Panel Mania: ‘The Illuminati Ball’

Best known for lavish and immersive theater productions, Cynthia von Buhler also works in the comics medium, creating graphic works that explore her fascination with secret societies, sensuality, power, and the hunger for freedom.
While she’s most widely known for her paintings, illustration work, sculpture, and writing—she’s the author of children’s books, graphic novels, and plays—von Buhler’s also praised for her imaginative events; she’s the producer of The Illuminati Ball: An Immersive Excursion, slated to be held a “secret temple” in New York City on New Year’s Eve.


This 13-page excerpt from The Illuminati Ball, a graphic novel tie-in to the theater event, introduces readers to a world of lavish fantasy and to the 18th-century roots of the Illuminati Ball. The graphic novel is out now from Titan Comics.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly and also appeared on publishersweekly.com.

Trippingly on the Tongue: Featured Poetry by Maurice Manning

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem by Maurice Manning’s new collection, Railsplitter. Written in the persona of Abraham Lincoln, the poems are by turns lively, contemplative, and pungent—swollen with lament and anger. Lincoln, taken down in a theater, returns to the stage and the shooter often in these poems. He liked Shakespeare’s tragedies best, and here, among the lines and lore of Hamlet, we feel his struggle toward ghostly moderation: “gestures must not be over done, or else / Chaos will upend the unity desired.”

Aside. Wormwood, wormwood.
Trippingly on the tongue, so Hamlet says,How lines must be delivered from the stage,Especially when passion must be tempered,
And gestures must not be over done, or elseChaos will upend the unity desired.The groundlings, claims this son, are capableOf nothing but dumb-shows and noise, nicelyReaching beyond the stage to pander and pun,
Which makes one wonder how serious is thisEntreaty, then, to hold the mirror up toNature? In the play within the play, a mouse-Trap catches a king unnaturally.
To be or not to be, was never my pick.O my offence is rank, is the better speech—
Heaven is how high it smells, the offence—Enlivened language for murder, ironically.Low act, but elevated thought, to playLightly a scene of wretchedness and folly.

Copyright 2019 Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved. Posted here with permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Everything Here Is a Test: Featured Poetry by Paige Lewis

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from Space Struck, a deft, entertaining debut by Paige Lewis. Lewis is a poet of surprise, but never mere novelty: behind play or pun, there remains transcendence. In this great second-person piece, the narrator gives instructions on how to leave that place of permanent stasis. “Lift your arms toward / the sky and receive nothing.” The poem loops and spins, perhaps, forever.

“So You Want to Leave Purgatory” 

Here, take this knife. Walk down the road until you come across 
a red calf in its pasture. It will run toward you with a rope tied 
around its neck. Climb over the fence. Hold the rope like a leash. 
You haven’t eaten in years. Think— are you being tested? Yes, everything 
here is a test. Stop baring teeth upon teeth and leave the calf 
to its grazing. Lift your arms toward the sky and receive nothing. Keep 
walking and think about the rope around that calf’s neck. Consider 
how fast its throat will be choked by its own growing. Walk until you 
understand what the knife was for. Now forget it. Here, take this knife. 

Copyright 2019 Sarabande Books/Paige Lewis. All rights reserved. Posted here with permission of Sarabande Books. 

Panel Mania: ‘Glenn Ganges in: The River at Night’

Kevin Huizenga’s new graphic novel, The River at Night, is a return to the loopy hall of mirrors inside the head of Glenn Ganges, the author’s irresistibly ordinary fictional dude and guide to the cerebral wonders of the drifting human mind.
As Ganges and his wife Wendy (a perpetually overworked freelance illustrator) go about their daily lives, Ganges’s ambient mind and goofy-smart interests combine to take readers on elaborate journeys through human consciousness in stories that delight in pushing the formal visual structures of the comics medium.
In this 12-page excerpt, Ganges, unable to sleep, rummages through his bookshelves looking for a book about a deep intellectual topic with unreadable text that will put him to sleep.
Glenn Ganges in: The River at Night by Kevin Huizenga will be published by Drawn and Quarterly in October.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly and also appeared on publishersweekly.com.

