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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Reading the Unreadable #8: Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

 

By a fortunate accident, I read Genet's "Our Lady of the Flowers" directly after finishing Camus's "The Stranger" and Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago", and those directly after reading Heidegger for this reading project.  As a result, I came to it in a metaphysical state of mind, and ready to analyze the different views of incarceration presented by these authors.

Camus, being the most overtly philosophical of the bunch, uses his protagonist's prisoner status more allegorically, presenting it (at least to my eye) as further proof of the objective lack of intrinsic meaning to existence, and simultaneously the natural result of Meursault's failure to draw his own meaning from existence, falling back as he does on a kind of nihilism.  Camus, not having been a prisoner himself, was able to take a more abstract view of incarceration, using it as a vehicle to convey his ideas of absurdism without getting bogged down in the practical details.

Solzhenitsyn's work, on the other hand, draws its power from his depiction of those practical physical details.  It was his status as prisoner that drove his fame as a writer, and it was through his depictions of prison life that he made his political statement.  "Gulag Archipelago" is more prosaic in its approach and more accessible in its writing style, and it is in that approach that the reader finds the horror of the situation - that people can live and force others to live under such conditions.  Oddly, while being the least overtly philosophical of these books, in its depiction of the subjective way punishments and rewards are applied in such a system, it eventually serves to prove the same metaphysical conclusion reached by Camus - that existence does not have intrinsic meaning aside from what the individual decided to assign to it.

The expression of that subjective mapping of meaning onto existence is immediately obvious in Genet's "Our Lady of the Flowers".  By far the most poetic of these works, Genet seems to acknowledge the, at times, sordid details of existence and yet to strive for a sort of transcendence by seeing in those details a manifestation of something more sublime.  Through his controversial depictions of the life of his characters, their relationships, their actions and their crimes, Genet takes what could be considered tawdry and at times brutal events and elevates them with his language and perspective to the status of poetry.  As he says, "the artist is a God who had need of human beings."  Genet seems to recognize that god within himself the art in his characters.  The more squeamish reader might turn aside from "Our Lady of the Flowers", but in so doing would miss the opportunity that Genet provides to recognize the transcendence possible in any life simply by the fact of choosing to assign meaning to existence.

It is that idea of "choice" that forms a common philosophical thread to all three books.  Camus's Meursault fails to choose, and is condemned for it.  Solzhenitsyn, chose to see both the absurdity and horror in his situation and depict it with the eye of a naturalist.  Genet chose to assign a spiritual greatness that supersedes the immediate, through that making even an ordinary existence more bearable.  As Victor Frankl stated, "He who has a why, can bear any how."

Up next, David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest'.  This one's going to take a while.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Attention All Comics Creators!

 Here's something interesting....DriveThru Comics, one of the main distributors for AIM Comics, is having a "How to Make Comics" sale, offering great prices on a bunch of handy reference guides and how-to books for the prospective comic book artist, writer or publisher.

There's some great stuff in there for just about every aspect of creating and publishing comics of all sorts, including our own humble offering "Why Comics".  This book reprints my attempt at a 24-Hour comic and the Sketch Magazine-published article, "Comics on the Cheap". As always, "Why Comics" is absolutely FREE!  So...what's stopping you from going there and getting it right NOW!?!



Thursday, October 21, 2021

Cut Price Cthulhu!

 It's Hallowe'en month, which means that it's time for DriveThru Comics annual Halloween sale!  For a limited time only (step right up!) you can get the Lovecraft's Monsters Playing Card set, fully illustrated in color with loving portraits of H.P. Lovecraft's most iconic cosmic horrors, for 30% off!  The stars are right! The Old Ones have awakened...and they're slashing prices!  Run...run screaming if you must...to DriveThru Comics and order yours today!



Friday, September 10, 2021

We're Moving!!!

 Moving domain registrars, that is. This is a change that most people will not notice, but it was necessary.  Our previous host, GoDaddy costs about twice as much per year, and have recently decided to give me less for my money by forcing email users to transfer to an Office365 subscription plan.  Since I object to this kind of shrinkflation and don't see the use in paying for an email address that I barely use, I have decided to dump the domain registrar and move it elsewhere.  

If you're a reader who has ever contacted us at info@aimcomics.com, please note that this email address will very likely stop working very soon.

That is all.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Reading the Unreadable #7: Being and Time by Martin Heidegger


 

Anyone who's known me for a long time knows that I enjoy reading books on philosophy, both classic and modern.  Although I've studied logic and philosophy in university, I consider myself more of an enthusiastic amateur than any kind of serious student of the subject.  

My personal preference in philosophical schools has always tended towards the "can you eat it" variety, meaning the grounded sort of philosophies that can be of some practical use in daily living.  I'm aware that there are people who consider philosophy as a purely theoretical exercise, but it always seemed to me that from the classical times on down, the main thrust of the subject has been to find ways to live life better, more fully and more in harmony with the world. I have, therefore, always tended towards schools of thought ranging from Plato and Aristotle to Confucious and Lao Tzu down to Ayn Rand's Objectivism and (my current philosophical crush) Marcus Aurelius and the Stoics.  The philosophers I consider more esoteric, such as Epicurus, Nietzsche and Proust, I have read for enjoyment but without any serious expectations.

