Stephen Dixon is one of the most acclaimed authors of short stories in the history of American letters. His work, characterized by mordant humor and a frank attention to human sexuality, has earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy Institute of Arts and Letters Prize for Fiction, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize. Fantagraphics Books is proud to re-present his 2010 hardcover collection of short stories, What Is All This?, in paperback form.
Dixon’s finely chiseled sentences cut to the quick of people’s lives. None of these stories have been collected in any book; they have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals over almost 40 years and Dixon has entirely rewritten all of them. Dixon admirers will be cheered to learn that these stories comprise a wholly original work.
Centrally concerning himself with the American condition, Dixon explores in What Is All This? obsessions of body image, the increasingly polarized political landscape, sex — in all its incarnations — and the gloriously pointless minutiae of modern life, from bus rides to tying shoelaces. Using the canvas of his native New York he astutely captures the edgy madness that infects the city through the neuroses of his narrators with a style that owes as much to Neo-Realist cinema as it does to modern literature. What Is All This? is designed by Fantagraphics’ award-winning Art Director Jacob Covey, whose hardcover design was honored as one the industry’s 50 best books/covers of the year by AIGA.
Stephen Dixon was born in 1936 in New York City. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1958 and is a former faculty member of Johns Hopkins University. He is also a two time National Book Award nominee — for his novels Frog and Interstate. He still hammers out his fiction on a vintage typewriter.
Late last year Gary Groth interviewed the recently-departed Maurice Sendak for the forthcoming next issue of The Comics Journal (#302, due toward the end of this year). At TCJ.com, Gary shares the story of how his encounter with Sendak came together along with a sneak peek of a few choice snippets from the interview.
Easily the funniest super-hero comic to come down the pike since Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s “Superduperman!,” Angelman is Austrian cartoonist Nicolas Mahler’s sardonic take on super-heroes, their fans, the businessmen behind them, the current media obsession with them, not to mention fancy-ass “Ultimate” collections of dopey super-hero comics.
Created by Korporate Comics in a flash of money-grubbing cynicism appalling even by their standards, Angelman’s powers (which include empathy and the ability to be a good listener) prove less than adequate to deal with the sinister threat of the insane plastic-surgeon villain Gender Bender — or for that matter with the fickleness of fashion, the rapacious super-heroine Lady Dentata, the increasingly desperate re-boot attempts by Korporate Comics, his oddly twin-like wife, a disastrously bad movie adaptation that single-handedly brings the vogue for super-hero movies to a screeching halt… all delineated in Mahler’s trademarked ultra-minimalism (albeit this time in spectacular color), and with his drier-than-dry wit.
Includes a special checklist/price list of Angelman comics, a gallery, and extensive historical and explanatory footnotes by the author, this book will occupy a place of pride on the bookshelf of any comic book geek — or anyone who just likes hilarious comics.
"Angelman is funny, original, beautifully drawn, with a touching story. Great comics in a minimalist style never before seen." – Tony Millionaire
• Review: "This thing [The Furry Trap] is a nightmarish monster. It's pretty great. ...[W]hat Simmons does so well -- without peer, honestly -- is smash together sweetness and nightmare. Innocence and the most vile corruption imaginable. The stories are unsettling, but Simmons takes it three steps further than many other creators in this vein and then pushes the events into exceedingly horrific territory and then shows how unsettled even the characters are, when they realize the kind of world they live in.... Yeah, this stuff is really good, in surprisingly different ways from story to story. It's a reprint collection that feels like a wonderfully terrible, vibrantly new manifesto on what comics are capable of." – Tim Callahan, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Popeye Vol. 6: Me Li’l Swee’ Pea... is the last of the real, 'classic' Popeye volumes, meaning it’s the last batch of Popeye comics E.C. Segar did before dying of leukemia in 1938. Underscoring the tragedy is the fact that Segar’s skills hadn’t dimmed at despite his illness. The final daily storyline, King Swee’ Pea, is as strong and hilarious as Segar’s best material... This volume is also special as it contains one of the saddest sequences I’ve ever read in comics, wherein Swee’ Pea is taken from a distraught Popeye. ...I think it speaks to Segar’s genius about how verklempt this sequence still makes me." