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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

[Previous entry: "APE 2004 Swag Review: The Fixer"] [Main Index] [Next entry: "An Interview with Brooke McEldowney"]

03/12/2004 Archived Entry: "I Never Liked You"

I Never Liked You
by Chester Brown
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 1-896597-14-9

I bought this book at APE, so it's not really swag. I had wanted it for a long time - I believe the first edition came out in 1994 - but somehow I never got around to buying it. But there it was at the Drawn and Quarterly table and it went into the bag with the new Optic Nerve. Now I'm happy.

This is the second edition of this collection, somewhat pompously titled "The New Definitive Edition" (okay, whatever). The blurb at D&Q calls this "a harrowing memoir", but I don't think that's true: it is a story elegantly told, full of raw emotions that remain unexpressed, one that captures the strange isolation of adolescence. But I wouldn't call it harrowing. Chester Brown seems to have had a typical suburban white boy growing-up experience, full of silences and secrets; bad things happen, but nothing is connected, and nobody bothers to explain things to you. I thought his mother, who first appears on page 13, was a single parent, until his dad showed up on page 56 - another feature of suburban white-boy childhood. Brown perfectly captures the insane circle of crushes, attractions, and repulsions that are part of everyone's teenage years. What I think I like best is that he never excuses himself, or resorts to "poor me" apologies - "Chester" is just as confused and mean as his friends. Brown's drawing style is at once realistic and exaggerated - faces are beautifully rendered, but hands look like claws, bodies and legs are impossibly skinny, one girl's breasts are of Luba-sized proportions - all of which brings out the remembered quality of each vignette. It is a lovely book, and Chester Brown is courageous to put into art his own story, at once so mundane and yet unique.

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