Book review: Clumsy

I blather on quite frequently about The Truth and my devotion to it, but I'm starting to think I should either start writing graphic novels or get down with being forever relegated to the piker scrap heap of truth-telling history.

This revelation courtesy of Clumsy, Jeffrey Brown's first graphic novel. It chronicles in gorgeous, embarrassingly painful detail the rise and fall (and rise and fall and rise and plummet) of Brown's year-long relationship with a woman whom he initially writes off as a sort of "dirty hippy."

One night in the close proximity of a shared sleeping bag blows that perception to smithereens (I'm starting to see why the kids like their camping); immediately, the two are off to the races on their long-distance love journey to madness and back again.

To me, the most interesting aspect of Clumsy (other than its blatant honesty) is that the story is told out of sequence. Brown opens the book with the strip "My First Night With Theresa" and immediately follows it with "My Last Night With Kristyn"; having those writing-on-the-wall, it-tolls-for-thee panels of doom of the latter butt up against sunny optimism of the former the casts an interesting, grayish pall over the proceedings. I felt forced to look at this relationship with a more analytical than voyeuristic eye. (Or maybe that's just me being nutty, it's been known to happen.)

The fascinating thing about Brown is his dichotomy. I was struck over and over not only by his fretting over the state of the union and his poignant longing for the phone to ring, but by his boundless courage in laying it all out there like that. In an interview, Brown discusses the separation from character that he goes through to write, basically, he backs away from his characters and goes into author mode, which allows him to get the distance he needs to best tell the story.

Brown has even made sport of (and additional cash off of) his own sensitivity by releasing Be A Man, a parody edition of his own work several years later where he retells the Clumsy story from a more traditional, macho-boy perspective.

The communicatrix is kinda cheap and all (she checked out Clumsy from the glorious deliciousness that is the BHPL), but for three bucks, I think I can let my curiosity get the better of me just this once.

Besides, sensitivity is sexy and worth a visit, but sensitivity coupled with crazy-ass bravery? That's where I wanna live, baby; you gotta support that shit.


P.S. Lots more cool stuff at Jeffrey Brown's website, which he shares with some other great illustrators.

UPDATE (12/3/08): In a shameless and transparent act of caving, I've been replacing book and DVD links with Amazon affiliate links throughout the site. I MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU CLICK ON THESE. Like, a full 1/4 cent or something. Whatever. I'm happy if you borrow it from a friend or the library, or buy it used (I like and alibris online) or, praise Jeebus!, from your local independent dead tree retailer. Seriously. The main thing is, read. Absorb. Enjoy. Pass it on.