamation points seeking to restore an imperative lost in translation. And thought, we each of us have our private tales of woe, don’t we? Somewhere for each of us waits a bagel with cracked skin and a deserted café and the indifferent service of a girl imprisoned by a counter, picking her nails in the light that falls, from under the cabinet behind, over clouded grinder and silver carafes as evening darkens the paneling. What lady bear had failed to show, and how many couples would he suffer beside in the course of the night? Had they ever even met—were they friends some argument had parted—or did he wait with the awkward fork as a woman in a film had once waited with a flower in the pages of a book? How long had it been from being bought or won to demotion by a harried owner father from a daughter’s bed to this promotional drudgery? Bear baiting, indeed, Brent thought–but no clients were biting. What sort of café was it where bears dined alone? Or world, for that matter, full of such cafés? And walked on, no more willing than the mother passing on a scooter to stay for so much as tea and consolation, but hurrying home to his own sorrows, his kitchen and the view of night from his window, and all that no one else, least of all the bear, knew about his life.

Goodbye, Taipei

June 11th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s raining tonight. I go as though following the sound where it’s loudest to the other room, to watch where, squatting on the single bed, I can push the screen aside and feel, if not drops, the threat of water flicking on an end of wind through the open window instead of catching on fine wire. The streetlights show me rain at the vanguard of a gust driving up the avenue and the puddles at the intersection when I lean out, still beneath the awning clattering as though to boast of how it shelters: and suddenly, the sight of two awnings on the building opposite makes me think to hear the water clattering on them too and, like picking one instrument’s part from a song, the awnings of all Taipei, a city of awnings, of bits of cymbal hatting windows, of canted, corrugated panels rattling in supplication and complaint to some ancient and presiding god of rain. I think of Maokong then, and who might be there at 2 a.m., of rain falling on the leaves and railings, decks and stone benches; the lighted pavilions nestled in the trees, where on tables carefully laid, water is fast disappearing from the sides of clay teapots; the road like a necklace of streetlights lost in the valley’s folds.


August 3rd, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

UPDATE: This just in from Evil Twin! Advance copies of the AWESOME! anthology may be ordered here at the AWESOME price of 45% off cover! That’s right: only $8.22 for 208 pages of pure comix AWESOMENESS. What’s more, your support goes to two AWESOME causes: all profits will be split between the Indie Spinner Rack podcast and a student scholarship for the Center Of Cartoon Studies. The more pre-orders, the more books are printed. You owe it to yourself to spend your money AWESOMELY. » Read the rest of this entry «

The Lost Dumas

September 24th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

In a former life, I was a literary agent. Yes indeed! A junior literary agent, that is, much as a gumshoe in sneakers is a junior sleuth. Mussed hair and single untucked shirttail, with a casual callow air, I arrived always late and breathless to editor lunches, comps and samples spilling from beneath my arm as might a nerdy middle schooler’s notebooks from his grasp. In fact, I never got very far along the path to enlightened literary property representation, which may be why it sometimes seems to me, as the wheel of career karma turns, that I’m starting out in my new incarnation of freelance translator lower on the gainful employment ladder than before. I have sins to atone, and must with good deeds earn from the gods the benefits and pension contributions granted that higher life form, the full-fledged adult. Of my agent stint, I’ve this to say: it was the best office job I ever had. Four cozy rooms full of books, a magisterial view of Union Square, and my boss, a human being of unsurpassed kindness.

One of the few good things I did (who says they all come back to haunt you?) was pair up indie publisher Pegasus Books and Alexandre Dumas père’s unearthed missing novel, painstakingly assembled over fifteen years by scholar Claude Schopp from segments serialized in papers of the era. Publisher Claiborne Hancock has gone all out for this baby.

And it just came out.

The Last Cavalier, from Pegasus Books » Read the rest of this entry «

Sardine Emergency

October 10th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I hope that doesn’t make me sound a grouch. It’s a mean cutlass, though. And it’s proof positive Sardine is being read, to say the least.

I’d wrapped the next Sardine, on which Guibert flies solo (no Sfar), a few weeks ago. Always a pleasure to see what puns can be smuggled across the language border. Got called in today for an emergency on-site translation of a last-second substitute story. This is about as exciting as the profession gets, folks—frantic editors and a sense of mission! Felt grateful I wasn’t halfway around the world—just in Jersey. On the way into Manhattan, the train stalled twenty minutes for a drawbridge. This was a first. All around me, people shuffled papers, shifted briefcases, sighed, texted, left messages, ruffled their hair so they’d arrive, I suppose, looking frustrated in explanation for their lateness. Across the aisle, a girl bet her grandfather that the Amtrak stopped beside us would get to go first.

“See, I told you,” she said when it pulled away. I shared a smile with the old man.

Money makes the world go round. » Read the rest of this entry «

Notes toward a revelation, Part I

October 17th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve begun listening to these lectures from The Teaching Company, on Kierkegaard and existentialism, which drastically lower the monotony quotient of 45 biking minutes. They even manage to lend the cardio eternity a certain joy, less from their distraction value than from a sense of time cannily reclaimed through judicious multitasking, some minor, even nominal mental self-improvement smuggled into that mirrored arena of physical preening, with the nonstop industry of its weights and pulleys (the gym might do well to evolve toward some synthesis with that other roomful of machines, the arcade: somehow maximizing pleasure and distraction without loss in fitness benefit). Time feels better spent on learning than on the disposable music with which I tend to pack the mp3 folder marked Exercise, since while sweating and grunting I can give only half a soul to songs I like, and thus avoid them (I’d rather travel with music than have it be a greenscreen of pretended travels behind me). I’m happy to sop up whatever philosophy I can, while conveniently filling in potentially embarrassing gaps in an autodidact’s education (or the series of prejudices, misconceptions, and surmises masquerading thereas)—y’know, dots connected out of order or numbered shapes mismatched to colors. » Read the rest of this entry «


October 17th, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

  • The AWESOME anthology is getting nods, shout-outs, and a few reviews, the Flight blog, the Top Shelf SPX roundup. Reviews—one negative aside—have not mentioned “We Are Not Alone” yet, so I will chime in with a “GB, you did a f****n’ fantastic job!!!” The book ships today, Wednesday October 17th, so get your local comic shop to order you a copy, or just buy it yerself!

AWESOME at Midtown Comics

Have I not plugged this book enough yet? If not, how could you resist publishers like these?

Ryan Dunlavey and Fred Van Lente of Evil Twin Comics, courtesy of Jamie Tanner’s flickr Charlito of Indie Spinner Rack, courtesy of Jamie Tanner’s flickr

  • Mark Woods posts a link to the Châteaureynaud story, “A Life on Paper”, at AGNI Online.
  • Sam “Golden Rule” Jones links to Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s “Cap Corse”.

Many thanks!

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