Salvatore Pane

Tag: Jonathan Lethem

Summer Reading List

A few days ago on HTML Giant, Christopher Higgs posted his summer reading list and asked readers to do the same in the comments section.  I’ve been constructing elaborate summer reading lists for awhile now. Check out this stack that I (mostly) devoured over a three week period last summer.

But a curious thing happened when fall rolled around: I didn’t delete the reading list file on my hard drive. I just kept adding to it and adding to it, updating with way more titles than I could consume in any given month. And now, with a new summer upon us, I have a list that has ballooned to 33 separate entries. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a huge problem, but reviewing has taken a big chunk out of my reading for pleasure time. Oh, and this doesn’t even include all the graphic novels I’ve saved up for the summer (I have a different file for those with only 18 entries).

Prose

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
God Jr. by Dennis Cooper
After the Workshop by John McNally
Samuel Johnson Is Indignant by Lydia Davis
Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
Something else by Jay McInerney (not Bright Lights, Big City)
The Half-Known World by Robert Boswell
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox
Something else by Joe Meno (not The Great Perhaps)
Dalva or Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison
Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill
Emperor of the Air by Ethan Canin
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Morre
The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter
Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer
A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell
Something by Paul Auster
The Terrible Girls by Rebecca Brown
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
We’re Getting On by James Kaelan
End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy
A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley
Solar by Ian McEwan
Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin
Stories II by Scott McLanahan
American Subversive by David Goodwillie

Comics

The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman
RASL vol. 1 by Jeff Smith
Young Avengers vol. 2 by Allen Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Omega the Unknown by Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple
The Flash book 1 Blood Will Run by Geoff Johns and Scott Kollins and Ethan Van Sciver
Fantastic Four vol. 1 by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo
Daredevil vol. 1 Ultimate Collection by Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack and Alex Maleev
Daredevil Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Black Summer by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp
Batman Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
New X-Men vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely and Ethan Van Sciver and Leinil Francis Yu
Global Frequency vol. 1 Planet Ablaze by Warren Ellis
Marvel 1602 Premiere HC by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
Superman/Batman vol. 1 Public Enemies by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness
Wolverine: Enemy of the State by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. and and Kaare Andrews
The Middleman: The Collected Series Indispensability by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Les McClaine
I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura

Obviously, this list is way too ambitious for any human to complete in a single season. But I’ll take a crack at it. I imagine that most of the graphic novels will fall by the wayside as I already read three or four comics a week each Wednesday. However, if you think I’m missing something absolutely crucial, please let me know. And feel free to post your own lists in the comments sections.

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The Difficulty of Multiple Mediums: Literary Fiction and the Graphic Novel

It’s been snowing here in Pittsburgh for nearly two weeks now. Being unable to drive anywhere should’ve been a golden opportunity to get writing done, but I wasn’t very productive until this past Thursday. Everybody goes through periods where they feel their work is crap, but I think this time I’ve pinpointed the problem: I was writing in two mediums at the same time.

As I posted a few weeks ago, Arcana Studios recently purchased a graphic novel for publication that I’ve been working on with Mark Kleman and Lamair Nash. Let’s talk about that for a minute. I’ve never written a comic before. I’ve never even written a screenplay–other than a disaster I composed for a college class five years ago. I got the comic gig after writing a twenty-two page sample with Mark. We found Lamair on the internet. He drew it and we sent it to a bunch of companies and Arcana was the one we went with. Now they want 110 pages.

Writing the comic isn’t hard; it’s quite pleasurable in fact and scratches a very different itch than literary fiction. I’m on page 60 currently and plan to have a first draft done within the next two weeks as Mark and I are attempting to bang out the whole script in 45 days. The problem is with my literary fiction. For awhile, I was trying to write the comic book in the morning and work on short stories right after. That didn’t work. I found that scripting comics diluted my prose. So I wrote three aborted short stories before I decided to take a break from writing the comic. Then a short story flowed pretty effortlessly. With that out of the way, I’m back to the graphic novel until it’s completed.

What I’m curious about is whether other authors have such a difficult time transitioning between two mediums. Literary writers have worked on screenplays since the days of Fitzgerald and Faulkner. But comic books? Not so much. Two years ago, Jonathan Lethem did a year-long run on Omega the Unknown for Marvel.

Newsarama has an excellent interview with him where he addresses this topic somewhat:

NRAMA: What’s the experience been like, going from prose to comics?

JL: A learning experience. Reading comics as long as I have was a huge head start, but it wasn’t everything. I needed to feel my way into the form. You quickly realize that in a sense it’s not a written form. The words are important, but the more important part of my work is giving Farel Dalrymple these assignments to draw.

I think the dominant part of the comic book experience is the visual. One reason why I’ve been slow has been that I really have to do this job of storyboarding and visualization in my head, in order to make to my storytelling work in the medium’s terms.

NRAMA: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working in this medium?

JL: Well, I don’t think I think of it in terms of disadvantages. It’s completely satisfying on its level. I could never do only this kind of work, because I’m so engaged with language, and as I say I’ve come to feel that language is fundamentally in the back seat in comic book. Or, anyway, in the kind that I like and seem to be trying to write.

I would be a frustrated writer if I had to satisfy my entire ambition through this narrow aperture of comic book panels. In the most basic sense, as containers for words, panels just don’t hold very many of them! So on the one hand I’m excited about doing this kind of work, and on the other, it confirms my sense that I’m fundamentally a prose writer, a novelist and short-story writer.

It’s interesting that Lethem had difficult moving to the visual medium–so did I; as freeing as it was to write, “(SFX) KaBoom!” it was also terrifying when I had to rely on someone else’s visuals to convey emotion–but this doesn’t address the issue of whether Lethem found it difficult to work on both literary fiction and comics at the same time. Omega was a year-long project. Did he work on it concurrently while writing his new novel? Did he bang out all twelve Omega scripts as quickly as he could before returning to prose? I’m not really sure, but if any of you have any answers I’d be glad to hear them. This is my first stab at multi-genre productivity as you no doubt can tell.