Tuesday, June 13, 2006

ARE YOU AFRAID?

As I flip through the comics I got at MoCCA, I remembered meeting K. Thor Jensen. I feel like a jerk not remembering half the people I meet at a show, and like an even bigger jerk not remembering to visit half the people I already knew.

Kenny asked me if anything noteworthy had happened at the show... well, there went a wonderful girl I met just before Evelyn and I got back together who I couldn't call, there's the girl that didn't call me, there's her friend, there's the girl that broke my heart, there's the girl that would never have it, there's my sister's ex-boyfriend asking if I can introduce him to Chip Kidd (we're like THIS, you see), there's my old friends, there's some recent friends, there's some potential friends, there's the guy that stood me up, there's Brian Musikoff and me trying to remember how many times we've had the conversation where we realized that we live a town away, there's the last time I'll see my parents before they move to Florida...

The nicest thing anyone at MoCCA said about my comics was that they had earlier issues and wanted the new ones. The nicest thing anyone said to me was that my manboobs could get me free drinks at any bar that used to advertise on Al-Q: your club and concert calendar (side thought, did Al-Q go extinct after 9-11?). Nicest thing anyone said about me and my comics was that I should be doing them completely differently. Wait a second...

I wonder if the APE and MoCCA attendance figures are floating around anywhere. Attendance at both seemed down from last year. I'll note that both shows were preceded by weeks of ceaseless rain and took place on the first sunny weekends either city had seen in a while. Watch out, Bethesda! Get your slickers early in September, cartoonists are coming! We're like Pilgrims, always preceded by rain.

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Since I'm not quite ready to take the plunge into MoCCA comics (and there's nonMoCCA comics to be got as well, courtesy of Viz and others), I've been sticking to my Borges for yesterday and today. Reading the story, "The End" I'm struck by a sense that I've read the story before. In fact, many of the stories in the "Fictions" section of the Collected Fictions are familiar. I'd read "Funes, His Memory" in the Paris Review collection, but where did I read "The Cult of the Phoenix"? When did I read "The Shape of the Sword"? There's a whole literary history that I've somehow encountered without my knowledge.

Now, there is a familiarity to Borges writing. It's as though you've known his voice before you've read a word. Presumably, Borges (or his apparition) visits our mothers in their sleep while we take form in the womb and whispers his stories to us. That's the only reasonable excuse I can come up with. Because, even though there are elements and themes that run through many of his stories (labrynths, memory (heh), knife fights, failure, acceptence, etc.), and even though any author who has read his work becomes influenced by it (how else to explain the similarities in almost every magic realist's work), there is just something about these stories that suggests that I've read or heard them before.

What's interesting about "The End" is that it's such a strange story. It's only four pages long, but it starts as one thing and becomes about something else entirely. It's a story that can't be true, but it's a story of such specificity that it must have happened. It's the oddest tale I've read in the book so far, and yet it's almost the most non-descript.

A bar owner finds himself paralysed for some reason. Another man plays his guitar after losing a singing competion on the same night the bar owner became afflicted. A third man arrives and apologizes to the guitar player for being so late for an apointment. As they talk, out of sight, but within earshot of the bar owner, it becomes clear that the two men must fight each other to the death. The story is told by a semi-omniscient narator who tells the story as though he can see from the bar owner' perspective or the other men's as the story requires. He knows some of the men's thoughts, but doesn't know if a certain boy is the bar owner's son. It's a story about honor and acceptence of one's fate and the horrible things people do to one another and the way people know each other without fully knowing each other and the experience of not knowing everything that is happening around you and memory and knife fights.

Anyway, it made me think more and more about memory. Perhaps there was some device that would remind me of where I previously read this story. And I was thinking about memory and sense memory devices and memory triggers and short stories when something happened. A new story entered my head. I began playing with the thoughts of a story about storytelling and about memory and about specific memories. I remembered things that reminded me of other things and the way the memory of remembering something can be a story. Or a part of a story. Or a germ of a story.

And I started writing it down. When it's in your head, it's like you're seeing something happening, something you're not exactly creating, but something you can alter as it passes by you. But when you start writing it down and the faces and body language start shaping the way the words come out of the character's mouths, you realize it's not something you have much control of at all and that story you thought was yours is theirs. And that it's not a new story, but one you've heard before even if you don't remember hearing it. Something these apparitions whispered to you while you took shape in the womb and your mother slept.

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