I had never heard of Russ Kick until I read a NY Times Book Review of his edited work, The Graphic Canon Volume 1 ( there are 3 volumes; 2 have been published and one is due in April). Probably, I would not have noticed the review had I not become a Shimerian myself this year. And yet, as soon as I read it, the question of Kick's Shimerishness came to mind. I was startled to find that the graphic canon was not an attempt to identify, select and canonize extant graphic novels, but rather the creation of works that conjoined the imaginations of wonderful artists with works that, as the review itself notes, almost all appeared on Harold Bloom's list of the "Western Canon." (For Bloom's book, click here. For his list, try here.) While not identical to humanities lists taught at great books colleges, and certainly not identical to Shimer's curriculum, still, there seemed to be something sympatico here. Somehow, the review made evident that what some see as oxymoronic -- the notion of graphic (novels ) and of the (western) canon conjoined -- was, well, not contradictory at all. In fact, the two might belong together in some important way.
At first glance, though, the answer to today's question is obvious. No. Russ Kick neither attended nor graduated from Shimer College. And yet, the question remains. As I explored, I continued to believe I had to ask: Is Russ Kick a Shimerian? He has a tumblr. He tweets (where he says he is "avante garde old school." [Does that persuade you?]) Heck, there is an extensive wikipedia article about him. (Does that dissuade you?)
What leads me to ask the question in this, Shimer-related part of the blogosphere are the following main points:
1. First and foremost, of course, is the list of works contained in the 3 volumes of the Graphic Canon. That is what attracted my attention in the first place. It seemed like such a Shimerish list. It includes such figure as: Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, various Brontes and much much more.
Why else? Because I find myself drawn to certain aspects of popular culture that re-represent similarly canonical figures (most especially, in my case, Freud or others appearing in murder mysteries, usually more social scientific in some ways, but still), I felt somehow validated seeing the review. (For Freud in popular culture, see everywhere around you, or click here for a related paper.) See, I thought to myself, there are good connections -- and a wide(r) readership than we sometimes think for such works, and thus a wider set of Shimerians or friends thereof. Hurrah!
(Or, is this an unfounded belief, confirmed a bit like that well known phenomenon where, if you buy a redf car, you somehow start to see red cars everywhere?)
2. As I explored beyond the confines of the graphic canon, I discovered, of course, that there is a lot more to know about Kick. He is best known, probably, for his work at a web site (now definct) called The Memory Work. And, thus, for his political work on the left. Among the things he has done, which I knew but did not know: he was in part responsible for reintroducing us all to visual depictions of war dead. The presence of war dead in news casts of my youth mattered to me; in some ways they defined me. Their reintroduction, controversy and all, seems to me important.
Here, as well as in his association with something called the Disinformation Company, Kick seems to be pressing on the notion of what counts as "open" -- a term which is used a lot around Shimer, and so this too made me wonder about his Shimerishness. While this particular version may be a tad (seriously) to one side of whatever political spectrum you believe defines our era, it is still, perhaps, part of the great conversation that is democracy.
3. And then there are his other books. With titles focusing on things we are not supposed to know as well as anthologies around major topics like death (not to mention the canon itself), Kick seems, here as well, to push on opennesses door.
Yet, most crucially, there is the graphic canon. Here are a few of his words in that regard: -- yes, you have to click -- the link is to his related blog site.
Here he is, probably long excoriated by many proponents of the "Western Canon" not to mention many oponents of the "wester Canon" -- creating new ways into those same texts for new generations and new people. Kick may be a walking -- and certainly a writing -- paradox. I admit -- I find some of his writings deeply troubling; deeply deeply troubling. I do not know what to make of him. I do, though, like thr graphic canon. Thought provoking -- totally. Of course, I should note the publisher, and it is Seven Stories Press.
Of course, this is all about the meta-question: what exactly counts as Shimerian anyway? But it is also about the grsphic canon -- which reminds us that many many people out there are reading away in new ways and encountering books we'd like to discuss with them. The fact that Kick was once associated with a blog called Books Are People too, perhaps, says it all. Or does it?