Immensely enjoyable.

READ REVIEW

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS WRONG

The new graphic novel from Pond (Over Easy, 2014, etc.) follows a young cartoonist struggling to free herself from the distractions of romance, drugs, and her colorful co-workers and customers at an Oakland diner in the late 1970s.

Madge’s life revolves around the Imperial Cafe, where she waits tables and gets entangled in the lives of a drug-using and -dealing, eccentric and flamboyant, sketchy and gruff ensemble. Camille, a fellow server, is beautiful and confident but also addicted to heroin—and a boyfriend with ties to a Colombian drug cartel. Sammy the cook loves cocaine and a girlfriend whose former flame thinks assault can win her back. Regular customer Lesbian has a thing for dishwasher Bernardo, who has a fling with server Daisy, which leads to in-store shenanigans Pond deems worthy of a “French bedroom farce.” Madge’s closest relationship is with manager Lazlo, who acts as father figure, counselor, and drinking buddy for the motley crew. The poetry he writes makes Madge feel an artistic kinship, the sense that she and Lazlo have grander ambitions than grinding their lives away working in a restaurant. But Lazlo has demons of his own. It’s a sprawling cast of characters, most of whom appear with little introduction, both because the book is a sequel to Pond’s Over Easy and because the story’s sense of place is as important as the individual players. Madge lives in this world of menial labor, class and racial tension, drugs and drink and crime, but at a remove, observing with an artist’s eye (“Leda? Oh, yeah. Weimaraner eyes. Doll left out in the yard”). Pond’s illustrations have the wavy lines; loose, watercolor-y fills; and expressive faces of Roz Chast’s work, and both cartoonists excel at confessional, humorous narration. Pond’s panels strike a perfect balance of text to image, keeping the pace brisk, especially with Pond’s keen ear for conversation.

Immensely enjoyable.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77046-282-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

THE CANTERBURY TALES

A RETELLING

Continuing his apparent mission to refract the whole of English culture and history through his personal lens, Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers an all-prose rendering of Chaucer’s mixed-media masterpiece.

While Burton Raffel’s modern English version of The Canterbury Tales (2008) was unabridged, Ackroyd omits both “The Tale of Melibee” and “The Parson’s Tale” on the undoubtedly correct assumption that these “standard narratives of pious exposition” hold little interest for contemporary readers. Dialing down the piety, the author dials up the raunch, freely tossing about the F-bomb and Anglo-Saxon words for various body parts that Chaucer prudently described in Latin. Since “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” and “The Miller’s Tale,” for example, are both decidedly earthy in Middle English, the interpolated obscenities seem unnecessary as well as jarringly anachronistic. And it’s anyone’s guess why Ackroyd feels obliged redundantly to include the original titles (“Here bigynneth the Squieres Tales,” etc.) directly underneath the new ones (“The Squires Tale,” etc.); these one-line blasts of antique spelling and diction remind us what we’re missing without adding anything in the way of comprehension. The author’s other peculiar choice is to occasionally interject first-person comments by the narrator where none exist in the original, such as, “He asked me about myself then—where I had come from, where I had been—but I quickly turned the conversation to another course.” There seems to be no reason for these arbitrary elaborations, which muffle the impact of those rare times in the original when Chaucer directly addresses the reader. Such quibbles would perhaps be unfair if Ackroyd were retelling some obscure gem of Old English, but they loom larger with Chaucer because there are many modern versions of The Canterbury Tales. Raffel’s rendering captured a lot more of the poetry, while doing as good a job as Ackroyd with the vigorous prose.

A not-very-illuminating updating of Chaucer’s Tales.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-670-02122-2

Page Count: 436

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL

Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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