Friday, November 20, 2015

Thirty Days of CCS #20:My Pace

Rod and Cone is the publishing imprint of Anna McGlynn and Iona Fox, and My Pace is their latest anthology that's mostly from CCS students and grads. It's a very nicely curated anthology whose contents manage to fit together well despite veering from confessional autobio to visceral weirdness. There's a scrawled, intimate quality common to all of the work here, beginning with Hannah Kaplan's "Summer Diary". These are almost embarrassingly confessional in nature, as Kaplan lets her insecurities and her sexual encounters out into the open and on to the page. She's not afraid to plainly draw her own nude body as well as those of her lovers, but the effect is raw and immediate, as opposed to titillating. Kaplan deals with the loss of an important relationship, the confusion of sleeping with her boss and the emotional challenge of living around in a loose, freehand pencil style that's all about capturing emotion through image as quickly as possible.

Cooper Whittlesey's four-panel and one panel strips veer somewhere between intensely personal and intimate and absurd at a Sam Henderson level. His drawing style is a sort of frenzied scrawl, with lots of difficult-to-read lettering and smudged images. Like Kaplan, it's like he's trying to get these thoughts about sex and "photos of every man she's ever been with--with erections!" out of his head an onto paper as quickly as possible. After the harshness of the first two artists, Fox's own "November Diary" is a smooth counterpoint. It's a lovely account of a trip from Vermont to Quebec for a zine fest, though not before Fox (who is also a farmer) stops off to examine a farm in Quebec. These strips are every bit as intimate if not as revealing as the other strips, as Fox doesn't stop to provide context to the information she discusses, nor does she seek to conceal anything. Her self-caricature is amusing, with a loop of hair on her head, and one gets a sense of contentment with considerable labors and struggles by the end of the story.

McGlynn keeps up the diary theme, only she goes back in time with "My Future Boyfriend", written by a fictional character named Vivian Howard. The rhythm of the narration is meant to mimic both a diary as well as a director's notes for a movie. The writing is beautiful and painful, as Vivian is spun around in a million directions by her own brain, her own hormones and the wonderful and terrible confusion of adolescent being. Drawing the strip on lined paper gave it a certain authenticity, and the use of imagery not directly related to the narration was clever and hinted at the way Vivian fought off feelings of jealousy and distrust and embraced those around her.

Reilly Hadden's "Land Grove" uses his thin, cartoony line to create another story about a dangerous, unstable environment and attempts to find safety in it. When a man goes out in a bicycle away from his partner and their tent, how he negotiates danger and the reward he receives is not unlike an Aesop's fable. Stephanie Kwok's textual diary provides yet another take on the concept, as she uses a variety of fonts to create a visual framing device for her rambling thoughts and observations. Throughout, the theme of wanting to connect but feeling isolated is repeated, her own shouts into the void an act of defiance against loneliness. Sophie Yanow's "Gaslight", featuring a figure off-panel talking to a prone figure on-panel, offers a different take on intimacy. The figure off-panel conflates honesty with intimacy, as though being honest about doing horrible things excused the horrible things we do. It's an appropriate capper to an anthology where every artist explored their emotions, their limits and their struggles in each story in an attempt at authenticity. Yanow reminds us that authenticity without humanity is no virtue. As always, her command over her line is so precise that she uses a handful of tremulous slashes and geometric figures to get at that sense of being devastated. All told, this is one of the strongest CCS-related anthologies I've read.

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