It's the first time I've ever tried to draw the same character more than once, so I guess it's not surprising that this short piece reads like a character study. It's actually based on a character in the Peter Martins ballet "A Schubertiad" - a beautiful, lonely man, lost in thought.
I'm anxious to hear your reaction to "Joel", particularly the way it comes through on various browsers. Any web designers are welcome to express their opinions on how its presentation can be improved.
If you know Manhattan, you can trace Joel's walk down Eighth Street into the East Village and to Katz's Deli, with its famous "Send a Salami to Your Boy In the Army" signs. (It rhymes, if you have a New York accent.)
You can begin viewing the series here.
Traditionally, writers start out writing for themselves and their friends; if they're lucky, they achieve a wide audience and start to make money; ultimately, they end up being analyzed to death by academics.
Of course, everything works faster on the Internet, so this site is ALREADY the subject of academic papers, having neatly skipped the part where the writer makes money.
Fortunately, it's been of less interest to literature professors than to high school and college students, who may actually do something with their lives.
B.J. Daniels, who is majoring in Mass Communications Radio/TV at a college in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, chose to analyze Extraordinary for his class in the "Oral Interpretation of Literature."
"Part of the project was to find a short story and read part or all of it in class," B.J. relates in an e-mail. "Then we are suppposed to analyze it. We have 12 different methods by which we can analyze. I have chosen biographical. What I will do is look at your history and possibly try to find some of the events that may have caused you to write the things that you do."
A second paper could probably be written about why B.J. chose the story he did. Extraordinary is about a guy not unlike B.J. - bright, ambitious (and, as it turns out, African-American), living in the provinces and dreaming of a move to New York.
"I strongly feel that I am going to be famous. I have too many dreams to believe that I cannot be!" writes B.J., in a line that could easily have come from the story itself.
Meanwhile, Ryan Murphy, a former Marine and current college student in Ohio, chose In A Lonely Place as the basis for a paper on "Social Exile and Alienation."
The assignment was as follows: "Think about a film, book, story, TV show, or play that you know well and in which a character is blatantly socially alienated. Write a new ending to the text. Make the character either fight back against those who are alienating him/her or have the character come to terms with the alienation and make peace with his/her oppressors."
Ryan plans to bring some of his own military experience to the story's new conclusion by "adding a few scenes of Toby and his war experiences - not action-oriented bombing raids, but something which captures a bit of the human kinship among men who are separated from their loved ones because of war."
This sounds intriguing, and Ryan has promised to send me a copy when he's finished.
"Please mention that I only altered your work in the context of my course assignment," Ryan says. "I'd hate to receive death threats from some fanatically loyal fellow fan for tainting the artistic purity of your stuff."
Finally, Casey Smith, a 17-year-old high school student in Maine, recruited my opinions on writer/cartoonist James Thurber for a paper due in English Composition class.
"I got an A on the final draft and Bs and As on the rough draft," notes Casey.
I love this kind of interaction with readers. It's what being on the Internet is all about!