The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday October 19th

Cartoonist Changes To Author With Ease

And for Marlette these areas, while being different mediums, are based on the same basic ideas.

"Kudzu" creator turned novelist Marlette and his friend and fellow author Pat Conroy brought their words -- both spoken and written -- to Carroll Hall on Sunday.

Conroy, author of the best-selling novel "Beach Music," joined the cartoonist for a discussion and book signing of Marlette's debut novel, "The Bridge."

Providing a brief introduction to Marlette's lecture, Conroy said he was proud of Marlette's recent successes. "He's been my best friend for 20 years, and I'm really excited that he's teaching at the people's university," he said.

"The Bridge" deals with the turbulence of social action, and Marlette, with 30 years experience as a social commentator, is very at home in controversy. The novel centers on Southern labor issues in the early half of the 20th century and is based on his own family's experiences.

As he wrote the book, Marlette also ironically drew from years of editorial cartooning to write a dramatic and intense story. "Humor is closely related to pain," he said. "Cartoonists are always going for the wordless image, for the wordlessness. A good political cartoon is like a slam dunk. A novel is like the whole basketball season."

His novel was a five-year process of shifting his form of expression from the visual to the literary. But Marlette said he experienced a natural progression into writing with "The Bridge."

Imparting 30 years of wisdom regarding the role of cartooning and writing about popular culture and current events, Marlette enhanced his lecture with images from his own portfolio, including "Kudzu" and editorial strips.

To illustrate his foray into writing, he first showed his family's influence on his cartoons. He then moved into their epic influence on his writing, his novel being their story.

Believing himself to be the liberal black sheep of the family, he said he felt more a product of culture of the '60s than his own family. But after he moved to his father's hometown of Hillsborough, Marlette discovered his family was socially active throughout the '30s.

Prompted by his discoveries, he acted on a dream he didn't know he'd been carrying for years: the inspiration to write.

Marlette currently is teaching two UNC classes, one on political cartooning and the other on humor writing. Conroy will be joining his humor writing class to provide students with another perspective on the art of writing.

Marlette's view of education reflects the many hats he wears. "Education means `to lead out,'" he said. "You can't force people to learn, you can just kind of expose. Affect yourself and it will affect others."

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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