I was driving home on Sunday evening, listening to CBC radio, eagerly anticipating Writers & Company with Eleanor Wachtel—the one radio program I listen to every week without fail.
When the announcer said the upcoming interview would feature Chris Ware, comic book artist, I thought to myself, “I don’t read comic books (or, as the more literary ones are now known as, graphic novels). This week’s episode won’t interest me.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This interview stretched my mind to the limit. It absorbed and delighted me. I listened to it three times, trying to understand some of Ware’s more difficult concepts about creating comic book artwork, and how reading a book that is mostly pictures differs both from reading text and from looking at art that is purely visual.
This conversation between Chris Ware and Eleanor Wachtel was so rich, and so wide-ranging in the topics covered (in addition to artistic topics) that I don’t want to attempt to cover it in this brief blog article. (Please listen to it here!)
I’m just picking one gem that I’d like to share, and it’s from a part of the program (about 20 minutes in) when Ware is talking about his maternal grandmother, “one of the more amazing people I’ve ever met.” He relates how he spent a lot of time with his grandmother when he was in his teens. She was a wonderful storyteller. He describes this with great eloquence). Also, “. . . she made me happy, and she made other people happy . . . she listened . . .”
For me the core of this section about his grandmother comes with Ware’s statement, “I always felt more like myself when I was with her . . . . People ask, ‘What is love? How do you define love?’ . . . That’s love . . . when you feel more like yourself when you’re with somebody else than when you’re not around them.” (emphasis mine)
This idea, I understood. It struck me as being profound and true. When you’re with someone who loves you, it’s comfortable and warm, there’s no need for the effort of artifice. We feel good when someone else recognizes and understands what we know to be the truest and deepest parts of ourselves: our values, what we love, what we’re concerned about, how we express ourselves.
It’s more than that, too. A person who loves us sees our best self as well as our flaws. They accept our flaws but they encourage us to develop and express our best self. They want us to achieve our greatest potential. They don’t want to hold us back because of their own ego problems or weaknesses; they don’t try to manipulate us to gratify their own needs.
Sometimes, with this kind of love, we can feel our spirit meeting with the spirit of another. This can happen with a romantic lover or with a close friend. It’s hard to describe. It feels outside of time and beyond the limits of our physical world and our physical bodies.
I encourage all my readers to listen to the full podcast. I was reminded last Sunday of two important reasons why I love Writers and Company so much:
- Often by paying attention to something or someone outside of what we think is our area of interest and expertise, we leap—we discover—we stretch our minds, and this is wonderful!
- I am virtually always blown away by the interviewees on Writers and Company. They are geniuses: talented writers with a great variety of life experiences. They express themselves with eloquence (and often with hypnotic, compelling voices, too), and they are in the hands of Eleanor Wachtel, a consummate interviewer who is always highly prepared for and engaged with her guests.
Now I’m off to read my first graphic novel: Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, by Chris Ware.