Jason Neufeld, Fringe Festival Manager (Brittany May)
Before signing on as manager of the Fringe Festival, Jason Neufeld spent more than 10 years writing and performing at festivals across Canada.
He won the 2005 Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award for The Rise and Fall of Bloody Redemption and had a Fringe hit with Confessions of a Repressed Mennonite in 2003.
Now that he's working behind the scenes, SCENE wanted to know what Neufeld's been reading in his spare time:
Do people lie when they talk about books they recommend in a column like this? Are those books on their shelves just for show, or is that copy of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit actually proof of how well-read they are?
Should I recommend Finnegan's Wake just to sound smart even though I've never read it and have no plans on ever reading it? It wouldn't be hard to Google some insight into Joyce's alleged masterpiece. Or should I just "out" myself?
What I spend most of my time reading these days, is comic books. It's weird, because I was never a comic book nerd growing up. Sure, I read Dan DeCarlo era Archie and newspaper comic strips like Calvin & Hobbes and Bloom County, but I never followed either of the main superhero universes as a kid.
I started reading art comics and graphic novels about 10 years ago and I'm not really sure why. Since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed books by Chris Ware, David Mazzuccelli, Jeff Lemire, and Adrian Tomine, but recently I have found myself reading actual comic books.
Like monthly comic books. I have a pull list at a comic book store and everything. I still don't read anything from the DC or Marvel universe, but there has been an explosion of creator-owned series I am drawn to that live outside of those oppressively regulated mythological worlds.
While I follow about 10 titles or so, a couple are real standouts and deserve special notice. Saga (story by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples) is nothing short of brilliant. Brian K. Vaughan is my favourite comic book writer. In fact, it was his Y: The Last Man series that introduced me to creator-owned comic books.
Saga is quite literally a story about star-crossed lovers--a space opera to end all space operas. I can't recommend it enough.
Another amazing series is The Manhattan Projects (story by Jonathan Hickman, art by Nick Pitarra) which posits an alternate history where the Manhattan Project was a front for much more bizarre experiments and shenanigans.
The characters include beautifully over-the-top fictionalized versions of Einstein and Oppenheimer. It's a series that boasts a simple but provocative tag line: Science. Bad. How can that not be good?
The reason these comic books work (and others like Fatale, The Massive, Mind MGMT, and The Wake) is that they take pulpy comic book premises, and elevate them to something beautiful.
And it's not just the writer who is responsible for a comic book's success; it is the collaboration he or she has with the artist. A great comic book artist takes a good idea and has the ability to make it transcendent. I'm not just being hyperbolic here.
If you haven't read a comic book since you were a teenager, I urge you to pick up the first volume of Saga and if you don't finish it and instantly want to move on to volume 2, I'll eat my hat.
That's not to say that I've given up on books without pictures (check out The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer), just that I have finally given into my inner comic book geek and have embraced a whole new world.
The Winnipeg Fringe Festival runs July 17-28 at various venues.