Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Monday, July 19, 2004
 
Trudeau in Rolling Stone

I've been reading Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury comic strip since I was about seven or eight. There was a point in the nineties when it seemed to lose a lot of its pizazz, right after Mike Doonesbury hooked up with Kim. It became more soap operatic, less edgy. That trend stopped after the last election, and now the years and layers of characterization are really paying off with the sly wit and subtle pathos that's only possible with familiarity.  I, for one, was pretty stressed out when I thought that Trudeau was going to kill B.D. in Iraq, and was suitably chastised when it turned out B.D. "only" lost a leg. And does, in fact, have hair.
 
With those kind of reactions in mind, Eric Bates's cover interview with Trudeau in this month's Rolling Stone makes for some fascinating reading, touching on both immediate issues of politics and war, and the wider issues of being an author:
 
Some writers regard their fictional characters almost as real people. But you don't seem very broken up about blowing B.D.'s leg off.

Well, the terrible truth about writers is, they create characters and then they put them in harm's way. That's what drama is about. As a writer, I don't have an emotional link to the characters. I have to summon them up -- I have to pull them out of the toolbox and put 'em to work. They don't live in my head. So I was overwhelmed by some of the letters that came in about B.D. It was so emotional. People wrote that it made them feel they had a personal stake in the war -- like someone they knew had been harmed. People were even more astonished when B.D.'s helmet came off. It signified his vulnerability and made it all the more difficult for them to accept. I was talking to a soldier in the hospital, and I said, "I draw this comic strip, and I have this character named B.D. who lost his leg." The soldier's eyes widened: "B.D. lost his leg?!" Here's this mangled, broken hero lying in his bed, and he's concerned that this character he knows had such a terrible thing happen to him. It was very moving.
.That's an amazing testament to some of the powers of art; it reminds me of Care Packages: Letters to Christopher Reeve from Straners and Other Friends, a sampling of some of the letters that  Reeve got when he was paralyzed after a riding accident.  His wife, Dana Reeve, wrote that within three weeks of the accident, the local post office had processed over 35,000 pieces of mail for him from all over the world, some of which were simply addressed to "Superman, USA."  It's also an interesting approach to the writerly problem of bringing conflict and drama to a world one has created in one's head--a necessity to good fiction that requires torturing one's characters.
 
Incidentally: you can read about the Christopher Reeve paralysis foundation here.  Read the diary of director of the  the Iraqi National Spinal Chord Injury Center, which was almost destroyed twice in the war, here. The center is being rebuilt with help from the American Friends Service Committee. You can also read about organizations that support wonded soldiers and their familes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.


 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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