Monday, September 29, 2008

New Mesh Art for 2008

The Mesh has been updated with four more panels of ink-drenched drama. Check it out here:
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

A 21st Century Reaction to Tender Is the Night

(Note: the notes below are intended for those who've read Tender Is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven't read it, but plan to, you may want to move along)

I mentioned in an earlier posting that I'd heard Tender Is the Night was a dropping-off in quality from The Great Gatsby. It's truer to say that Tender is a return to the episodic, maddeningly variable quality of tone of This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. Unless his posthumous (and incomplete) The Last Tycoon turns out to be a masterpiece (I'll be reading it next year), it seems to me The Great Gatsby was Fitzgerald's one undisputed great novel, his most serious attempt at not only literary achievement but also aesthetic self-discipline.

That's what it all comes down to: to create great art requires monumental, draining concentration and self-discipline of a sort most creators, both professional and amateur, aren't willing to commit to. It requires not only shutting off distractions, but searching inside for connecting, cohesive and harmonious symbols, actions and declarations, all reflecting each other, all insinuating some level of universal truth, all in service of a structure that, in the end, has to fulfill a plenitude of criteria, not the least of which is that it must surprise and satisfy both the creator and "everyone else".

To create flawed works of art is work enough; to create flawless, or nearly flawless works takes an enormous struggle which a mind slackened by alcohol and indiscipline is ill-equipped for. Fitzgerald shook himself out of the alcoholic and partying haze long enough to bear down and create one short (but eternal) masterpiece. I believe he did it only once.

Tender Is the Night, like his first two novels, is a maddening book. It is filled with sharp observation, prose with the grace of poetry, a keen sense of place in those episodes clearly autobiographical. It is also frequently boring and restless, with episodes having little or nothing to do with its plot. Like his first two novels, it feels patched together,and it was; a seam-filled mish-mash of scenes from a novel he had started earlier (rewritten with a different gender for its protagonist), scenes from short stories he had earlier written, autobiographical scenes which stick out in vivid relief (his affair with actress Lois Moran changed to Rosemary Hoyt, Zelda's mental illness becoming Nichol's, etc).

The causes Fitzgerald provides for the emotional and professional downfall of the protagonist, Dick Diver, are not entirely convincing (the reliance on Nichol's money, Nichol's illness, etc). Dick instead seems just another casualty of the bored, doomed rich ex-patriate crowd he's the ring-leader of, and his sad and obscure end just another example of wasted talent and lack of will. In many ways, Dick Diver is merely an older and eventually more weary version of Anthony Patch from The Beautiful and Damned; that is to say, just another version of the worst tendencies of Fitzgerald himself.

And yet, Fitzgerald's romanticism shines through, making the work difficult to ignore even when maddening. The opening chapters, wherein Rosemary Hoyt is gradually enveloped into the odd but seductive world of Diver's ex-patriots, seems golden-hued and perfect in and of itself. It reminds me of those sparkling scenes in Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett's 1939 film Midnight, in which Claudette Colbert is unexpectedly initiated into a fairy-tale world of the rich pregnant with possibilities both dangerous and romantic.

Fitzgerald, with an insider's view, had intimate knowledge of the power of the glitter that covered that sort of world, but also was unyielding in acknowledging and condemning the waste of lives, time, and talent inhabiting it. That's the dichotomy of his work, and one of its strengths.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bird Alert

A drawing I drawed this evening for Ian Cannell, young Ditko and Spider-Man fan extraordinaire.

Not a great drawing, but you try drawing The Vulture.
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