Archive for December, 2011

Holiday Mix Redux

GrinchI’d hoped to post some new (well, new to you) mixes for the holidays, and I may yet manage to do so.  It’s been the busiest semester of my professional career and, indeed, of my life.  And, where I’m currently staying, there’s no wi-fi… well, unless I poach some from another apartment.  (I’m writing this on the train to NYC.)

Last year, I did manage to get up a few mixes, and they remain ready to supply holiday cheer:

  • Essential Holiday Tunes (6 Dec. 2010).  A selection of my favorites, including the Glam Chops, Gayla Peevey, Swingerhead, the Rondelles, the Ronettes, and the Ravonettes!
  • Blue Christmas (10 Dec. 2010).  A downbeat holiday mix, for when you have the holiday blues.
  • You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (20 Dec. 2010).  15 versions of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” because, well, why not?

 

Enjoy!

 

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Top 12 Covers of 2011

Top 12 Covers from 2011Inspired by NPR’s 5 Great Cover Songs from 2011, here are my top 12 covers from 2011 — starting with two of the hardest-rocking, and ending with the quietest ones.

1)    Like a Prayer   Grace Potter & The Nocturnals      6:23

This cover of Madonna’s 1989 hit comes from Grace Potter & The NocturnalsiTunes Session EP, which also includes a cover of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence.”

2)    Get Back   The Jim Jones Revue      2:40

This Beatles cover appears on Burning Your House Down, a title which nicely describes the band‘s explosive  thrash/punk/rockabilly sound.  Wow.  The intensity knocks me over.  Here they are performing “High Horse” (an original) on Letterman in September.

3)    Tubthumping   They Might Be Giants feat. the Onion AV Club Choir      3:22

Recorded for the Onion AV Club earlier this year, They Might Be Giants‘ cover of Chumbawumba’s 1997 pop hit appears on the TMBG b-sides compilation, Album Raises New and Troubling Questions.

4)    99 Problems / Can’t Tell Me Nothing   Aloe Blacc      2:47

Aloe Blacc‘s soulful cover of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” (cleaned up for radio), which pulls in Kanye West’s “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and James Brown’s “The Big Payback.”   He performed the song on BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge.

5)    Price Tag   The Wombats      4:16

The Wombats cover Jessie J’s big hit, described by lead vocalist Matthew Murphy as “a massive bulletproof pop song with quite a nice sentiment.”  I’m a big Wombats fan — if you don’t have their two LPs, well, what are you waiting for?

6)    Hard Bargain   Emmylou Harris      3:23

Such a beautiful cover of Ron Sexsmith‘s song, which originally appears on his Retriever (2004). Emmylou Harris likes the song so much that she also used it for the title of her album.  She could sing almost anything and make it sound transcendent, but when she sings a song that’s already a good one — well, just give it a listen, eh?

7)    When U Love Somebody   The Decemberists      3:11

This doesn’t actually stray that far from the Fruit Bats‘ original version, but there’s something about the Decemberists‘ ragged intensity that keeps bringing me back to their recording.  It appears on their iTunes Session EP.

8)    I Want You Back   Sonos      1:46

Beautiful, melancholic version of the Jackson 5’s 1969 smash hit.  Sonos were one of the best groups on NBC’s The Sing-Off, sent home early for being a bit too experimental in their interpretations.  That willingness to experiment, however, is precisely what made them — and Afro-Blue (another group that should have been a finalist) — so great.  But the judges didn’t get it.  Sonos also recorded a longer version of this for their 2009 record SONOSings.  The version here comes from The Sing-Off: Season 3, Episode 4.

9)    Take Five   Sachal Studios Orchestra      5:52

An “Eastern” version of Dave Brubeck’s classic, recorded in Lahore, Pakistan by the Sachal Studios Orchestra.

10) White Rabbit (Live on Fresh Air)   Gillian Welch      2:59

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings offer their version of the Jefferson Airplane song.  If you’re a fan of Gillian Welch, Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview is well worth your while.

11) Don’t Fence Me In   Daniel Johnson and Brie Stoner      3:43

There’s a version of this on iTunes, but this is the recording you see in the video below… because I like this version better.  Johnson and Stoner originally recorded their version of this Cole Porter classic for a Nokia advertisement.

12) I’m Going to Go Back There Someday   Rachael Yamagata      4:16

Very nearly all of the covers on the Green Album (new versions of songs that feature in Muppet programs) are great, but I’m particularly fond of this one.  Gonzo the Great brings some pathos to the original version, but Rachel Yamagata singing “There isn’t a word yet for old friends who’ve just met” should touch the heart of even the crustiest curmudgeon.  (Yes, I’m talking to you, Statler and Waldorf!)

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If I Were a Middle-Class White Kid

Gene Marks’ instantly infamous “If I Were a Poor Black Kid” column (Forbes, 12 Dec. 2011) is a classic example of how privilege remains invisible to the privileged.  Though he acknowledges that he is “a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background” and so “life was easier for” him, the rest of his column betrays too little of the awareness expressed by those early sentences. For instance, “If I was a poor black kid I’d use the free technology available to help me study” assumes that the kid in question would have access to this technology.  Even a claim as benign as “If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have” overlooks the fact that it takes an unusual student to rise above the limitations of a “lousy school.” Sure, there are students who do this, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

Mr. Marks assumes that opportunity is equally distributed. While we might admire the personal optimism conveyed by a claim like “I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed,” the article does not sufficiently acknowledge that some people — those with access to better schools, those who do not go to bed hungry, those with health care — have a much, much better chance of success.

