Friday, May 22, 2009

Wimbledon Green

Wimbledon Green
by Seth
Drawn & Quarterly 2005

Hillary Brown:
Why Wimbledon Green, and why now? Um, it's in the library? That really is part of the reason, but I think I've also been wanting to read more by Seth since It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken, and I know you just read his brand-new one, which I haven't yet. Sometimes one really craves minimalistic Canadian melancholy, and it makes a nice contrast with the glorious Georgia spring, meaning you don't get weighed down too much. Also: this is Seth's goof-off book, which he establishes at the beginning in an introduction that talks about how it's more sketchbooks than anything else, something his brain kept working on while he was otherwise occupied. I totally get that, and it's not without its charms, but even with the warning the lack of resolution is a little disappointing. It's almost as though you're just starting to get really into the book, to enjoy it on a level beyond its affectionate tweaking of comic book collectors/nostalgists (and that one evil character is basically Seth, right? or at least the main character from IAGLIYDW?) and to want to know what happens when, poof, it's over and you're left without any answers to the mysteries evoked. You know that J.J. Abrams article in Wired that I linked to on my blog? This is the downside of mystery, and the worry of this kind of evaporation with no pay-off is why I stopped watching Lost. Am I some kind of philistine for wanting answers? I like things with endings!

Garrett Martin: I wouldn't call you a philistine, but maybe a little too literal-minded? What did you think of the ending of, say, The Wrestler (the first recent film with an ambigulous ending to come to mind)?

I like ambiguous endings, but I don't think ambiguity fits Wimbledon Green so well. It's hard to say what does fit a work like this, though, one that's so clearly a goof without a singular, focused style. Green's definitely minor compared to IAGLIYDW and George Sprott (that arrive yet?), but almost anything would feel slight compared to those two. I pretty much love Green for what it is, an entertainingly half-baked lark. And it didn't depress the hell out of me like those other two, which is always nice (seriously--Sprott almost had me in tears on the train the first time I read it). I find endless joy in Seth's art, even when it's rough and unfinished; the character designs alone make me love Wimbledon Green. The extended Barks/Scrooge McDuck homage vacuum seals the deal. And I appreciate that Seth's mockery of collectors is mostly breezy, avoiding the bleak tone of Chris Ware's tiresomely brutal Rusty Brown while still dealing with petty, unsavory men. The self-pity with the Jonah character (yeah, obviously meant to be Seth) is a little heavy-handed, but if that's a straight-up self-critique of IAGLIYDW's navel-gazing, then it's pretty knowing and funny.

HB: Um, I thought the ending of The Wrestler was annoying, a pussing out kind of move, a way of not having to choose. Choose, damn it! Anyway, you're making me remember all the things I liked about the book, especially his washes. I did get George Sprott and we can cover that next if you'd like. I'm weirdly looking forward to it, even though you say it's depressing. I think what frustrates me about Wimbledon Green is that it's so close to what I really want, which is romp and resolution. Carl Barks could do it. Why can't Seth? It's like he's resisting going all the way over into entertainment.

GM: Avoiding entertainment? That's all this book is! I think the lack of a clear ending is more a result of the book's overall lack of planning. Sure, Seth could've come up with something more solid, but he lets you know right from the start that Wimbledon Green is pretty tossed-off. I'm really curious to see your thoughts on Sprott; Seth uses the same scattered, episodic framework, but to a more well-rounded and definitive end.

What do you make of the Jonah character? Extension or parody of the self-disgust found in IAGLIYDW?

HB: Truly satisfying entertainment has a good ending. That's all I'm saying. I feel cheated when I'm really enjoying something and then the ending leaves me feeling unconvinced. And I agree, you're right, that in this case it's because of the lack of planning, but also: who says he had to stop where he did? I think Seth could've kept going and resolved all of the issues he raises. He just wanted to end it. That's a wuss move. I know I was warned but damn it.

Re the Jonah character: I think it's more a parody, and it's nice to see that sense of humor.

GM: Maybe Seth should've taken his time and finished this off appropriately. Maybe it shouldn't have been published at all, since even the creator effectively sees it as being inessential and unimportant. Doing that would've deprived us of some genuinely fun comics, though, and that would've sucked. Sure, a resolution would've been nice, but the absence of one doesn't make me enjoy the Barks homage of "The Green Ghost #1" any less. I do wonder if Seth felt pressure, either from his publisher or his own bank account, to get some product out that year, no matter how unfinished it may have been.

HB: Yeah. "Seth, you big moneymaker you, if we don't have this arty, unfinished book that only old-timey comics nerds will really appreciate in our fall catalogue, we're totally going under as a company!" That's how I imagine the conversation going.

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