Friday, 14 August 2015

Jeff Seiler: Dave Sim & Me

Eleven years ago, when Cerebus ended, Dave Sim decided to answer all of his back mail. A month or so later, he had his "Jeff Seiler Day" in which he answered multiple letters I had written over the previous year. After I received that letter, I decided to keep writing, and he kept his promise to answer every letter he received. And now, I have a foot-high stack of letters written and received over 10 years or so. I will be posting full paragraphs or pages of interesting excerpts from those letters every Saturday.

From a letter dated 13 November, 2004, from Dave to me:
Thanks for the clipping from The Dallas Morning News. Yes, that was a strange one. She just phoned out of a clear, blue sky, told me she was a Cerebus reader and she wanted to write about Cerebus coming to an end and wondered if I would do an interview. It was such an unusual request that I said, sure, fire away. I answered her questions for about forty minutes or so and then the last two questions were about my views on feminism and my religious beliefs. Which is usually a bad sign. It usually means that they're just softening you up and then they want the quote that they want for the smear piece. So I was pleasantly surprised that that wasn't the case. The quotes certainly don't sound like me, but that doesn't mean they aren't accurate. When all you're doing is pulling three sentences out of forty minutes of conversation, "out of context" is pretty much a given. I was particularly surprised that there is absolutely no reference to anti-feminism, apart from the description of parts of the book containing anti-feminist treatises. I have no idea what the motivation might've been behind the piece being done or how the editor could've authorized it -- presumably it was old news in any newspaper frame of reference -- but it was definitely a "one-off" so it didn't bear with thinking about. Yeah, the charity thing doesn't get mentioned much because it just doesn’t fit the profile of raving, lunatic misogynist. People who go insane aren't usually big contributors to charities, so that part usually just gets edited out while they're creating their version of Dave Sim. The recurrent motif is "the edge of madness", "the brink of madness", I suspect to avoid possible libel actions. I've been considering spreading the word that I have no intention of ever suing anyone for libel as a matter of principle so that all the folks who have been holding back can really let fly. It seems to comfort them.


Dave Kopperman said...

Jeff - these excerpts are great, but would it kill you to include the things that Dave is writing about once in a while?

Jeff Seiler said...

Dave, thanks for asking. I had just assumed that no one would be interested in what I had to say. I don't have a copy of that DMN article, but you could find it easily enough at their website.

If I get some similar feedback, I'll include the parts of my letters that Dave responds to in the next batch I send Tim, in about a month or so.

Dave Kopperman said...

It wouldn't be an issue, except for the fact that each of the excerpts features Dave responding not only to your unseen letter, but also to a third document or cultural artifact. Absent the context of either, Dave's excerpts lose their heft - and if the goal is to share Dave's insights (a worthy goal), it's also necessary to include at least the gist of the originals.

Bill Ritter said...

I'll agree with Mr. Kopperman. With most of these, having some stronger context would make Dave's response fuller; in the case of the posting this comment is attached, the lack of context does some disservice to the paragraph and message.

Feedback aside, Jeff, I do enjoy these posts and your sharing the notes. I do appreciate your taking the time and willingness to do these. Ultimately, do them how you wish them's your post, your experience.

Jeff Seiler said...

Bill and Dave--When Dave asked me to start doing this, I was somewhat taken aback. And then, after experimenting (which Dave freely admits is what we're doing) with Twitter and finding out that it is REALLY not the format for these excerpts, I moved over here.

This format will support long posts, so I can start including contextual info.

Unfortunately, it took a while after Dave and I started corresponding regularly for me to realize that I should make a copy of everything before I mailed it.

So, having decided to post these excerpts chronologically, I'm afraid I am subjecting you guys (and, by the way, me) to having to fill in the lines between sentences. It is a bit disconcerting to pull an eleven-year-old letter out and read a reference to something and have fuck-all idea as to what it refers to.

And, on top of that, in these "early" letters, Dave had not yet started to indicate to what he was referring.

It does get better. Trust me.

Thanks, guys.