Saturday, May 17, 2014

Book Review: In The Flesh

Having moved on to the Israeli graphic novel shelf at the local library this week, I read Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds, which was all right. It's a well illustrated story of characters sort of stuck in a malaise. But Modan is kind of a big name now and comes highly recommended, so I was more taken by surprise by this:

This is a collection of odd character vignettes that are arranged to progress slowly towards (or through) surrealism. Like anything else that uses a bit of uncanny juxtaposition, these are meant to evoke the more uncomfortable aspects of our inner selves.

"The Fun Lawn"
The closest analogue to these stories that comes to mind would be the sad interactions that take place in Todd Solondz' Happiness. Sexual interactions fail to bring people closer, desire being one of the factors that keep them apart.

Some of the visuals sound a bit clunky when described out loud. A one-night stand with a girl who has a detached head or a bar scene full of flirtatious young people with paper bags over their heads may be too didactic for some. Shadmi's linework, however, allows one to believe in the little vignettes until they play out, much as a dream allows us to take weird events as happenstance.

"Granpa Minolta"
And that progressive acceptance of the weird allows for some wonderfully creepy visual communication. The sexual threat of the adult world that preys on youth is perfectly summed up by giving a stereotypical grandfather a giant camera for a head. Adults are often monsters to children, after all.

"Pastry Paradise"
Thankfully, for a book that deals with many strange and cold sexual scenarios, Shadmi is very good at drawing people. Not models, or action figures, but ordinary people whose changing bodies can sometimes reflect the way personalities will alter during a relationship. And if we can't trust our physical selves not to betray our deepest hidden desires, what of the environment we pass through every day?

Satisfaction Av.
This is the true dream state, then: a world that reflects our needs back at us, taunting us with the knowledge that bad decisions will again be made. Not the best place to live, but some of us don't have a choice.

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