Salvatore Pane

Month: February, 2011

It’s a Literary Podcast, Bitch!

Dark Sky Magazine just posted a new lit podcast recorded by myself, Robert Yune, Steve Gillies and Chris Lee. We talk Robert’s new story “Dear Katie” from The Wascana Review, Amber Sparks’ piece in DSM, and Nick Spencer and Chris Ward’s awesome comic Infinite Vacation.

Plus, there’s a running commentary for Weekend at Bernie’s II and an endurance run through Bit.Trip Runner for Wii.

Lorrie Moore on the Carmelo Anthony/New York Knicks Trade

“Her rage flopped awkwardly away like a duck. She felt as she had when her cold, fierce parents had at last grown sick and old, stick-boned and saggy, protected by infirmity the way cuteness protected a baby, or should, it should protect a baby, and she had been left with her rage–vestigial, girlhood rage–inappropriate and intact. She would hug her parents good-bye, the gentle, emptied sacks of them, and think Where did you go?

“You couldn’t pretend you had lost nothing… you had to begin there, not let your blood freeze over.”

“I missed him.”

“I wondered about the half-life of regret.”

“When you find out who you are, you will no longer be innocent. That will be sad for others to see. All that knowledge will show on your face and change it. But sad only for others, not for yourself. You will feel you have a kind of wisdom, very mistaken, but a mistake of some power to you and so you will sadly treasure it and grow it.”

“I tried not to think about my life. I did not have any good solid plans for it long-term – not bad plans either, no plans at all.”


“I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable about this.”

“How can it be described? How can any of it be described?”

“When she packed up to leave, she knew that she was saying goodbye to something important, which was not that bad, in a way, because it meant that at least you had said hello to it to begin with…”

Here’s a Comic Book I Read in 1996: Spectacular Spider-Man #241 In Which Spider-Man Grieves His Daughter’s Death

At AWP, I somehow ended up explaining Mary Jane’s (of Spider-Man fame) miscarriage to Amber Sparks, her husband and Lauren Becker. I don’t know why this one particular issue has stayed with me so much over the years (especially considering that I’ve probably read hundreds, or more likely, thousands of other issues) in the interim. But I thought I might talk about it, and that maybe this could be a regular thing. That maybe occasionally I’ll dig through the tupperware container under my bed that has all my comics from the ’90s and reread one, then post some thoughts. Because, for the most part, the ’90s was pretty fucking awful.

The Spectacular Spider-Man #241 written by J.M. DeMatteis with art from Luke Ross.


The first thing that surprised me while rereading is that DeMatteis and Ross are names I’m familiar with now. Luke Ross is a phenomenal penciler and I loved his work on Captain America with Ed Brubaker. And DeMatteis is a classic scribe who recently completed a run on Booster Gold, one of my favorite DC characters.  I’m always surprised to go back to my ’90s comics and realize I was reading stuff by legends like Mark Waid or John Romita Jr., because at the time, I literally thought Stan Lee wrote all the comics and even wrote him a letter asking why the Clone Saga was so tough on old Spidey.

Ok. Some background on the issue. #241 takes place immediately after a multi-year storyline in which Peter Parker was replaced with a clone that culminated with said clone’s death and the miscarriage of Pete and MJ’s baby. There is a ton of good info on this whole debacle on the web, so I won’t go into detail, but if you’re interested, check this out.

#241 opens an undetermined amount of time after the miscarriage. At that time, editorial wanted to move as far away from the moroseness of the clone saga and the miscarriage as humanly possible, so DeMatteis had essentially one issue to sum up Pete and MJ’s feelings on a trauma far more terrifying than any of the over-the-top villains that shuffle in and out of the book on a monthly basis. So what we get here are three stories. The most typical is the Chameleon storyline. Superhero comics are eternally stuck in Act II and must always be paving the way for future stories. So a third of the page count is dedicated to setting up the return of the Chameleon which will pay off in future storylines.

But it’s the other two that are really noteworthy. This isn’t a nuanced look at loss, but it is pretty complex for a comic that at the time was aimed at 12-year-olds. I even remember my comic shop guy, at the wonderful Comics on the Green in Scranton, suggesting I buy something a little more fun. DeMatteis chooses to give us Spider-Man and Mary Jane’s separate reactions to the miscarriage before bringing them together. Spidey reacts in a way you might expect. He swings around the city trying to knock the cobwebs loose. At the time, he had only just returned from retirement in Portland where he expected to become a family man, leaving the web slinging to his now dead clone. But what’s really impressive are the Mary Jane scenes. Tucked between the Chameleon lamenting his obsession with Kraven the Hunter and bizarre Crash Bandicoot ads is a really quiet scene between MJ and her Aunt Anna. Mary Jane has just emptied her daughter’s room and delivers a kind of monologue which is pretty heartfelt and just shockingly mature.

The story weaves in and out of the Spider-Man/Chameleon scenes, but culminates with something much more emotional and earnest. Peter and MJ discuss moving away to be free of their memories before going to bed. But Pete can’t sleep, and in the middle of the night, puts his Spidey gear on and decides to swing around the city a bit to tire him out. But before he leaves, MJ wakes up and asks to go with him, a callback to simpler days in their courtship when Spider-Man would rescue MJ from more colorful foes like the Hobgoblin or Hammerhead or whoever. What follows is a really nicely rendered two-page, silent spread of the married couple swinging through Manhattan, at the end of which they embrace beneath a sunrise.

