The MacArthur Foundation has released its 2014 Fellows list and — whaddya know? — graphic novelist Alison Bechdel has scored a prize for, as the org. puts it, “redefining” the memoir.
Bechdel has written a couple of graphic memoirs entitled Fun Home and Are You My Mother? She became known a few years ago for her strip Dykes to Watch Out For.
I’ve hammered on this before and I’ll continue to do so: You have to get into graphic novels. They’re not just superheroes and Watchmen or fantasy cosplay stuff. The first GN I ever read was J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary. Trust me when I say it was ten times more compelling and informative than any other conventional biography of one of this holy land’s most evil 20th Century villains.
Large swaths of Bechdel’s story lines concern her struggles as a starving artist. Scoring the Mac. Fellowship happily ought to ease the money crunch for her for a while at least.
The Fndn. also tossed kudos and scratch in the direction of labor activist Ai-jen Poo, who has been a lifelong labor organizer for domestic workers. She co-founded Domestic Workers United and then moved on to executively direct the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Her groups have been instrumental in getting domestic workers’ protection laws passed in numerous states.
Ai-jen Poo (L) & Alison Bechdel
The annual Fellowships are known popularly as the MacArthur Genius Grants. The Foundation awards the grants to selected US citizens who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work.” The grants, now standing at $625,000 to each awardee, are designed to allow artists, thinkers, and activists a very comfortable five-year window to create, think, and be active w/o worrying about next month’s rent.
Past winners include:
- Stephen Jay Gould paleontologist
- Robert Penn Warren poet & author
- Cormac McCarthy author
- Elaine Pagels historian
- John Sayles filmmaker
- Harold Bloom literary critic & humanities professor
- Merce Cunningham choreographer
- Marian Wright Edelman children’s actvist
- James (The Amazing) Randi illusionist & educator
- Thomas Pynchon author
- Max Roach jazz drummer
- Erroll Morris documentary filmmaker
- Susan Sontag author
- Taylor Branch historian
- Twyla Tharp dancer
- Ornette Coleman jazz musician & composer
- Adrienne Rich poet
- Cindy Sherman photographer
- Anna Deavere Smith playwright & actor
- David Foster Wallace author
- Katherine Boo journalist
- Lydia Davis poet
- Alex Ross music critic
- Edwidge Danticat author
- Junot Diaz author
- Karen Russell author
Altogether, there’ve been nearly 1000 MacArthur Fellowship winners with a total take of some $375 million. Money, my friends, that’s been well-spent.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the place — but the Art Institute of Chicago is the world’s greatest museum?
Has the Louvre been closed down? Any and all of the Smithsonian facilities?
Oh, That Little Thing?
I guess we know where the Indy Star stands on that mini-controversy brewing in Liberty, Indiana.
Liberty is the home of Whitewater State Park where a privately-funded memorial to deceased military veterans stands. The memorial, an eight-foot tall, chainsaw-carved eagle perched on a stump also has a white cross at its base. A couple of humanist groups are making noises about suing the state for displaying a religious symbol. The Center for Inquiry and the Freedom from Religion Foundation both have sent letters to Gov. Mike Pence, objecting to the cross.
Even though private citizens and veterans groups paid for the sculpture, the fact that it stands on public grounds strikes certain folk as a subtle endorsement of the cross religion by the state. The Guv, meanwhile, has harrumphed, “The freedom of religion does not require freedom from religion.”
In an example of how everybody from corporate media types to lowly, humble bloggers can color an argument with subtle wordage, the Indy Star this morning headlined its online piece on the controversy thusly:
Tiny Indiana cross draws lawsuit threat from 2nd secular group
The cross, see, is tiny. Hardly worth getting all het up over. The implication, natch, is that these “secularists” are nit-picky pains in the ass.
And you know what? The Indy Star is right. Humanists (or, if you prefer, secularists) are indeed nit-picky pains in the ass. If you believe, as I do, in an inviolate wall between church and state, then any cross or Star of David or the star and crescent, no matter how big or small, is an affront when it’s on public property.
Here’s my humanist line: You’re free to worship anybody or anything you’d like. Only don’t expect me to pay for it through my tax dollars. And don’t go erecting even 14-inch tall crosses in my state park, especially when it’s doubtful you’d ever — ever — erect a plaque bearing the Takbīr there.