Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A Visual Strain of Verbal

Rebecca brings up a really important point that cuts to the core of alot of what we've been talking about. Blogs are not "oral" histories, per se, yet I think their entire aesthetic sets them closer to a conversational tone than, say, a classical "personal essay" along the lines of Phillip Lopate's work. They aren't quite Diaries, because a diary is essentially personal, working out your thoughts to yourself for yourself. At their best, blogs combine the best of all worlds - interiority spiced up with dialectical intensity (because you know people are reading, so there's that storyteller's urge to exaggerate), revealing hidden truths to the masses. If one looks at a blog like a written conversation - somewhere between correspondence and an actual verbal exchange - I think it opens up an intriguing realm of possibility. It allows you to gather your thoughts and self-censor in a way that actual conversation doesn't - but it's also much more immediate, even visceral, than a long-distance exchange.
It's interesting - this whole past week I've been somewhat unconsciously focusing in on the particularities of speech, as opposed to the written word. Last Friday, me and a few of my fraternity brothers tried to trace the exact path of one of our dinner conversations, and it was just insane the labyrinthine pathway we took through various subjects - Israel, mutant porn, hippies, the weather, global warming, etc - but it seemed wholly natural at the time. I think that a fully genuine oral history would by definition have to have no point whatsoever - the second you frame it in any concrete terms, "this is me as a bicycle courier," "this is me as a miner," it loses the conversational tone, becomes more of a quote-unquote "story." Not that I'm saying life is meaningless. Maybe it is.
Anyways, in trying to figure out what to do with my oral history, I started thinking about the "American Splendor" series of comic books written by Harvey Pekar. I couldn't find any readable examples of it online, but basically, it's one of the most famous underground comics, and it's literally just one man's life, told by him in generally sparse illustrative style. It's kind of confessional - Harvey "talks" to the reader, discussing his inner thoughts even as we follow along the "narrative" (such as it is) - but it's never too dramatic and always feels normal. Yet it's not boring, and I think it's because the tone is so straightforward, like you're swapping stories with an old casual acquaintance at your fiftieth reunion.
I can't draw, but Apple has this wonderful new application called Comic Life that lets you turn pictures into comics, so I just sort of jotted down a few little biographical details and ran it through the Comic life ringer, with the help of Google Images and my photo library. Check it out here. There's 7 pages in total.

2 comments:

Pico Alaska said...

Hey, Darren -- My experience writing blog posts or whatever they're called is the opposite. Feels to me like I'm in an echo chamber ... alone. I think of it as journaling in public. However, I'm pretty sure you'll read this. ...
OK -- what I wanted to say was this. I very much enjoy your columns in Stanford Daily and **only today** realized that you and the columnist are one and the same.
OK -- 2nd thing to say ... I like your comic. It's similar to your column. You're awesome. And I wonder how many people in the world outside your friends and relatives and classmates will see your comic. I also wonder what the point of all of this is.
Still, consider it my conversational gambit, as I grab your arm and say, "Hey, I enjoy your writing."

Adam said...

Darren, I also loved your comic, even when you got tired at the end. I showed it to my wife, and she is going to be making some comics . . .

Rock on, homie.