Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Has It Come To This?

For the past few months I've been working on an idea for this blog. I haven't tried it before now because the last few months have been very busy, but now that the summer is here and my schedule has opened up, I think it's time to give it a go.

There have been a lot of roundtable discussions lately, they seem to be the current hot format for "serious" discussions of comics on this here blogosphere (probably owing to the recent profusion of group blogs). I don't think I'm alone in thinking that some of these discussions - the Wilson roundtable over at Savage Critics, for instance - haven't quite lived up to their potential. It's sort of like hearing a collaboration between two of your favorite bands: in your head you expect all parties to go in swinging, give their all and come up with something truly intense, greater than the sum of its already-excellent parts . . . but in reality, the products of these types of collaborations are usually disposable, laid-back jams of the kind that are recorded on an afternoon's break from touring. No offense to any of the folks who regularly participate in these types of discussions, but I don't believe that dialogue is the best format available for this type of criticism: no one brings their A-game to pickup ball. It may be fun to shoot the shit with friends and peers, but more often than not it seems as if the resulting transcripts are just that - shit-shooting, rough drafts of ideas best developed later in solitude.

But with that said, I have been (hypocritically?) thinking for quite some time about how to incorporate more of that type of interactive discussion into this blog. I really liked the dynamics of the recent Frank Miller "roundtable" David Brothers hosted from 4th Letter: instead of a group discussion, he sent out an e-mail to writers he liked and respected and ask them to write something on the subject, as much or as little as they wanted, and in whatever format they wished. It was loose and friendly, but each writer was able to work to his or her strengths. Seeing how that worked got my mind to wondering further.

A final piece of the puzzle slid into place in recent weeks since my new commenting system went up. It may seem like a relatively small advancement, but bear in mind my absolute technical unsavvy - just being able to respond to specific posts within the comment threads seems to produce a noticeable uptick in the depth of discussion, with each individual thought given the space to elicit commentary and response of its own. Like I say, it's hardly the Next Generation in Web 2.0 Interactivity, but it's the little things that make all the difference. Also, it must be said that I really like my commenters: people who read this site and comment on a regular basis tend to do so in a thoughtful, well-reasoned and respectful manner - even if we disagree, I don't attract many trolls.

So with that said, here's what we're doing - or rather, what I will be doing and what I hope you will be joining me in doing. We're starting a Book Club - or Reading Group, whatever you want to call it. We'll come up with a snappy name later, if this works. If you're reading this you're invited to participate - read the book and think some thoughts. If you want to post something on your own site I'll link to you. If you want to respond in the comments, you'll (hopefully!) have a decent sized group of friends with whom to spark discussion. I will be posting some thoughts, but maybe in a more open-ended manner than my usual long-winded diatribes - I haven't decided. There'll be time to fine-tune as we go.

Basically, the animating idea is simple: I want to give myself a prod to talk about something more substantive than I might normally do if left to my own (very lazy) devices. I am also interested in eliciting comments and reactions from as wide a variety of bloggers and readers as possible. I want to have a good conversation, hopefully avoiding some of the pitfalls of a more informal roundtable while inviting everyone to participate as their own level of comfort or interest dictates.

So now that the ground rules are set, there's probably only one thing you're still wondering: what the heck are we actually gonna read, those of us who resolve to do this thing?

I'm glad you asked, because the answer is:

One week from today - Wednesday, June 9 - I will begin a discussion of Osamu Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito, chapters 1-7 (up to page 277 in Vertical's one-volume edition). According to Amazon, the one-volume edition is out of print. If you can't find the book in your library, it's also available in two smaller volumes. Please join me, hopefully it will be fun and not a dismal trainwreck. It's all in your hands!

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