Nearly a week on, I'm as-yet a-glowing with eerily warm and fuzzy feelings from Infinite Jest. Worry ye not, this is not yet another post wittering on about the merits of the tome, but rather the fallout it is having on the rest of my reading habits.
To whit, it's shaken my ability to continue reading comics.
I've never given up time reading a book I dislike - time and energy are resources too scant to squander, frankly. Instead, I have tended to be highly selective of what books I purchase - some times giving too much leeway over to familiarity than innovation - and being slow to take up new authors, instead awaiting a positive summation or at least an analysis which piques my attention. If entirely doubtful, I will liberate a copy from a friend who has already taken the plunge and run from there. The trial by fire begins, and the book has until the end of my considerable patience to impress me.
For some reason, comics are my blind spot in this respect. I'm the only person in my ever-closing circle of friends who purchases comics on a regular basis, so what I want to read (or at least sample) tends to entirely at my own endeavour. This is not in itself a complaint - a choice freely made should never be so. But the diminishing returns against raising prices was and is. No comic has given an experience as nuanced or fascinating as Infinite Jest. This is not necessarily a valid attack - it's not a reasonable expectation that all fiction be the equal of the favoured story, since that is neither possible nor fair to the exceptional prowess of the latter in the equation. But no comic comes so close as to moving me in the same way.
This is, yes, a gross generalisation. Bone is a stunning work, Scott Pilgrim grows and improves with each volume, the ending to Hitman is the finest of any comic... But these are verging on the auteur theory, individuals creating art rather than craft generated in the service of trademark maintenance. Until recently, I've had no real problem with that, but then I wasn't quite so concerned about my financial health. Now I take pause and think about buying two comics that will look pretty and take ten minutes to read, or buying a single book which may have crap art, but could fill my week.
A large portion of my thoughts dwell on the importance something like Longbox
will have for the industry. The chances are it will keep me involved in it as a consumer - when comics I love and have every intention of supporting like Phonogram
are unlikely to survive in the current market, I find myself less willing to participate. The sad fact is that Phonogram is a prime example of a comic I would pay more for
, because it is intelligent, well-drawn and unique, but is lost amidst endless spandex and capes wrapped around ever more incestuous and necrotic story-telling and concepts (which, I am well aware, is part of the nature of open-ended storytelling, but knowing the histories of the stories and the industry as I do leads me to see it as getting worse). As I become much more concerned in my old age with issues growing more rampant - your mysogynies, racisms and what have you - the will to continue grows ever more enfeebled.
I love superhero comics, but I think we need to see other genres.