Two weeks back I put out my new "1987 And All That" on Comics Should Be Good, looking at the first four issues of the first-ever The Punisher ongoing series. Also, CSBG celebrated its 10th anniversary a few days ago, which is freakin' awesome, so a big congrats to them. This week, I wrote for PopMatters about the differences between big cities and small towns, as interpreted through several comics I've read lately. That column was inspired by Sometimes a Great Notion, my all-time favorite prose book and something I recently reread.
Something I Failed to Mention
Obviously for the PopMatters post, I focused on the comics themselves, and only briefly nodded to Sometimes a Great Notion as the story that brought all of this city-vs.-country stuff to the front of my mind. I didn't dig into the novel in any way, partly because the bulk of my writing is always devoted to comics, and partly because Sometimes a Great Notion is supremely dense and complicated, so I don't think I could've given it a proper analysis, even just looking at one specific theme, and still had room to discuss comics at all. That's still true, but there is a single bit of praise I'd like to give to Sometimes in a public forum, the one thing about it that makes me claim it as my favorite book above all others forever. Joe Ben's death scene is the best, most impactful, most heartbreaking, most effective fictional death I've ever experienced. I can still remember reading it for the first time, alone in a hotel room in Madrid, where I'd spent the last three in solitude plowing through most of the novel. When Joe Ben finally died, after many excruciating pages of the water rising around him, his body pinned down by a tree, his cousin and best friend Hank standing there helplessly and watching it happen...I had to take a nap. It shook me to my core. On this most recent reread, that scene got to me all over again. Of all the crazy, deeply personal, truly tragic shit that goes down in the story, Joe Ben dying is the moment that burns most brightly in my memory. It rocks me every time I revisit it.