Friday, May 29, 2009

George Sprott

George Sprott
by Seth
Drawn & Quarterly 2009

Garrett Martin:
Dudes like Seth and Chris Ware are more brutal than even the bloodiest Garth Ennis war comic. They make a grown man cry, this grown man here. A grown man named me. Seth draws those tears understatedly, though, unlike Ware, who basically hurls onions, lemon juice, and thumbtacks at your eyes ‘til something flows. Whereas Ware offers up non-stop disdain and condescension, Seth treats his characters with respect, no matter how flawed or unlikable they are. Part of the greatness of George Sprott 1894-1975 is Seth’s well-rounded depiction of the title character. He’s certainly flawed, but can’t be summed up as either likable or unlikable. He’s a beast to some and angel to others. So he’s like a real person, then, and not a thinly veiled personification of some mental or emotional malady.

Sprott hit me hard in my weakest spot: my brains. Particularly those brains that deal with time. History and the passage of time fascinate me, but the more I experience the latter the more frightened and confused I become. Nostalgia cripples me, to the point where a mundane song by Asia still occasionally stops me dead for hours. That constant eternal loss is always Seth’s topic of choice, but with Sprott he doesn’t play it for laughs or self-pity. Seth’s developed the patience and discipline to deal with weighty emotional issues without resorting to stereotypes or navel-gazing, thus producing a genuinely great work of literature. And art. Literart. Fuck it, comic book.

Despair over lost time and old lives can’t just be a dude thing, can it?

Hillary Brown: Gosh, that's awfully harsh on Ware. You know, I'm not sure where everyone gets the idea that he hates his own characters. I'm not sure I've ever seen that tendency in him. He is, however, more depressing than Seth. I really liked this book too. It didn't make me cry, but it is my favorite of the three we've covered. I don't think crippling nostalgia is just a dude thing, but I also don't know of any ladies who have it going on, self included. My guess is that it goes hand in hand with the kind of obsessive personality that seems to be far more common in dudes, the kind of need for completeness in things and, perhaps, a legacy. Is it something to do with not being able to have children? Anyway, I'm not saying I'm not ever a sap, but I don't get teary-eyed too often. I do think this book is rather effective in its evocation of emotion, though, of a whole person in just the way you point out, and it's pretty genuinely touching, even if Sprott might not be the most pleasant person to be around. It's calm and beautiful, too, and all the unreliable narrator stuff is interesting. Did you read any of this when it ran in the NYT?

GM: Never saw any of it in the Times. I'm sure it's less powerful when doled out in chunks. Wouldn't give you a well-rounded view of the man, y'know?

And I don't think I'm being harsh to Ware. I doubt he hates Jimmy Corrigan, but he's such a depressing, pathetic character, and little has changed for him at the end. And there's no question that Ware holds the Rusty Brown characters in complete contempt. Those are the only two things I've read by him, other than occasional strips here and there, and there's not even the possibility of hope or redemption in either of them.

But okay, George Sprott. And Seth. I hate I'm out of town next week; Seth's doing a reading or whatever at Harvard on the 2nd. Is nostalgia related to obsessiveness? I am definitely obsessive about a number of things, and most of them are interests I've had since childhood. Indeed, interests a man should maybe be embarrassed about, and would be just a few decades ago. I habitually dwell on crap from my youth without even realizing it; if that happens because I can't have a kid, does that mean women have children in part to relive their own youth?

I don't really know why this book touched me so much. I don't know why comics hit me so much harder than novels or film. They do, though, when they're done well. That line about how one day you're thirty and you notice a new group of young people, realize you're not part of them, and then everything speeds up 'til the end: that hit me hard. Especially with today being my birthday.

HB: Poor old Garrett. It's not that I don't ever hear time's winged chariot hurrying near, but I guess I don't think about it all that much. Sure, death gets closer all the time, but there's a lot of good stuff in store before that. It's a good line though, and I think it does get at the heart of what's touching about this book. Maybe it's the mix of nostalgia that's already there in the form combined with the specifically backward looking tone of Seth's stuff and then the subject matter on top of it all that makes this a killer? Also, yeah, I do think women have children to have a do-ever. What do you think child beauty pageants are about?

GM: I thought, like conservative talk radio, child beauty pageants were created specifically to disgust rational people.

And your analysis is spot-on. George Sprott is like a perfect storm of things-that-make-me-rue-the-passage-of-time. If it had one of those musical greeting card microchips playing "Heat of the Moment", it'd probably make my heart immediately explode.

Are we really doing We3 next? Can't we just do something about punching?

HB: Nope. Mushy lovey teary stuff. Woo!

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