Monday, September 26, 2005

Skipped a day: Marj and I had an interesting weekend up north in Burlington, and shortly after we returned home yesterday buzzed back up to Bellows Falls for the first regional performance of The Voices Project, which was fantastic.

A few highlights, and more on The Voices Project tomorrow:

* The Burlington Literary Festival was that event's first year, I was told, and as such a mixed but lively bag. Barbara and the folks at the Fletcher Free Library did a great job with the comics-related events -- stellar hosts, excellent presentation areas and prep, full promotion, the works -- but we were up against the one-two punch of (a) a glorious sunny Saturday in September, which kept folks outside, and (b) panels scheduled against one another. I mean, if you had a choice between Russell Banks giving a reading and a group of Green Mt. cartoonists on a panel, where would you have been? The evening cartooning panel, however, was very well attended, and the cartoonists/artists gathered -- Alison Bechdel, Harry Bliss, and LJ Kopf -- were engaging speakers with lively slide-show presentations. Glad I caught most of it! Alison is completing work on an expansive autobiographical graphic novel -- can't wait to read it! -- and Bliss talked of his work and relations with zines like The New Yorker with a candor that reminded me of Howard Chaykin's no-nonsense manner; his obvious affinity for Charles Addams and immediate acknowledgement of that anchor affirms my prior perspective of his position in the pantheon (Addams, Gahan Wilson, etc.), but I will have to pick up some of the children's books he's illustrated. They were on sale after the talk, but all I could afford was a copy of one of Alison's collecteds -- October's harvest should afford a bit more book acquisitions, and Bliss is now on the list.

* The sponsors of the Literary Fest graciously arranged for a group dinner at a downtown Thai restaurant. The food was terrific, but as usual in large gatherings, time was against us. Marj and I walked down to the restaurant early with James and Amy Kochalka, and had a great time -- but first to arrive somehow culminated in our being last served, despite the organizers' best efforts (we all had ordered our meal days in advance!). Thus, the evening panel moderator who sat at our table had to dash almost seconds after his dinner arrived, and Marj and I were the last to dine, long after the others (including those who had arrived an hour after we had) had happily wined, dined, and left for the evening events. Still, no dis intended to either the fest or the organizers (but -- message to self: next event, dine early and apart from the pack).

* Walking with the Sturms (James and Rachel) and the Kochalkas, I overheard discussion of an upcoming CCS book project that sounds exciting. Far be it from me to break the news here, but good to hear books are already taking shape from the CCS stable.

* During the same conversation, James Kochalka seemed concerned with steering me back into the fold, so to speak, working again in comics. Alas, the best intentions, but slim chance -- my retirement stands, my ambivalence about my work and disgust with the industry (as opposed to the medium) unchanged. Though I look forward to reading them, the CCS projects mentioned to date have little appeal for me personally as an artist, were I even wanted. I came home to a stack of new comics John Rovnak had passed on to me: the horror comics boom is in full swing, but it's a party I'm not part of. This is OK with me. Teaching at CCS part-time and writing full-time feels right to me -- no telling what the future holds, but don't hold your breath for new Bissette comics in the near future. This colors the Saturday events and the entire weekend in a peculiar manner: I am part but apart from it all, a compass point I've known most of my life.

* Sunday morning: Marj and I savor a morning with our dear friends Joe Citro and Diane Foulds, and walk back uptown to the Bank Street Henry's Diner for a delicious breakfast and great conversation. Amid the talk, the latest on publisher abuses for Joe and Diane on a number of fronts (book publishers, newspaper freelance). It's not the focus, but has become a touchstone for the weekend, coming on the heels of Saturday's melancholy musings about the comics industry. The grass is no greener and the fences only higher. We come home with a fat copy of Joe's latest book, Weird New England, which sports a photo of the very car we are driving home in and my single book illustration for the project, a color portrait of the legendary Pigman. All very nice, but the editors saw fit to tamper with Joe's text, and it's not the book he hoped it would be; any regrets I had about not doing more art for the book have dissolved. Nice to be part of it, nevertheless.

En route home, the overcast gray and occasional rain only accentuates the brown patina over the green hills: autumn is biting our ass, and a few trees are beginning to give up their color. Change is in the air, come what may.