Thursday, June 11, 2009

haus und maus

A neighbour in my old apartment building sent me an e-mail; there's a bad smell in the house from one of the coal ovens. One of my tenants came to the door to ask for bicycle maintenance kit; she raised the question of the oven; tenant: "Oh, there was a small explosion a couple of months ago."

So I'm trying to chase down the chimneysweep. Poor head. Poor head. Poor head.


Next week, three of Spiegelman's sketchbooks will be published for the first time. These days it is standard for major cartoonists, from Robert Crumb to Chris Ware, to publish seminal sketchbooks, so it seems odd that Spiegelman hasn't before. It turns out he has such a neurotic fear of them that he can barely keep one going for more than a few days. What he calls his "efficiently casual" drawings in Maus took 20 to 30 drafts. He is so paralysed by the pressure of creating the perfect sketchbook that he prefers to draw while on the phone, on Post-It notes or envelopes, which he usually throws away. If he is drawing on a newspaper scrap, it is easier to shut down the left side of the brain, so the right side is free to move around; he won't know what the drawing is until it is finished.

Spiegelman tells me this in a stream of rapid-fire, Woody Allen-style self-deprecation as we walk down a Paris street. "I have too much respect for books, so to make a mark in a blank one seems like a violation," he says. "Then the neurosis compounds itself, because if you make a good drawing, you don't want to screw the book up by making a bad drawing after. So I have a lot of sketchbooks that have one drawing in them - a whole shelf full. And then if you make a bad drawing, you never want to look at the book again. So I have a lot of sketchbooks that have one page torn out that I never went back to.

Art Spiegelman in the Guardian.

(Steve Bell says:

What I like about these books is the hesitancy, the awkwardness, the sense of the absolute inevitability of going wrong, coupled with the certainty of occasionally going triumphantly right, and above all the willingness to take risks.)

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