STAR WARS EPISODE 3.14159: THE AWKWARD HOLIDAY GET-TOGETHER

In which two science fiction authors turn the greatest science fictional saga of all time into… another dysfunctional holiday family dinner.

(Because it’s long, and there are other things I am promoting today, I’m putting it on the other side of a cut. If you’re coming through from the front page of Whatever, click through, it’s worth it.)

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The Big Idea: Molly Crabapple

I’ve been an admirer of the art of Molly Crabapple from the moment I saw it — enough so that I commissioned a portrait of my daughter from her, and was honored to have her do a cover for one of my books. But there’s more to Molly Crabapple than her immense talent with pen and brush. She is equally adept with words, and in the last few years has become a unique, globe-traveling journalist, visiting political hotspots around the world and reporting with both words and art. Drawing Blood is a memoir that covers it all — and today, Crabapple explains why “all” is the important thing for her.

MOLLY CRABAPPLE:

I’ve done a lot of jobs in my life.

I’ve painted pigs on the walls of the swankest nightclub in London, and hopelessly passed out chocolates to dieting fashion people, while wearing a high feather headdress on my head. I’ve painted myself white and stood very still at parties, posing as a human statue to earn tips. I’ve drawn kids. I’ve drawn cockaroaches. I once got paid by a conceptual artist to sneak up behind museum goers and whisper “This is the life” into their ears. I’ve been a model, a gogo dancer, an artist, a writer, a journalist, the founder of an international chain of art classes, the girl who paints people’s portraits on the street.

Perhaps the only occupation I haven’t tried is sleep.

I started this writing gig a little over three years ago.

It was a pursuit that took me all over the world, from refugee camps to extremely swank press parties for Donald Trump, where I saw the intricate architecture of his hair up close. Yes, loves, it baffles me as well. Maybe its where Cthulhu hides. While starting with personal essays, I turned later to journalism on prisons, refugees and conflict. Over the last two years, I wrote a book. It was very hard, in ways I never could have suspected.

The month before publication is the time in an author’s life when we must walk the road of The Shilldebeast. We must tell people about our book. About ourselves. We must distill ourselves into a single shining soundbyte, sleek enough for even a pundit to grasp. We must not just be branded, like cattle. We must be The Brand itself.

This simplicity was never my forte. My many jobs point to a taste for wild maximalism… as does the paint stained sequined chaos of my apartment, my wardrobe, my parties, my life.

While doing this little dance, I had a journalist come to my apartment — which is also my studio.

“What do you do???”, the journalist asked.

Now, the apartment is filled with half finished paintings, half drunk whisky bottles, half completed sketchbooks. All sorts of evidence of doing.

I looked at the journalist, confused.

“I mean, you write, you draw, what do you… do?” The journalist continued.

Then I got it. They wanted me to sum myself up with one word. I could not.

Monastic focus is a beautiful thing. There’s something wonderful in the simplicity, in the Japanese ceramic teacup, in the apt, exquisite line. But that perfection was not mine, and it never would be. I have always loved complexity and chaos.

I told the journalist that I was both an artist and writer. But, if I was speaking more deeply, I’d say the two were not really separable.

I’ve drawn since I was old enough to make a mess. I’ve been writing for one month and three years. Art taught me to write. It made me hunger to write because art was mute and vague and whispered where writing was explicit and talked. Art taught me a craftsman’s discipline, a lack of preciousness, a work ethic that brutalized me.

I do too much, maybe? Maybe that was the confusing part?

But the world is too much and this is my one life and yours too. I want to consume the world with greedy gulps, like that first glass of whiskey, when you want to start the night.

A month ago, I was at the Plaza Hotel. I’d been up all night, drinking all that whiskey, and now it was the dregs. It was a party just for women. I sat slumped next to some flax-haired writer who was writing a book that would be justly very big. We spoke about our work.

A half hour later, as I staggered out into the bleary New York street, I thought about how little boundaries mattered – especially in the face of love.

I wasn’t thinking about what we were — in terms of genre or discipline or job. I just knew I loved women. Specifically, women who are bad by virtue of their muchness. These too smart too sharp too strong too beautiful women who have spent the night toasting their own victories, then passed out in the dawn’s weak light, safe amongst each other. I loved them with a ferocious ache, and I wished them all the glory of this city.

If I have one unifying big idea, it might be to embrace that muchness. The world the critics the bosses the everything — they want to shape us into branded properties – serious or frivolous, intellectual or sexy, this or that. What they can never accept is that we are artists – those amoral aesthetic gluttons, who want only to learn and create on this vast, beautiful terrible earth.

My theory? Fuck this. Fuck limits. Fuck deciding this or that. Fuck anything that would confine you.

This is your one life. Life is too precious to cut off pieces of yourself.

—-

Drawing Blood: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

Whatever Holiday Shopping Guide 2015, Day Two: Non-Traditionally Published Books

Today is Day Two of the Whatever Shopping Guide 2015, and today the focus is on Non-Traditionally Published Books: Self-published works, electronically-exclusive books, books from micro presses, books released outside the usual environs of the publishing world, and so on. Hey, I put my first novel up on this very Web site years ago and told people to send me a dollar if they liked it. Look where it got me. I hope you find some good stuff today.

Please note that the comment thread today is only for non-traditional authors and editors to post about their books; please do not leave other comments, as they will be snipped out to keep the thread from getting cluttered. Thanks!

Authors/editors: Here’s how to post in this thread. Please follow these directions!

1. Authors and editors of non-traditionally published books only. This includes comics and graphic novels, as well as non-fiction books and audiobooks. If your book has been traditionally published — available in bookstores on a returnable basis — post about your book in the thread that went up yesterday (if you are in doubt, assume you are non-traditionally published and post here). If you are a creator in another form or medium, your thread is coming tomorrow. Don’t post if you are not the author or editor, please.

2. Completed works only. Do not post about works in progress, even if you’re posting them publicly. Remember that this is supposed to be a gift guide, and that these are things meant to be given to other people. Likewise, don’t just promote yourself unless you have something to sell or provide, that others may give as a gift.

3. One post per author. In that post, you can list whatever books of yours you like, but allow me to suggest you focus on your most recent book. Note also that the majority of Whatever’s readership is in the US/Canada, so I suggest focusing on books available in North America.

4. Keep your description of your book brief (there will be a lot of posts, I’m guessing) and entertaining. Imagine the person is in front of you as you tell them about your book and is interested but easily distracted.

5. You may include a link to a bookseller if you like by using standard HTML link scripting. Be warned that if you include too many links (typically three or more) your post may get sent to the moderating queue. If this happens, don’t panic: I’ll be going in through the day to release moderated posts. Note that posts will occasionally go into the moderation queue semi-randomly; Don’t panic about that either.

6. As noted above, comment posts that are not from authors/editors promoting their books as specified above will be deleted, in order to keep the comment thread useful for people looking to find interesting books.

Now: Tell us about your book!