Sunday, 11 March 2007

The hyphen in Antarctic

Here is a passage from a precious artifact on the Campbell bookshelf, Ten Ever Lovin' Blue eyed Years with Pogo. I believe it's a reprint circa 1970 of the 1959 book. Whenever I take it down for a browse I always want to kick my own arse for letting it get damaged along the page edges while in my suitcase a few years back, but then I start reading and forget all about that. Life is too short.
Walt Kelly telling an anecdote as only Walt Kelly could:
"I recall one time having trouble with the hyphen in “Antarctic.” I was bucking a deadline with a political cartoon that had a lot of snow in it. (It’s easy to draw snow fast as long as it is not falling snow. Always draw snow already fallen and leave it lay there. Don’t mess around with it. Beautiful white space in a drawing is a joy to the eye and saves time.) the drawing needed the word “Antarctic.” Now, “Arctic” and “Antarctic are two target words, so to speak. You remember that there is a “c” after the “r” and you sort of spell around the “c.” It’s like firing at the fence and drawing the target around the bullet hole. Well, on this day I made the “c” all right, but as I worked outward from that point, my thoughts on the drawing, on the deadline, on lunch, I discovered that I was putting a hyphen between the first “t” and the following “a.”
A cartoonist gets preoccupied and loses track. Spelling and drawing all at once are like marriage, like tap dancing while playing the piano, like Dr Johnson’s dog that walked on its hind legs. The job is not done well, but it is a miracle that it is done at all. There might be justification for this hyphen. Off I went to the dictionary- sure enough, no hyphen. Back to the drawing board. Erase the whole thing. Carefully reletter it, by now so upset that I go right past the target “c” like a hot-rod past a red light."


What made me think of the above was a mistake I made a couple of days back in referring to Thomas Hampson as a 'tenor' instead of a 'baritone'. My mind was clearly on the larger issue of coming in at the end of my post with a satisfying punchline. Obviously such a detail would only be of real significance to folk who were looking for a singer to take a part or play a role, and for the rest of us one term or the other suffices to indicate the musical idiom that is being referred to. Hampson thinks a great deal about the subject of the artist and his position in both the world and the continuum of art and culture and I enjoyed this archived 1991 interview.

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Blogger Johnny Walker said...

Love the Walt Kelly anecdote! Makes me think I should actually pick up a copy of Pogo and tuck in. Being new to comics, Pogo is only something I hear being refered to by other comic-book writers. I think I might be missing out again!

11 March 2007 at 14:45:00 GMT-5  
Blogger James Robert Smith said...

Nice bit of Kelly trivia. Please do not worry about messing up your book. It was meant to be handled and read. I'm not suggesting that books be mistreated, but when you start looking upon a specific book as some kind of glorious artifact (is there a hyphen in that?), then you're treading on the fragile ice of insanity (well, at least obsession).

For personal reasons all my own, I started collecting the Ditko-written/illustrated issues of Spider-Man (Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man 1-38). I bought very low-grade copies. I often let my nephews read them. That's what they're for. The smell of old pulp and the feel of a real comic book of age in the hands of a child (myself included).

To Hell with assailing yourself for nicking and bending and marking a few pulpy pages of magic. Especially something that contains as much pure magic as Walt Kelly's work.

11 March 2007 at 20:52:00 GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

Pogo, yes you must.
interestingly though, in the ten everlovin years I was much more delighted with kelly's commentary.

To late to be concerned about insanity

13 March 2007 at 15:33:00 GMT-5  

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