To a proud and initiated few, the name “Tom Waits” summons musical memories of sad stories and morbid ballads accompanied by a surreal array of unconventional instruments (such as screeching horns and clanging drums), all masterminded by a gravel-voice, howling madman. To others, it conjures images of an indecipherable singer who sounds like Cookie Monster.

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(The following essay was originally presented at the Fourth Annual New Narrative Conference at the University of Toronto on May 6, 2011.  See a list of presenters and abstracts from the conference here and visit Jon Adams online here – TH.)

The first time we meet a superhero in Jon Adams’ Truth Serum, he’s brushing off a friend who wants to fight crime, or just “get some lunch or something” and who doesn’t even realize he’s being rejected.  The first time we meet a villain, he’s inviting one of his son’s friends over for a sandwich – but then hands him an empty plate;  there’s not enough cheese to make another sandwich.  These two scenes introduce two of the major themes of the strip’s cynically humorous world – the similarities between heroes and villains and the mundane, even boring, nature of their daily lives.  

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Jon Adams, Truth Serum (2000).

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As one of nine students in the Salt Institute’s writing track during the fall of 2009, I was responsible for finding stories that would resonate with readers while typifying aspects of life in and around Maine.

For my first piece, I started watching rehearsals and interviewing performers and crew at Portland Stage, the largest theater company in Maine.  Click here to access my shorter piece, a review of the 2009-2010 season at the Portland Stage and their coping with new economic issues.

At the same time that I was working on this piece, I reached out to the Portland Housing Authority about doing a piece on their work.  That evolved into a story on Riverton Park, a public housing property where 672 residents, primarily immigrants, live.  Click here to access my longer piece, a discussion of the Portland Housing Authority’s work in Riverton Park.

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