Tag: books

Nothing would ever be the same again

For my debut at The Los Angeles Times (!), I wrote about cartoonist Brian Fies’s graphic account of losing his home in the 2017 California wildfires. A Fire Story is his chronicling, in comics, of life during and after the second-most destructive wildfire in the state’s history:

Following a tense sequence that has the cartoonist and his wife springing from bed and frantically hauling belongings out to their driveway and the palpable heartbreak that materializes later when Fies scouts out their rubble-strewn streets, A Fire Story shares lesser-broadcast hardships as well as how quickly wildfire victims are expected to process a frenzied cycle of emotions.

A drawn five-key keychain has three keys that “don’t do anything anymore,” explains Fies in a caption. Homes elsewhere are reduced to wholly blacked-out, cross-hatched blots on stretches of sepia-toned blocks that look like a war zone, where neighbors comb the charred ruins of their houses’ foundations. Discussions with utility companies prove pointless. A tally of long-gone items on a single-panel page is slugged “Things I Will Never See Again.” But a vulnerable Fies doesn’t grieve alone—the careful accounting here culminates in what’s better described as a work of comics journalism than it is autobiography.

Read my whole piece at The Los Angeles Times.

 

Among them too were women

Between May and June of 1951, in a building slated for demolition, more than 70 artists collectively known as The New York School participated in an exhibition that spanned two floors of 60 East 9th Street in Lower Manhattan. While the show included work from artists such as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock (and would play a role in elevating the profiles of those painters), women were participating in the exhibit, too. But unlike their male contemporaries, they don’t have anything even remotely resembling a starring role in helping define the Abstract Expressionist movement. 

Saul Steinberg’s horizontal line

At Apollo magazine, artist Martin Rowson writes about a newly published edition of 1960’s The Labyrinth, from cartoonist Saul Steinberg:

Collecting published and unpublished drawings, and meticulously arranged by Steinberg himself, the book begins with a horizontal line, bisected initially by some geometry, and then providing a platform for one of Steinberg’s trademark ragged crocodiles (he was nearly eaten by a crocodile on a trip to Kenya with Saul Bellow). What we can expect, turning the page, is to not know what on earth we can expect. As a writer who draws, he might be about to wrangle this line into a letter and then into a line of words; or it might become a horizon, the reflecting surface of a lake, a washing line, a collar, the edge of a room, a strand of a labyrinth exploding up and down the page. But then you turn the page to a procession of talking heads, each producing vast, abstract yet baroque speech-bubbles. This is so much more than Paul Klee’s ‘taking a line for a walk’: Steinberg takes it on a forced march, a drunken lurch and a frenzied fandango.

The Labyrinth is available from New York Review Books. In December, The Paris Review published the new book’s afterword, which originally appeared as an essay by art critic Harold Rosenberg in 1966. Read Rowson’s whole piece at Apollo.

A comic shaped by trauma

As I mentioned on Twitter in October, I would totally read a longform magazine piece from cartoonist and writer Michael Kupperman about making All the Answers, his graphic memoir that was published by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery 13 in 2018. A book that was initially projected to be an examination of his father Joel’s life as a famous child prodigy, All the Answers became something wholly different after Kupperman discovered some hidden scrapbooks at his parents’ Connecticut home. During a recent, heavily illustrated talk at Google, the cartoonist discussed how finding these scrapbooks meant that he would be creating a memoir about his relationship with his father and how Joel’s past had affected that relationship.