Archive for December, 2007

i’ve been a fan of nicholas gurewitch’s perry bible fellowship comic strip for years. the first time i visited the comic’s website gurewitch had been drawing the comics for a while. so i compulsively pored through every one, addicted to their unpredictable humour. ‘unpredictable’ is a common point of praise for the series, and can be said to relate both to the nature of the punchlines themselves, as well as gurewitch’s artistic versatility.

here are a couple of my favourites: nice shirt, not today little one and no one is thirsty.

though each strip is a stand-alone three or four panel piece, the artwork differs from comic to comic, with some beautifully intricate, others reminiscent of 40s crime comics and yet others featuring utterly simple linework. but the varying artistic styles are united by what gurewitch calls ‘a certain type of storytelling’, which often involves a final panel rendering the whole tableau ridiculously funny.

it requires restraint and skill to craft such hilarious perfection, which is reflected in gurewitch’s comparatively slow production rate. the hit rate of the series is also uneven; sometimes my reaction is solely intellectual rather than tickled. but many of the strips are comic sledgehammers – as likely to elicit a belly laugh as having a very clever friend tell you her most wily joke. and you can be sure that if you aren’t so sweet on a certain one, someone else will be. i have read through these with sam and our approving laughter alternated fairly predictably.

the trial of colonel sweeto is gurewitch’s first published collection and has deservedly already hit the amazon bestseller list. you can try out the goods on the internet too, for free.

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Shit. Did you see a little brown dog run that way? Potato!
Are you sure? Potato! He must have just run out. Potato!
I wasn’t paying attention.
Well, you would have seen him. Shit. Potato!
Jesus. Well, if you see him, grab him and bring him back over here. He’s a little brown dog, his name is Potato. Potato!

- from “Majesty”

There are sixteen stories in this, Miranda July’s debut collection of short stories. Many of them have been published before in publications such as The New Yorker, which is important enough to have a capital ‘T’ in its ‘The’, and The Paris Review, which has the same distinguished definite article as well as the significant advantage of being at least nominally Parisian.

Each story is told by or about a person who faces an obstacle. This obstacle seems to take the form of something very specific, like a dog, or a vanished voodoo lover, or another person. But if the person would be honest with themselves they would realise that:

a) the obstacle is really their self, and
b) on the other side of this obstacle is life and the world.

This state of affairs is pretty confronting. As such this book might be said to have an instructive purpose. But the author is very loving about it. The naive, underdeveloped affect of July’s protagonists cannot obscure a simultaneously abject and absolute humanity, the humus in the dirt. Read this if you are a person, even if you do not like the colour yellow. To cultivate empathy and strength, read this book.