Saturday

The MacArthur Genius Grants

First of all, the number of cartoonists/graphic novelists who have ever won a MacArthur doubled the other day. Lauren Redniss and Gene Luen Yang joined previous recipients Ben Katchor and Alison Bechdel.

Redniss got this award for work that really stands outside of the comics world. I remember when her book Thunder and Lightning came out last year and I loved this book but I remember coming up again and again against editors who didn't know who she was and weren't interested. Of course her publicist also never replied to my multiple emails... Still reading her work and others, I do see a future path for illustrated books for graphic narratives which try to throw out the language of comics and assemble their own artistic vocabulary. And that's something that I really hope this award and the attention she and her work gets will help push forward.

Yang on the other hand came out of comics, but what might be considered a more traditional route for a lot of artists but his career has really been one that was made possible in the shift in recent years and the emergence of book publishers. He's been published by :01 Books and has been one of the most talented and most important voices they've published from the beginning of the imprint. In the past decade he went from a minor figure in comics to the immense success that he really deserves.

I do wonder what this means going forward. I do hope that the MacArthur Foundation tries to encourage more visual arts and more narrative comics work. It's also notable that by naming Redniss and Yang it shows that do seem to be paying more attention to comics work in its many forms, which can only be a good thing.

Because there are still a number of geniuses in comics that have yet to be recognized. Like Lynda Barry. The MacArthur Foundation may be the only people in this country who don't describe her as a genius. (Yet!) There's also Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Carol Tyler...well, I have a list. They know where I am and should just e-mail me. I'll suggest a few possible names.

The other people who won this year are amazing. Just to read over the people is to blown away by the work that they've done over the years.

My love for poet Claudia Rankine knows few bounds. Her book Citizen is one of the great books of poetry of recent years.

Maggie Nelson is an amazing writer and her book the Argonuats who this incredible work about love and language, relationships, motherhood and the complexity of life in a way that pushes past memoir to that arer space where it becomes as much about herself as it about issues beyond herself.

Sarah Stillman is a nonfiction writer whose New Yorker article Taken from a few years ago about civil asset forfeiture should be required reading for all Americans. She's written a series of great longform pieces.

There's composer Julia Wolfe who's written some incredible music. Josh Kun who's done some great work as a cultural historian. Anne Basting who's an artist and educator whose work with people suffering from dementia has been really amazing. There's Ahilan Arulanantham, whose work as a human rights lawyer has been so important.

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