I owe my own success to precisely that sort of privilege. Don’t misunderstand: I have worked hard, and I continue to work hard. But my success in life derives not just from my work ethic. It also comes from unearned privilege.

If I had stayed in public school, I’m not sure that I would have gone to college at all. On my first day of first grade, the teacher asked which of us could read. I was among those few who raised my hand — I’d been reading since I was 3 years old.  She gave us literate students a book to read. I finished it first, and raised my hand. “I’ve finished,” I said.  Her response: “Read it again.” I began to read it again. On my first day of school and subsequent ones, I learned that school was boring.

The author, at about age 11, reading The Hobbit

The result was that, though I still read for pleasure, I became a terrible student. I’d finish the worksheet first, and then devote my free time to amusing my classmates. I paid attention only when it suited me, trusting that I’d be able to master the material on my own. For a few years, this approach worked well. However, by the time I reached sixth and seventh grade, it was no longer working. My grades were slipping, and I began to slip behind.

And here’s where that unearned privilege saved me.

Just before I entered eighth grade, my mother got a job teaching at private schools —  first, Shore Country Day School (in Beverly, Mass.), and second, Choate Rosemary Hall (in Wallingford, Conn.). Her employment allowed my sister and me to attend both schools for free.  That’s right: in addition to receiving a salary (and on-campus housing in the case of Choate), her labor enabled her offspring to attend gratis. Had she lacked a college degree, had she lacked experience teaching and working with computers, I would not have had that opportunity.

She’s also a great example of how privilege — or its lack — gets compounded over time. She worked hard, overcoming both the diminished expectations accorded her gender, and discrimination from male bosses. But she also benefited from privilege.  As a white South African, she had access to educational opportunities that black South Africans did not.  I can say with certainty that if my mother were from the same country but of a different race, I would not be where I am today.  That’s unearned privilege.

Attending private schools made all the difference for me. Although I had peers in public school (a perfectly adequate public school) who did well and went on to college, I too easily succumbed to the prevailing attitude (among the students) that one should do as little as possible.  In private school, however, the prevailing attitude was that we all needed to work hard.  The work was challenging, and we had to rise to our teachers’ expectations.

That was just the nudge I needed. I didn’t become an “A” student overnight. Indeed, I had to do an extra year at Choate to pass the language requirement (there was no way I was going to make it through third-year Russian), and to get my grades up enough to get into college.  Aided by a semester abroad (in Valladolid, Spain), I did three years of Spanish in two years, improved my grades, and got accepted at a couple of good colleges.

At the University of Rochester, I became a model student, and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in both English and Psychology. But, here, too, privilege came to my aid. Having that excellent private-school education meant that I knew how to study. During my freshman year, many of my public-school friends were shocked by the amount of work. I wasn’t. The work may have been harder, but I knew what I had to do.

In calling attention to the role privilege has played in my own success, I do not mean to dismiss the role of a solid work ethic. Mr. Marks is correct to emphasize the importance of hard work. For most of college, I worked two jobs — one via Work/Study, and one as a Resident Advisor (which paid for room and half of board).  I say “most” because I became an R.A. my second year; indeed, I was one of two sophomore R.A.s that year.  (The others were all juniors and seniors.)  In addition to those jobs, I studied hard, spending long hours in the library.  I carried those work habits on to graduate school and into my career as an English professor.

However, I must point out that I was not working, say, 30-hour weeks in addition to doing schoolwork. The hours of the R.A. job varied, and the Work/Study job was, to the best of my recollection, about 8 hours a week, give or take. I have students now who work full-time, are the sole caregiver for their children, and are pursuing a B.A. That’s a much steeper hill to climb.

The problem in this country is not laziness. The problem is unacknowledged, unearned privilege.  It’s not that people lack industry; they lack opportunity. But the privileged — unconscious of the degree to which their own advantage has aided them — fail to see this, and so write well-intentioned, naïve articles like “If I Were a Poor Black Kid.” Mr. Marks means well, but his prescription for success would not have helped me.  And I was a middle-class white kid.

The photo is of me, at about age 11, reading The Hobbit.

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Children’s Literature & Comics/Graphic Novels at MLA 2012

Modern Language Association Conference, 2012 logoFor those who may be heading to the MLA in Seattle (5-8 Jan. 2012), here’s a list of all the panels on either children’s literature or comics/graphic novels. I count sixteen panels exclusively devoted to one or more of these subjects, and an additional nine panels in which one ore more paper addresses either children’s literature or comics/graphic novels.  Based on that tally, I feel fairly confident in claiming that this is the MLA with the most number of panels devoted to either children’s lit or comics/graphic novels.  Incidentally, I arrived at the list below via searching the MLA program — so, it’s possible I’ve missed some.  Also, if graphic narratives are your main interest, then do check out Charles Hatfield’s great list of just the MLA comics panels.

Devoted EXCLUSIVELY to CHILDREN’S LIT or COMICS / GRAPHIC NOVELS

These are the panels in which all of the papers address one or more of the above subjects.

48. Filling the Gaps: The Future of Keywords for Children’s Literature

Thursday, 5 January1:45–3:00 p.m., 614, WSCC

A special session

Presiding: Philip Nel, Kansas State Univ.; Lissa Paul, Brock Univ.

