Thursday, 7 May 2015

F. Stop is not an Aperture

A few years ago I scanned all of Dave Sim's notebooks. He had filled 36 notebooks during the years he created the monthly Cerebus series, covering issues #20 to 300, plus the other side items -- like the Epic stories, posters and prints, convention speeches etc. A total of 3,281 notebook pages detailing his creative process. I never really got the time to study the notebooks when I had them. Just did a quick look, scanned them in and sent them back to Dave as soon as possible. So this regular column is a chance for me to look through those scans and highlight some of the more interesting pages.

We haven't yet seen anything from notebook #24, which covers just issue #225. The cover says there were 100 pages, but only 45 were scanned. There were 41 blank pages and 17 missing pages. While the tag from Dave on the notebook said it was for issue #225, cover date of Dec 1997 and  in the middle of Rick's Story, there are some notes regarding F. Stop and the story in Going Home some 2 years down the road in issue #240.

On page 19 we see the text 'Jaka - Sarah Murphy'. Sarah Murphy and her husband Gerald were friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Murphy's were the basis for Nicole and Dick Diver of Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night.

Notebook 24, page 19
The next line "from youth to senility without manhood in between" is a line about Fitzgerald from a book entitled Scott Fitzgerald by Andrew Turnbull. A bit further down on the same page we see the text "Cerebus, Jaka and Ham -- somehow the chasm leaping from The Naked and The Dead?", which is a 1948 novel by Norman Mailer. The other quote down the bottom - "Learn young about hard work and good manners and you'll be through the whole dirty mess and nicely dead again before you know it." is a quote from a collection of essays, letters, etc by Fitzgerald entitled The Crack-Up published in 1945.

At the top of the next page in the notebook, we get another quote from The Crack-Up: "an idea ran back and forth in his head like a blind man knocking over the solid furniture."

Notebook 24, page 20
The next line "Our fathers died. Suddenly in the night they died and in the morning we knew." Is a line Dave got from The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It appears in issue 241 (and Dave said of the quote "I didn't, by the way, intentionally put that quote in because it worked with the story-this is the first time I noticed how well it works with the story-but because it was easily one of the best of F. Scott Fitzgerald's notebook entries. As I think I wrote in the annotations, I think he was "doing" Hemingway. It certainly reads like very good Hemingway, the earliest meticulously sculpted fragments that Hemingway wrote for the Bill Bird edition of in our time which were later interleaved with the longer (and to me less sculpted) short stories in the later editions of In Our Time." (From Dave Sim Q&A on the Yahoo!Group, May 2004)

The next quote on the page is another Fitzgerald quote - believe it or not - this time from Delphi Complete Works on F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Then he tried the trick they all do - held my paws and tried to balance me on the end of my spine. I never could figure out the point of that one." It comes from a Fitzgerald short story called "Shaggy's Morning".

The rest of the page is Dave rifting on Fitzgerald. Jaka talking to F. Stop? The text continues on the next page.

Notebook 24, page 21
"Zelda the Princess of Sepra"? No, that isn't Jaka. . . interesting that we never really see Zelda in the book except in F. Scott's flashbacks. From these three pages it is apparent that Dave did a lot of research for Going Home.


Jeff Seiler seilerjeff said...

A long time ago, in a letter very dear to me, Dave wrote to me that he was intrigued by my "very distinctive handwriting" (back when we were exchanging hand-written letters).

Now that I see these pages, above, I see, again, that (for whatever reason God ordained), he and I have (had) a remarkably similar handwriting style.

Sadly, neither of us exchange handwritten letters any more.

More's the pity.

PS: Stay tuned for the "Dave Sim and Me" blog to come, wherein I will be posting scans of our letters.

M Kitchen said...

Has it ever been explained why the name is "F. Stop"?

Margaret said...

Mike - Kind of, on page 2 of the Chasing Scott annotations in Going Home, Dave says "The name "F. Stop Kennedy" came to me pretty early in the proceedings - which is to say in late 1997. It tended to elicit a small chuckle from those few confidants I bored senseless with my "Scott-talk". . .By the time the Monica Lewinsky "scandal" was really rolling, it was getting genuine belly laughs (from the men, anyway)." So "F***ing Stop Kennedy?" I thought there was more explanation in the Chasing Scott annotations, but a quick skim doesn't reveal anything else.

crazyyears said...

I just finished reading GOING HOME (for the third time) yesterday, and am now making my way through the copious annotations Mr. Sim was kind enough to include in that volume of Cerebus.
I am struck (as I have been throughout this particular reread of Cerebus) how the impressions the work made on me at the time of my first reading in serial form differ from my impressions of the work upon subsequent re-readings. It is not just that the work rewards rereading (and boy does it!) but that my reactions to the work changes as I age. At fifty years-old perhaps I am better able to appreciate all the subtext within the not-quite love triangle composed of Cerebus, Jaka and F. Stop. I think now GOING HOME has supplanted JAKA'S STORY as my favorite volume, and can not help but wonder if FORM & VOID might do so when I read it next month.
Probably not.

---Michael Hunt