Derik Badman's Journal

2019-07-29 00:00

Mowed the lawn early yesterday morning, the grass still wet with dew, sticking to my shoes and the mower. Afterwards, while trimming some of the jungle that is increasingly overrunning our property, I saw a spotted red lantern fly, a invasive insect that is apparently extremely destructive. It was bigger than I expected (more like a large horsefly) and kind of pretty with its red spotted wings. You're supposed to kill them if you see them, but alas all I had at hand were the choppers with the long handles and the small blades (for larger, thicker plants). The fly got away.

Started and stopped a comic last night that's been hanging around for a few weeks, Ferragosto Bk 1 by Jonathan David Lange (self-published and undated) which I picked up from Austin English's Domino Books. The book started out auspicious enough with a in memoriam dedication of a list of names including Sonic Youth, Eric Rohmer, and Cy Twombly (all faves of mine). And then a written introduction that talked about Jasper Johns, Basquiat, and abstraction in comics. It sounded interesting enough, though there were already clues... the same font is used throughout (even in the word balloons as you page through), the introduction had no indentation on paragraphs and tiny margins, lots of hyphenation to break words on title pages. I could tell it wasn't someone who had done this much (or had and just wasn't paying attention to design at all). It's not like a totally handmade comic, where there can be more lenience given in favor of the raw or naive or just plain d.i.y zine-ness of a publication. This is a large 250 page softcover book. And from there I was decreasingly enthused. The abstract paintings that are a large portion of the book are just not good. It's a cliche for people to say "my kid could do this" when looking at abstract art, but good abstract art is more than just a mess of paint on a rectangle. There is craft and thought that goes into abstract painting that, when it is good, came be seen/felt. The paintings in this book just seem like messes to me. The figurative painting that is also prominent is not much better, and the more traditional comics pages are... naive, but without that sort of magic when the naive becomes good. Can't find much about the author online (though I see there are apparently 6 books in this series!), but the book looks like the work of someone young, with ambition exceeding execution.

Still reading Wittgenstein's Mistress and picking up bits and pieces that feel like meta-commentary on itself or Markson's later work.

"I see now way of refuting either of those statements." (121)

The narrator was talking about a paintings and the subjects in paintings. Is the sleeping girl in a Vermeer painting asleep in Delft (where Vermeer painted) or asleep in the Met in New York (where the painting hangs)? There's an obvious relation here to language and Wittgenstein (what little I know), but this ambiguity is applicable to the general situation of the novel. Is the narrator really alone in a world where all people and animals have simply disappeared without explanation or is she just mad?

"Certain matters just come up, being connected to the subject at hand." [...] "As a matter of fact even so trivial an item as Guy de Maupassant eating his lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower is very likely connected to something, just as inevitably." (121-2).

The discussion of the interconnectedness of trivial facts seems like a key element in all Markson's later novels. But also, the ambiguity... are these things all connected? Or are they just contingent, adjacent?