Today, at 92 the artist/writer is still spry, productive and creative. Currently we are blessed with a new book (actually, two books in one): On the One Hand: The Art & Graphic Stories of R.O. Blechman and On the Other Hand: The Writing of R.O Blechman Published & Unpublished (Fantagraphics). It is a treat for its wit, insight and intelligence.
Stephen Heller interviews R. O. Blechman about his newest book of art and prose.
The idea for the turn-around book came from Gary Groth of Fantagraphics Books. He had seen that unusual format in a French book and thought that it would be an interesting form for Fantagraphics. Since I write and draw, he asked me to work on it.
Do you consider your strips to be fiction, observation, commentary or critique?
I’m glad you ask what might be a lame question (which makes me feel good about what may be—probably are—lame answers). Do I consider my strips to be “fiction, observation, commentary or critique?” Simple answer: All of the preceding. But maybe, by nature, they all are connected. “Fiction is fact distilled into truth,” Edward Albee claimed. Emily Dickinson might have agreed. “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant. Success in circuit lies.” The indirect approach … isn’t that what all true art is? The creator can’t avoid revealing himself/herself, even unintentionally.
… Do you agree, and if so, what is the reason?
I have to say that with the answers to your questions I was tempted to be more self-revealing about my life, but then I remembered what Joseph Conrad once cautioned: “Never confess anything about yourself in writing.” That sounds like good advice, although it does make for a less interesting text. So, you can do some embroidering on your own.
The illustrated interview with R. O. Blechman will not only whet your appetite for more Blechman art, but, if you haven’t read his prose, the witty answers will almost force you to get the book for the other half of R.O.’s talent.