“What do you even write in that thing?” My friends and family ask me, referring to the black book that follows me like a pet. In actuality, it isn’t the same black book, but the generic black exterior gives this illusion. I go through notebooks like smokers go through cigarette packs—quickly and compulsively. I replace it often, depending on when the pages run out, but it’s always black, and it’s always a sketch book (I try to avoid the linear thinking that lined paper invites).
When people ask about my notebook, I always feel I have to defend myself, like a heroine addict pardons their addition, brushing it off as simply “a bad habit,” I’ve had to defend my compulsion for writing things down. Joan Diddion writes about keeping a notebook in an essay by that title. She writes:
“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself [….] Keepers of private notebooks area different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents” (read full essay here).
I write everything down: quick ideas that strike me at 4:45 in the afternoon on the Bathurst streetcar, profound quotes I find, snippets of conversation I overhear at the cafe. My black book is an appendage of me, as necessary to my life and work as a business person’s Blackberry or a painter’s canvas.
“A Page From my Book” is a new category on Lady Medusa’s blog that will share, well, just that— a page from my book. I’m not going to bore you with scribbles of my prose, as these scribbles are usually developed into blog posts, or (hopefully) commissioned into full-fledged articles. But I thought it would be fun(ny) to share some of my sketches. Living downtown Toronto, I see the weirdest things, and sometimes, not even words can reproduce the absurdity. So I draw.
Basically, this section is a narsistic trial-run of my cartooning skills. Last week, I wrote an article on Danielle Corsetto , author of the daily comic strip Girls With Slingshots. Studying Corsetto’s work reminded me the power of the graphic medium. Some of the most pivotal texts I’ve read were graphic novels (Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Art Speigleman’s Maus I & Maus II). The graphic medium can combine text and images in such interesting and innovative ways that no other medium allows.
The comics in the newspaper today lack any political punch. These cartoons, systematically separated from the “Politics” section and displaced under the “Entertainment” section alongside the sudoku puzzles or word searches, are often void of social commentary. Look at any newspaper from the Victorian period and you’ll fully understand the political potential for comics. Not up for ye olde 19th-century stuff? Watch South Park, or its graphic predecessor, The Simpsons. The point is this: whatever you want to call them (comics, cartoons, graphic novels, etc) are a great means of saying something to the world. They capture slices of life and portrait the slender truths that otherwise get overlooked in the clamor of language.
My first entry as a wanna-be cartoonist is titled “Social Networking” (below). I actually witnessed this scene the other day: it’s two people, both the same age, both attractive, and both on computers. They didn’t know each other, but they were sharing a table at a west-end coffee shop. I noticed that both of them were logged on to social networking sites, and both of them seemed to be looking for the same thing: companionship. She was wandering through the cyberpages of the popular dating site “Plenty of Fish,” while he was ogling some girl in a bikini on Facebook. In the pre-computer age, perhaps one of these people would have initiated conversation, but in the era of digital narcissism, we can’t see past our own computer screens.
This is why David Fincer’s closing scene in The Social Network was so poignant for me: There sat Jesse Eisenberg, in his role of Mark Zukerberg, king of the Facebook empire, and what was he doing? He was lonely and sad, slouched over a computer staring at a picture of the girl who broke his heart. While technology connects us in ways never before imagined, it can also be isolating if we forget how to talk to one another. This week, that’s what the pages of my book are saying.