So it was that I approached Heidegger's "Being and Time" with the mindset that I have a grounding in this sort of writing and, despite it being on the list of the most difficult books to read, I thought I would navigate its content skilfully if not easily.

Hoo boy, was I wrong.

One of the most annoying things about the study of philosophy is the tendency of some thinking and authors to get caught up in semantics and ontology to the extent that the work loses any useful meaning and becomes self-absorbed to the point of being unable to express ideas clearly.  It's what led me to conclude at one point that philosophy is the most roundabout way of ending up exactly where you started.  Heidegger takes that problem to an extreme, with an absorption in a highly specific use of language that either a)almost immediately loses any practical meaning for the reader or b) is couched in a language that is understandable only to Heidegger and his two closest friends. Probably cats.

Reading "Being and Time" is an exercise in literacy and a test of patience.  Ideas and sentences recur and are reiterated in new contexts in so many ways that one is not sure if one has actually made any progress in the book, or if the publisher just reprinted early chapters later in the book. It is the literary equivalent of "The Song That Never Ends". Without the entertainment value. It is the quintessential existential work, in that by the end of it, if one endures that long, the reader questions whether anything outside the book, including the reader themselves, does, can or should exist. 

I mean, what can you say about a book that contains passages like this:

 "In understanding a context of relations, Dasein has been referred to an in-order-to in terms of an explicitly or inexplicitly grasped potentiality for being (Seinkonnen) for the sake of which it is, which can be authentic or inauthentic.  This prefigures a what-for as the possible letting something be relevant which structurally allows for relevance to something else.  Dasein is always in each case already referred in terms of a for-the-sake-of-which to the with-what of relevance.  This means that, insofar as it is, it always already lets beings be encountered as things as hand."

 Still awake?  Good.  That's from early in the book, before things get complicated. From there, it slips steadily off the linguistic rails and ends up ultimately as meaningful (for the standard reader) as the content of an ASMR video.  And just as sleep-inducing.  

If I gleaned anything useful from "Being and Time", aside from the joy of knowing that I need never pick up a copy of Heidegger again in my life, it is the origin of the the idea that 'horror is seeing something approach" that I know from William Friedkin.  I could probably find you a chapter and verse reference for this, but I think it would be more fun to let you test your own patience in attempting to read this thing.  Otherwise, the only use I can think of for this book is propping up a table leg.

Up next, "Our Lady of the Flowers" by Jean Genet.  Things can only get better from here, can't they?



Thursday, February 4, 2021

AIM Comics: Ten Years Later

 

Wow, how time flies. It was 10 years ago today that we published the first volume of Ian McDonald's "The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit", featuring not only an all-star lineup of webcomics artists and a ton of Ian's work, but also praise from renowned Conan author Roy Thomas and arguably the last published art by Savage Sword of Conan legend Ernie Chan.
It's been an interesting ride since then, with many changes both personal and professional. Sales on the books (7 volumes so far!) have been up and down and for a sales neophyte like me, it's still proving hard to find the presence in the market I think this work deserves.
However, it's also been nice having these books as a constant presence in the background, a pivot point for me to return to when my schedule allows. I've been working with Ian in one form another since 1988 and his work continues to bring me great enjoyment.
Volume 8 is due to be released soon. We're well past the midpoint and on the way to reaching the end of this strip; after that, who knows? Until we reach that point, I'm going to continue enjoying the work of compiling and publishing these books and will continue looking for ways to bring them to the readers' attention.
Thanks, Ian, for letting me play around with your work for the last decade. I'm grateful for the opportunity and for the lessons I've learned as an editor and a publisher. We've still got a ways to go, so let's see what we can do with this thing!
 

 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Kicking Off 2021

 2020 is receding in my rearview mirror; 2021 lies ahead.  There were no new publications from AIM Comics in 2020 for one reason or another, but that doesn't mean that nothing's been happening.  Looking ahead very quickly, here's what we've got:

-Volume 8 of The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit is in progress and well on its way to being finished.  I've had the cover by our guest artist delivered to me within the last week, and once I finish coloring it and address a few formatting issues in the book itself, we should be ready to go!  The next one's going to be a bit bigger than the previous volumes, just because of the length of the stories that Ian was writing during this period.

-Just started work on a new personal project yesterday.  It's one that's hopefully going to play out over quite a long time, but I will be able to release it incrementally.  It's something I've been promising myself I will address for years now, and I finally decided it's time to get started.  Watch this space for more updates.

-Sketches are moving along on another project that I have had contracted for a couple of years now.  I've had to put it aside due to the need to take on a lot of commission work, but I think I may actually be making some real progress.

Not a lot of detail in there, I know, but it looks like AIM Comics will be showing some signs of life again in 2021.  Here's hoping for the best, for us and you!