10 July 2007

Another talent tragically lost, now going home

It's rather weird...and frankly scary sometimes...what the universe serves up in its daily lottery of spiritual happenstance. Someone asks you about something you take for granted, you explain it and while doing so rethink what you know or what it means to you. And just when things are back in your mind all freshly paved and open again, the item or person or thing gets pulled away from you. In some cases, permanently. Enjoy what you have as long as you can, while you can...all that Hallmark© card kind of philosophy comes to mind. The ebb and flow of it all can be a little sobering.

In my case, the cosmic 'gotcha' focuses on kudzu. To those of us here in the Southern part of Heaven, kudzu is this gloriously hardy plant that grows everywhere and will attach to anything...and, despite some of the best attempts known to man over recent generations, is damn near impossible to kill off. For a more in-depth explanation go here; for some local pictures of the Green Glory in all its splendour, go here. But kudzu also served a dual purpose and cause for pride here: it also is the name of a nationally-syndicated cartoon strip by North Carolina-raised Doug Marlette. Led by the well-intended but long-suffering Rev. Will B. Dunn, the cartoon featured things from a slightly more Southern, and occasionally satirically biting, perspective. In a way that "Doonesbury" attracts faithful readers who also follow politics and current events, "Kudzu" attracted a legion of fans who understood a slightly simpler way of life in the small town, a way of life in which the town Reverend would actually be playing in a pickup basketball game against competing 'heathen' faiths and still wanting to unabashedly gloat in victory.

I mention this because about three weeks ago I was having a whole lengthy discussion about kudzu with a mate of mine from Oz. If something is bizarrely deadly or rare in its availability worldwide, it probably thrives in Oz; if something can wildly prosper on the rust of abandoned cars and tractors, it most certainly thrives in the South. My mate, not knowing about neither the 'never say die' plant nor the cartoon, made me scramble a bit to explain what each meant to the Southern fabric of life. Kudzu, in both forms in this case, is one of the prolific and strongest survivors of our culture to the masses...quiet, surprising, and stealthy in its appeal. (Now if we can just do something about the image presented of us by our Southern love for Moon Pies®, fried pork rinds/cracklins, and Cheerwine©.)

Unfortunately, today brings us bad news: creator, gifted illustrator, and Pulitzer Prize® winner Marlette has tragically died in an automobile accident in which he was a passenger. While he had recently moved to my former haunt of Tulsa (and to a job at the "Tulsa World"), at the time of his death he was in Mississippi helping prep a high school musical production of "Kudzu". KOTV (which I seem to be unintentionally plugging a lot of late, sorry, try to 'spread the wealth' as I can) in Tulsa did a nice workup and interview with Marlette earlier in February of this year.

Marlette's official site, for those unfamiliar with his great work (have patience as it loads). He did far more than just "Kudzu", but also was a gifted editorial cartoonist and novelist.

And, as expected, the "World" does a superior job covering the death of one of their own. (In my opinion, the "World" is one of the best papers in the US, and certainly in the Midwest. Sometimes a bit too conservative for my political views, but it is from Oklahoma, after all, and that should be par for the course, frankly.) Specifically, check out the cartoons that won Marlette his widespread and well-deserved Pulitzer® acclaim.

I, for one, will really miss my daily dose of Reverend Dunn and the fictional happy place of Bypass, North Carolina. Godspeed, Mr. Marlette, and always rest in peace knowing that your fine insights will be remembered by the many fans that you left behind here.

1 comment:

ricky said...

I am not sure that many Southerners would agree with your positive comments about kudzu (the plant). I am amazed that you can combine the two into one extremely eloquent sentence " Kudzu, in both forms in this case, is one of the prolific and strongest survivors of our culture to the masses...quiet, surprising, and stealthy in its appeal. " It sums up Kudzu and kudzu appropriately.