Out and about

The Krzysztof Kieslowski blog-a-thon was successful—thanks again to all participants!—but it wiped my ass out. Well, there’s that… and then there’s the three academic conferences in three weeks that I’ve attended; the party last weekend at which I broken one of my Lenten vows (no alcohol, if you must know); the house-hunting; and my work on the screening committee for this year’s Crossroads Film Festival over the last four months. The point being this: I’m tired, and I’m taking a break for the next week. These links should keep you busy.

Heather Havrilesky on Friday Night Lights (the TV show, not the book or the movie), which I like every time I see it.

The new issue of The Quarterly Conversation, the online literary journal edited by Scott Esposito, is up and running. Personal favorites, so far, include John Allan Harrison’s essay on Edward P. Jones’s magnificent story collection All Aunt Hagar’s Children, Scott’s piece on Chris Adrian’s The Children’s Hospital, and Derik A. Badman’s commentary on Stefan Themerson’s The Mystery of the Sardine.

Here’s a long interview with jazz/cultural critic Stanley Crouch, as conducted (for once!) by an honest-to-god jazz musician. I’ve expressed misgivings about Slappy the Grouch before, and there’s not a sentence in the world that Stanley can’t turn a shade of purple and puff up with hot air, but he is often a forceful, iconoclastic critic. Perhaps he’s a better interviewee than a writer. Anyway, this is truly illuminating and includes sound clips.

The Self-Styled Siren’s on a roll. But, then, when is she not? Folks, she’s always worth reading. Here she is, disliking Once Upon A Time in the West, and admiring Frances Farmer and the woman who portrayed her.

Matt Zoller Seitz writes marvelous appreciations of New Yorker writers Lillian Ross and the recently departed Whitney Balliett.

And, finally, Jeff Vandermeer writes a great column on the condescending critical reception of comics that’s worth quoting at length:

One of the main questions I keep going back to is: Why do many reviewers and people associated with comics feel the need to equate graphic novels and novels when they’re different creatures? This phenomenon is not necessarily found only in the comics subculture. For an example close to home, note the Bookslut guest blogger who called The Wire HBO series her favorite novel of the year. No, The Wire is her favorite television program of the year, although I understand at least one of the points she’s trying to make. In her lexicon, a novel is automatically a superior art form. To love something as much as she loves The Wire is to wish for it the legitimacy that the novel form automatically possesses. The implication is that television usually is a debased form and that the complexity of The Wire must, therefore, be something else. And I think this is one of the reasons some people in the comics field want, sometimes seemingly desperately, to have their works or the work they love compared to “literature.” A sense of wanting to be taken seriously pervades comics as pungently as it pervades the field I come from, fantasy and horror fiction.


I’m not one of those cultural elitists outraged that a graphic novel was named a finalist in a novel category. As should be clear, I love graphic novels and I love novels. But every art form must reach its maturity and find its respect by understanding and celebrating that which makes it unique, not by stressing similarities by association or by touting ad hoc exceptions. (For this reason, I love the fact that a large publishing company thinks comics are important enough to do a Best American Comics series, or that Yale University Press would want to do editor Ivan Brunetti’s survey of comics in a handsome hardcover.)

Put another way, can you imagine a novel being a finalist for the Eisner Award? Absurd, right? And why? Because a novel is a not a comic, is not a graphic novel, in the same way that an artichoke is not a pear, and a pear is not an ostrich, and an ostrich is not an anvil.

That is all.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation, RogerEbert.com, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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