Katy Rex writes,
Jane Bowles holds such a unique place in the cultural canon.
Poll a hundred people, and maybe two will have heard of her. Of those two, though, it’s almost a sure thing that they will both gush and rave over her. These two could include, for instance, Editor in Chief of Bleeding Cool, Hannah Means-Shannon, a self-professed Jane Bowles fan. The Kickstarter biography of Jane’s life contains an essay by Lauren Spohrer (founder of Two Serious Ladies Magazine) in which she attempts to describe the unique fandom: “one of the greatest things about her is how few people have written about her. It’s not that I want to keep her to myself, or that I’m shunning literary criticism, but when it comes to Jane Bowles I just don’t want to hear it.” Her fan club may be small, but we are mighty.
As conflicted as Lauren is about “hearing it,” this graphic novel about Jane will only be the second biography of her to exist. She features in side-stories and tangents when people write about her friends Truman Capote, Salvador Dali, or William S. Burroughs, and her friends were more than complimentary about her work. Tennessee Williams said she was “the most underrated writer of fiction in American literature,” but despite his words and even financial patronage she died in relative obscurity.
Her lack of popularity has a few causes. It’s a fair guess to say it has something to do with the fact she’s a woman, and she’s a lesbian, and she wrote about lesbians—critics of her era were concerned her works were “perverse.” But her works are also low in quantity and can be difficult and unapproachable. That’s where Strange Wit comes in.
Her strange and ascerbic (and occasionally surreal) stories have taken on a new life in comic form. Sequential art and its unique type of literacy is the perfect medium for this. The main story of Strange Wit is, of course, her biography (with art by Tyler Jenkins) which follows her various adventures living in Brooklyn, Mexico City, and Tangier, drinking everything in sight, and seducing the local women. On top of each biographical chapter is an adaptation of one of her short stories, and each short story features a different and distinct artist. This is a huge creative team of rock stars: In addition to the main team, which is Katy Rex (writer), Tyler Jenkins (pencils & inks), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colors), Taylor Esposito (letters & design), and Kirsten Thompson (editor), the short story team is star-studded:
Adam Gorham (Zero, Kill Shakespeare)
Beatrice Penco Sechi (Lady Doll)
Betsy Peterschmidt (Boys with Wings)
Ines Estrada (Ojitos Borrosos, Lapsos)
Joshua Hixson (The Rebel Gun)
June Vigants (Chainmail Bikini, Tales of the Night Watchman)
Ryan Kelly (Lucifer, Local)
Sean Von Gorman (Toe Tag Riot, Pawn Shop)
Ultimately, this book is a lot like Jane herself—unconventional and hard to define. It’s part nonfiction, part fiction, it feels like an anthology but as one cohesive whole. It contains comics and academic essays and Jane’s letters and even a medical illustration by artist Kate Lacour. It’s a multimedia snapshot of Jane in a single book that contains multitudes.
In honor of Jane, the Kickstarter, and boozey writers, if Bleeding Cool readers help this project get to $8,000 (75% of the goal) by Friday, August 28, writer Katy Rex will make a drunk history video telling a story about Jane that won’t make it into the book (bonus material!) while wearing her I’m A Bleeding Cool Exclusive t shirt.
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