Book Heaven

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Friday, November 26, 2004

Writers on Comics

Older (and presumably wiser), I no longer start a book of essays at the beginning. I now do the sensible thing -- take a little time to page through the book to find the best essay because quite likely that's the only one I'll read before I plow on to the next book.

Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers edited by Sean Howe (Pantheon Books, 2004) is a series of essays about comics by seventeen writers. The books itself has a few nice touches -- each essay is preceded by a panel from a comic that is being discussed in the essay. Another cool effect is that page numbers and page titles are in color.

A quick scan of the book revealed a fatal problem with it -- the mostly (relatively) younger writers spend way too much time on the silver age -- in fact it almost seems as if nobody knows about earlier comics. I looked in vain for anything about those beloved Disney comics and Carl Barks, but alas nothing. I turned to jazz critic Gary Giddins' contribution about the Classics Illustrated series and found it to be interesting but not engrossing.

The highlight of this book is Glen David Gold's Oui, Je Regrette Presuue Tout, an agonized confessional about the insanity and hopelessness of collecting. In the About Contributors section, I learned that Gold is the author of Carter Beats the Devil (a book I have but have not yet read). In his little bio section, Gold recommends that anyone who collects anything should read Werner Muensterberger's Collecting: An Unruly Passion (another book I have but have not yet read!).

Gold tells of how he was in therapy (shouldn't we all be?) and when his doctor had to cancel an appointment one day, he found himself with time on his hands and was drawn off the highway into a strip mall by a BOOKSTORE sign in the parking lot. The bookstore in question was closed but through the windows, Gold spotted a veritable treasure trove of original art -- comic book pages, book covers, paintings, etc. The entire store was filled with original art! The essay recounts the adventure Gold had in trying to track down the owner of the long closed store and his attempts to convince the owner to sell him some of the original art. His pain is palpable as this (mis)adventure progresses. This should be required reading for any would-be collector and is the ultimate cautionary tale about collecting. Don't miss this one!!!

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Gold has an article about collecting comic book art in the current PLAYBOY. Don't know if it's the same one.

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