Monday, July 12, 2004
Best Book for Last Week
Absolutely everyone in the world had a bad time last week. I know of 3 major breakup disasters, 2 major hookup disaster, many cases of directionlessness or joblessness, friends and family who were over-jobbed, beaten-up by motorvehicles, suffered unhealthiness and general unhappiness, crashed Cadillacs, lost cellphones, and broke bones (like the pelvis)--everyone had a bad week. Of course I was tempted to stew over my own badness, but when I started finding out about everyone elses' crap situation(s), I just sort of started cracking up. So stop feeling so special because you felt rotten last week, EVERYONE felt rotten last week, and now you can feel even sadder because you aren't unique (or special).
And here's your perfect Worst Week coincidence: this week I also finished "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smarters Kid on Earth", Chris Ware's 380-page graphic novel. Typically the expression “graphic novel” makes me cringe, but in this case that’s definitely what we’re dealing with: 380 pages of simple pictures of so much beauty it’ll make you cry, and approximately 378 of those pages have this story to tell: there is a lonesome man named Jimmy Corrigan and he has the most depressing life. Ever. Sure, Jimmy passes many low moments that I think we’re all too uncomfortably familiar with, but the combined awfulness that Jimmy deals with must be his superpower. While bullets bounce off Superman, sorrows find Jimmy.
I don’t mean for you think that this book is page after page of zany accidents happening to Billy. Instead, it’s page after page of chilling loneliness and lowliness, 378 pages about a lonely man who goes to visit his father for the first and only time ever while dealing with all sorts of other stuff that's so pathetic it'll make you sick. A sensible person would ask themselves, “Why does Brigham bother telling us about this bummer of a book?” But I can only ask, “Why would Chris Ware bother telling such a long bummer of a story?” I kept reading the book for one simple reason: the illustrations are absolutely beautiful. Numerous times I’d turn the page and almost drop the book at the stunning sight of the next two pages of illustrations. Of course, this begs the question, why would Ware choose to tell such a sad story with such sad pictures? Perhaps if I had been reading smart books for the last year and engaging in some real deal literary criticism instead of trying to learn the Rules of Civil Procedure I could put some ideas down on that. Instead, I’m confused, but not turned off. There’s something really great about this book, and it’s worth taking a look at, but everyone needs to be told what I was told as I was borrowing it, “This is the most depressing book in the world.”
But not when you compare it to books about the Holocaust. Those are more depressing.
Also, it’s with a sense of snobbishness that I have to mention that the tale of Jimmy Corrigan were originally serialized in this free newspaper in Chicago that I used to read during my last year of High School. I used to really wonder what the whole story was about, now I guess I finally know. Sort of.
Also, it needs to be noted that when I say I “read” this book I mean it in the way people say they’ve “read” Infinite Jest. There is too much information in this book, too much small print crammed in obscure corners for a casual reader who wants to live his life to conquer.