Saturday, July 11, 2009

S.F. Chronicle Rips My Beating Heart from My Chest and Shows It to Me Before I Drop

I promised to be honest. In a Friday article titled "The Best in Comic Books," San Francisco Chronicle writer Michael Berry surveyed more than a dozen graphic novels and comics-related books (including the Abrams books The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, Secret Identity, and Underground Classics: the Transformation of Comics into Comix) and was unimpressed by mine.

Here's the whole thing:

Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? (Abrams ComicArts; 202 pages; $24.95) by Brian Fies, author of the acclaimed "Mom's Cancer," serves as a bridge between comics that are wholly fictional and those that employ the strategies of journalism or memoir. Fies of Santa Rosa charts the course of futurism from the World's Fair of 1939 to the final Apollo mission of 1975 and beyond. Unfortunately, the mix of straightforward history, comic book parody/homage and fictional father-son narrative never really gels.

So there you go. Needs more gel. I take tiny solace from the fact that Mr. Berry thought enough of my book to include it in an article titled "The Best in Comic Books" in the first place, and that he seemed tough on other books that have been well-reviewed elsewhere. I respect high standards. Still . . .

I never expected everyone to like or "get" WHTTWOT; plenty of people whose opinions I respect have said good things about it, so I'm not crushed. I am disappointed because I knew that the Chronicle planned to mention WHTTWOT, and a good review in one of the largest-circulation newspapers on the West Coast could have made a big difference. I doubt it'll do any harm in the long run--this isn't a Broadway play, where one critical pan can sink you--but it sure doesn't help.

I expect to be bummed out for a couple of hours and then shake it off by the afternoon. That seems about right.


Adam said...

Aaaaaah, what does he know?

My guess is most graphic novel readers trust the opinion of their local comic book/book store person over that of a distracted print critic who could very likely be looking for a job soon (See Mike's latest entry).

Keep yer head up Brian. Your narrative is just fine with this average Joe.

Will you be attending Comic-Con?

Sherwood Harrington said...

If Mr. Berry's article is an example of what he thinks "gels" well, then you're better off without him being on your bandwagon. You can take solace in the likelihood that few if any readers will slog through enough of his droning to get to the part about your book.

Right at this instant, this blog post of yours has more comments (2) than his (0).

Karin Bartimole said...

reviewers work, by definition, criticizes by telling others how to change what they've already completed, sharing their opinions as if they are some kind of higher power from above - and while I never hear of a reviewer ever actually inspiring others in creating anything new, I just finished Mom's Cancer today and found it to be inspiring, moving, and honest. I know I look forward to reading and viewing more of what you do, so pick up that beating heart and put it back where it belongs!
I love your last line to this post - seems like you'll give his words just the amount of weight they deserve - a simple nod of acknowledgement :)

Mike said...

Did he get the name of the book right? That's all that matters. One more *ping* in the collective consciousness of the book-buying public.

ronnie said...

Mike's right - being reviewed in that company is what counts.

Your reaction sounds exactly appropriate to me, too.

"[N]ever really gels" has got to sting - but it also sounds highly objective rather than a subjective criticism of a flaw in the book itself.

Namowal (Jennifer Bourne) said...

"Never really gels?" maybe he wasn't holding the book right side up when he looked at it.

That's mean that they called the article, "The Best in Comic Books," mentioned your book, and then insulted it. Bait and switch.

That being said, I agree with Mike's "One more *ping* in the collective consciousness of the book-buying public." theory. Tests have shown that people tend to prefer shapes and sounds they've been exposed to before, even if it was too brief for them to remember. Why shouldn't this apply to book titles?

Brian Fies said...

Thanks for the bucking up, but it's not necessary. I'm all better now.

Adam, I'm passing on Comic-Con this year. I didn't think I really had a purpose in going sufficient to offset the hassle and expense.

Karin, thanks very much for your thoughts about Mom's Cancer. I appreciate them, and your taking the time to comment.

reechalee said...

i enjoyed world of tomorrow very much. when i saw your book in the local bookstore, it was the mention in the sf chronicle best of article that triggered my purchase.
any press is good press. :)

Brian Fies said...

Hey, thanks very much Richard! I really appreciate you letting me know that. Glad you liked my book.