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Speed Round

Today on the site, Alex Dueben interviews New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck about her new memoir.

At what point did you start to write about your parents because the book is about you, but it’s also about the context of your life, in a sense.

It started out about me. I think the first fully formed part that I wrote was about me being a weird kid. After that I wrote the part about my parents. I don’t remember why I brought them into it. I feel like a shadowy echo of my mom sometimes.

Honestly, I wrote the part about me being a weird kid before I had a feminist awakening and then I wrote the mom part while I was having the awakening. I didn’t see my story as being a feminist story until I realized how women’s lives are shaped by being female. Then I started to feel how my mom’s story was really similar to my story. My mom’s story was of quitting her career to not have a career and have her art in the context of being a wife and mother and what it meant to pour all her art into not professionally ambitious things. How it succeeded for a while, but then didn’t have enough roots to sustain her for a long time.

You said that you had a feminist awakening. Could you talk about that and what that meant for you?

I think it happened the moment I stopped having writers block, which at least in my case was extreme self-consciousness about making things that other people would see. I would draw the same thing over and over and over again so at the end of a year I would have one drawing done a million times instead of a million drawings, or a hundred drawings. I think all the anger and scrutiny I had been putting on myself I started putting on other people. [laughs] It coincided with a breakup that made me remember past breakups. It coincided with me finally realizing how much I hated being catcalled and things like that. All the unfairness that I’d been living with for so long but I was so busy feeling like I wasn’t good or human and that I couldn’t be angry at the world for anything suddenly left. It was very freeing.

We also have Tegan O'Neil's review of the book in question.

Liana Finck draws like someone who has spent a great deal of time unlearning how to draw. She describes the process herself while watching on & off boyfriend Mr. Neutral at work: “When I watch you draw, I get a glimpse of what it would be like – if I could still draw the way I was a kid. If I’d met you when I was younger, I bet I wouldn’t have stopped drawing.” Situated at the beginning of the narrative, that statement lays out a map for much of the territory that follows in Passing for Human, Finck’s memoir of her and her family’s history of strangeness.

“Strangeness” is her word, not mine, used to describe what she refers to a variety of terms. In a section on her father, who seems to have shared a similar or related strangeness, she states, “nowadays, if you don’t know how to act around people, you might be labeled ‘mildly autistic.’” But the book isn’t about labels, and there’s really only one part it’s even mentioned. As she states: “The labels set you apart from the world, but they also give you a place in it. They make you feel more different, but less alone. In those days, though [her father’s youth] there were no labels.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

Three straight days stranded for hours on NJ Transit have conspired against my usual thoroughness, but I still have a few links, and will catch up next week.

—News. Jillian Tamaki has been nominated for another Governor General's Literary Award.

—Reviews & Commentary. Charles Hatfield enthuses over L. Nichols' Flocks.

Nichols creates his own vocabulary of visual metaphors and devices even as he traces the story of finding, and declaring, his own best, truest self. His story explores and celebrates the paradoxes of self-in-community, the complex comforts of faith, and what it means to be alienated from the very things that support you, or supported by the very things that alienate you—that is, what it’s like to live a tangled human life among distinct, and in some ways opposed, communities, and how to find grace in that most delicate, ever-shifting position.

Dominic Umile writes about David Sandlin.

Artist David Sandlin had only been in New York City for a couple of years when he was plastering downtown Manhattan’s concrete building facades with graphic silkscreened posters to promote his solo exhibition at Kwok Gallery in 1982. But at that point he’d already won five hundred bucks in an art contest, played a role in a wholly rambunctious countercultural art collective, and worked as a studio hand for Robert Rauschenberg, Buckminster Fuller, and others.

—Interviews & Profiles. The editors of the new print TCJ, Kristy Valenti and RJ Casey, are the latest guests on Inkstuds.


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