The Complete Works of Fante Bukowski
Noah Van Sciver
Fantagraphics; 1 edition
Noah Van Sciver’s brilliant satire Fante Bukowski is here collected so we have the standalone volumes one, two and three all in one big book to enjoy. Along with some ephemera including visual tributes by other graphic novelist artists.
Fante Bukowski is the only graphic novel I can think of where I’ve loved every minute of it despite reading many of the pages between splayed fingers. I’ve recognised myself and many of the writers I’ve either raged against – or been deeply jealous of (or both) as well as several that I’ve simply pitied for a brief moment then forgotten.
Taking the two names of his literary heroes and going as far as you can go in the wearing your influences on your sleeves department, Van Sciver’s comic anti-hero is a writer that renames himself after John Fante and Charles Bukowski. What’s (even) worse he’s sure that he’s just a poem or a drink away from success.
He crashes literary events he’d never be invited to, he hands out copies of his work to people that would never ask, he takes delusions of grandeur to a whole other level (which is obviously the point of ‘delusions of grandeur’ but then pick another whole level above even that).
I loved the first two volumes of this collection in their standalone original form. And reviewed them both. The first was pitched as a graphic novella, a single-sitting read. The second was both a rewrite of the first (borrowing and improving some of the stories and gags) and a whole new set of adventures – moving it up to full graphic novel size. And then the third, included here, puts a lid on these tales. And does so perhaps most cringe-inducing of them all.
It’s very funny and savage – so cruel, so sharp. And revisiting the storylines from the first volumes only encouraged me to read on. The third volume has Fante at his most insufferable and feeble.
Van Sciver does a great line in sad-sack, desperate buffoonery – so shallow and self-absorbed is this character. His pen does an even finer line in touch on some of Robert Crumb’s feel for the drawings he offered up in some of Bukowski’s work. So that, too, is a nice tribute.
I’ve loved other work that Van Sciver has done – as soon as I read his first Fante book I was off on a discovery. But this is his crowning achievement I believe. To date, anyway. And he’s put it to bed. Put the lid on it. Wrapped it up beautifully. Buy this for the struggling author in your life. Buy this and read it and wince.
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