Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Clyde Fans Book One

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Clyde Fans Book One (Drawn & Quarterly, 2004).

Interestingly, this was not a book that I intended to buy just yet. I really like the great cartooning work of Seth, but I wasn't aware of Clyde Fans, the story of a long-closed seller of electrical appliances in yet another timelost Canadian town, until I actually saw a copy in the sadly now-closed Toronto bookseller Pages in the summer of '09. Since it is the first half of a story that Seth hasn't quite got around to finishing yet, I figured that I would wait until both volumes were available, eventually, and buy them both together. Then I found a used hardcover edition at McKay Books in Nashville for four bucks and went ahead.

It's written in a style that I'm not entirely used to from Seth. Rather than the fragmented storytelling that made Wimbledon Green and George Sprott so entertaining, the first half of this book - seventy pages! - are devoted to an old man in 1997 telling readers about the history of his old, long-closed business. It's an extended and, bizarrely, compelling story. I was just sucked right in.

The second half, set in 1957, sees the old man's incompetent brother Simon trying to fashion himself as a salesman, offering Clyde Fans products in the small town of Dominion. It's absolutely lovely cartooning used to illustrate a poignant and fascinating story. Simon's failures kept me completely hooked and Seth created a town so real that it only seems about ninety miles from anywhere. I'd love to see the remainder of this story one day soon. Recommended.

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