Talk about a low-pressure caricature–it’s a guy you’d never recognize! This here is O Henry, consummate writer of short stories who produced his best-loved tales while based in New York City. One of my favorites is “The Making of a New Yorker,” because, despite being over a century old, it perfectly describes the characteristics that define New Yorkers to this day: superficially inscrutable and selfish, but interconnected at heart. Don’t let me spoil it for you; give it a read!
I’ve been delving back into O Henry because I think I want to explore his themes within my newly ambitious graphic novel. I don’t think I have O Henry’s chops, but I’ve lived in New York for six years and have thought about a lot of the same issues. I’ve been lonely sometimes, and sometimes felt joy in being alone. I’ve felt alien, and I’ve felt at home. It’s only recently that I’ve made friends, and even those who are native New Yorkers feel the dichotomy, and are alternately thrilled and jaded by it.
There’s nothing like living in a city dense with strangers, packed tightly enough to look hundreds of people in the eye each day, and therefore making a special effort to avoid it. In California, your car is your shell. In New York, all you can do is avoid acknowledgment and hope for the best. But it doesn’t work nearly as well. It’s no use. You’re surrounded. You don’t have a literal shell of glass and steel, so when it matters most, as in O Henry’s story, the shell dissipates, and you find yourself making connections in spite of yourself–in spite of the joyful anonymity that brought you to the big city in the first place.
Think I can possibly make a comic about that? In 8 weeks? Where’s Kerkel?