Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Visiting Dropsie. 

"All day the rain poured down on the bronx without mercy."

It's clear and sunny here in Portland, and that doesn't seem right. I want the sort of brutal rain that Will Eisner used in the opening of "A Contract With God." I was about 19 when I first read it. I don't remember where I was, but I definitely recall the dual impact it had on me. I was both enthralled and repelledI was repelled, and, analytical reader that I was, I wanted to understand what was going on. The gestures were so broad, so theatrical, it was sort of off-putting. He was, though I didn't know the phrase at the time, "playing to the back row." At the same time, it seemed right and appropriate for these people.

It started to sink in. "These people" are my people. It's not like I didn't know I was Jewish, but that crowded tenement world was a long way from the 3 bedroom house I grew up in. Sure, I'd read one of Sam Levenson's books and parts of Irving Howe's World of Our Fathers. A bit of I.B. Singer, but that world was largely lost to me, wasn't it? Still, I thought, I might know the people Eisner was depicting. I thought of my grandmother's histrionics, and the way my father seemed to wait until everyone was listening before he muttered something to himself, and my sister's odd tendency to sort of act out her words as she spoke them. I could see more than a bit of my own family in these unhappy stories about small, struggling people.

No wonder I was repelled. I was reading stories about my own goddamn family and things weren't turning out too well for them. It's one thing to contemplate that in the real world, but at the time, I still approached comics as a convenient way to escape the people in my life. This book was making me think about them as actual human beings.

I've got a deadline. More later.
-Steve Lieber

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