Panel Mania: ‘Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass’

Eisner Award- and Caldecott Honor-winning comics writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Steve Pugh collaborate on Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, a new graphic novel about the teen years of Harleen Quinzel—better known as Harley Quinn—as she wanders the hallways of Gotham City High School.
In this 12-page excerpt, Harleen arrives in Gotham, broke, on a bus from a small town, and is taken in by a welcoming community of drag queens. Eventually she meets two people—teenage activist Poison Ivy and later, of course, the violent and anarchic young Joker—who will contribute to her transformation into the complex superhero she is destined to become.
Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is available now from DC.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly and also appeared on publishersweekly.com.

Panel Mania: ‘Pittsburgh’ by Frank Santoro

Frank Santoro’s Pittsburgh is an imaginatively rendered graphic memoir that memorializes the lives of the author’s parents and their marriage in 1960s Pittsburgh in an effort to make sense of their breakup.
Beautifully illustrated in a style all its own, Pittsburgh is an irresistible, almost ethereal, family epic, and a vivid tribute to the city and its people and neighborhoods.
In this 12-page excerpt, Santoro introduces the reader to his parents and his grandparents in a segment of the book set in Pittsburgh in 1968.
Pittsburgh is available now from New York Review Comics.

This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly and also appeared on publishersweekly.com.

We Were Born in a World with Predators: Featured Poetry by Rose McLarney

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from Forage by Rose McLarney. Her poems always make me want to linger. If poetry, as an art, slows us down, then McLarney’s poems slow us and sink us and rejuvenate our sense of the surrounding world.

McLarney’s poems are so tactile; here we follow the narrator’s hands into the cold chicken, feel the “warmth of eggs / in the time when we / collected them fresh.” These moments of touch allow McLarney to widen her scope with the shift of a line—so that her abstractions feel as tangible as lemons and herbs.

After Hearing of His Passing
I kept sliding lemon under the skinand herbs into the openingsof a chicken, its cold countering
the recalled warmth of eggsin the time when wecollected them fresh
from beneath hens. Our hands,feather-brushed, found waysto come near one another.
We took the birds’ eggs. We tooktheir lives too, if raccoons didn’tfirst, eating the craw full of grain
only and leaving the bodyto waste, as the whole of himdoes now that he’s dead young.
Most waste I can avoid (I’d save hearts,sauté livers, when we slaughtered).But not the truth that I have handled
his body, intimately, and other beings’entrails. And I still make meals.We were born in a world with predators.
We have lived, from the beginning,knowing how we were created,sharp-toothed and hungry.
But not who would have the pleasureof feeding, when one would feel the painof prey. I will serve another chicken,
and I may say its cooked skin is golden,a kind of exaltation. And the sorrowwill be biting. And birds will keep surviving.
Scavenging insects and flesh from the sickof their flocks, seeds from sunflowersand blossoms from rose bushes in reach.
I kept sliding lemon under the skinand herbs into the openingsof a chicken, its cold countering
the recalled warmth of eggsin the time when wecollected them fresh
from beneath hens. Our hands,feather-brushed, found waysto come near one another.
We took the birds’ eggs. We tooktheir lives too, if raccoons didn’tfirst, eating the craw full of grain
only and leaving the bodyto waste, as the whole of himdoes now that he’s dead young.
Most waste I can avoid (I’d save hearts,sauté livers, when we slaughtered).But not the truth that I have handled
his body, intimately, and other beings’entrails. And I still make meals.We were born in a world with predators.
We have lived, from the beginning,knowing how we were created,sharp-toothed and hungry.
But not who would have the pleasureof feeding, when one would feel the painof prey. I will serve another chicken,
and I may say its cooked skin is golden,a kind of exaltation. And the sorrowwill be biting. And birds will keep surviving.
Scavenging insects and flesh from the sickof their flocks, seeds from sunflowersand blossoms from rose bushes in reach.

