Friday, January 5, 2007

Best American Comics

We're pretty faithful readers of the Best American Anthology Series, particularly the fiction one. And though this year's fiction is good (and is edited by our former teacher Ann Patchett), I don't think there's been a book in this series in ten years that's anywhere near as good as the new Best American Comics. There's something going on with comics these days--they have an energy, an aesthetic and moral vitality, that reminds me of the way short stories felt in the eighties. A sense not merely of skilled practitioners working in isolation from one another (which is true of any era), but of a unified, yet varied, vision, a community with a shared understanding of the world.

Frankly, it makes me wish I could draw. A few standouts in the book are Lilli Carré, whom I'd not heard of before this book (that's her stuff on the right, there, and also on the cover of the anthology)...also David Heatley, with his portrait of his father...the always reliable Lynda Barry...and the Beckett-like minimalist weirdness of Anders Nilson, whom I can't seem to find an adequate link for.

Anyway, this is a terrific book, a snapshot of a genre whose moment has come. Fiction writers, pay attention to the cartoonists. We could use some of their mojo.