We sent this press release out this morning, and I thought I should share it with Flog readers as well:
FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS ANNOUNCES THE ACQUISITION OF THIS SIDE OF JORDAN, A NOVEL BY MONTE SCHULZ
THIS SIDE OF JORDAN, by MONTE SCHULZ, will be unveiled at the 2009 Book Expo America in New York City, May 29-31, with an appearance by the author on Saturday, May 30, at 2:30PM in the Autographing Area.
SEATTLE, WA, MAY 20, 2009 --- This September, Fantagraphics Books is proud to publish This Side of Jordan, by Monte Schulz, only the second original prose novel (following 2007's Laura Warholic by Alexander Theroux) in the company's 33-year history.
This Side of Jordan is a tapestry of American life in the summer before the economic crash of 1929, and a quintessential novel of the rural Midwest offered unexpectedly as a crime thriller. Full of American landscapes and totems, images and notions, foibles and fables, beasts and the blessed, it follows the experiences of 19-year-old tubercular farm boy Alvin Pendergast. The novel begins with an ill-fated dance marathon and a chance encounter with a slick con artist and gangster named Chester Burke. Fearing relapse of his consumption and a return to the sanitarium that had already stolen a year of his life, Alvin imprudently follows Chester across the Mississippi River only to enter a vortex of criminal violence and deceit.
With Alvin in tow, Chester's insouciant disregard for life serves him well during a series of bank robberies and senseless murders, the sociopathic gangster assuming the role of a dark angel on Judgment Day, cleansing the scrolls of those whose sad fortune draws them across his path. Too ill to flee, too morally weak to object, Alvin resigns himself to what seems like certain doom. Fortunately, Alvin finds another companion on the road, a lonely, eccentric, and grandiloquent dwarf named Rascal, whose own infirmity binds their destinies together. Eventually, the young farm boy must make a decision: stick with Chester, who will surely kill him at the slightest hint of betrayal, or muster the courage to stake his life on faith in Rascal's clever plan to save them both.
Monte Schulz is the son of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and in This Side of Jordan one of his ambitions was to recreate the time of his mother's and father's Jazz Age childhood, when America was making the irresistible transition from rural to urban life.
"When I was in my early twenties, and Dad saw that I was developing an interest in writing, he showed me some of the beautiful passages of Thomas Wolfe and John Steinbeck, and lent me his copies of Complete Poems by Carl Sandburg and Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology, and Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem. He told me the writer's gift is to be able to express for people certain ideas and emotions they cannot express for themselves," says Schulz.
Told in the voice of a lost generation hurtling toward the Great Depression, This Side of Jordan evokes crowded Main Streets and tourist camps, miles of cornfields, rural churches and musty parlors, with the momentum of a freight train, but delivered in the seductive, rhythmic tradition of Southern lyricism reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote.
Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth said he was leery when Schulz asked him to read the novel "because, after all, how does the publisher of The Complete Peanuts reject a novel by Charles Schulz's son?" After reading it, however, he was "bowled over by the beauty of the prose and Monte's command over every aspect of the form. It isn't hyperbolic to say that Monte is as good a writer as his father is a cartoonist. That's why we wanted to publish it."
This Side of Jordan is Schulz's second novel. His first, Down by the River, was published by Viking in 1991. Library Journal raved that it compared to Stand by Me and Twin Peaks, and seemed "ready-made for Hollywood." He spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side Of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011. This Side of Jordan will be published as a jacketed hardcover this September by Fantagraphics Books, with a painted cover by noted cartoonist Al Columbia. Schulz will make his first public appearance promoting the novel at the 2009 Book Expo America, signing galleys on Saturday, May 30, at 2:30PM in the convention's autographing area. A West Coast tour will follow in the Fall (dates and locations t.b.a.).
Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California.
Pay attention: there's some must-read stuff in today's Online Commentary & Diversions!
