One of the wrinkles we threw into Another NASTYbook: The Curse of the Tweeties
was that a couple of times, the novel turns into manga
for a bit, then back to novel. The hero, you see, is a manga
-besotted kid named Rollo (who's also a candy-bar lover, as I've amply suggested.). My editor found us a terrific artist named Robert DeJesus
to do the manga
Myself, I'm not a great reader of manga, though I've perused a few, and I know kids are lapping the stuff up, increasingly. When I was a kid, back in the day, I devoured Classics Illustrated, which are/were comic-book versions of grand old books like Treasure Island and The Red Badge of Courage. These versions were graphic enough that I recall a bedtime when my brother screeched in horror that he could see a corpse from The Red Badge of Courage comic right there in the dark corner of our room! (My brother, poor guy, is now in a mental facility.) (I joke.)
I'm more of an immediate enthusiast of anime. Hayao Miyazake's piggy Porco Rosso, for instance, I think is a mouth-agape masterpiece, with that goony mix of data and genre (French-café riffs in a film world that's supposedly Italian?) that Japanese culture seems to operate by.
But I do like graphic-novel-based action films, like Road to Perdition and Sin City. Though, honestly, I find graphic novels and manga somehow claustrophobic. Maybe it's the forced visuals, a world where the eye can't roam freely. I get the same feeling with works like Alice in Wonderland and certain lunatic farces, such as the Marx Brothers ? albeit in a different way. Here because of the continuous chaos, of barely holding on to one's bearings.
Some of that claustrophobia and anxiety animates Another NASTYbook. I am used to writing very short wacky stories. So constructing a novel that operated over distance by the same brief loony bursts was a real mind-number for me, a kind of mental agony to keep things organized. Ten minutes in a fun house is one thing; but ten straight hours, keeping up the nonstop hijinx, is another. See these circles under my laughing eyes?
My publisher came up with the thumbnail for Another Nastybook: "Alice in Wonderland meets Adam Sandler." To give an idea of the absurdity and the grossness of it all. One of my regrets on book tour was not reading aloud the chapter where someone (I won't give away who) dies, grossly, from over-eating waffles and syrup.
I like working, you see, with grossness as an effect, for kids. Hyper-sensitivity to the physical was one of my main memories from being young. Yours too?
Anyway, I'll say goodbye with a nod to my old friend, the wonderful writer Bill Barich, who was just in town, after moving to Ireland five or six years ago. I got to meet his Irish love, Imelda, who's a painter. Bill has just come out with a new book, A Fine Place to Daydream, which chronicles his Hibernian romance, and sets it amidst the world of Irish horseracing. The book is an enchanting companion to his earlier Life & the Horses classic, Laughter in the Hills. Both are special books, I urge you to check 'em out. With a pint of plain at your elbow. Cheers and long life to you.