Blogging will be a thing again, and some reviews

Blogging has again become sporadic and erratic. Fear not Putting on a Show will return, as will #fridayflash, but travelling and other factors have caused some skip weeks.

You’re probably owed an explanation of what else I’ve been up to creatively apart from Nando’s, but sadly the answer to that is not much. Rehearsing a musical somewhere you don’t live, setting up a multiplatform writing partnership, attempting to escape graduate unemployment, and readjusting to the family home and its pets and schedules, plus god knows what else, has very much taken up the available brain space that I would prefer to use for creativity. As such, not much is getting done, I’m afraid.

The ideas have fortunately not stopped, though, and a few things have slipped through the mental weight. I have begun writing longhand again, which is great, and everyone should go back, and I have a couple of things in pen that I will extensively rework into usability at some point. I’ve figured out a way to progress on a project I’ve mentioned here a lot, one where the development of which has become entirely stilted, by writing it in an entirely different medium (with the option of adapting it back to what it’s supposed to be later). It may work, it may be a dead end, it has as much chance of being a thing I can actually show an audience as the other way, and it’ll at least get it moving forward. Also, the university year has restarted, Proteus has restarted, and I have a venue to get stuff I write seen again.

I have, however, been getting some reading done. I still haven’t finished Dune, it’s still mostly comics, and the 2000ADs are piling up unread again, but there’s movement. I put up a quick summary of each one on Goodreads just for my own benefit, but a couple of books have inspired me to write a bit more. In lieu of having an interesting life to share with you, I’m reprinting them below. The star ratings aren’t important, but I do like that Goodreads give them explanations.

Autobiography by MorrisseyAutobiography, by Morrissey (2013) (x)

I’m not the world’s most massive Mozophile, and I have yet to hear a majority of his music. However, the little I know assures me his is one of the twentieth century’s chief talents, and the little I know about him told me that he is a fascinating character. I got the book week of release in order to experience it unfiltered, rather than through the apprehension of the newspapers. Strangers have liked this on Goodreads, which is new for me.

A good chunk of this is great. Well-written, insightful, throws up some interesting historical/personal context for Morrissey’s creative work, and accurately reflects his presumed personality. The fact that he continues a despairing attitude from the description of his younger years right through the lifetime of The Smiths is understandable, and the in-depth analysis of the music important to him growing up points to why he would so obsessively note down every chart position of his career.

However, the book and I part ways when it reaches the point of the infamous court case in 1996, where Morrissey and Marr are sued for Smiths royalties. I am convinced it is a legal travesty, but devoting such a large chunk of the book to it seems entirely disproportionate. It also demonstrates Morrissey’s self-justification, childish pettiness, and inability to see that it is his entirely alterable attitudes that cost him much in his life (being a vegetarian – fine, healthy, laudable. Stropping off in silence if someone else is eating meat – juvenile.) It does, however, provide a useful shorthand reference for why there will never be a reunion.

Plus, this shift in emphasis completely overwhelms the personal insight in the latter half of the book, surely more interesting than settling scores. It does seem like a lack of editing, particularly when the tenses begin to muddle and the account of his latter-day touring is aimless and makes the same points repetitively. The book ends at the end of 2011, which is a shame, since accounts of his 2013 illness and tour cancellations would have been valuable. And while it is hard to provide a conclusion to a life you are still living, a better ending is required.

I can recommend the first half of the book readily. However, if you leave the book when Marr leaves The Smiths, you can’t be blamed, since from then on it is probably only fit for the fans and the masochists.

MetaMaus by Art SpiegelmanMetaMaus, by Art Spiegelman (2011) (x)

This is a book I think I ordered as soon as I heard it existed, but I’ve only just plucked it from the pile to read.

Maus is an affecting and beautiful book. MetaMaus is a author’s deconstruction of a work that has eclipsed everything he could ever achieve, and become monumental in the field of literature, history, and memoir.

There is more included in Metamaus than you could possibly read. The meat of the book is an interview with Art Spiegelman, that covers all incarnations of Maus, and is generously accompanied with works-in-progress, related and referenced comic strips, and a few other brief attendant interviews and accounts to support the main account. This interview is comprehensive and informative, and will sit among the more interesting accounts of the creative process. However, you do begin to flag towards its conclusion, which is the final page of Maus.

But this is far from all that’s included. Also included in the back of the book is a lighty-edited transcript of the 1978 interview with Vladek that proved the cornerstone of the whole project, forty pages of small type printed on a different paper stock, alongside a few pages of interviews with people who knew Anja. I must admit I haven’t read it, but I appreciate its inclusion.

The same goes for the accompanying DVD, The Complete Maus Files, which is almost MetaMaus all over again. Part 1 contains the entirety of Maus in a digital format. Maus is not presented in a way to be read and enjoyed, however (and I’m not tempted to re-read it using this DVD), but to form the spine of exhaustively linked sketches, interviews, and more. Part 2 is a (probably) endless archive of attendant documents, sources, and commentary. Again, it is vast to the point of intimidating, so I have barely dipped into it.

The inclusion of such impossible-to-digest resources such as the DVD point to the speculation of why one might bother with MetaMaus at all, if you’re not doing extensive scholarly research. True, I may never return to the DVD, or read the transcripts – there are only so many hours in the world to spend on one work. However, its existence forms as a new part of the original piece of art. Spiegelman mentions repeatedly in MetaMaus that Maus was a personal response to one man’s recollections of a global atrocity. This is shown in Maus by including the present day stories, telling how the work is constructed. MetaMaus is an extension of this side of the project – it is an actualisation of what Spiegelman says in the book to the idea of remaining accurate to his father’s story while also creating a work of art – to paraphrase, “here are the tapes, here are the transcripts, go make your own Maus”.

Not only is MetaMaus a great commentary of making a book-length comic about the Holocaust, this book-length comic about the Holocaust, a book-length comic in general – it shows how art is constructed from memory, history, and technical craft. It is fascinating, insightful, and a beautifully printed volume that I encourage anyone who’s read Maus (which should be everyone) to read.

More soon.

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