Saturday, 31 May 2008

novelist Nicholson Baker reviews The Flash Press in the NY Times:

Sex and the City (Circa 1840)
On April 9, 1842, The Whip, a weekly New York newspaper that pledged to “keep a watchful eye on all brothels and their frail inmates,” carried an article about chambermaids. Chambermaids were women of flesh and blood, according to the article, “with the same instinctive desires as their masters, and much of their time is necessarily passed alone, in remote apartments, which usually contain beds.” Accompanying the article was a drawing: a chambermaid gripped the long wooden handle of a warming pan that projected rudely from between a tailcoated gentleman’s legs.
The Whip was, along with three other newspapers — The Flash, The Rake and The Libertine — part of what is now called the “flash press”: a short-lived public outburst of suggestive talk, threatened blackmail, bare-knuckle boxing and ornate vituperation that swept through New York in the early 1840s. For nearly 150 years, the flash press was all but forgotten by historians — before it was rediscovered by Patricia Cline Cohen, of the University of California, Santa Barbara...
Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine is one of the great reads of all time, and his The World on Sunday, a selection of pages from The New York World in the decade beginning 1898 is a magnificent book I have been meaning to write about here for quite a while.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Monday, 26 May 2008

the fourth volume of my current favourite reprint project has just arrived. It's bigger than usual, at 260 pages over the previous 196, and the price tag is only up three bucks to 25. That's the first time I recall looking at the price. This series I just signed up for sight and price unseen. Indeed I volunteered myself to write a short three page intro to this volume, in which I briefly analyse a Sunday page from 1968. There's also a 40 page interview with Leonard Starr from around 1980. And there are seven complete stories.

The first attractive feature about leonard Starr's On Stage is that it's a time capsule of its period, 1960-61 in this volume. Look at the lovely sense of early sixties style here in the headscarf and nifty little sportscar.

Another pleasing touch about the old soap opera style is the way the characters would be groomimg themselves while discussing important stuff, such as the plot that's just about to unfold:

One of the stories has Pete Fletcher and recurring secondary character Johnny Q. in a boat in a hurricane off the Florida Keys with the task of looking after a baby they've just saved. Two men and a baby.

The stories overall have a lightness of touch, no great melodrama usually, with the resolution hingeing on perhaps simply a character trait half concealed until the crucial moment. This gives the proceedings a lifelike quality. Then there are moments with a hint of gothic, which would later be a bigger element in the romance fiction generally, but at this early stage sinister overtones always turn out to have prosaic explanations.
The final story in the set revolves around a movie cowboy actor obviously based on John Wayne. Around about 1961 I think I wanted to BE him.

Charles Pelto at Classic Comics Press tells me he's just about got that other great human interest strip, Stan Drake's Juliette Jones, to start running soon in reprint. I can't wait.


Sunday, 25 May 2008

interview/article with Shaun Tan in the Australian.
Suburban dreaming -May 24, 2008

THERE is so much twittering and cheeping at the other end of the phone line, I assume Shaun Tan is talking near an open window or in his garden in suburban Melbourne. In fact, the insistent bird calls are coming from inside Tan's house, where the writer-illustrator's Brazilian parrot, Diego, and white budgie, Snowball, have the run of the place. They're free to fly about, and retire intermittently to their playground, an assembly of mirrors and bells on top of a wardrobe.
The Arrival, an international bestseller and literary prize magnet, was a graphic novel that did not contain a single word.
It caused a stir when it won book of the year -- becoming the first graphic novel to do so -- in last year's NSW Premier's Literary Awards. It provoked consternation when Tan was asked to give a reading at the Sydney Writers Festival. Tan notes that France has taken to his entirely visual narrative with far less ambivalence: TheArrival has sold more than 40,000 copies there and hasn't been narrowly defined as a children's book.
Among the slew of awards and accolades it attracted, The Arrival was named 2007 picture book of the year by the Children's Book Council of Australia, and one of 2007's top 10 illustrated children's books by The New York Times. Tan was also named best artist at last year's World Fantasy Awards in New York.

(link thanks to mick Evans)