I love Whit Stillman’s film Metropolitan. (Lord help me, I had this poster on my dorm room wall freshman year.) And I’m not alone – The Criterion Collection! But you know what Metropolitan wasn’t? Commercially successful. I mean, wow – an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and it pulled in only $3 million in theaters? (Of course, Box Office Mojo says that the film’s widest release was only five theaters – which means Cinemopolis on the Ithaca Commons, where I saw it, was in pretty rare company, and that the per-screen average was pretty darn impressive.)

I mention this because I was recently discussing my own little project, Alphonse, with a friend who works in publishing. He said something about how, at the very least, my experience with trying to get the graphic novel made might teach me something about fitting my projects to a prospective audience.

I saw his point. Alphonse has been, shall we say, slow to take off, despite receiving a better-than-decent amount of attention. The attention itself may give some indication as to why that is. The comments at The Awl, Jezebel, and Broadsheet made it clear that the concept was more than a little radioactive – some people clued in to the fact that a revenge-minded fetus wasn’t exactly the most sympathetic character, but still weren’t able to imagine that what I was trying to make was anything other than propaganda. They still weren’t able to discuss a work of art about abortion that explored the moral anxiety surrounding the fetus without entering into a political argument.

Tracy Clark-Flory at Broadsheet, for example, decided that Alphonse was “yet one more attempt to argue for the personhood of the fetus by literally giving it a voice.” She decided that I had created a caricature of my own moral viewpoint.

To the latter claim, I say – damn straight. Alphonse is absolutely a caricature. That is, he is a gross exaggeration – a fetus whose personhood is so manifest that he can walk and talk and think and fight. But Clark-Flory was dead wrong about the purpose of that exaggeration. Alphonse is not arguing for the personhood of the fetus by literally giving it a voice. It’s not arguing for anything at all. It’s telling a story. There’s a difference. As I said at the end of my essay at The Awl, “I was trying to make a work of art (however minor) that would do some of the things that art does – reflect experience, engage imagination, and just maybe, enlarge perspective.”

Which brings me to problem number two: it’s not propaganda. Folks looking for something that’s straightforwardly “Yay for our side, boo for their side!” are going to be disappointed. So who’s my audience?

Fair question. Maybe it’s just me and a curious few. But my friend in publishing is – sadly – mistaken. Two issues in, I haven’t learned anything about fitting my projects to my prospective audience. I’m still begging, still trying to finish the story. Metropolitan was worth it, even at five screens and three million. I think Alphonse is worth it, too.

Which brings me, at long last, to my point. The ridiculous generosity of both friends and strangers is about to bump my Kickstarter fund for Issue Three from $600 to $1600. Still shy of halfway to my goal of $4000, but gosh-all, it’s amazing. As of tomorrow, I will have twenty days left to raise the rest. I had pretty much given up. Now, I’m daring to hope again.

So if you’re still reading by this point, and if you’re at all intrigued, please consider helping out. If you’ve already donated, maybe forward this post on to a friend. If you blog or Tumble or tweet, maybe consider tossing me a link. I’ve gotten this far. I don’t want to quit before it’s over. Thank you for your time and consideration.


  1. Kevin J Jones says

    I would love to see the project succeed. Have you considered whether your "this 'pie-in-the-sky fantasy' will probably not get funded" self-deprecating attitude has been discouraging donors?

    It reminds me of a friend who brags on Facebook that he finally found someone who would go on a date with him — he doesn't realize that is a put-down to his prospective love interest.

    While some of us think a lost cause is the only one worth fighting for, lots of others want to jump on a bandwagon that projects success and confidence.

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    Thank you, Kevin.

    You may well be right. The thing is, I went with the "we're gonna change the conversation!" positive approach for a long, long time – though perhaps not so publicly.

    But you may still be right. Thanks for the input.

    Part of the problem is, I'm not naturally a "projects success and confidence" guy.

  3. …yeah, that's my job!


  4. cubeland mystic says


    Please forgive Mr. November. I thought about writing a similar post on this same subject a while back, but realized it is a nature thing. He needs to head out to sea for a bit.

    Like JOB I try to support Matthew. I try using humor to remind him that he is a great writer. He really is.

    Confidence is not natural. You have to teach yourself to be confident. You have to make yourself be positive. I draw confidence from hope. Is there such a concept as infused hope in church teachings? Seriously I am asking.

    If there isn't you have to teach yourself confidence. A lot of it comes from hope. That's a great gift to pass on to the kids too.

    I really want you to make it big. I do. I think you have a unique voice. It is balanced to. You have something to say, and it is relevant. You're a great and generous soul. This is part of your nature too. You should start projecting that.

    I am at work right now, so I am kind of rushed, but you should consider saying some nice things about yourself for Lent. Not about your wonderful family either. Just you.

  5. As you know, dear writer, true humility is not self-deprecation but self-knowledge.

  6. Anonymous says


    re your question about infused hope…
    Absolutely there is a concept of infused hope in the church. I am away from home at present, but for starters look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1813.

    All the theological virtues (faith, hope and love) are infused at baptism. St. Thomas Aquinas (and others) taught that the moral virtues were also infused.


  7. Cubeland Mystic says

    Thank you LS I kind of suspected that hope was infused. I don't recall reading that word before in that context. I am more familiar with it in the context of prayer. The concept of infusion is like a firmware upgrade in computers. The hardware manufacturer typically deals with firmware updates. Firmware is not something the user is aware of, but the machine will not operate efficiently without it. Love to hear anymore thoughts you had on the subject.

    My point from above then is that Matthew's work is important. He should have confidence that God is behind it. I don't mean just Alponse but everything he does. I will never ever forget the opening chapter of his "little book." I thought it was amazing. Just beautiful.

    I suspect that he knows that. Part of his charm is that he is self-deprecating. I enjoy that part very much. I hope it comes from self-knowledge and not self-loathing. Also he may simply enjoy laughing at himself, and when others laugh along too. No deep dive required, he gets a kick out of self-inflicted absurdity. I do–his and mine.

    If he joined my monastery, as his superior, I would help him explore this negativity just to see from where it came. As a Lenten penance, I would urge him to write an essay on why he is a great writer. He'd be required to live in a posh cell, eat sumptuous food, and drink good bourbon until he completed it on Holy Saturday. The rest of us would eat bread and water.

  8. Matthew Lickona says

    You have grown wise and cruel, Mystic…

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