• Review: "Castle Waiting #15 - I love that Linda Medley is completely ignoring what makes her setting so interesting for the D&D set and focusing on the characters." - Kevin Church
• Review: "Although aiming at twenty-somethings also interested in getting laid, getting wasted and getting rich, [in Rocky Vol. 2] Kellerman nonetheless manages to move beyond the ever-fertile grounds of the battle of the sexes, bodily functions and morning-after guilt-trips to produce a lot of work that is truly fresh, funny and uniquely personal." - Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review: "Just like Heartbreak Soup and Locas, Lubais hard to put down, and Beto’s art gets better as it gets more experimental... there’s tons of good material here, and the humongous format can’t be beat in terms of bang for your buck." - The A.V. Club
• Review: "The 'family history' graphic novel subgenre can feel overdone at times... but volume one of Carol Tyler’s autobiographical You’ll Never Knowis the kind of smartly conceived, affectingly personal work that makes comics and memoirs look fresh... Carol Tyler works wonders with colored pencils and offbeat page designs... the breadth of her visual imagination is so impressive that... overreach is excusable. Also impressive: the thematic complexity of You’ll Never Know... [Grade] A-" - The A.V. Club
• Review: "The handsome hardcover collection The Brinkley Girls brings together a generous sampling of [Nell] Brinkley’s work, leaning heavy on her stories of industrious women and the he-men they love... Brinkley’s art is so drop-dead gorgeous that readers may long to razor out every page to hang on the wall. [Grade] A-" - The A.V. Club (same link as above)
• Review: "...the fantastic Brinkley Girls hardcover put out by Fantagraphics... you would be doing yourself a favor by checking it out. Curse you Fantagraphics, I'm trying to save money you bastards." - This Is Why I Hate You
• Review: "Sally gets the cover in this 11th volume of The Complete Peanuts... Schulz is still in top form here in my opinion. There are few books I laugh at more, or enjoy more thoroughly than these fine collections. Highly recommended!" - Todd Klein
In our news section, we're pleased to bring you the lowdown on our books and comics slated for release in August, 2009, as will be seen in the pages of Previews. It's a big month! The list includes:
• The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz • The Complete Peanuts 1971-1974 Box Set • Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 by Roy Crane • Rock Candy by Femke Hiemstra • This Side of Jordan by Monte Schulz • Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai • Love and Rockets: New Stories #2 by the Hernandez Brothers • Like a Dog by Zak Sally
We also put up our actual Previews spread as a print-quality PDF file, just for fun. Jason Miles designed it and it'll clobber your eyeballs like a roundhouse from Capt. Easy himself. Click on through for the full dirt.
Peanuts surges into the 1970s with Schulz at the peak of his powers and influence: a few jokes about Bob Dylan, Women’s Liberation and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex” (!) aside, these two years are as timeless as Peanuts ever was.
Sally Brown — school phobia, malapropisms, unrequited love for Linus and all — elbows her way to center stage, at least among the humans, and is thus the logical choice for cover girl... and in her honor, the introduction is provided by none other than Broadway, television and film star Kristin (Wicked) Chenoweth, who first rose to Tony-winning fame with her scene-stealing performance as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Two long Summer-camp sequences involve Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty, who has decided that Charlie Brown is madly in love with her, much to his clueless confusion. Snoopy shows up at camp as well, as does Peppermint Patty’s new permanent sidekick, the one and only Marcie.
The eternally mutable Snoopy mostly shakes off his World War I Flying Ace identity and turns into Joe Cool, college hipster extraordinaire. And in three long sequences he writes a fan letter to his favorite author, Miss Helen Sweetstory, then goes on a journey to meet her, and finally enlists Charlie Brown’s help when her latest opus, “The Six Bunny-Wunnies Freak Out,” falls afoul of censors.
Also, Woodstock attends worm school, falls in love with a worm (perhaps the most doomed unrequited Peanuts love story ever!), and is nearly eaten by the neighbors’ cat... Peppermint Patty is put on trial for another dress code violation and makes a very ill-advised choice in terms of lawyers... Snoopy turns Linus’s blanket into not one but two sportcoats... Lucy hits a home run... and the birth of one Rerun Van Pelt!
344-page black & white 8.5" x 7" hardcover • $28.99
View a photo & video slideshow preview embedded here. Click here if it is not visible, and/or to view it larger in a new window (recommended). And visit the product details page for a downloadable, 17-page PDF preview containing all the strips from January, 1971!
Here's the world premiere of Seth's cover design for The Complete Peanuts 1973-1974, this Fall's volume in the series. This is a preliminary version; the final printed version will likely have minor changes. If you'd been wondering (like I had) how Seth was going to handle the scale issue for the Woodstock cover, here's his beautiful solution. And watch out: the 1971-1972 volume (with Sally on the cover) is looking like it will arrive earlier than expected!
• Bram Meehan puts this year's two major Bill Mauldin releases, our collection Willie & Joe: The WWII Years and Todd DePastino's biography A Life Up Front, in a shared #10 position on his "Top Ten Comics of 2008" (via TCR)
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