1. “Fairy Tale,” Jack D. Zipes, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities

2. “Genre,” Karin E. Westman, Kansas State Univ.

3. “Family,” Kelly Hager, Simmons Coll.; Talia C. Schaffer, Queens Coll., City Univ. of New York

95. The Graphic Novel in Latin America

Thursday, 5 January3:30–4:45 p.m., University, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Division on Twentieth-Century Latin American Literature

Presiding: Hilda Chacón, Nazareth Coll. of Rochester

1. “Criminal Melodrama and Hypertrophic Gesture in ¡Alarma! and ¡Casos de Alarma!,” Sergio Delgado, Harvard Univ.

2. “La grabadora: En busca de una historia alternativa,” Javier Gonzalez, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder

3. “Rupay, the Photojournalistic Archive, and the Sendero War,” Kent L. Dickson, California State Polytechnic Univ., Pomona

106. No(Bodies): Ghost Children in Juvenile Literature

Thursday, 5 January5:15–6:30 p.m., 305, WSCC

Program arranged by the Children’s Literature Association

Presiding: Elizabeth Talafuse, Texas A&M Univ., College Station

1. “Invisible Playmates; or, Childhood Ghosts and Adult Comfort in Burnett, Canton, and Kipling,”Judith Abrams Plotz, George Washington Univ.

2. “My Other Me: Ghost Doubles in Nineteenth-Century American Children’s Poetry,” Angela Franceska Sorby, Marquette Univ.

3. “Children of Air: Children’s Poetry and the Spectral Child,” Richard McDonnell Flynn, Georgia Southern Univ.

4. “Embodied in Name Alone: Nobody Owens and the Metonymic Estrangement from the Living and the Dead in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book,” Joseph Michael Sommers, Central Michigan Univ.

181. Graphic Narratives Retelling History: Germany

Friday, 6 January8:30–9:45 a.m., University, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Division on Slavic and East European Literatures and the Division on European Literary Relations

Presiding: Ema Vyroubalova, Trinity Coll., Dublin

1. “Sequential Berlin: Jason Lutes’s City of Stones Series,” Ksenia Sidorenko, Yale Univ.

2. “Retelling History in the Borderlands: Jaroslav Rudiš’s Alois Nebel and Bomber by Jaromír 99,”Martha B. Kuhlman, Bryant Univ.

3. “Retelling German History with the Graphic Novel,” Elizabeth Nijdam, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor

For abstracts, visit mlaslavicdivision2012.blogspot.com/.

183. Deep Drawings: Sociopolitical Themes in Anime and Manga

Friday, 6 January8:30–9:45 a.m., Virginia, Sheraton

A special session

Presiding: Joshua Paul Dale, Tokyo Gakugei Univ.

1. “Alternative Manga Magazines in Postwar Japanese Comics: Garo and COM,” CJ Suzuki, Baruch Coll., City Univ. of New York

2. “Subversive Cute: The Other Serious Anime and Manga,” Kerin Ogg, Wayne State Univ.

3. “Current-Affairs Comics in a Global Context: The Comic Heart of Darkness,” Marie Thorsten, Doshisha Univ.

Responding: Joshua Paul Dale

264. Self-Destruction in Children’s and Young-Adult Literature

Friday, 6 January12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 615, WSCC

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: Melanie Goss, Illinois State Univ.

1. “Resistant Rituals: Self-Mutilation and the Female Adolescent Body in Children’s and Young-Adult Literature,” Cheryl Cowdy, York Univ.

2. “The Power of the Wound: Manifesting Trauma and Self-Destruction in Young-Adult Fantasy Novels,” Balaka Basu, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

3. “Self-Reconstruction: Youth Agency and the New Reality of Young-Adult Problem Novels,”Robert Bittner, Univ. of British Columbia

4. “The Final Girl Survives: Adolescent Self-Destruction in Teen Horror,” Christopher William McGee, Longwood Univ.

316. Asian Americans and Graphic Narrative

Friday, 6 January3:30–4:45 p.m., 303, WSCC

Program arranged by the Division on Asian American Literature

Presiding: Timothy Yu, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison

Speakers: Rachelle Cruz, Univ. of California, Riverside; Lan Dong, Univ. of Illinois, Springfield;Tomo Hattori, California State Univ., Northridge; Caroline Kyungah Hong, Queens Coll., City Univ. of New York; Hye Su Park, Ohio State Univ., Columbus; Gene Luen Yang, San Jose, CA

Session Description:

Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, will be the featured speaker in this discussion of Asian American graphic narrative. Graphic novels and memoirs form an increasingly important part of the Asian American literary canon, offering new insights into issues of stereotyping, autobiography, and historical memory. GB Tran’s Vietnamerica, Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings, and Lynda Barry’s One Hundred Demons will be among the works discussed.

371. The Material History of Spider-Man

Friday, 6 January5:15–6:30 p.m., 606, WSCC

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Jonathan W. Gray, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice, City Univ. of New York

1. “Written in the Body: Spider-Man, Venom, and the Specter of Biopower,” Ben Bolling, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

2. “Out of Character: Traces of the Real Spider-Man,” Samantha Close, Univ. of California, Irvine

3. “Tangled Web: Spider-Man’s Discontinuous Continuity,” Charles Hatfield, California State Univ., Northridge

Responding: Danny Fingeroth, New York, NY

For abstracts, visit graphicnarratives.org/ after 1 Dec.

