"Anyhow, it seems like a very long time ago. But the point of even remembering the conversation, I think, is that there was an important fact behind the Christian girl’s ‘salvation’ story which I simply hadn’t understood at the time—and, to be honest, I don’t think she or the Christian did, either. It’s true that her story was stupid and dishonest, but that doesn’t mean the experience she had in the church that day didn’t happen, or that its effects on her weren’t real."-DFW, from 'The Pale King'
Jesse McManus, Amy Kuttab, and I had a 'signing' this past Saturday for our free-comic-book-day offering. It was fun because I got to hang out with Jesse & Amy & Dave Nuss (who, while working at a video store in Claremont, CA mentioned to David Foster Wallace (who frequented the store, renting entire seasons of '24,' et al.) that he loved 'Infinite Jest,' upon which DFW responded, "You read that thing?"), but it was surreal because the comic we made is full of cocks and we had to make sure kids didn't get it and almost no one came in anyway. Jesse and I wandered around the store, but we couldn't find anything we were really interested in other than Austin's new book; There was too much stuff to parse - it was a glut - overload. I always feel that way at comic book stores or comics shows - the signal to noise ratio gets fucked, and I can't focus on anything.
Over the last couple of days I finally moved everything out of my old studio and into my new one. I was astonished at everything I had accumulated, and I felt like I had little connection to it. Ten, twenty years ago I would actively buy comics, but I rarely buy them anymore. It feels like a bunch of junk sometimes.
Both at this blog and elsewhere, over and over I've discussed merit, the desire for really 'good' comics. It led me to be stupidly binary. Junk culture can be important.
"One of the defining moments in my life happened when, in my mid-twenties (a very wannabe-nihilistic, gaping void period for me), I saw
'A Beautiful Mind.' It's, admittedly, a dumb movie, and I probably saw it with my parents when I was visiting them for Thanksgiving or Christmas because it's that type of hyper-inoffensive movie. I was struggling with the gap between my awareness of the will to power and my own inability to act amorally, and this Hollywood product solved my dilemma by suggesting that there could be a mathematical basis for acting 'morally'. The point of this is that because of the complexity of my context, this bit of pop culture had a profound affect on my life."
But the importance works best in sudden flashes, as a catalyst, an associational datum to interlock with the other puzzle pieces and give pleasure or insight. Over the last twenty plus years the lowbrow has been (and continues to be) mapped so exhaustively that weird, random discoveries (like Boody Rogers in Raw or Fletcher Hanks in Art out of Time) become tedious parts of comics history. Junk is better when you only see it on the periphery. When it's 'taken seriously,' historicized, it loses its freshness, its value as antidote.
The endless cataloging, defining wears me out. For me, art/literature/tv/film/whatever (not just trashy stuff but everything) works best as a bath to be submerged in, a pattern to be a part of - something that stipples the space you're interacting with (either visually or conceptually) and enriches you contextually.
Noah Berlatsky said...
Isn't insisting that the junk not be catalogued a kind of cataloguing though? Ideologically not curating your experience is still curating — maybe even a more insistent kind of curating, in some ways. The fetishization of unmediated experience instantly mediates that experience.
You'd be better off to painstakingly and obsessively rate all your junk culture on some sort of complicated Xcel spreadsheet, making the task of compilation so onerous that the things compiled become meaningless digits. Destroy to purify.
This is why I prefer metal to punk....
MAY 14, 2011 11:59 AM
Jason Overby said...
I think we're always loosely echeloning our experiences informally, but not in the pedantic taxonomical way of tcj's 100 best or something. It will never be "objective," and the value judgements will change as the criteria does. But I don't want to fetishize complete subjectivism - there's a big space between that and fascism.
'Paying for it' is a "better" read than Kirby's '2001,' (at least I'd rather read it), but that obviously doesn't make the Kirby book valueless. As art lying around my studio, 2001 might be more inspiring.
And if it makes a person happier to obsessively rate everything than to "experience" it, more power to them, but there ratings will always be based on a set of ad hoc criteria and would be more useful as a pretty pattern than anything else.
MAY 14, 2011 1:15 PM
MAY 14, 2011 2:18 PM
blaise larmee said...
right on re power of the reader
comics are no longer 'low culture' in the 60's sense - they are marginal culture
those who celebrate comics as low culture (gag panels, fake ads) are waxing nostalgia for a time when comics were still relevant/quotable, not just as history but as living culture
counterexample: 1800-mice is aware of comics' marginal status and engages with it in a productive way
MAY 14, 2011 4:59 PM
Jason Overby said...
Yeah - Thurber's really good at organically synthesizing systems and arty ideas with dumb jokes and pop culture references. I think his inkstuds interview is great, and I love his Brian Eno comic from Kramers 7.
MAY 14, 2011 6:04 PM
I just discovered this amazing barn burner band tonight and the lead singer let me climb inside
She was so beautiful
They grew and grew in popularity and attention
and I got to ride along
because it was mostly in her legs
They had set a bath and everyone climbed in and we rode away into a new world of steamy steamy steamy newness
I don't have a problem with any thing that you've just said I just want to mention that it's possible to be carried away and everything that you touch and blows up is still human I love it here
MAY 14, 2011 7:24 PM