Monday, December 20, 2004

Finders keepers

In response to my desperate cries for help for my book addiction, and in homage to the perverse thrill in the magical appearance of a long-hunted book, a friend sent me a book. A graphic novel actually. Finder: Talisman, by Carla Speed McNeil.

You can read the first portion of Talisman online:
TALISMAN is about a book...It's the kind of book that makes you think that if you can somehow swallow it whole, you'll be magically imbued with the skills and abilities it contains — but once you get it home, it's just another collection of interesting words and attractive pictures.


My edition includes endnotes. Although I like to believe that art should speak for itself, I admit that often we don't know how to listen or what to listen for. The notes are there to elucidate the text to the reader, not to condescend. Notes can even become part of the art.

McNeil's notes read like the director's running commentary on a DVD. Mostly interesting, sometimes insightful, but far from essential to appreciating the story.

I've enjoyed a handful of graphic novels. I tend to read them like I do books — I glance over the illustrations, but mostly I find they distract me from the story – which is in the words (or so I've been conditioned to believe).

I haven't yet figured out how much of the story is in the pictures, how much I need to pay attention to them, how much I'll miss if I dismiss them. (Here, they're in black and white.)

What stuns me most is the feeling that my brain has been picked, that here laid before me are thoughts and emotions seated deep in my past. Somehow, in this form, matters of consequence are distilled to their essence.

How can I begin to enumerate the points that resonate with me?

It's dedicated "to the kid with the book." That would be me.

A book is imbued with significance according to who gives it you, who reads it to you, and what it is you're trying to escape from.

It's never how you remember it.
It faded away. I couldn't remember it. Like a dream. Just bits and pieces. But it was so vivid.


(I remember an image I read that I've never been able to retrace. I think it was in a short story, probably a collection edited by Alberto Manguel. A character was being led down a hallway or staircase and was struck by the portraits lining the passage. The expressiveness of the female subjects. He realizes the photos capture these women on the brink of orgasm. I thought this added a unique dimension both to the character making the realization and the character who lived there. The image has stayed with me for well over a decade now. However, I'm haunted more by not being able to find its source. As if the page was destroyed after I read it.)

The criticism that reading voraciously doesn't require thinking or acting.

The problem of being a perfectionist:
The next day I'd swear I wouldn't put down a word until it was perfect in my mind (which meant, of course, that I would never put down a word. Period.)


(For a while I thought I wanted to be writer when I grew up. I remember hearing Peter Gzowski interview Timothy Findley. Findley laughed at the notion of people wanting to be writers. You either write, or you don't. It doesn't take schooling or special equipment. Pen and paper. And you write. You're a writer. At which point I realized, as much as the idea of being a writer appealed to me, I wasn't a writer. Not yet, anyway.)

Like our hero, Marcie, I own at least a half-dozen really pretty blank journals that don't deserve my scribblings. They remain blank. Thank goodness the internet's so ugly — I scrawl all over that.

The talisman we need to get whatever we're doing done. Paul Auster fetishized a notebook in Oracle Night.

Something about magic. The possibilities. All fitting into a bigger picture.

Author profile.

Interview regarding origins, processes, and directions:
It incorporates aspects of speculative science fiction with family drama; the high technology of cranial jack computer interfaces with houses set within living trees; the political games played within and between extended clan families. McNeil describes the series as aboriginal SF. "It has to do with 'primitive' cultures meeting 'advanced' ones," she explains. "Scalps and scalpels, trackers and trackballs, ritual magic and videogames."
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