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January Books 13) Caricature

13) Caricature, by Daniel Clowes (.co.uk, .com)

I've had a somewhat hit and miss relationship with Daniel Clowes up to now. Some of his work seems to me rather self-indulgent (including the widely praised Ghost World and Like A Velvet Glove Cast in Iron), but I very much enjoyed both Ice Haven and David Boring.

I rate Caricature as another hit. It bills itself as "nine stories", but in fact they are more extended character studies than actual narratives. I love the way Clowes takes us into his characters' worlds, and at the same time using the graphic medium, we can get an idea of how other people are reacting to them. Most of his viewpoint characters are male, though there is one sequence, "Green Eyeliner" with a female lead (from which the frame here is taken).

Almost all of the stories involve either experiencing or reliving an unhappy and isolated adolescence, and this could get old rather quickly, but I think he rings the changes on the theme with enough diversity to keep you engaged.

The one piece I found I had doubts about was the last, "Black Nylon", whose protagonist likes to dress up as a superhero; it wasn't obvious to me if he was a nutter in our world, where there are no costumed superheroes, or if he was a nutter in the standard comics setting where superheroes are a facet of daily life. I think it is probably the latter, in which case the piece jars with the naturalistic setting of the rest of the book. Playing such games with the reader is risky, but usually Clowes does pull it off, and the story (such as it is) often turns out to be about something different from what we first think it is going to be.

Top UnSuggestion for this book is, for once, another book that I own and have read: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. I guess this reflects the very different genres of the two books - people who read comics about small-town life in America are unlikely to want to tackle emotionally gripping literary narratives of war and conflict in Asia. Yet there are strong points of similarity between the two, especially the observations about adolescent angst.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
pocketnaomi
Jan. 21st, 2007 10:08 am (UTC)
Have you read Alison Bechdel's _Fun Home_? It's a memoir in graphic-novel form, and I liked it a lot.
nwhyte
Jan. 21st, 2007 12:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks - I vaguely know her from my occasional skimming of "Dykes to Watch Out For".
inuitmonster
Jan. 26th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
Almost all of the stories involve either experiencing or reliving an unhappy and isolated adolescence

Unhappy in that they are not happy, but not necessarily sad. One of the things I am always most struck by with Clowes is the emotional flatness of the characters. The recent one about the ray gun is really great like that... this guy finds a ray gun with which he starts disintegrating people who annoy him, all with a "whatever" effect on his mood.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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