April 14th, 2007

Cure for Writer's Block Discovered

As you always suspected, it's chocolate -- specifically,

"Baker's milk chocolate chips, which come in 300g bags - the chips used in chocolate chip cookies. Without these chips, there is no work. It's that binary. I keep them to the left of my keyboard and I eat maybe 50 or so medicinally once a day."

So says Douglas Copeland in How I Write: The Secret Lives Of Authors, edited by Dan Crowe with Philip Oltermann, just out from Rizzoli and excerpted in today's Guardian, http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/generalfiction/story/0,,2056935,00.html

Copeland adds, "The one sad thing that happened as a result of this is that I no longer enjoy the taste of chocolate - my brain has reclassified it as a medicine and, frankly, I wish I could take chocolate pills and not have to taste it any more."

My own preference is for dark chocolate, but maybe's that's what I'm doing wrong -- if I switch to milk chocolate, will Hollywood start calling?  Jane Smiley swears by searing hot baths, which do, too, sometimes three or four a day.  If nothing else, I am VERY CLEAN. 

Actually, all of the suggestions -- from Michel Faber, Nicholson Baker, and others -- are commonplace tricks that I use and I suspect most other writers do as well.  Walking around aimlessly, driving around aimlessly, playing the same music obsessively.  Nothing quite as offbeat as Schiller, who filled his desk drawers with rotting apples.  Or Lucius, who keeps a severed Hand of Glory beside his computer.
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Sfar & Trondheim

Too few Euro-comics end up getting translated into English, thus depriving us monolingual morons of a window into the continental riches. But there are a few bright offerings available. I'm particularly looking forward to the new Heavy Metal translations of the adventures of CORTO MALTESE, although, sadly, their promised January launch has not yet occured:


But one reliable provider is the firm NBM. And one of their finest series consists of the DUNGEON books of Joann Sfar:

and Lewis Trondheim:

This series is immensely recomplicated, with separate books detailing the founding of the eponymous Dungeon, its "zenith," its downfall, and interstitial adventures of main and secondary characters. But all tales center around an enormous Keep run as a mercenary enterprise to fleece dim-witted barbarians in search of treasure.

The latest volume happens to be "backup stories" from the Dungeon's heyday: PARADE: VOL. 1: A DUNGEON TOO MANY.


Probably not the best place for a novice to start. But the book exhibits all the virtues of the entire series. Funny, witty, unpredictable, even touching. As for the attractively wiggly, Sergio Aragones-style of the art itself, we'll let a panel (untranslated, natch, and not from this adventure) speak best for itself:

That duck is one of our heroes, Herbert the Timorous, by the way.

Anyone looking for a lively hour or two in a totally organic and deep subcreated world needs to investigate these books.