Look, I realize that the way Spectacular Spider-Man deals with a child’s death is reductive and on many levels, absolutely ludicrous. And I realize that this portion of Spider-Man lore is particularly maligned (for good reason), and that the daughter is never, ever mentioned in contemporary stories. But I have to give credit for DeMatteis and Ross for even attempting to tackle this subject in a serious manner. For starters, they were written into this hole and had to find a way to dig the character out. And so many times, comics deal with stuff like this by using clones or magic or alternate realities. But here’s a somber, serious take, or at least one as somber as you can get in a 1990’s superhero comic book. I guess I’m not saying you should track down this issue or these older storylines, but you should know they existed, that superhero comics and comics in general have the capacity of dealing with issues more important than which spandex-wearing dude can win in a fight.

Yeah, this ad makes total sense conceptually for this issue.

A Challenge to the Great Gatsby 8-Bit People

THIS EXISTS.

THIS EXISTS.

A group of talented, young geniuses have turned The Great Gatsby into an 8-bit NES game, and I couldn’t be happier. Ever want to kill a flapper using an expertly thrown bowler hat? Now’s your chance. Ever want to fight the entire roster of the 1919 Chicago Whitesox? Now’s your chance. And there’s even an obviously false backstory to the game that claims its owner found the prototype cartridge in a yard sale, and that it’s a localization of the Japanese game Doki Doki Toshokan: Gatsby no Monogatari (any Nintendo fan will tell you this is a play off of Doki Doki Panic, the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2).

There’s so much I love about this. The fabricated backstory. The idea that somebody cared enough about NES games and The Great Gatsby to combine the two. How level two is a total homage to the second level in Ninja Gaiden II, annoying birds and all. This is a project done with love, and all who’ve read this blog for any amount of time or spoken to me in person can attest to the fact that I am completely obsessed with all things Nintendo Entertainment System. There’s just something uniquely charming about the graphics and music, how they hint at what they’re supposed to represent, how you still have to use your imagination. It requires an active participation that you don’t see much in other media. If there’s a spectrum of how much active participation something requires, television and film are at one end (very little) while prose books exist on the other extreme. Comics and old Nintendo games definitely fit snugly in the middle.

What really stunned me about this game is that is was actually fun to play. It’s not just a one-note joke, and  it’s pretty comparable to games like Yo! Noid or maybe something like Adventures in the Magic Kingdom. It takes the joke started with the recent There Will Be Blood SNES video to a whole other level. And this all got me thinking about what other literary works are particularly deserving of the 8-bit conversion treatment. So, without further adieu, here’s my personal challenge to the Great Gatsby team. Here are the books I think they should tackle next. I don’t know who the programmers are, but I sincerely hope this isn’t a one game project. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

1. Super Sad True Love Story

2. The Old Man and the Sea

3. London Fields

4. Yiddish Policemen’s Union

5. God Jr. (my head is exploding just trying to picture this one)

6. Moo

7. The Magus

8. Light Boxes

9. The Road

10. The Things They Carried

AWP 2011 Aftermath: Woah Now Hey Mr. Rager Mr. Rager Tell Me Where You’re Going Tell Us Where You’re Headed I’m Off On An Adventure Mr. Rager Tell Me Some Of Your Stories Tell Us Of Your Travels

AWP 2011 is over. Highlights, in no particular order, below.

1. Dancing in a group including xTx, Roxane Gay, my roommates Adam Reger and Robert Yune to the song “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love Tonight” by the Outfield at HTMLGiant’s Literature party amid a crowd of hip motherfuckers.

2. The Gary Shtenygart/Amy Hempel reading/convo. Shtenygart is so fucking funny in person. I want him to be my older brother.

3. During my Future of the Book Review panel with Emily Testa, Irina Reyn and Paul Morris, some dude totally called shit on us while walking up the aisle of the ballroom and sporting sunglasses.

4. I love Emma Straub. I met her. We talked a few times. She signed my copy of her book Other People We Married. Then one night I was returning to the hotel drunk and saw her chatting with some reasonable humans and I shouted, “Emma Straub knows!” She nodded. She knew.

5. At Recessions, I met Amber Sparks and while drinking a 20 ounce Bud Light explained Spider-Man’s wife’s miscarriage from the mid-nineties and the complexities of Pokemon cards.

6. One night later I had a similar conversation with Amber’s husband in the bathroom of Ireland’s Four Provinces.

7. Aubrey Hirsch and I repeatedly asking people if they were the html giant.

8. Seeing Steve Almond, Michael Czyzniejewski, Nicolle Elizabeth and all the Smokelong/Corium/Spindle readers read at the Black Squirrel which has all these 80’s Marvel comics on the walls.

9. Jennifer Sky arm wrestling Tao Lin.

10. I finally met Brian Oliu! We walked through the hotel and parted ways outside, and only later did I realize not once did we bring up Nintendo games as expected.

11. Watching Joel Coggins puke in an Arlington trash can.

12. Getting a Write Like a Motherfucker mug from Isaac Fitzgerald and the awesome Rumpus folks.

13. Chandler Chugg-a-lugg

14. The Annalemma/Pank/MLP reading. One of the funnest readings ever.

15. The Myth of Relevance Panel.

16. This e-mail from Lauren Becker received at 3:28 am:

Subject: pegleg?

Body: argh, matey! 🙂

17. Consuming a mass amount of beer every night for four straight days.

18. Proposing to a woman named Polaroid on the Literature Party dance floor after she literally told me she would be “the Alice Munro to your Charles Baxter.”

19. Convincing a woman at Literature Party, albeit briefly, that I was Sugar from the Rumpus. Called her sweetpea and everything.

20. Cathy Day mocking Steve Gillies for being 20 years older than me.