Comics Works: An Interview with Gabrielle Bell

Gabrielle Bell is a California-raised cartoonist living in Brooklyn. The Voyeurs, her latest collection of autobiographical comics and the first book-length release from Uncivilized Books, has been called “funny and endearing, even beautiful,” and “a rare glimpse of the fiercely mysterious human heart.” The stories throughout The Voyeurs document everything from the ebb and flow of relationships to the clamor of San Diego Comic-Con to Bell’s struggle to attend a party held in her honor, all with wit, an ear for the languid conversations of longtime friends, and occasional flourishes of the absurd. Bell spoke with me via email, and her replies were much like the vignettes in The Voyeurs: concise, self-deprecating, and dryly funny.

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Online talk surrounding your work is perhaps at an all-time high, with mentions on some widely ready non-comics outlets, as well as sites like The Comics Journal. And funnily enough, I came across those articles immediately after reading chapter one of The Voyeurs, with its section about how hard it can be to stay away from the Internet. How conscious are you of the online chatter?

Very conscious!

Have you had to make an effort lately to ignore mentions of yourself online?

No, I mean there’s not THAT much stuff about me on there. And I already know I won’t resist looking at it, so I’m not going to try.

What kind of changes did you have to make while adapting your online material for a print collection?

I did a lot of editing of the narrating and dialogue, reworded sentences, took out many extraneous words and sentences. Sometimes I took out whole panels, sometimes added whole ones in. I think working in film taught me not to be afraid to freely edit. Continue reading

#AuthorFail 7: Robin Becker

Robin Becker is a take-no-prisoners sort of writer.

She’s unafraid of zombies, and even if I thought her original subtitle for Brains (see below) to be superior–“A Zomoir”–she knows when to change tracks.

Thus, her entry for #AuthorFail is the rare instance where one’s agent (rare enough, perhaps) asks for the manuscript one wishes had been eaten by zombies.

Substitute “hard drive” for “zombies” and you’ve nailed the particular type of post-ironic failure we are collectively doomed to suffer.

Ah, the ennui of the computer age…

Here’s how I pitched my first novel to agents: “Spank is the story of Kym Cooper, a young stripper with a secret that could land her in jail. As a teenager, Kym had a consensual sexual relationship with her stepfather. When her mother found out, Kym killed her—and got away with it. Five years later, the police reopen the case, forcing Kym to come to terms with her past and accept who she is: a very bad girl indeed. A naughty girl who needs to be spanked.”

In all honesty, that synopsis makes me cringe. The premise is absurd, failure plastered all over it like grease on a corndog. What’s more, I didn’t skimp on the sex scenes between Kym and her scumbag stepfather. In fact, I fancied myself a feminist, post-modern Nabokov, exploring a real social issue confronting many young women. If Nabokov could do it, why couldn’t I?  Continue reading

Contemporary Verse Novels: Carson, Saterstrom, Conrad, the Roubauds, Boully, and Ruefle

What is a beginning? What is an ending? What makes a particular grouping of words become a poem or a story or a fiction or a non-fiction? And do these labels, these distinctions, even matter?

For anyone who does not know, I’ve been reading and thinking about books that may or may not fit into the category of Contemporary Verse Novels. In attempting to define “contemporary verse novel,” I turned to several presses, books, and authors that I wanted to study and better understand.


Contemporary Verse Novel


Novel in Verse (vs. Novel vs. Poetry)

I first looked at Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Selah Saterstrom’s The Pink Institution, and C. A. Conrad’s The Book of Frank. In grouping together these three books, I examined the role of family as both familiar and unfamiliar to readers. I spent some time discussing the mother/son relationship in Autobiography, the abusive father in Pink, and the strange mother who keeps jars of fetuses in Frank. In better understanding the families, readers also gain further entrance into the lives and minds of the protagonists. Whether fiction or non-fiction, poetry or short story collection, family is a solid theme that many authors write about.

Continue reading