Books, Comics, Music Etchings and Small Work Ideas Reading List

Summer Muse

MoPrint took a bit out of me, blog wise. Its frantic pace stretched into April and I also took May off, mostly. By June, I was back into a regular studio routine, but never picked up the thread here.

illustrates etching made in studio
Polymer etching with chine colle. 9×12″

My latest studio icon is boxes. I sometimes like to take a simple image and explore from all angles. Boxes, it turns out, have angles.

The boxes I’ve been doing are just ambiguous enough to pack a lot of thought into. What better than a box, for packing? In this case, the dead growth on the outside, and the dead leaves inside, seemed to go together, and suggest memory to me. Death too, of course, but that seems obvious enough. The page from a math text, as well as the dead leaves are chine colle, a way of collaging bits of paper onto the print, as you are printing it. As the name suggests, it was invented in ancient times by the Chinese, and revived by the French.

The equations have no specific meaning, although I can think of ways they might contribute to a narrative about the box. I do like visual non sequiturs, to ask these sorts of questions, ie., what does it mean to you?

It comes after another “Heart Shaped Box”, a monotype that I posted here only a little while back. That one sold quickly, which is gratifying, as when one gets on a mental thread like this, one often wonders whether the public will just think it’s trivial, or pointless. It was in a show, “Dark Hearts”, for Valentines Day, which appealed to the Goth element in our young art scene – the juror is a Goth pop culture influencer around here and the show featured quite a bit of black, both on the walls, and in the fashion at the opening. I like to think that I’m comfortable anywhere, but it’s possible many thought I stuck out with my bright, fragmented, and very ambivalent approach to the subject.

Etchings, like the above, allow me to do multiples, in variations of color and collage bits, which helps with inventory during a very hectic year. It also has a tendency to grease the wheels creatively. In addition, I can sell them more cheaply.

As for chine colle, I updated the “Workshops”page linked at the top, so if you are curious to know more, take a class. You are also welcome to use the “Contact” link and ask more specific questions, but it’s a bit complex ( the process ) and may benefit from being in the studio.

Coffee and my reading chair by the living room window are my excuse for not writing a post. I like my huge PMBs ( Post Modern Bricks, otherwise known as doorstop novels, but lately applied -by me-to Pre Modern Bricks, such as Tristram Shandy, which I have enjoyed thoroughly as I slog through its elliptical Georgian syntax and humor. I have much to say about that essential, hilarious, and baffling milestone in fiction, in another post. But one needs a break from that sort of book sometimes, especially as Summer arrives bringing travel and outdoor activities. Spoiler alert: Laurence Sterne is not beach reading.

That’s why I like essays. I’ve always subscribed to magazines such as The Atlantic when busy, so I’ve always read essays, but recently figured out that there is less clutter if you just get a collection. Essays, like a lot of non fiction, seem a bit generic at first glance, but obviously there are many different styles:

Arguably, Christopher Hitchens: Hitchens writes silky arguments, but has a tendency to assume you’ve done your homework on the basic background. So if it’s a subject you are fuzzy on, e.g. Edmund Burke in my case, you will be left behind. Phillip Lopate and John D’Agata have excellent historical surveys of essay writing where you can familiarize your self on everyone from Seneca and Montaigne, through Addison and Steele, and Walter Benjamin. But Hitchens is topical, and fascinating on more familiar subjects.

Hitchens starts off with a bang, arguing forcefully and well that the founders did NOT intend a Christian nation, as the fascist ghouls in Congress will often expect you to simply accept. Despite the seamless sentences, passion seeps in when he writes about such diverse topics as John Brown, and the death penalty for minors.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion: A journalist, at first, writing articles on the flowering California scene in the 60s. Unlike the fairly pompous Tom Wolfe, she embedded in her subjects’ lives to listen, not to preach, though somewhat like Wolfe, her voice tends to shade to the conservative side. Of course, that’s not unusual with contemporary commentary, especially in traditionally trained journalists. They are trained to be skeptics. But I really don’t need a laudatory profile of John Wayne in my morning coffee time. Nonetheless, I read it, it was fresh and immediate, and at the time, she probably really needed the money.

Her title essay, about the confused idealism of the Summer of Love in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, has certainly aged better than most, though.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace: Perhaps understanding that younger readers these days do not really see essays as fun things, DFW is the most direct, and expository of these writers, nor is he afraid of bold assertion. His argument that fiction these days is influenced by TV, is supported by discussing just one author, and is now a bit dated, since TV now takes far more creative chances. But his lead-in discussion on the semiotics and social function of 80s TV is a joy to read. One essay that still hits hard is his discussion of David Lynch’s movies. Another (not in this collection) is incisive on the debate about ebonics in English usage, while one here, on post structuralism and ‘the death of the author’ is as limpid a discussion of literary theory one is likely to find. Very non traditional use of footnoting is a plus, in my view, though in general, I’m very pro-footnote.

I’m not afraid to admit that I fared less well with collections by William Gass and Jorge Luis Borges, one, very academic, which I tip toed into and out of rather quickly; and the other also requiring a stronger academic background than I have, though with many lovely passages and allusions if you enjoy his Fictions.

Shakespeare Wrote For Money, Nick Hornby: Hornby’s columns for Believer Magazine, which I first discovered collected in The Polysyllabic Spree, inspired me to include a reading list of my own among my studio chronicles here. It breaks up the monotonous chore of having to talk about my own doings. This is the third of four volumes that I know of, a slim little trade paperback that I found at Westside books in the literary criticism section, though it is really so much more.

Hornby turns reading into personal essay, with digressions from his life, including soccer and raising an autistic son. I can’t recall running out and buying one of his recommended titles, many of which, I’m not sure I’d enjoy. He’s a Dickens fan; I’m not, preferring Eliot and James. I have my own agenda, really.

But I just like reading about reading, odd bird that I am, and Hornby turns this into existential satire by documenting his impulsive purchases, his beloved authors, and his failures to engage. Finally, a reviewer who admits he, like us, doesn’t always finish books he starts.

Need something literary and blurbaliciously brief to travel with? In between post- and premodern bricks and need a dependably offhand but original voice to tide you over? In between literary passions, and just want some suggestions for a new obsession? Consider Hornby for a FWB ( Friend With Books ).

#Readinglist #essays #summerreading

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