Thursday, October 22, 2009


A bitter, fault-finding (and -inventing) review of the anthology at du9. Stepped on some toes, I suppose?


  1. Hey Andrei, I tried reading the google translate, and didn't know what to make of it but, I get mentioned in the end notes.

  2. a) he hates the "layout," by which I think he means he hates the use of dingbats in the introduction and for page numbers
    b) he is annoyed that he has to flip back and forth from the strips to the bios at the back, that the bios vary widely in length and scope, and that "there are no dates" for the strips. Actually, there are--I specified in the bios in each case when the strips had been published previously, or when they were made if a long time ago. Whenever I didn't specify that, I thought it was clear that the pages were made recently, or specifically for this anthology.
    c)he does not like the introduction because it's more like my "retrospective recollections" than an analytic piece. I will leave that up to others to decide, but honestly I have no idea what he is talking about.
    d) the "genealogy" I propose, according to him, is "approximate" and often "caricatural." He criticizes the book for being "chronologically ordered," and that chronology for being inexact, though I never made a claim for chronology as far as I remember. (And no, it's not chronological, though I did put the ground-breaking pieces at the beginning; the rest of the book is rather arranged formally.)
    As an example of the "caricatural" aspect, in the notes, he complains about my mention of a "Franco-swiss school." Yet one of the responders in the comments is very quick to claim that there is a specific way that "americans" make abstract comics, while also saying that the "Europeans" (yes, the French and the Swiss) "often propose a more coherent visual narration, which still remains abstract." Funny, I was just taken to task by Sean T. Collins for even including any of those Europeans, because for him their work is not abstract at all (according to his interpretation of my definition, at least). For the record, a lot of that European stuff had already been published in the abstract-comic sections of "Bile Noire," and I didn't want to repeat Ibn al Rabin's selections, or reprint things that were already available. I did feel I represented that approach suitably--as well as many others.
    d) he wishes the introduction were more scholarly, and a longer postface that addressed the questions raised by the strips, etc. Well, I crammed everything I could in the space we had, and tried to keep it under $40, and I intentionally wrote the introduction for a general level of interest, not for the specialist.
    ...bla bla bla bla
    some of the points would be of interest if they weren't couched in such a clearly bitter, pissed-off (and anti-American?) attitude.

  3. May I add, he complains that, while I mention that "abstract comics" (in my working definition of the term for purposes of the anthology, at least) can also include figurative elements as long as they don't cohere into a narrative," etc., only Crumb's fits that description. He conveniently seems to have missed Jeff Zenick's, Gary Panter's, and, depending on how you define "figurative," also Victor Moscoso's, Bill Shut's, Damien Jay's, Andy Bleck's, Ibn al Rabin's, Derik Badman's, Pan Terzis's, etc etc. It was specifically so as to be able to include this wide range of approaches that I expanded my working definition.
    Gah! Willful blindness is the perfect indication of the biased critic with an agenda.

  4. take some French acid, mix with heavy metals & black bile, & then run amok.

    the anthology is the first flowering of a still-growing wave of creative energy. to expect an encyclopedically complete work at this stage, & then to expect exhaustive analysis on top of that, is to have very high expectations.(has such a book ever been published?)

    however, the argumentation already provoked by Jessie's review in francophonie is tremendous. flying sparks shed light.

    I look forward to seeing the bds produced by 12 year old francos who read the Fantagraphics book.

    criticising a critic, en anglais. where is this going?

  5. Tim--

    argumentation "in francophonie" other than on that comments thread? Where?

    I think the discussion could be more constructive if Jessie Bi's review seemed more measured, not so filled with resentment. This seems to me to close off dialogue rather than spark it.