From Forage by Rose McLarney, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Rose McLarney. Previously published in the Birmingham Poetry Review.

‘Cantoras’: Featured Fiction from Carolina De Robertis

In our latest edition of featured fiction—curated by our own Carolyn Quimby—we present an excerpt from Carolina De Robertis’s new novel, Cantoras, out today from Knopf.

In it’s starred review, Kirkus raved: “Rich and luscious, De Robertis’ writing feels like a living thing, lapping over the reader like the ocean. Carefully crafted and expertly observed, each sentence is an elegant gift…A stunning novel about queer love, womanhood, and personal and political revolution.”

And here’s what our own Kaulie Lewis had to say about the book in the Second Half Preview:
In 1977 Uruguay, a military dictatorship crushes dissent and punishes homosexuality, but five queer women manage to find each other and a village on the beach where they’re safe and free, if only for a week at a time. The five call themselves cantoras, women who sing, and for the next three decades their friendships, beach-side refuge, and cantoras identities help the women find the strength to live openly and defiantly, to revolutionary effect.
1
Escape
The first time—which would become legend among them—they entered in darkness. Night enfolded the sand dunes. Stars clamored around a meager slice of moon.

They would find nothing in Cabo Polonio, the cart driver said: no electricity, and no running water. The cart driver lived in a nearby village but made that trip twice a week to supply the little grocery store that served the lighthouse keeper and a few scattered fishermen. There was no road in; you had to know your way. It was lonely out there, he remarked, glancing at them sideways, smiling to bare his remaining teeth, hinting, though he stopped short of asking any questions about what they were doing, why they were traveling to this of all places, just the five of them, without a man, and it was just as well, as they wouldn’t have had a decent answer. The trees gradually receded, but clumps of brush still reared their tousled heads from the smooth slopes as if just being born. The horse-drawn carriage moved slowly, methodically, creaking with the weight of them, hoofs muffled in the loose sand. They were stunned by the sand dunes, the vast life of them. Each traveler became lost in her own thoughts. Their five-hour bus ride down the highway already seemed a distant memory, dislodged from this place, like a dream from which they’d now awakened. The dunes rippled out around them, a spare landscape, the landscape of another planet, as if in leaving Montevideo they’d also managed to leave Earth, like that rocket that some years ago had taken men to the moon, only they were not men, and this was not the moon, it was something else, they were something else, uncharted by astronomers. The lighthouse rose before them, with its slowly circling light. They approached the cape along a beach, the ocean to their right, shimmering in the dark, in constant conversation with the sand. The cart passed a few small, box-like huts, fishermen’s huts, black against the black sky. They descended from the cart, paid the driver, and carried their packs stuffed with food and clothes and blankets as they wandered around, staring into the night. The ocean surrounded them on three sides of this cape, this almost-island, a thumb extending off the hand of the known world. At last they found the right place, or the closest thing to it, an abandoned house that could act as windbreak for their camp. It was half-built, with walls only partially constructed and no roof. Four unfinished walls and open sky. Inside, there was plenty of space for them; it would have been an ample house if it hadn’t been left to be eaten by the elements. After they set up their things, they went outside and built a fire. A breeze rose. It cooled their skin as whisky warmed it, flask moving from hand to hand. Cheese sandwiches and salami for dinner around the campfire. The thrill of lighting the wood, keeping it burning. Laughter spiked their conversation, and when it lulled, the silence had a glow to it, crackled by flames. They were happy. They were not used to being happy. The strange feeling kept them up too late together, giddy with victory and amazement. They had done it. They were out. They had shed the city like a hazardous garment and come to the edge of the world.

