Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sir Alfred Chez Dargaud

Photo by Yoshiko Yeto

In September of 2017, I received an offer to publish Sir Alfred No. 3 from Thomas Ragon, an editor working for the publisher Dargaud.

A year later, here it is, in stores in France on 9/14.

If you purchase the book at a shop in Paris called Super Héroes, you can sign up to receive an exclusive signed bookplate.

When I was 14, I took French as an elective in junior high school. My teacher was named Madame Field, unrelated to the plural mall cookie magnate. I vaguely remember conjugating three basic verbs and learning about Guy, pronounced the same as Indian clarified butter, who appeared in sample conversations always seeming to have plans to go skiing.

I vaguely remember Madame Field drove a racing green MG, perhaps had a mullet before they were commonplace and often wore jeans tucked into leather boots. If that makes her sound vampy, it is more accurate to say she hopefully had interests outside of teaching a bunch of yokels in the San Fernando Valley.

I enjoyed French enough to want to proceed the next semester. The problem was there were only like 5 other people of the same inclination. Faced with being asked to teach two classes at once in the same classroom, Madame Field instead sent us with our "Son et Sens" textbooks to the library every day. There we were to read through each chapter, complete the study questions and turn them in at the end of the period. Unfortunately, we learned rapidly how to complete the work without really absorbing the intent, then copied each other’s answers. Since I was 14, I became more interested in the library's xerox machine. I discovered if you placed your face on the glass and followed the green bar of light that passed underneath for a portion of its path, you would end up with a distorted visage not unlike the cover of Public Image’s Second Edition.

As a result, I didn’t retain any of the other irregular verbs I barely studied, nor was I required to even try to speak the language aloud. 

To make matters worse, upon graduation I received an award—I’m pretty sure it was a piece of paper—for my French studies. Even then I knew I didn’t deserve it. There was a photo of me in the school paper:


This is a long explanation of why the feeling is about the same now ha ha.

If you had told me at 14 I would be publishing a book in France at 52, I might have paid more attention in class. But let's face it, I likely would've still xeroxed my face for most of the year. 

Anyway, I hope this edition of Sir Alfred finds an audience.

The book would never have occurred without the supervision of Thomas Ragon. Nora Bouazzouni was perfect for the translation, Emmanuel Justo did a great job of making a font of my lettering, and Yohan Faumont and others at Dargaud worked very hard to bring the book to completion. I'm grateful to them all for taking a chance on it. 

Although I clearly failed Madame Field as a student, she did instill a curiosity about the language and culture that has weathered my lack of diligence, among many other long remarked upon shortcomings.
Life can seem to have a strange symmetry if you live long enough.