Posts Tagged Fantagraphics
Fantagraphics Books has surprised me on many levels this past year (all good levels, of course). So when I heard it was publishing Monte Schulz‘s prose novel, This Side of Jordan, I contacted the author (with some help from friend of the blog/Fantagraphics’ Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds) to discuss the book through an email interview.
As detailed by the publisher: “This Side Of Jordan is a story of another America, eighty years distant yet familiar, too, a vibrant and scandalous tapestry of eccentric characters from a nation embroiled in criminal liquor traffic, thrilled by Jazz Age fads and frolic, drunk amid the glittering showgrounds of a booming circus whose flag-topped tents are about to come down. Through mayhem and merriment, past the violence and hypocrisy of Prohibition, along miles of dirt roads and busy Main Streets, we see in this wonderfully evocative narrative a simple yearning for love and hope. This Side Of Jordan is about the distance we travel in America to find our rightful place. …
He spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011.
Monte Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California. He is the eldest son of Charles M. Schulz (PEANUTS).”
My thanks to Schulz for an interview in which the quality of his answers greatly exceed that of my questions. Once you’ve read the interview, please be sure to visit the Fantagraphics website for a 23-page PDF excerpt from the book.
Tim O’Shea: Your first novel, Down by the River, was published in 1991. How has your writing voice matured in the past 19 years?
Monte Schulz: My basic style of writing hasn’t changed in thirty years. The issue was always doing what I was best capable of. “Down By The River” was the pinnacle of what I could achieve in a novel back then, but after it was finished, I discovered I was capable of so much more. Stylistically, however, I’ve always favored and embraced a lyrical prose, and these ‘20s novels have just given me more room and opportunity to express it. Also, I’ve read much more than I had back then, so my work since that first novel has been informed by writers I knew nothing of at that time – Bellow, Marquand, Cozzens, Kantor, etc. Then, too, I think I’ve refined what I like best about artistic writing, while improving my sense of character and story, and better differentiating voices in dialogue, something that is very much on display now in “This Side Of Jordan.”
In writing words of praise for Debbie Drechsler, I must concede I’m joining a bandwagon that started in 1995 when her work, Daddy’s Girl was first released. As detailed here by her publisher Fantagraphics, “Fantagraphics Books is proud to re-release one of the most powerful and moving books in its distinguished publishing history: Debbie Drechsler’s first collection of short comic stories, Daddy’s Girl. Originally published in 1995 and distributed only to comic book specialty stores, Daddy’s Girl was ahead of its time: Drechsler’s account of her abuse at the hands of her father, told from the point of view of an adolescent, is one of the most searingly honest, empathetic, and profoundly disturbing uses of the comics medium in its history.” With some assistance from Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds and the valuable time and effort of Drechsler, I was recently able to email interview her about the re-release of the book, as well as what work she is currently pursuing.
Tim O’Shea: Given the personal, autobiographical nature of your work, do you intentionally avoid reading reviews of your work, or are you able to distinguish that folks are reviewing your storytelling skills, not your life?
Debbie Drechsler: No, I like to read reviews. I call my work autobiographical because there doesn’t seem to be another word that fits. But, really, it’s somewhere in between fact and fiction, I guess. The stories were very deliberately constructed, although I tried to maintain what I call the emotional truth of incest. They’re something I created, not a slice of my life.
Back in AP art during high school in the mid-1980s, I vividly remember dabbling in scratchboard (according to m-w.com “a black-surfaced cardboard having an undercoat of white clay on which an effect resembling engraving is achieved by scratching away portions of the surface to produce white lines”) and completely screwing it up. So the fact that Leah Hayes created Funeral of the Heart, a 120-page book drawn on scratchboard, caught my attention (and earned my unceasing respect) rather quickly. Thanks to some assistance from Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds, I was able to recently email interview Hayes. Here’s part of Fantagraphics description of the book: “Hayes creates a world of unease and ambiguity populated by obsessive characters, forlorn animals, and mysterious, inanimate objects; odd occurrences, unnerving deaths and unconventional but genuine love bind these characters and their stories together.” In addition to some sample pages, Fantagraphics set up a Flickr slideshow for the book and also offered a 10-page PDF preview. My thanks to Hayes for the interview, and please be sure to also check out her musical projects, Scary Mansion and La Laque.
Tim O’Shea: What made you decide to work with scratchboard for Funeral of the Heart?
Leah Hayes: It happened by accident. I was playing around with Scratchboard at the time that Fantagraphics talked to me about publishing a second book with them. I had written part of one story just for fun, so I decided to go with it.