I got the Complete New Yorker for Hanukkah. This impressive eight-DVD set contains digitized facsimiles of every page in every weekly issue of the New Yorker from 1925 to 2005. That's quite a mound of cultural signification. The boxed set is shaped like a monolith, and at first it feels like one too.
I have a lot of respect for Art Spiegelman, a manic-depressive comic strip artist and writer who holds nothing back from his craft. In the great self-effacing tradition of Robert Crumb, a Spiegelman comic is always "too much information", splattering personal urges and anxieties and weird notions around like a loose garden hose. But the best confessional comix artists have the artistry and wit to make the splatter beautiful. Spiegelman's graphical autobiography promises to be a deeply personal document, and it's off to a great start with the first two sections.
One reason I relate to Art Spiegelman is that he grew up about three and a half blocks from where I live now, in sunny Rego Park, Queens. I know this because Spiegelman drew a map of his street as part of the back cover of his signature work, Maus. Maus is the terribly sad and odd true story of Spiegelman's parents (who could have been role models for George Costanza's parents in Seinfeld, except reality beats fiction). Both were holocaust survivors, but Spiegelman's father adopted an infuriatingly contrary, almost cheerful tone about the experience, which apparently taught him important survival skills (but also made him cruel to women, emotionally dense with his son and generally crazy). Spiegelman's mother, on the other hand, never recovered from the shock of the camps. She committed suicide when Spiegelman was a young man. He had been recently released from a mental hospital when he walked home one day to find police cars outside his house. This was how he found out about his mother's suicide.
I recently spent about an hour with David Foster Wallace's new book of essays, Consider The Lobster, in a comfortable aisle at a Border's bookstore (apparently my free review copy was "lost in the mail"). I'm finding him far more palatable than I used to.
1. Nietzsche vs. Jay-Z
2. The Squid and the Whale vs. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Moby-Dick
3. Moby-Dick vs. Moby
4. James Frey vs. Augusten Burroughs
5. Tom Hanks vs. Dan Brown
6. Shirley Hazzard vs. The Dukes of Hazzard
Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
Thomas Gray, 1747-8
'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers, that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.
Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Pretty Little Devils by Nancy Holder