Giving up the Ghost: Ghost World

Posted by Charles Reece, April 15, 2012 11:57pm | Post a Comment
john barth end of the road   ghost world enid

[This essay originally appeared as part of a roundtable over at The Hooded Utilitarian.]

Reading Daniel Clowes' Ghost World again got me to thinking about John Barth’s nihilist novel, The End of the Road. The latter begins at a bus station; the former ends at a bus stop. And much like Barth’s protagonist, Jacob Horner, Enid spends the duration of the story searching for an identity, but only succeeds in finding what she’s not. Horner is a middle-aged academic type who’s managed to think himself into a hole, not seeing any potential action as better grounded than another -- sort of an infinite regress of self. Thus, he’s sitting in a bus station in a state of existential paralysis, not able to even come up with a good reason to get on a bus and leave his former (non-) life behind. The abiding gloom that pervades all of Ghost World's vignettes -- undercutting Enid’s hipper-than-thou detachment from those around her -- is a sense that she’s headed to the same destination as Horner: nowhere.

I figure there must be some consilience here, since kinukitty’s main reason for not liking Clowes’ book -- that it’s neither real nor funny -- reminds me of Barth’s prefatory defense of his story:

Jacob Horner […] embodies my conviction that one may reach such a degree of self-estrangement as to feel no coherent antecedent for the first-person-singular pronoun. […] If the reader regards [this] egregious [condition] (as embodied by the [narrator]) as merely psychopathological -- that is, as symptomatic rather than emblematic -- the [novel] make[s] no moral-dramatic sense. [p. viii]

I realize that if one has to defend something as funny, it’s never going to make it so to those not laughing. This is particularly true of existentialist humor, since it’s kind of the obverse of prat falls, namely only funny when it happens to me. So I’m going to stick to the reality of Enid’s predicament. The End of the Road is a bit abstract, where Horner goes through a series of fanciful psychotherapeutic treatments in search of a cure (the search is, of course, at the insistence of a psychiatrist). The most relevant of these is mythotherapy, which involves acting in a chosen character role with the purpose of having it stick ghost world enid beckythrough habituation -- an irrational solution to a rational psychosis. Clowes treats the identity formation of teenagers in much the same way, but with a recognizant teen who, like Horner, can’t ignore the ontological arbitrariness undergirding the whole process. Just because teens regularly slip into an adult role without much of a hitch doesn’t mean that there’s not a good deal of truth in her depicted inertia.

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Souls of Splendor San Francisco Premiere Screening, Thursday 1/12

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 9, 2012 03:45pm | Post a Comment
Souls of Splendor -- a comedic short film about being Gay, Geek, and creatively lost in San Francisco -- isSouls of splendor, wayne shellabarger, gay geek having its premiere screening this Thursday, January 12th at the Delancey Street Screening Room (600 Embarcadero) in SF. The film comes in at under 25 minutes and includes a Q&A with the cast and crew.  Doors: 7:30pm, film: 8:00pm. Get your tickets online HERE!

Souls of Splendor features the story of Leo, a black, gay comic book store clerk and writer who is dealing with his complicated relationship to his art. He feels left behind by his ex-boyfriend (a successful white artist) and creatively stuck in a place of self-sabotage and distraction. Although steeped in the worlds of comic geeks and San Francisco gay culture, Leo feels alienated from both. He finds the success of others unfair but can't seem to budge from his creative rut. When he sits down to write, distractions abound in the form of video games and his alter-egos: a superhero named Captain Fabulous and Franz Kafka. After an overdue confrontation with his ex-boyfriend, Leo realized that metamorphosis comes from within and has nothing to do with fairness or luck.

Poster art by Amoeba's own Wayne Shellabarger!
Music by David Copenhafer and Adam Josef.

New R. Crumb Robert Johnson T-Shirt Exclusively at Amoeba

Posted by Amoebite, December 15, 2011 05:47pm | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music is now carrying an exclusive new T-shirt with artwork by the King of Underground Comics, R. Crumb, featuring the King of the Delta Blues, Robert Johnson!

Amoeba Music has partnered with filmmaker Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World, Bad Santa) in producing a T-shirt of iconic Delta blues singer Robert Johnson drawn by underground comic artist R. Crumb from the first found photo of Johnson. This T-shirt is an Amoeba Music exclusive, available only through or at all three Amoeba stores.

