I recently read Frank Kaplan’s excellent biography of Frank Sinatra Frank: The Voice but it got me wondering about the rules for biography writing.
The book is loaded with examples of things which would seem to be impossible for a biographer to discover through research: people’s inner thoughts, exact conversations which happened decades ago, etc. Obviously you expect a certain degree of reconstruction and filling-in-the-blanks and speculations from any biography but at times it almost felt like a novel in its ability to get inside so many of the characters heads. At what point does something cross the line from non-fiction to something like Norman Mailer’s Executioner’s Song, a novel based on real life events which the author exhaustively researched?
I did find the book a compelling read and hope he’s at work on volume 2.
I’m reading Looking for Calvin & Hobbes by Nevin Martell. It’s okay but really suffers from Bill Watterson not cooperating. The author has to use a lot of secondary sources (old interviews, quotes from people he went to college with, etc.) which makes it seem really padded at points. If anything, it really made me wish someone would just collect that five or six interviews Martell extensively quotes, along with some commentary.
Anyway, the part I found most interesting was Watterson’s Early Years of Bitter Struggle. He starts off as a political cartoonist and gets fired. He spends years pitching ideas to comics syndicates with no luck. The usual story. At one point when Calvin & Hobbes is finally crystalizing, the syndicate approaches him about him taking over their new Robotman strip (they’d bought the rights to the character but didn’t have anyone to draw the strip). Maybe have Robotman be another one of Calvin’s imaginary friends?
Obviously Watterson turned them down, which in itself is interesting. Who among us would have the nerve to make the same decision? After years of trying to get ones foot in the door I imagine most of us would probably do whatever it was the syndicate wanted. When I first started in the comics biz I think I was very fortunate that my publishers, Antarctic Press, were very hands off and let me develop Box Office Poison in whatever ways I saw fit But what if they hadn’t? What if after a few issues they said “You know what, sales are terrible. Can you give Sherman superpowers?” It’s easy to look back and say that I would’ve told them no dice and walk away but I’m not so sure.
Anonymous asked: I saw on facebook tha you'd began reading George RR Martin's 'A Game of Thrones'. I'm really hoping you do a post on the book once you finish it (or did you just plow through it in a week of Hikkikkomori-ing?). With an HBO series coming in April and a comic book adaptation announced this week, the series is really heating up! Please share yo' thoughts.
I’m about half way through at this point (it’s going slower than I like but I think that has more to do with my reading habits lately) and am generally liking it. The biggest hurdle for me is that I have a hard time keeping the huge supporting cast straight—the various Sers, Septas, captains of the guards, etc. At first I was making a concerted effort to distinguish them all but eventually I just figured that anyone of any real importance would stand out and that generally seems to be the case (I think the mini-series might avoid this problem since there will be a visual component and TV generally is good at giving you cues as to who is important to a story).
One thing that surprised me is that the story seems less the D&D story I thought and more about political intrigue and conniving.
I’ll post an update when I finish and let you all know if I’m moving onto book 2…
By the way, I really like this Ask-a-Question thing and encourage everyone to send one in so I don’t have to think up blog entries!