  6. jessie bi is also starting up his review by pointing out that the works presented are very interesting, & then cites a number of them which he finds outstanding.

    i don't really see where you find your "bitter" or "resentment" or, more puzzling, "anti-american slant". frankly, that's just something you're reading into the review. jessie bi & other du9 writers (as i am, incidentally) are quite supportive of american comics. there has never been a "pro-french" agenda on this site, far from it. seriously, "anti-american" in this context just sounds ignorant & childish.

    granted it's not the most positive review ever, but it's mostly critical of the form of the book, not the content itself. you should really go past your first impression of a review that "steps on some toes" (uh, what? whose toes?) & enter the dialogue if only to expose your position regarding editorial choices, etc.

  7. I am editing here an earlier response to David, and correcting myself:

    In the body of the review there are two sentences about how a lot of the works are beautiful. Two. [I had written "one" before.] A few examples are given in the notes. The entire rest of the review goes on to nitpick and fault-find (often inventing faults, as I have shown) at the introduction, the layout, etc. It seems intentionally mean-spirited, sorry. And may I ask, wasn't the very choice of those works part of (indeed, the largest part of) my editorial work? Jessie Bi writes as if there is no merit whatsoever in the editorial work, yet praises (in those two begrudging sentences) most of the actual pieces in the book. What, did they just show up there by chance?

    I never claimed a "pro-french" agenda (where did you get that from?). Notice I put "anti-American" in parantheses, and with a question mark. I was asking it as a question, wondering where the attitude came from; it was not a direct statement. Honestly, reading a bit more carefully would help! [Admittedly, I may have been too rash to even ask that: the main lines drawn, in the comments, between Americans and Europeans are drawn by one of the commenters, not by Jessie Bi himself (or herself?); and that may be what I was reacting to. I was upset, obviously, and responding a little too rashly; but at least I have that excuse, which the reviewer doesn't.]

    As I have said before: a review like this is not intended to start dialogue, but rather to foreclose it. I would be happy to enter a real debate, but the kind of unfair and ill-thought charges, and especially the vocabulary in which they are phrased, brought up by Jessie Bi do nothing to foster any dialogue.

  8. when i wrote "pro-french", i meant du9 doesn't have that kind of agenda, not your blog. as for the "anti-american" quote, you might be right & i might have misread you but to me it just looked like an uncalled for knee-jerk reaction, nothing more.

    for everything else, i might be overly naive, i still don't see where you see the mean spiritedness. i mean, it's just a review (& if anything it will get the books more sales in francophone countries, not less; not that that's an argument per se). what i understand is that jessie bi was expecting some editorial standards, perhaps unfairly, & is saying where he thinks your anthology fails at these standards. he is in fact asking for a debate.

    now, in my last comment i forgot to mention that your points are absolutely valid, so it's not a question of me defending jessie bi's opinion either. it just seems to me like you "read" a lot of things "into" his article & assume a lot of things about its author, that a dispassioned reading might dispell in part (obviously i understand that you are passionate about your work, that's okay too). for everything else it's a matter of setting facts straight & then exposing your own editorial position.

    pardon me for insisting but you guys should really just talk rather than finding reasons not to. but that's up to you, in the end.

  9. Oy. Going through my errands earlier, I thought of composing a calmer reply cataloging my point-by-point responses to that review, but I don't know if I want to keep this going.

    David--I'd be happy to discuss my editorial position, but I'd rather do it in a more neutral setting, and not when put in a defensive position by what I see as a deeply wrong-headed review. But if du9 is interested in doing an interview, for example, I'd be perfectly open to the idea and to outlining the entire reasoning behind the book, the selection, etc. Je peux le faire en Francais, en Anglais, n'importe.

  10. Anti-American, don't know about that. But definitely unnecessarily pissy; there's no question the need to pick nits, or take out straw men, preceded the finding of quite so many. It's one way to write a critique, I suppose, but I find the tone doesn't speak well for the critic.

  11. Andreï, why do you get so nervous ? Just because a french critic points out the limits of "Abstract Comics" ? I think he is honest and that is point of view is equilibrated. The best way for you to understand what he said is to ask Jessie if he would be ok to translate his critic into english (you can also learn french).


  12. Merci, Freddy, mais je parle le francais parfaitement bien--je l'ai parle depuis que j'avais trois ans.


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