Finally they drifted to their blanket piles and slept to the gentle pulse of waves.

But deep in the night, Paz startled awake. The sky glittered. The moon was low, about to set. The ocean filled her ears and she took it as an invitation, impossible to resist. She slid out of her covers and walked down over the rocks, toward the shore. The ocean roared like a hunger, reaching for her feet.

She was the youngest in the group, fifteen years old. She’d lived under the dictatorship since she was eleven. She hadn’t known that air could taste like this, so wide, so open. Her body a welcome. Skin awake. The world was more than she had known, even if only for this instant, even if only in this place. She let her lips part and the breeze glided into her mouth, fresh on her tongue, full of stars. How did so much brightness fit in the night sky? How could so much ocean fit inside her? Who was she in this place? Standing on that shore, staring out at the Atlantic, with those women who were not like other women sleeping a few meters away, she felt a sensation so foreign that she almost collapsed under its spell. She felt free.

Excerpted from Cantoras. Copyright © 2019 by Carolina De Robertis. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.

The Space Between Silence & Enough: Featured Poetry by Nick Flynn

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from I Will Destroy You by Nick Flynn. His books are often God-haunted, with doubt and faith giving breath to each other.

Flynn has said that he writes “about Jesus quite a lot, he’s appeared in nearly every book I’ve written, it seems…distilled down to his essence, I think he’s a beautiful figure…he is a scrim for each generation to project upon—he seems the perfect ambiguous image, which forces us to figure out what he means, over and over again.”

The complex identity and legacy of St. Augustine fits that same description, and in this poem, the final in Flynn’s excellent new book, we feel the narrator’s conversation with the past. “Even as I write each word I am farther from God,” he says—a powerful song of longing.

“Saint Augustine”
Saint Augustine preached humility &the need to simply be on the ground.Do you wish to rise? he asked. Whatwould he say of these words then, which,after all, are meant to replace us? Whatwould he say of the way I go back, again& again, to the burning house, the housewe’ve already escaped? These words—so quick, the way they rise up, like sparks,or smoke, a person could get lost in the skywatching them, a person could lose trackof the important things. Spot quiz: What’sthe opposite of standing before a houseon fire, trying to understand the flames,& knowing you will never understand?I want to enter into that moment my motherstrikes her first match, but I’m still asleepupstairs. In the dream I’m walking throughthe marsh, because only there, surroundedby water, am I safe. Are your handsthe water? Are these words the flame?The reeds are taller than I am, the mudslows everything down. In some waysI cannot imagine seeing you again, but hereI am, kneeling as in prayer at your bedside,counting our breaths. What would stop mefrom taking your hand then & placing it on mychest? O Lord, help me be pure, but not yet.Even as I write each word I am farther fromGod—sometimes I just can’t find it. If only I couldhave the faith I hear coming from the radio,the way it always knows I’m listening. One daythese years will be known as the space betweensilence & enough. I still have trouble being alonein either, which is why the radio is always on.Do you wish to rise? Augustine asks. Beginby descending.

“Saint Augustine,” from I Will Destroy You. Copyright © 2019 by Nick Flynn. Reproduced with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

‘The Ventriloquists’: Featured Fiction from E.R. Ramzipoor

In today’s edition of featured fiction—curated by our own Carolyn Quimby—we present an excerpt from E.R. Ramzipoor’s debut novel, The Ventriloquists, out today from Park Row.

In its starred review, Booklist called The Ventriloquists “A compelling historical thriller,” while Publishers Weekly called the book “Sprawling and ambitious, with crisp pacing and fully realized characters.”
2 Years Before
Faux Soir

The Pyromaniac
Let me tell you something about my friend Marc Aubrion. Though I have known many writers who were given to stage fright, Aubrion would have found it difficult to define, let alone to experience, that feeling. It did not matter whether the audi­ence laughed at his jokes, or at him: if they were laughing, they belonged to Marc Aubrion. That is not to say that he wasn’t afraid, in the days of Faux Soir. To be alive was to be afraid. Although not every day of the occupation brought us pain—it is easy to forget that now—unpredictability bred our fear. We were trapped inside an arrhythmic heart, holding each other be­tween tremors. Marc Aubrion was afraid, but he was our bouffon, our jester. When the lights went off, he lit a match with a joke.