399. How Seattle Changed Comics

Saturday, 7 January8:30–9:45 a.m., 303, WSCC

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Hillary L. Chute, Univ. of Chicago

1. “Ernie Pook and the Emerald City: Lynda Barry’s Seattle,” Susan E. Kirtley, Portland State Univ.

2. “Underground Aesthetics Turned Alternative Critique: Reconsidering Roberta Gregory’sNaughty Bits,” JoAnne Ruvoli, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

3. “Serial Trauma: Awaiting Charles Burns’s X’ed Out,” Christopher Pizzino, Univ. of Georgia

For abstracts, visit graphicnarratives.org/ after 1 Dec.

434. E-Arming the Future? Technology’s Expanding Influence on the Form and Readership of Young-Adult Literature

Saturday, 7 January10:15–11:30 a.m., 303, WSCC

Program arranged by the Children’s Literature Association

Presiding: Thomas Crisp, Univ. of South Florida

1. “Twilight Online Fandom: Reaching Femininity through Textual Manipulation and Abstraction,”Norma Aceves, California State Univ., Northridge

2. “I’ve Got My iPhone on You: Technology and Surveillance Culture in Gossip Girl,” Sara Day, Southern Arkansas Univ.

3. “Utilizing Technology,” Tammy Mielke, Univ. of Wyoming

570. Ethnographic Encounters: Jewish American and Italian American Graphic Narratives

Saturday, 7 January3:30–4:45 p.m., 307, WSCC

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Italian American Literature and the Discussion Group on Jewish American Literature

Presiding: JoAnne Ruvoli, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

1. “From Caricature to Complexity: Drawing the Relationship between Italians and Jews in America,” Jennifer Glaser, Univ. of Cincinnati

2. “America Makes Strange Jews: Jewish Identity and Pulp Masculinity in Howard Chaykin’sDominic Fortune,” Brannon Costello, Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge

Responding: Miriam Jaffe-Foger, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick

For abstracts, visit www.aihaweb.org/italianamericanliterature.htm after 24 Dec.

579. Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books

Saturday, 7 January5:15–6:30 p.m., 303, WSCC

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature and the Discussion Group on Comics and Graphic Narratives

Presiding: Charles Hatfield, California State Univ., Northridge; Craig Svonkin, Metropolitan State Coll. of Denver

1. “Picture Book Guy Looks at Comics: Structural Differences in Two Kinds of Visual Narrative,”Perry Nodelman, Univ. of Winnipeg

2. “Not Genres but Modes of Graphic Narrative: Comics and Picture Books,” Philip Nel, Kansas State Univ.

3. “Graphic Novels’ Assault upon the Republic of Reading,” Michael Joseph, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick

4. “The Panel as Page and the Page as Panel: Uncle Shelby and the Case of the Twin ABZ Books,” Joseph Terry Thomas, San Diego State Univ.

630. Comics, Bande Dessinée, Manga: For a Comparative Approach to the Study of Comics

Sunday, 8 January8:30–9:45 a.m., 310, WSCC

A special session

Presiding: Catherine Labio, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder

1. “‘Aint I de Maine Guy in Dis Parade?’: Sympathetic Immigrant Narratives and the Transnational Worker in Early American Comic Strips,” Michael T. R. Demson, Sam Houston State Univ.

2. “Academic Fandom and the Other-ed Side in American Comic Book Studies,” Shawna Kidman, Univ. of Southern California

3. “Masochistic Contracts, Bishōnen, and the Rejection of Futurity: How to Read Manga like a Victorian Woman,” Anna Maria Jones, Univ. of Central Florida

681. Ecocriticism and Literature for Young Readers

Sunday, 8 January10:15–11:30 a.m., 613, WSCC

Program arranged by the Division on Children’s Literature

Presiding: Caroline E. Jones, Texas State Univ.

1. “‘Mother Earth’ and ‘Earth Mothers’: Consequences of Feminizing the Earth and Its Keepers in Children’s Picture Books,” Amy Dunham Strand, Aquinas Coll., MI

2. “Winnie-the-Conservationist: An Ecofeminist Reading of Tuck Everlasting,” Peter Kunze, Florida State Univ.

3. “Ecological Repression and Return: An Ecocritical Approach to Bloor’s Tangerine andCrusader,” Beth Feagan, Longwood Univ.

4. “Reading the South: Teaching Adolescents to Identify with Regional Land,” Julia Pond, Illinois State Univ.

699. Graphic Narratives Retelling History: Serbia and Bosnia

Sunday, 8 January12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Virginia, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Division on Slavic and East European Literatures

Presiding: Rossen Djagalov, Yale Univ.

1. “The Nova Dobo Festival of Nonaligned Comics in Belgrade,” Lisa Mangum, Independent Publishing Resource Center

2. “How We Survived War, Sanctions, and NATO Bombing, and Then Laughed: Regards from Serbia by Alexandar Zograf,” Damjana Mraovic-O’Hare, Penn State Univ., University Park

3. “Back into Bosnian: Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde Returns Home from War,” Jessie M. Labov, Ohio State Univ., Columbus

Responding: Martha B. Kuhlman, Bryant Univ.

