“My mother is a fish” (bonus post)

When people talk about Faulkner these days, they tend to concentrate on societal portrayals, and sometimes forget that he was right up there with the (other) Modernists when it comes to novel and effective experimental narration. (Or else, as some of the GoComics commenters would have it, reduce his style to complaining of unparseably long Proustian sentences.)

AILD, while still very consciously / critically “Southern”, is really fun and funny, and a great demo of taking a then-new technical experimental narrative device, and running with it!


  1. Altho, to be honest, I don’t think Mona is using anything more of it than the title, as she tells us.

    Next strip:

  2. When I read the title, I at first thought this might be a reference to Dave Kellett’s Drive. I have not seen this usage anywhere else, so he may well have coined it, but the main characters refer to automatons as “fish” as in arti-fish-al. I kind of like it and may start using it myself.

    And on a completely different note, what’s up with ComicsKingdom? It let”s me read one comic (with only the minor annoyance of a pop-up to subscribe), but after that, it throws up a screen telling me to subscribe to see anything else. I have tried deleting my cookies, and that works for 2 or 3 days, and then it blocks everything after the first comic, again. I only follow 3 or 4 comics on the site, and since there is also a thumbnail of the comic under a “Print this Comic” banner that can easily be resized on my iPad, it is not a big deal, but is anyone else experiencing this behavior?

  3. guero, the title is a quotation, in full, of one of the chapters in Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying. One of the alternating narrational voices is a boy who has not grasped the concept of death, but did in a previous scene contrast fish swimming in a creek with fish cleaned and cooked and served on a plate. So to grasp the ideas that his mother is dying [she’s the one who is the I of the title] he thinks (on the page) “My mother is a fish”. Boom, new chapter.

    I have not noticed that behavior at CK, but I have given in and gotten a subscription. At GoComics today, I did see a fuss among commenters on auto censorship of comments being recently adjusted and ending up badly set.

  4. Another excellent way to read King Features material is Arcamax. I even switched to read “Mutts” there, after McDonnell’s own website became an unnavigable, mercenary propaganda page.

  5. P.S. Literary experimentation is OK, but it should be conducted upon volunteer adult subjects who are willing to pay for the privilege, and not on captive high school victims who are unable to defend themselves. The only pleasure I ever got from being forced to read “The Sound and the Fury”† was in reviewing a copious set of notes from a seminar that Faulkner had conducted with college students. The showed that many of the literary and orthographic inanities‡ that we had found so confusing were just as troublesome for many other (older) readers.

    P.P.S. † – A “tale told by an idiot… signifying nothing.”

    P.P.P.S. ‡ – Faulkner originally intended to printed each time period in a different color of ink, but the publisher rejected that because of excessive cost. Instead, each temporal change was indicated with a shift between Roman & Italic fonts. Unfortunately, since there are a multiplicity of time periods, and the shifts between them are arbitrary, this means that a time period that appears in Roman type in one passage may be in Italics in the next. Even worse, there were a number of locations where the publisher had neglected to change the font, or had made a font change where none was intended. A long list of errata was included in an appendix to the seminar notes.

  6. Yeah, I use GoComics and Arcamax for the bulk of my comic viewing, but there are 4 that I couldn’t find on either of those. (Used to be 5, but Sherman’s Lagoon moved to GoComics at just about the time this all started… hmmm. I wonder if there is a connection?). I used to use Seattlepi, but pop-ups and deathly slow screen loads drove me away. I didn’t know WaPo even had comics. Anyway, I notice SeattleTimes has comics, although it is still the CK interface. I’ll try it for awhile and see how that works out.

  7. I’ve been using the Seattle Times comics link for non-GoComics titles for many months, but also have bookmarked, for possible emergencies, comics links to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Washingon Times, the Houston Chronicle, and “AzCentral” plus Arcamax

  8. Mitch4, AILD may be fun and funny, but is it readable? I kinda gave up on Faulkner after college,, never could get through those “unparseably long Proustian sentences”.

  9. Well, I thought it was way more readable than Light in August which defeated me several times, or especially his last, The Reivers, which didn’t offer enough to interest me in trying again.

    These days I’m not so profligate of my time and attention to give another try with something I discarded as boring or irritating. But when I was less guarded about that, there were times I tried a book or even movie a few times, and dropped it as unrewarding, but later on if something led me to pick it up again I sometimes breezed right thru it and thought “/Now/ I see what everybody was so excited about.”

    In the case of Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, I had fallen asleep over it and given up a few times. Here the difficulty was not overall length (it’s really short), nor thick prose, but more like “Where is the story, please?”. I think maybe somebody just told me what the story was, and I gobbled it at one (rather brief easy) sitting.

    And my problem with Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was kinda that I couldn’t get a sense of who the characters were. I has tried it back in my “discovering Modernism” phase in high school, and again later after I had read and enjoyed other of her writings — though mostly the nonfiction, or something fun like Orlando, or even To the Lighthouse — the latter was assigned for a class, and the teacher helped us get it, so in fact I did get it, and thought it super. I never made any headway with The Waves and didn’t regret that, and will not be trying it again. But what did the trick for Mrs Dalloway? It was renting the movie!! Now I had a picture of the characters, and could understand what Clarissa (Mrs D) was going on about! I had especially mis-pictured Septimus Smith, whose name, and descriptions of his difficulty walking, made me picture a crusty old man — but the movie showed a depressed young man.

  10. @ Mitch – “there were times I tried a book or even movie a few times, and dropped it … later on … thought Now I see what everybody was so excited about.”

    I had the first half of that experience with “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“. Several people at my college recommended the book so highly that I started it at least twice, maybe three times, but I never got past the first few pages. I could see exactly what kind of humor Adams was shooting for, and I had this strange feeling that if I had read it in high school, I probably would have enjoyed it just as much as I had liked “Bored of the Rings“, but it just didn’t work for me: the “zaniness” seemed too formulaic.

  11. Guero – I have not read anything on Comics Kingdom in a couple to several years when they cut back to maybe a week could be read without paying for it. (Hey, Robert retired about 15 or more years early due to burn out – every “bit” of a coin counts.)

    When they switched to that they also mixed all the comments for all the assorted strips together – though I think they fixed that before I left.

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