As you might imagine, Aubrion’s path to the resistance was fraught with crooks and digressions. Soon after Belgium sur­rendered to the Germans—when good King Leopold took the crumpled wad of our country out of his pocket and handed it over like money for sweets—the Germans issued a summons. Every newspaper editor in the country was to attend a meeting to discuss “the future of their most noble profession.”

Upon their arrival, the editors were escorted to a ballroom and shot.

Paranoid about martyrs, the Nazi High Command ordered the bodies to be cremated behind a courthouse. Aubrion, who had supported his playwriting habit with newspaper articles and theater critiques, was unemployed overnight.

Then the libraries closed, the fruit stands went away, and the caramel wind no longer blew the carnivals in from the east. The Germans boarded up the playhouses and pubs that had hosted Aubrion’s performances; they took the galleries, the museums, the bookshops. Only the smallest, poorest venues escaped their notice.

On the outskirts of the city, one such venue—a third-rate art gallery—was hosting an evening show. This gallery was quite run-down, with an ancient curator who often forgot to charge entry fees. The art was not good, but the ticket stubs and f lat champagne were evidence that people were still making things, people were still alive. Aubrion went often.

Even so, he almost decided not to attend this particular show. Some artist or another had made his debut with a new exhibit: Sketches of a Rough Life, simple drawings of farmers with their livestock and plows. That sort of thing infuriated Aubrion. The Nazis permitted artists to work their trade as long as their pens were dull, their canvases simple and muted. Aubrion despised those pallid stories and drawings so popular during the war. But as I’ve heard it told, he’d just had an article rejected by the new resistance paper La Libre Belgique, and he did not want to be alone with himself. So Aubrion walked to the third-rate gallery.

Although I cannot remember who told me this story, I re­member what they said: Aubrion was standing before a painting as large as his body, an oil-on-canvas temple in a land of geysers and mist. And Aubrion was looking at the painting when the air raid siren began to wail.

How do you imagine an air raid? They are nothing like that. I experienced so many of them I could sleep through the sirens by the war’s end. I witnessed air raids alone, in the company of friends, with strangers. And it was always the same. You see, an encounter with an air raid is like an encounter with God: they are as mysterious, as unknowable. We accepted these encoun­ters with the same grim finality with which people accept the afterlife. We never tried to run, and we never hid; there were no screams. When the siren wailed, I would look up at the ceil­ing or sky, as would everyone else, and I would wait. So it was with Aubrion.

But then it was not the same. If the bomb found him, Au­brion realized, it would find all of them, every piece in the gal­lery. It would find this painting of the temple, these drawings of the farmers, those sketches, those prints. The bomb would find every mistake the artists tried to cloak in thicker, bolder oils; it would find every triumphant stroke of yellow and green. With each siren’s call, Aubrion knew what the Germans were doing—or rather, what they were undoing.

I’d often catch Aubrion staring at the piles of brick and con­crete that had once been buildings. “The Library of Alexan­dria dies here every day,” he’d say. But he did not die that day, nor did the painting of the temple, or the sketches of the farm­ers, or the artists, or the curator. I do not know how Aubrion contacted the Front de l’Indépendance to pledge his service; there were a variety of channels you could use. I only know what the records say: that Marc Aubrion’s service to the FI began a week after that air raid.

The Nazis may have burned the editors’ bodies, but there is more than one kind of martyr. And some things are much harder to burn.

Excerpted from The Ventriloquists @ 2019 by E.R. Ramzipoor, used with permission by Park Row Books/HarperCollins.