For abstracts, visit http://mlaslavicdivision2012.blogspot.com.

734. Self-Narrating Lives: Genre-Bending Autobiographical Works

Sunday, 8 January1:45–3:00 p.m., 611, WSCC

A special session

Presiding: Johanna Drucker, Univ. of California, Los Angeles

Speakers: Maria Faini, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Anna Gibbs, Univ. of Western Sydney;William Kuskin, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder; Vanessa Place, Les Figues Press; Christine Wertheim, California Inst. of the Arts

Session Description:

This session explores the complexities of self-narration across media and formats with particular emphasis on those that blur genre lines. Autobiographical artists’ books, graphic novels are often highly self-reflexive, and their metacharacter as books about books, or subversions of norms, makes them sites of citation and parody in which formal mimicry and content play with readers’ expectations.

 


Panels devoted PARTIALLY to CHILDREN’S LIT or COMICS / GRAPHIC NOVELS

Here, I’ve listed only the paper or papers that (as far as I can tell from the title) address the above subjects.

74. Revisiting Emotion and Gender in the Regency

Thursday, 5 January3:30–4:45 p.m., 310, WSCC

A special session

Presiding: Alan Rauch, Univ. of North Carolina, Charlotte

1. “The Mother Attitudes: Ann Taylor’s My Mother, Lady Emma Hamilton, and the Rise of Sentimental Children’s Poetry,” Donelle Ruwe, Northern Arizona Univ.

192. Open Session of the Division on Old English Language and Literature

Friday, 6 January8:30–9:45 a.m., 608, WSCC

Presiding: Paul L. Acker, Saint Louis Univ.

2. “Visualizing Femininity in Children’s and Illustrated Versions of Beowulf,” Bruce D. Gilchrist, Concordia Univ.

329. A Creative Conversation with Richard Van Camp: Writing, Language, and Indigenous Expression

Friday, 6 January3:30–4:45 p.m., Redwood, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Office of the Executive Director

Presiding: Robert Warrior, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana

Speaker: Richard Van Camp, Univ. of Alberta

Session Description:

Richard Van Camp is an accomplished and innovative writer who brings the language and experience of the Tlicho people of the Northwest Territory into his fiction and children’s books. He writes about the resiliency of Indigenous communities but is not afraid to expose and explore the dysfunctions that have come with colonization. His talents are a rare combination of exuberant humor, stark vision, writerly lyricism, and hard-edged wisdom. Links to the author’s work, including some to his short fiction, are available at www.nativewiki.org/Richard_Van_Camp.

409. Visual and Graphic Representations by Hispanic/Luso/Latina Female Writers and Artists

Saturday, 7 January8:30–9:45 a.m., Redwood, Sheraton

Program arranged by Feministas Unidas

Presiding: Magdalena M. Maiz-Peña, Davidson Coll.

2. “La transfiguración femenina: Del animal cínico al terrorismo gótico de la abyección. El comic serial de Cecila Pego y Caro Chinaski,” Carina González, Univ. of Florida

3. “Bodies at the Crossroads: Latinas’ Latina Graphic Narratives,” Margaret Galvan, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

For abstracts, visit feministas-unidas.org.

471. Asian/Jewish/American

Saturday, 7 January12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 304, WSCC

A special session

Presiding: Jaime Cleland, Ohio Univ., Athens

3. “Graphic Transformations: Ethno-racial Identity and Discovery in Two Comics of Childhood,”Tahneer Oksman, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York

473. Performing Identity in Late Life

Saturday, 7 January12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Virginia, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Age Studies

Presiding: Leni Marshall, Univ. of Wisconsin, Menomonie

2. “Melancholic Morphing: Aging Male Protagonists in Recent American Graphic Novels,” Adrielle Anna Mitchell, Nazareth Coll. of Rochester

486. Visual Culture

Saturday, 7 January12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., Redwood, Sheraton

Program arranged by the Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages

Presiding: Inmaculada Pertusa, Western Kentucky Univ.

2. “Alissa Torres’s Graphic Tale of Grief: American Widow; or, My Husband Bleeds History,” Janis Breckenridge, Whitman Coll.

3. “The Anxiety of Density in Graphic Novels: Solutions Based on Genderic Conventions and Creative Collaborations,” Maria Elsy Cardona, Saint Louis Univ.

692. Human Rights Modes: Testimony

Sunday, 8 January12:00 noon–1:15 p.m., 306, WSCC

A special session

Presiding: Michael S. Galchinsky, Georgia State Univ.

1. “Witness/Testimony: Graphic Narrative as Témoignage in the Humanitarian Work of Médecins sans Frontières,” Alexandra W. Schultheis, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro

728. New Paths of Flânerie: Crossings of Gender and Space and the Nineteenth-Century FrenchFlâneur/Flâneuse

Sunday, 8 January1:45–3:00 p.m., Aspen, Sheraton

A special session

Presiding: Heidi Megan Brevik-Zender, Univ. of California, Riverside

2. “On the Misfortunes of Child Flaneurs in French Nineteenth-Century Children’s Books,” Pauline de Tholozany, Gettysburg Coll.

