I just finished…

…a few books, two of which I have thought about reviewing at length but haven’t, so let’s see what I can encapsulate in the meantime.

The first of these is “We Told You So” (ed. by Tom Spurgeon, with Michael Dean), an oral history of Fantagraphics Books. The best part is the first third or two which provides the near-plot tension of “Will this plucky band of outsiders” survive, and dramatizes it thru warts-and-all depictions of colorful characters. (Among the partially blemished — believe it or not — is your humble reporter who — FULL DISCLOSURE — has had three books published by Fanta — all available from this very web site — and continues to be a contributor to its “Comics Journal”) The weakest part is the rest which settles into a sea of self-congratulatory pats on the back by those still employed or published by the company in question. Not that I begrudge them a single pat. Not that I don’t still proudly wear my “Fuck You I’m With Fantagraphics” t-shirt. But from a pacing/
variety/gratification of one’s baser desires POV, this seems lacking.

How Others See Us (ii)

I’ve been contributing to “The Comics Journal” since 1988, and Fantagraphics, its parent company, has published three of my books. Recently, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, Fanta published an oral history, “We Told You So,” in which its owners, employees, artists, and writers, past and present, shared memories, experiences, and stuck knives into backs. On p. 443, the Journal’s present Managing Editor said this:

“Levin was an excellent, if eccentric writer… I often witnessed editors tearing their hair in exasperation over Levin’s pieces. Assigned to cover a particular creator, Levin would go and have a cup of tea with ‘Ruth Delhi,’ a recurring — probably fictional — figure in his article and write about their conversation. But then Hunter Thompson was known for his metaphorical digressions too.”

All but the “excellent” surprised me. I had always regarded myself, in Henry Higgins fashion, as a most appealing chap. But it was to Ms. — actually Dr. — Delhi’s defense that I sprang.

She might be, I assured the Managing Editor, a “conceit” or even a “device,” but she assuredly was not a “metaphor.” Besides, we didn’t just have tea. Sometimes we had vegetarian Chinese food, and, once, we even had sex.

“Maybe it was the tea that was the metaphor,” he said.