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Ahh the Joys of Politicized Aesthetics/Biographical Criticism

From a TCJ Messageboard thread


First up, Allen Rubinstein:

Thought I’d share with y’all.
I was visiting a local shop the other day that separates its books by company (well, by Marvel, DC and other), and I realized how much this board and TCJ has effected my perceptions. My interest in any Big Two book has dropped from low to zero. I picked up one of them, and had an immediate negative reaction to there being a separate writer, penciller, inker, letterer, colorist, etc. Meanwhile, I took great interest in a rack of underground books that I would have just glanced at a year ago, and seriously considered buying some Tomine who I’d never looked at. Of course all I bought was the fifth Smax, so go figure.

Lately, I’ve ordered the first volume of Buddha, several more Crumb collections and Hollywoodland. I bet in less than six months I’ll be buying European translations.

You’ve turned me from a comics fan into a cartoonist fan. I’m glad you use your mind control powers for good and not for evil.

And, on the other hand, Raymond Tan:

I was already a fan of cartoonists rather than comics to begin with before I started coming here, but then I was more or less naïve about the ‘politics’ that was going on behind the cartoons, as in the conflict, the hostility and all that sordidness. I know this sounds stupid, you could say I was an ‘ideal reader’ back then, in a sense that I evaluated comics based on their art alone with no regard for the cartoonists themselves, i.e: I read a Ted Rall cartoon without being aware of all the ‘negative connotations’ and ‘Danny Hellman’, when I see Dave Sim’s name in print, I’d think ‘Cerebus’, rather than ‘Creepily Paranoid Misogynist’…



I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but I wish I could pick up my copy of Strange Wine again without thinking ‘God, that Harlan Ellison is such an asshole!



Everyone loves a good conversion story, no? Congratulations guys. You aren’t readers anymore. Personally, unless the sanctity of a human or animal’s life is in danger of being violated, I’ll choose ignorance every time. Just give me the book. Spare me the cult of personality.



Bonjour les amis!
Dave

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4 comments

  1. I split the difference. I think it’s worth knowing how stuff is made, because I believe in shopping so as to reinforce my values, where possible – I do try to buy goods made in ways I approve of. It’s all part of trying to make markets work for me. But that deals with the goods. When it comes to READING AND VIEWING – dealing with the goods as books, comics, whatever – then I set that aside and engage with the work. — Bruce

  2. Makes sense to me Bruce. This does get more complicated at the monetary-exchange level (i.e. when you want two books and only have money for one, you probably buy the one from the company that needs your support more–you can always buy the Marvel trade later, etc…) But when I see people swearing off books simply because it’s not cool to read anything that isn’t a one-auteur show, or judging a work based upon whether the people who made it are “assholes” or not, I just shake my head…

    Dave

  3. Harlan Ellison’s a toughie, since he devotes so much energy to keeping his personality front-and-center, especially in the intros and intertexts of each story collection. Possibly a certain amount of patience with his Harlanity is necessary to an appreciation of his work.

    When I have a response analogous to Tan’s, though, it’s a little longer. More like, “God, that Patricia Highsmith was such an asshole! Pretty amazing that she was able to produce such brilliant, sensitive, and insightful novels, huh?”

    –Josh Lukin

  4. Ellison’s complicated. On the one hand, there are no shortage of bad stories about him. On the other hand, he did me a solid one time, and his many friends are *very* complimentary and loyal to him. I’d say he’s just like most people, only more so.

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