 

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The Best Holiday Film You’ve Never Seen: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Bishop's Wife (1947): lobby cardEveryone knows It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A Christmas Story (1983), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and the many versions of A Christmas Carol (1938, 1971, 1984).  But far too few people have seen The Bishop’s Wife (1947).  Sometimes, when I mention the title, people will say, “Oh, the Denzel Washington movie?”  That picture — The Preacher’s Wife (1996) — is a remake of this one.  I’m recommending the original, starring David Niven (as the bishop) Loretta Young (as his wife, Julia), and Cary Grant.

What’s the film about?  The trailer is deliberately elusive:

In keeping with the film’s trailer, I don’t want to give away any of the film’s surprises, but I do want to praise both the screenplay and the performances.  Even the supporting characters have a full history — they seem to be as “real” as the three main characters.  There’s Monty Woolley as Professor Wutheridge, James Gleason as cab driver Sylvester, Gladys Cooper as wealthy widow Mrs. Hamilton.  Grant, Young, and Niven are of course magnificent, too.  Sure, since it’s from 1947, you’ll find a few “dated” portrayals (the Italian shopkeeper, the Cockney maid), but those moments are few and mild.  In other words, don’t worry: no blackface!  The problems of Holiday Inn (1942) are conspicuously absent.

The themes of The Bishop’s Wife certainly remain resonant and appropriate.  Do yourself a favor: don’t read any more about the film.  Just rent it.  To take a break from grading, I’m planning on watching it again this evening.

The Bishop's Wife (1947): Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young

Image sources: Classic Movie Man, Classic Movies Digest.

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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss Biography: Final Cuts, Part 3. Does This Make My Manuscript Look Fat?

Crockett Johnson, "How to write a book," illus. from Ruth Krauss's How to Make an EarthquakeI’d intended to post more of these in process, but literally had no time.  The manuscript was due back to the copy-editor yesterday — I mailed it today, and it will reach her Tuesday.  Some of her suggestions were dead-on, some were not, and others were somewhere in between.  I accepted the first type, rejected the second, and the third… required a lot of thought.  (The copy-editor was also charged with finding ways to reduce length.)  To help me evaluate my feelings about what to lose and what not to lose, I repeatedly asked myself: Does this change serve the story I’m trying to tell?

So. Here are some more things you will not see in Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (coming from UP Mississippi, fall 2012).

I kept coming back to this passage, but couldn’t come up with a way to restore it.  It was right near the beginning of chapter one, and uses a photo of infant Ruth Krauss to offer a glance forward at the woman she became:

She was an only child, and her parents doted on her.  In the above photo, six-month-old Ruth looks over her left shoulder at the camera, conveying the impression that she is in charge, and she wants you to know it.

The photo (of course) remains, the “doting” part has been worked into the previous paragraph, and the copy-editor did a nice job in condensing the family history.  I ultimately decide to let it go, since there are other moments in which an incident from her childhood permits us a glimpse of her future — which constitute some of my (clumsy, perhaps) attempts to create character.  Having no experience writing fiction but requiring the skills of a creative writer, writing this biography has pushed me more than any other project has.

Since this is a critical biography, I need to include some analysis of the creative works of Johnson and Krauss.  The final manuscript does indeed include a bit of this material, but some also got cut in this last round. Although analyses of Ruth Krauss’s verse remain, my thoughts on her poem “Yuri Gagarin and William Shakespeare” have been excised.  Here’s the beginning of poem (also quoted in the book):

Winnie: How sweet to be a cloud

W.S.: when daisies pied and violets

Winnie: floating in the blue

W.S.: and lady-smocks all silver-white

and cuckoo buds of yellow hue

Winnie: Iniquum fatum fatu

W.S.: Cuckoo cuckoo cuckoo

And here’s my analysis (which will not be in the book):

When a late sixteenth-century song about cuckolding encounters an early twentieth-century song of a bear pretending to be a cloud, we might be reminded that Winnie-the-Pooh’s song is also motivated by both desire and deceit: To get the honey he craves, he masquerades as a cloud.  Or we might not see it this way, having forgotten either Shakespeare’s song, or Milne’s, or both. Without the contexts of the originals, the combination may instead be whimsical, playful, and even lyrical.

I’m not conflicted about cutting this.  My other analyses of her verse are better than this, which is fine but not brilliant.  And so… it’s gone!

I did have a hard time excising narrative and, indeed, often resisted suggestions to remove narrative. The copy-editor, for instance, had a tendency to summarize a conversation.  But a conversation works better dramatically — it’s better for storytelling than a summary is.  So, here’s something I cut. Later in life, Crockett Johnson (known as Dave to his friends) grew interested in the Bible, and began reading it carefully:

Mischa Richter asked him, “Well, what about it?  Are you still reading the Bible?”

Dave responded, “I had to stop.  The begats got me.”

I permitted that cut because I have another similar conversation between him and Andy Rooney (which I restored). Also, Mischa Richter is well established in the book — he was a close friend of Johnson’s.  Rooney was not a close friend; they were acquainted, but that’s all.  So, this is a chance to give him a “walk-on” part, as it were.

Omitting examples of Johnson’s dry wit was particularly hard for me.  To offer another example, I ended up cutting this summer 1950 vacation that he and Ruth took with Gene and Marian Searchinger:

Back in Connecticut and unaware that they were under investigation, Dave and Ruth drove off for a brief summer holiday with their friends Marian and Gene Searchinger, a filmmaker who was then working on NBC’s Today show. Each couple in their own car, they traveled up to Nova Scotia. Planning to park the cars on the ferry, they were surprised to learn that one needed to reserve spaces well in advance.  Between two pillars, there was one very small space left on the boat, just large enough for Dave’s little Austin Tudor sedan.  They left the Searchingers’ car on the mainland, and the four of them toured Nova Scotia in Dave’s small car.

