At Art & Literature, graphic novels rarely receive their due. But with shifting definitions of what constitutes literature, I think it’s time that we give graphic novels some notice. Here is the graphic novel best seller list for the week of May 9 (as reported by The New York Times’ Art Beat):
Graphic Best Sellers (Hardcover)
1 DARK TOWER: TREACHERY, by Peter David and Robin Furth.
2 BATMAN: R.I.P., by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel.
3 BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland.
4 JOKER, by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo.
5 CIVIL WAR, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven.
6 UNCANNY X-MEN: MANIFEST DESTINY, by Ed Brubaker, Mike Carey and Matt Fraction.
7 WATCHMEN, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
8 THE BEATS: A GRAPHIC HISTORY, by Harvey Pekar and others.
9 DARK TOWER: THE GUNSLINGER BORN, by Peter David and Robin Furth.
10 BATMAN: HEART OF HUSH, by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen.
Graphic Best Sellers (Paperback)
1 WATCHMEN, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
2 STAR TREK: COUNTDOWN, by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci.
3 WOLVERINE: ORIGIN, by Paul Jenkins and Andy Kubert.
4 THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY – 1910, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.
5 WOLVERINE: WEAPON X, by Barry Windsor-Smith.
6 THE SANDMAN: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES, by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III.
7 TERMINATOR: SALVATION MOVIE PREQUEL, by Dara Naraghi and Alan Robinson.
8 BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, by Frank Miller.
9 Y THE LAST MAN: ONE SMALL STEP, by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
10 Y THE LAST MAN: CYCLES, by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
Should I be surprised how many of the titles are associated with existing franchises? Or is the spinoff in perpetuum pretty standard for graphic novels?
Playwright Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America, said of the differences between playwriting and its (in Kusher’s view) once-removed cousin, screenwriting: “Screenwriting is primarily a narrative art–and I don’t think that’s true of playwriting, which is dialogic and dialectic, and is fundamentally always more about an argument than it is about narrative progression. I suspect, in fact, that novel writing and screenwriting have more in common than playwriting has with either of the other forms.”
Yet for emphasizing rhetoric, Kushner in Angels in America does a fantastic job of breathing life into the basis of narrative, characterization, while furthering his ideas about race, sexuality, religion, and politics into a cohesive statement about the state of America at the end of the Regan era. Kushner was warned that the time and place-specific references in Angels would quickly date the play, which may be apparent in another 20 years, but thus far, they seem to only lend the play a sense of gravitas and flesh out the dramatic tension scoring Kushner’s rhetoric. And his technique of pairing two scenes as one and intercutting dialogue work well as a dramatic device to highlight the dualities and contractions present in the characters and conflicts.
The HBO miniseries of the play topped six hours, I think, but reading Angels in its original form won’t take you nearly that long. In fact, the play moves at a very good clip, and Kushner’s writing maintains its ebullience and incisiveness over the 200+ pages. If you want to read a “big” play that was written in the past 50 years, start here.
This year’s Tony Award nominations have been announced, and “Billy Elliot,” the musical based on the film of the same name, leads the pack with 15 nominations, followed by “Next to Normal” with 11 and the revival of “Hair” with eight. Here are some of the highlights:
- Dividing the Estate
- God of Carnage
- Reasons to Be Pretty
- 33 Variations
- Billy Elliot, the Musical
- Next to Normal
- Rock of Ages
- Shrek the Musical
Best Revival of a Play
- Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
- Mary Stuart
- The Norman Conquests
- Waiting for Godot
Best Revival of a Musical
- Guys and Dolls
- Pal Joey
- West Side Story
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
- Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
- Raul Ezparza, Speed-the-Plow
- James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
- Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
- Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
- Hope Davis, God of Carnage
- Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
- Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
- Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
- Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
- David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, the Musical
- Gavin Creel, Hair
- Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek the Musical
- Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
- J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
- Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
- Sutton Foster, Shrek the Musical
- Allison Janney, 9 to 4: The Musical
- Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
- Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story
Best Direction of a Play
- Phyllida Lloyed, Mary Stuart
- Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
- Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
- Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests
Best Direction of a Musical
- Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, the Musical
- Michael Greif, Next to Normal
- Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
- Diane Paulus, Hair
In addition, American composer and lyricist Jerry Herman will receive a special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre. The Tony Awards will be presented on Sunday, June 7, at 8:00 p.m. EST.
When John Updike died in January, it was an enormous blow to the fiction world. As his newest work, a posthumous collection of poems called “Endpoint: And Other Poems” demonstrates, it was an enormous blow to the poetry world as well. Although Updike was known primarily as novelist, he was endowed with considerable talents that he–as well as his contemporaries–were careful to label “poetic.” They shouldn’t have been, says Clive James in The New York Times.
Of course, it’s not much of a leap to imagine Updike the poet as an antecedent to Updike the fiction writer. His gift for lyricism and imagery, hallmarks of the poetic craft, were always among the most striking aspects of his fiction. With his powers of wordplay, even his treatment of quotidian subjects such as divorce was rendered sublime.
James reveals that Updike always viewed writing poetry as a holiday from writing fiction, but “his very last book, a book of poems, proves that he always had what it took.” The contents of “Endpoint” are largely focused on mortality, a theme shown to be present in many of Updike’s earlier poems as well as the ones that, dating back to 2002, comprise the titular section of the collection. James writes, “the way these poems search their author’s early mind suggests he has belatedly discovered a modus operandi that he might have used all along.”
After 341 years of male poet laureates such as Tennyson, Wordsworth, Dryden, and Ted Hughes, Britian now has its very first female and its first Scottish poet laureate in Carol Ann Duffy. Duffy, 53, succeeds Andrew Motion and will serve in the position for 10 years. Duffy says that her annual payment of some 5,000 pounds will be donated to the Poetry Society but added, jokingly, that she’s asked for her other compensation–about 600 bottles of sherry–to be paid up front. More seriously, Duffy said she was “humbled and honored” by the appointment and called it “a recognition of the great women poets we have writing now.”
Of Duffy, who has authored several collection of poetry as well as plays, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, “She is a truly brilliant modern poet who has stretched our imaginations by putting the whole range of human experiences into lines that capture the emotions perfectly.”
As poet laureate, a large part of Duffy’s responsibilities will be to write works commemorating royal events, something that Motion said to find very difficult–understandably. I wonder if the position, which carries few formal responsibilities–would not be better served by focusing on ways to increase literacy rather than producing literary commemorations of significant events.