Noah Van Sciver
Fantagraphics; 1 edition
Noah Van Sciver’s graphic novella about a talentless/struggling writer is brutal in its satire – take for example this scene where at a reading given by Dave Eggers a trio of desperate and hopeful writers gather, one says “I brought my new story. I’m gonna give it to him”. When asked by a pal which story, the writer replies, “You remember that short story I wrote about the swan and the sun? That one!” To show just how hopeful and/or desperate he is, he adds without being prompted, “Maybe he’ll like it and print it in McSweeney’s!” These are young hacks with no publishing experience or track record. Just sure of themselves in the worst possibly way. Topped up with delusions of their competence, if not grandeur. “You think of every angle!” His impressed chum replies. “That’s why you’re gonna make it!” The smugly assured reply: “That’s how you have to be”
The third wheel in this conversation is our comic’s anti-hero, a guy who has renamed himself Fante Bukowski, in the most sadly desperate example of wearing influences on sleeves. Fante Bukowski’s thought-bubble in this scenario has him sweating bullets and worrying to himself: Damn! Why didn’t I bring a story for Eggers??
Any writer should recognised themselves and/or writers they know – or knew, or met – in these pages. Whether the teenage or early-20s version of themselves or even the tiny threads of jealousy and delusion that continue on…
Shit it’s a funny book.
Noah Van Sciver has designed this as a “graphic novella”, meaning, I guess, it’s more overtly designed to chop in one sitting than other graphic novels, but it’s a rewarding reading experience. It has that Office-styled awkwardness to its humour, you might read one or two of the frames through a hand of splayed fingers. You might turn certain pages a little quicker as they could bring with them a flashback or two.
The drawing touches – in a crude and simplistic way – on the illustrations Crumb provided for Bukowski’s short stories (and some of Harvey Pekar’s comics too) and as we watch Fante Bukowski mansplaining his brilliance to already published authors, stumbling through the blind rage of hating his father and pushing out far too much doggerel around that theme, and being generally pissed off at the world either for not providing what it should or for not actually owing him anything at all, it’s hard not to laugh. And it’s the best option of course. Or else you might find a tear or two. Such is the bittersweet reminder, such is the gap between cruel satire and real honesty.