They didn’t mind the close quarters, but getting a decent cup of coffee was a challenge. Since all four travelers required regular doses of caffeine, they developed a system. When they came upon a promising restaurant or cafe, one member of the group would enter, and order a cup.  He or she would then signal to the others whether they should come in or not.  The signal was a fist with one finger, two fingers, or three fingers extended — depending on the quality of the coffee.  After the trip, Dave gave Gene a gift commemorating their Nova Scotia holiday.  On a piece of wood, Dave painted a hand rising out of an ocean of coffee: only one finger was sticking up.

I’m a little conflicted about having cut this, but how important is it to the larger narrative?  I ultimately decided that it wasn’t as important to keep as some other stories were, and (a bit reluctantly) let it go.

On the whole, the result of my collaboration with the copy-editor is a better manuscript. That said, I do wish I’d had more time with this. At the busiest time of the term, I’ve had to respond to a heavily-edited manuscript that represents a dozen years of my labor. On the other hand, there is almost no moment during this semester that would have been great timing. The past four months have been the busiest of my professional life.

But that’s always the way. Just when you think you couldn’t get any busier, you do. Or, at least, I do.  And the important thing is that the manuscript is better for this work.  I’m really looking forward to sharing it with the world — in the fall of 2012!


Should this post have proven even slightly interesting, then there’s a remote chance that posts tagged Crockett Johnson or Ruth Krauss or Biography might fail to bore you.  Indeed, if you have read to this point and do not find yourself slipping into unconsciousness, you might test your stamina with some of these related posts.

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Mock Caldecott 2011: Manhattan, Kansas Edition

With thanks to the Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community (ChALC) for organizing the event and the Manhattan Public Library for hosting it, we held aMock Caldecott at this afternoon.  Of course, we weren’t able to get all of the books we wanted to look at — so, there are certainly Caldecott candidates we didn’t get to review.  Here are the top choices of our group (composed of undergraduates, graduate students, children’s lit faculty, and members of the community)

The Winner:

Lane Smith, Grandpa Green (2011): coverLane Smith, Grandpa Green

A gentle, moving book about memory and age — and something of a departure for Smith.  Though it has humor and Smith’s beautiful, detailed artwork, it’s a more lyrical than his previous work, focused as it is on love and loss.  Though it’s reflective, it’s never melancholic: the boy’s journey through a topiary garden of his grandfather’s life is fun, with plenty of unexpected turns.  People liked the richness of the illustrations, the surprises in the story, and the fact that the book moved them.  For those who’d like to learn more, I gave the book a favorable review on this blog back in August.

John Rocco, Blackout (2011)

The Honor Books:

John Rocco, Blackout.

People spoke of how the book captured a child’s perspective on something scary (the dark) and made that fun.  We also liked its In the Night Kitchen-style layout — the book’s early pages even use a similar color palette to Sendak’s book, which won a Caldecott Honor in 1971.  Set in Brooklyn, Rocco‘s book is about the 2003 blackout, and how the absence of power brought people together.  This won the second-highest number of votes.

Deborah Freedman, Blue Chicken (2011)Deborah Freedman, Blue Chicken.

This tied with the following book for third place in its number of votes.  It’s a story of a chicken who is an artist — or, possibly, an artist who happens to be a chicken.  But not “chicken” in, you know, the “afraid” sense.  This chicken is quite happy to experiment with paint, and color, and — oh, don’t worry, I’m sure the paint will come out of that.  As Freedman‘s Scribble (2007) was, this is a playful book about what art can do.  Only with chickens.

Melissa Sweet, Balloons Over Broadway (2011)Melissa Sweet, Balloons Over Broadway.

This book is about Tony Sarg, who created the balloons for the original Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — and, indeed, started the tradition of having helium characters floating over New York during this November holiday.  Sweet‘s mixed media, experiments with typeface, and shifts in perspective were appealing to some in the group, but others were more critical.  I enjoyed the book, but, given the discussion that preceded its 3rd-place finish, I was surprised to see it land in our Honor category.  Oh, and speaking of surprises, here are some ….

Jon Klassen, I Want My Hat Back (2011)Books That I Thought Were Cool But That Didn’t Make the Cut:

Jon Klassen, I Want My Hat Back.

I was surprised that this one didn’t even land in an “Honor” category for us.  There was some conversation about it as a contender for the Geisel Award, which may be an accurate predictor, but shouldn’t preclude it being a contender for the Caldecott.  My guess is that its minimalist aesthetic may have cost it a few points, when in fact that should have won it points. The book is a masterpiece of economy and wit.  Each detail works exactly right.  And it’s really funny.  I hope Klassen gets something for this one.

Fans of the book might enjoy Not Just For Kids‘ interview with Klassen, in wich he describes the book as follows: “I wanted to try and make it seem as though it was a badly rehearsed play with animals who were sort of brought in for the day to read these lines.”

Stephen Savage, Where's Walrus? (2011)Stephen Savage, Where’s Walrus?

