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Did everybody see this rave about Alison Bechdel's Essential Dykes to Watch Out For in today's New York Times? I mean, the last paragraph alone:

Ms. Bechdel began her strips all those years ago, she writes here, partly to provide “an antidote” to the culture’s image of gay women as “warped, sick, humorless and undesirable.” Boy, has she succeeded. Her crazy lesbians seem saner than the rest of us, and beyond beautiful.

As I just wrote in a comment in her blog, this kind of attentive, accurate praise for her work, hard earned for decades, so long in coming, makes my head explode.
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I've got to prep for a work planning meeting in a couple of hours (I know I've mentioned that I do this with friends -- it's hugely helpful, and this one's particularly charged and important to me), but I would feel derelict in my bloggerly duties if I didn't report that Alison Bechdel made a post this morning which includes both a link to a video of one of her highly entertaining presentations about The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For and a picture of Alison and me at her talk last night.

We met for tea before the talk. Alison didn't spot The Haymarket, although she did see my parked trike. I went out to stand by it as landmark, and there she was, was rushing down the main street of Northampton carrying a full, heavy case of some kind of soda pop that she had promised a reader of her blog who had won a contest there. She had lugged it all of the way from the hotel, and if that's not way beyond the call of bloggerly duty (and probably my first inkling of such a concept in the first place), I don't know what is.

I stayed up way too late reading (in most cases rereading) the Dykes To Watch Out For strips in the anthology. Doing that makes me feel like I'm inhaling clove cigarettes and patchouli in the backseat of a small car on the way to the Women's Peace Encampment and/or the Marquee (name your nostalgia dyke bar -- the Duchess definitely works, too, or the Globe, or, way, way back -- the Apartment). It's just so wild, that Alison's eye and her artist's obsessiveness and her wit caught so much detail (right now I'm looking at panel of Lois spraying Windex to polish the bookstore's display case of crystals and goddess figures and labryses -- God, she's got it down to the credit card sign and the pen jar with joined women's symbols next to the cash register) of these worlds that really are pretty much gone. It just nails formerly obscure mileaux that I spent a lot of time in, too. (And nails the wood grain on the play structure when Clarice and Toni move on out to the suburbs, too.) It's trippy. The strip and the books were/are there in real time, too, in the past, in the present. The artist's introduction raises questions about the effects of all of this observation, and there's plenty to mull over, but yeah, no, to me, despite the "nailed it" thing, this is not a case of a butterfly pinned (thereby killed) and preserved for better, more meticulous observation, but, because this is art, there is heat and mystery alive here, there just is, rising from a heightened, expansive dyke quotidian. And yeah, that turns out to be a heightened, expansive human quotidian. It kind of had to turn out that way, and part of the trick of both this work and negotiating the weird melting edges of identity through time is both the inescapable awareness of that, and the insistence of the particulars.

PS Holly Rae Taylor, who is Alison's girlfriend, took the picture. Check out her new website: Waste Free Living.
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Alison Bechdel is talking about her anthology, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, which is hot off the presses. There will be slides, too. Tonight, Broadside Books, Northampton, 7 pm.

Not to be missed.
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I bought Fun Home this morning at Broadside Books in Northampton, where Alison will be speaking June 24. I’m going to be in Cleveland at a conference, but I marked it on my calendar, anyway (that’s how good I think it'll be). She’s traveling a lot, and the whole tour schedule is here.

This is what I thought of the book.  )
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Alison Bechdel just posted a short video about her process in making her graphic memoir, Fun Home. What she shows is pretty fascinating and a lot more bodily (a lot more of a lot of different layers, actually) than I would have imagined, although one of things I always love about drawings is that they are -- among a bunch of other things -- traces of the experiences of the eyes and hands of the artist.

As a lot of you already know, there's an ljfeed to Alison's blog, which you can add if you want to follow on your friendslist whatever she's posting about, including, maybe, what's happening before the book comes out in June.

I'm itching to see it -- it'll be hard to wait.


Mar. 31st, 2006 12:07 pm
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Guess what just got a mention in Alison Bechdel's blog?

Clue: it's shiny and red and tippy and broad and goes like the wind on a sunny spring day. Also, it's developed an odd click when pedalled that I need to get checked out.

It was so good to see Alison yesterday, and her slideshow and talk were stimulating and funny. She said about drawing that looking at the world and working to see what's actually there, not just what you expect to see, is a political act. I love that so much, the enormous power and meaning that can rise from just using the senses and trying to accurately convey what you see. And I love that she articulated it.

More Life

Jan. 10th, 2005 10:17 pm
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Spinsters Ink, which published my first two novels, is in the process of closing. This, sadly, is due in part to the serious illness of the current publisher, Sharon Silvas. It's also part of the larger trend of the disappearance of many feminist publishers, bookstores, and journals that made up much of the context in which I first became a published writer, and where the great majority of readers have found my work.

My most recent book was published by Firebrand, itself revived from closure by Karen Oosterhous after publishing some of the most powerful, influential and well-loved books in recent feminist literary history, books by Dorothy Allison, Shay Youngblood, Les Feinberg, Cheryl Clarke, Cherrie Moraga, Beth Brant, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Kitty Tsui, Jewelle Gomez, Judith Katz and Alison Bechdel among them. Oh, I read these books with such voraciousness and desire, steaming up my glasses with urgent language and hot, hot, hot aspirations. Many of these books are still available from Firebrand, mind you, and I'm proud to be published by this press, and to have my work on a list with such great history and such really fine new work.

One of the gifts that small, independent presses give their authors is that the books often stay in print for much longer than at larger houses. But now my first book, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, is out of print. I only have seven copies (including two I just bought secondhand over the internet) left, so if I'll have to be very selective if I want to show the book to anyone. There are more copies of Martha Moody. There is always the possibility of new life for these books – new editions or new ways to distribute existing copies – but, for now, I just want to say that I love them enormously, and I love what I know about the life they've had in the world, and in the brains and dreams of individual readers, some of you dear to me on my friends list. I wish them more life.
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Her newest book, just out, is Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For. And she just said something I find utterly beautiful about my Venus of Chalk -- beyond beautiful, all the way to it makes me gasp and cry that she actually said that. She absolutely nailed what I was trying -- in my wildest dreams -- to do. Feels soooo gooood:

This neatly-stitched tale of a latter-day home economist’s “glaring departures from sensible living” is a religious experience. Under Susan Stinson’s microscopic needlework, the fabric of the phenomenal world shimmers with sublime beauty. A can of baking soda, a traffic pylon, a city bus -- these things will never look the same again. Stinson lavishes the same minute reverence on her human subjects, discovering rich, sacramental meaning in their most banal small talk. This book unravels what you think you know about women and men, the freakish and the normal, shame and salvation -- then mends it anew into a most surprising story.

Alison Bechdel


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May 2009



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