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "Krazy & Ignatz 1922-24: At Last My Drim of Life Has Come True... is the final volume in Fantagraphics’ Krazy Kat collection, though for roundabout publishing reasons, it catches the strip midway through its run. Reading this latest collection, I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for Herriman’s narration, which I always kind of saw as entertaining, but secondary to the dialogue and situations. I’m not sure why, but I feel like something 'clicked' here and another piece of the Herriman puzzle has fallen into place for me. Another great thing about this book: A whole run of Herriman’s 'Us Husbands' strip as well as some really early stuff." – Chris Mautner, Robot 6
• Review: "[Pogo: Vol. 1 of the Complete Syndicated Comic Strips:] Through the Wild Blue Wonder is an absolute peach of a collection; it features the typically handsome deluxe binding we’re used to from Fantagraphics and a beautiful cover, and the non-strip material within is more than enough to justify the double-sawbuck price tag.... Of course, any such collection lives and dies by the quality, readability and durability of the strips inside... [Pogo's] art... is simply breathtaking; the facial expressions and body language in these strips are often deceptively simple, but they offer a master class in how to communicate emotion and expression in cartooning.... [Kelly's] backgrounds are lovely and provide a perfect balance to the detail in the character illustrations... But what puts Pogo way, way over the top in terms of sheer audacious greatness isn’t its art, great as that is. It’s Kelly’s remarkably eclectic writing and inventive use of language that makes the strip." – Leonard Pierce, A Schediastic Hootenanny
• Commentary: "...Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Coincidental... is a beautiful book, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. There’s a certain brand of mean-spirited, petty humor that’s been pretty popular over the last few decades, in which the main point seems to be laughing at some celebrity or another who no longer has a thriving career. As if failing to maintain A-list status in as fickle and luck-dependent as Hollywood was a valid reason to be mocked. At first glance, some of Friedman’s work, with its cast of has-beens and never-weres, can seem to be another example of this kind of comedy, but it isn’t — most of these strips cut a lot deeper than that. The reader feels the sting and pain of failure and despair too strongly to feel superior. In other words, we’re all Rondo Hatton." – Tim Hodler, The Comics Journal
• Review: "In Athos in America , the ideas behind the first three stories are so clever and punchy that they carry the rest of the anthology. Furthermore, the stories are constructed such that, due to their structure alone, any further padding would be impossible. In many ways, Athos In America feels like the artist looking back at his body of work to date... Despite his style, Jason is quite effective in modulating emotion from story to story, going from gags to violence to tragedy, sometimes all in the same story. Jason is in total control of all aspects of his storytelling, and, even after a decade straight of ambitious publishing, it seems as if he’s just getting warmed up." – Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Isle of 100,000 Graves was even better than I expected, and that’s saying a lot about a pirate comic by one of my favorite cartoonists. I’ve only ever read Jason’s short story collections before now, so this was my first introduction to his long-form work. It’s funny, adventurous, and totally had me rooting for wily little Gwenny and her unlucky pirate companion as they searched for Gwenny’s missing dad in an island school for executioners." – Michael May, Robot 6
• Review: At The Comics Journal it's Tucker Stone on Love and Rockets Vol. I No. 2: "There’s so much to love in here, and Gary Groth’s overly excited, Gaddis-quoting essay really sets a wonderful tone. This thing stinks of comics, it’s wet and messy."
Congrats to Ellen Forney, shortlisted for The 2012 Stranger Genius Award for Literature! Ellen's worked with us (and The Stranger) for years and even though we're not putting out her next book, the graphic memoir Marbles, we're all looking forward to it eagerly! You may recall Jim Woodring won this prize a couple of years ago — kudos to The Stranger's critics for continuing to recognize comics with their Literature award. (Photo for The Stranger by Kelly O.)
Register and Login to receive full member benefits, including members-only special offers, commenting privileges on Flog! The Fantagraphics Blog, newsletters and special announcements via email, and stuff we haven't even thought of yet. Membership is free and spam-free, so Sign Up Today!