I’ve an affinity for funny books, so naturally I’m drawn to this one — a comic tale of a walrus on the run, that mixes the find-the-character game of Where’s Waldo? with a playful narrative and plenty of joie de vivre.  Its design recalls posters from the 1930s: bold colors, sharp contrasts, and large bright shapes that look like they were printed.  Savage has created a wordless tale that bears repeated readings.  Good stuff.

And, ah, it has — as Julie Walker Danielson recently observed — been a great year for picture books.  Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls, Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy, Mat de la Pena and Kadir Nelson’s A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis, Maurice Sendak’s Bumble-Ardy.  And that list is far from complete.

So, what do you think?  What are your favorite picture books from 2011?  And which do you think will win the Caldecott Medal?

Related links:

 

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Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss Biography: Final Cuts, Part 2. The Dog Problem.

Crockett Johnson, BarkisImmersion in the thoroughly copy-edited manuscript has prevented me from getting more cuts up here, but there are plenty to share.  As noted in the post from earlier in the week, the copy-editor was also charged with reducing the length of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How An Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (coming from UP Mississippi in September 2012).  So, the editing is quite… extensive.

She’s very thorough and, while I do not agree with all of her suggestions, our collaboration is producing a much stronger manuscript.  It forces me to reconsider each choice, every word, everything I’d decided to include.  Sometimes, a cut is easy to make.  For example, I had no trouble following her recommendation to cut this paragraph from a chapter on Crockett Johnson‘s (a.k.a. Dave’s) childhood:

The Queens of Dave’s youth strained under its rapid growth.  Between 1910 and 1925, Corona experienced a housing boom that ended only when there was no more land on which to build. Public School 16 opened in 1908, was already overcrowded by 1911, and siphoned off its excess population when Public School 92 opened in 1913 — about a year after Dave began attending P.S. 16. Although the development was great news for someone in the lumber business (as Dave’s dad was), the unpaved streets were treacherous for automobiles, and the absence of both speed limits and mandatory drivers’ licenses made crossing the road dangerous for pedestrians.

Other examples convey the urbanization of Queens; this one is less interesting than the others.  So, away it goes.

What I find most difficult are those I’ve come to think of under the heading “The Dog Problem.”  These are examples that, while still somewhat contextual, nonetheless inform our sense of who Crockett Johnson or Ruth Krauss were, or of what their work meant.  I call them the “Dog Problem” because the copy-editor has thrown out all stories concerning Johnson’s dogs — or, at least, all of them through Chapter 17 (I’ve not finished going through all of the manuscript).  He was a dog person, and so dogs were a major part of his life and hers.  As a result, I’m uncomfortable with these omissions.  It’s not enough to note that they had dogs (a fact which she does retain).  On the other hand, how many of these dog stories does the book really need?  My compromise, at this point, has been to restore the 1947 dog story, to relocate the early 1940s story to The Complete Barnaby Vol. 1 (coming from Fantagraphics, June 2012), and to omit this one, from Johnson’s first marriage:

Mary Elting and Franklin “Dank” Folsom found them great company, full of humorous stories. Dave and Charlotte had two dogs, one smart and the other not. They used to leave their screen door unlocked (“nobody locked doors in the Village in those days,” Mary says), allowing the dogs to go out into the garden when they pleased. The smart dog figured out how to open the door to come back inside, but the dumb dog did not. When it was raining, the smart dog liked to dash inside, and close the door behind him, leaving the other one out in the rain. Dave chuckled at the antics of his pets.

Johnson’s experience with dogs inform the creation of Gorgon (Barnaby’s dog), Barkis (from his short-lived, single-panel comic), and other dog characters.  They’re less of an influence on Krauss’s work, but very much a part of her daily life.  So, the book ought to have at least one dog story… and now it does!

One “Dog Problem” I’m struggling with right now is from Chapter 17.  She’s marked this paragraph for deletion:

Ruth and Dave also befriended psychiatrist Gil Rose, his wife Ann and their children, after they moved to Rowayton in 1955. An aspiring writer of children’s books, Ann admired Ruth’s work.  Gil enjoyed talking about psychology with Ruth, and often went sailing with Dave on the Five Mile River. One day, as they set out on the river, Dave said, “You know, this river is exactly five miles long.”  Gil, thought, ah, what a wonderful congruence of truth and language: the river is named Five Mile River because it’s five miles in length. After a few moments, Dave added, “Of course, that wasn’t the original name. The original name was, after the fact that there were five mills on the river, it was called the Five Mills River.” In other words, Gil says, “so much for language and truth.”  That, he notes, was typical of Dave’s sense of humor — “iconoclastic, pithy.”

The book contains other examples of Dave’s wit.  Does it need this one?  Well, in the sense that there are other examples, no, I don’t suppose it does need it.  On the other hand, in the sense that it sets up a later sailing story (that I’m definitely going to retain), it is important.  The anecdote also helps create character, which is good.  Dave’s reticent tendencies have made him particularly hard to bring to life.  Ruth was much more outgoing, outspoken, lively.  As a result, she’s much easier to animate on the page.  So, I’ve marked this one with a post-it note.  I’m thinking about it, and will return to it later.  Should you have any thoughts on whether or not to retain it, do feel free to share them in the comments section, below.


If you failed to find this post unbearably dull, you might also enjoy posts tagged Crockett Johnson or Ruth Krauss or Biography.  Indeed, if you have read this far and yet remain conscious, why not try reading some of these related posts?  Go on.  I dare you.

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