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Artist Gary Panter talks about his favorite books.

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. For this issue I interviewed Gary Panter, who has had a big influence on comics, painting, set design, graphic design and other media. His comics include Jimbo, and the Dal Tokyo comic strip. He was also one of 15 comics artists featured in the recent Masters of American Comics exhibition. I asked him about some of his favorite books. Also for this issue, I interviewed comics artist Dean Trippe, who shows that the superhero genre isn’t as limited as some might think. He also gives some good reading tips.

See Gary Panter’s website at www.garypanter.com.

READERSVOICE.COM: On the blog on your website you had a couple of lists of interesting books you were planning on reading. I was wondering how you find out about books like these, maybe giving a couple of examples.

GARY PANTER: I read all those books. Books with footnotes lead to many other books. And also I look at the people who write blurbs for writers I like, and read their books.
For example, my wife gave me Mulligan Stew by Gilbert Sorrentino. I loved it and it was a bit of an homage to Flann O’Brien whom I love.

The cover blurbs were by Robert Coover. So I read The Public Burning and loved it. Coover’s book had a blurb by William Gass on the back so I read The Tunnel –fantastic.

Then I figured I might as well jump into Gaddis since I was reading all these experimental novelists from the 70s. [William Gaddis, author of novels like JR; Carpenter’s Gothic; The Recognitions; and A Frolic of His Own].

RV: Which books on the lists did you particularly enjoy and can you say a bit about why you liked them?

GP: I liked them all. At Swim Two Birds — Flann O’Brien. I almost died laughing reading this. Contrasting beautiful and stupid writing.

The Divine Comedy — Dante. A study in itself, and referred to in so many other books and useful to personal psychology.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle — Francis Beaumont, 1607- early English comedy-experimental deconstructionist prototype.

RV: Could you give a bit of a general history of your reading from maybe your teenage years on; were there particular tributaries of books you followed, or phases you recall?

GP: I was crazy about dinosaurs and art and robots and forced to read the Bible, in childhood. I didn’t really read until the 4th grade. I sat in the car and taught myself to read on the OZ books of Baum. Read Swift, Poe and Twain.
At 12 I decided it was time to read an adult book and so I checked out Fowles — The Magus, because it had a minotaur on the cover and I was into Picasso heavily by then.
In college read everything by Phil Dick, J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Anthony Burgess, Gravity’s Rainbow by Pynchon and not much else.

RV: Could you recommend some of your favorite books of all time, and maybe say why you liked them?

GP: Through the Looking Glass — Lewis Carroll — my first favorite book!!!!!

Tristram Shandy — Laurence Sterne – experimental novel -funny – loves language.

Finnegans Wake — James Joyce – experimental novel – loves language.

Gargantua and Pantagruel –Rabelais – experimental proto-novel – loves language.

The Mechanical Operation of the Spirit— Swift – encoded experimental operation.

Mason and Dixon –– Thomas Pynchon – great and silly.

The Unlimited Dream Company — J.G. Ballard – amazing and moving.

The Zap Gun –– Philip K. Dick – simple and amazing and moving.

The plays of Ben Jonson and Molliere.
RV: What kind of ratio of time do you spend on reading compared to creating art, like Jimbo, and Dal Tokyo?

GP: I read 1 to 20 pages a day. I make art many hours.

RV: Can you describe your daily routine in Brooklyn?

GP: Get up at 7:30 in the morning — feed cats, drive daughter to school, read the NY Times and drink chocolate milk. Do chores and tasks and try to get time to make art. Make art. Take naps. Before each 5 minute nap I read a page or two. Right now I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s Against the Day. Make art. Go to sleep at 3:00 in the morning.

RV: What books or other projects do you have planned?

GP: In 2007 Fantagraphics books will publish a collection of my Dal Tokyo comic strips, which I have been drawing for 10 years for Riddim magazine in Japan.

Overheat records (Tokyo) is about to release my early 80s lp album Pray for Smurph on CD.

I am working on new music with my friend Devin Flynn.

In 2008 a giant (650 pp.) 2 volume book on my paintings will come out from Picturebox Press. This will be about the coolest thing ever, from my corner.

Joshua White and I are planning a light show for the Rhode Island School of Design for this year.

My new New York gallery is Clementine and I will show there in early 2008.