R. Crumb Robert Johnson t-shirt

Here's a brief history of the image on the shirt. Up until 1973, there was no known photo of Robert Johnson, the haunting, mysterious Delta blues singer lionized by countless rock and roll bands. A postage stamp size photo taken by Johnson himself in a photo booth in the early 1930s turned up in 1973 and was published in Rolling Stone in 1986. After it was published, underground comix artist R. Crumb, a life-long 78 collector and blues fan, drew it as a cover for a highly specialized collector's publication called 78 Quarterly, a magazine specializing in stories on rare pre-war blues and jazz artists and their impossibly rare, highly coveted 78s. 
78 Quarterly Robert Johnson

After publication of the 78 Quarterly issue with the Robert Johnson R. Crumb drawing, Terry Zwigoff got permission from both the publisher and Crumb to produce T-shirts with the image, and they were available for a few years in the mid-1990s. Since then, the T-shirts with the R. Crumb rendering of the Robert Johnson photo have been unavailable. Terry is a friend of Amoeba and recently a deal was struck to produce the shirt again. It is now available on a high quality 100% Egyptian cotton T-shirt as an Amoeba exclusive.

Finally Resolved: International Best Comics List

Posted by Charles Reece, August 1, 2011 09:35am | Post a Comment

Geeks being geeks, we make lists. The latest example is The Hooded Utilitarian's Robert Stanley Martin's attempt to nail down a top comics list in the style of Sight and Sound's one for movies that occurs every decade. He asked comics enthusiasts of all stripes to contribute our top 10 lists of what we "consider  [our] favorites, the best, or the most significant." Collation now done, the results are being revealed over this week. Contrary to many these days, I think there's something objective about the aesthetic best of some medium. For example, the problem lies within you if you don't like Kafka. On the other hand, there's a problem with simply picking what you think are the most significant works in order derive the best. Doing so will tend to merely recapitulate qualities others have previously thought made for the best, and they might be wrong (is The Seventh Seal really that great? -- it's not even Bergman's best). So I went with my favorites that sprang most readily to my present mind without a lot of brooding over how significant to the ages any of these comics might be. I also had to like reading the text involved, not just looking at the art (so no Steve Ditko, although he's one of my favorites -- Stan Lee, not to mention Ditko's own prose, is just tedious). Anyway, here's my list in alphabetical order:

acme novelty library chris ware  black hole charles burns  

(In which we bric some brac and knick some knack.)

Posted by Job O Brother, May 11, 2009 05:46pm | Post a Comment
severed heads in boxes
As God is my witness, I don't know what I'm supposed to pack my collection of vintage boxes in.

Phew! Hey – how’s it going? Oh, you’re reading the Amoeblog, I see. Well, hope I’m not interrupting you – I just needed to take a break from unpacking. I don’t know how I fit so much stuff into my previous, tiny, New York-style apartment! I mean, I don’t remember sleeping on a pile of books and LP’s eight yards deep, but I must have.

The whole process of moving can be especially complicated for those of us who are avid collectors of music and film and all manner of art-faggory. It becomes a reenactment of that crucial scene from Sophie’s Choice (I won’t include any spoilers here for those of you who’ve never seen the film; suffice it to say that, due to Sophie’s fear of baking soda, her love for the town’s baker suffers some dire tragedies. And her cat turns out to be the murderer.)

I find myself reconsidering whether or not I need a collection of punk 45’s, but before I can decide, I’m distracted by the hilarity and exuberance of the Blatz song then suddenly stuck in my head, and before I know it, everything’s in the box “to be saved” and all that makes it to the thrift store is a redundant garlic press and a cutting board whose origin I cannot recall.
I suppose I could live without my antique sextant. But what if I wanna measure the altitude of a
celestial object above the horizon while onboard a ship without electricity? ...I better keep it.

To be honest, I never really identified with the “collector” mentality. I have this many albums because I love this many (and more) and I have these DVD’s, books and posters for the same reason. I don’t keep hold of anything simply because of its cash value. I never questioned what I could sell my autographed, first pressing of Stories From the Nerve Bible for on Craig’s List – I just wanna read it again and again, ‘s all.

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