Page 45 Review by Stephen
Genius. There is no other word for this except 'genius'. It's as difficult to know where to start as it is when to stop. However...
1. This is ludicrously cheap whilst being monstrously huge, same size as the QUIMBY volume:15" x 9"...
2. It is absurdly beautiful with intricate panel structures, colours to make your heart sigh and perfectly placed "BUTS" "LATER"s and "SO"s ...
3. The packaging is ridiculously lavish, from the gold ink overlay and the double-page mock astral chart inside which is embossed... right down to strip of card which binds the book and which you think you can remove but you can't because it's glued to the inside cover...
4. It's everything that the original comic has always been: playful, irreverent, self-referential, self-deprecating and psychotically detailed.
Every edition of ACME NOVELTY is packed full of mischief, even in places where most other books hold perfunctory information like the index, publication details and pricing. You could easily spend half an hour merely taking that in. So here's some of that band of card I mentioned earlier, although I cannot possibly match the exquisite type-setting of the original:
FANS OF LITERATURE, POETRY and ART
- not to mention Music, Theatre, Cinema, Gastronomy, and Puppetry
will be gravely disappointed by the contents of this volume as it assembles only the most puerile, foolish and insensitive dregs of the remaining uncollected contents of the once marginally successful comic strip periodical
THE ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY
while offering nothing of the trademark warm hearted, expansive, and humanistic
"up with people" bonhomie of the author's more sophisticated stage act.
PERUSE THE FOLLOWING TESTIMONIALS,
requisite in a culture where trust in one's own perceptions is demoted in favour of the speculations of daily newspapers, trade journals, and embittered ex-undergraduates who, failing to attain graduate-level status, appoint themselves electronically published critics of an art form in which they have rarely, or hardly ever, dabbled and then decide, as a citizen, how to continue.
"The ACME Novelty Library is my favourite comic book." - Jack Black, actor
"The colours are dreadful, it's like looking at a bottle of Domestos or Harpic or Ajax. Awful, bleak colours, revolting to look at; it's on its way to the Oxfam shop. Disgusting look to at. Really horrible" - Poet Tom Paulin, BBC Newsnight, December 8th, 2001, discussing the author's previous book.
"They exalt the little, and lower the great; nothing is more imbecilic, nor more immoral" - Gustave Flaubert, novelist
"Food, to the indolent lounger, is poison, not sustenance."
- Frederick Douglas, abolitionist.
"Skilled[,] but self-absorbed." - Peter Schjeldahl, discussing the author in The New Yorker
"Humour is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humour, for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit." - Aristotle, philosopher.
"Nearly impossible to read." - The L.A. Times Book Review.
I should point out the above represents a mere half of what you'll get before you even open the book, and I can't resist turning the whole thing over for two more paragraphs, whilst wishing I had time to type the lot:
In addition to the aforementioned features of this volume, it is widely believed that, with slight
adjustment, the whole might also function as
* A Disappointment * A Used Book * A Cutting Board * Food for Insects and Rodents *
* A Weapon * Fuel * Attic Insulation * The Focus of an Angry Review * Recycled Wood Pulp
in the Paper of a Better Book * Something to Forget about on the Floor of Your Car * A Tax
Shelter for the Publishers * A Puzzling Shard of Our Civilisation for Future Cultures to Find *
Note: should the reader have any interest whatsoever in instantly (and possibly permanently) compromising his or her sexual magnetism, or "Mojo," the purchase and consequent public comportment of his "Acme Novelty Library" volume is also a practical guarantee towards the speedy dispatch of that goal.
Do you think it's about time I actually looked inside?
This is the remaining material from ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #1-15 which was omitted from the two previous collections QUIMBY THE MOUSE and JIMMY CORRIGAN. (The latter beat all prose novels in 2001 to win The Guardian First Book prize, said newspaper thereby proving themselves decidedly more enlightened than Tom Paulin, the blind, blinkered and reactionary little wretch quoted above, who masquerades as a radical Irish poet and did once lecture me on kicking against the pricks at Nottingham University.) As such it features everything from mock advertisements (some featuring Rusty Brown and Chalky White in sequential art form), legal notices, glossaries, Subjects of an Instructional Nature, tables of content and several pages of cut-out-and-fold handicraft material. The whole thing bears the whiff of a lost American age, whilst parodying any nostalgia it successfully evokes.
Then there are the comics themselves starring (separately) Rusty Brown whose school days went on to be chronicled more extensively in ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY # 16 and 17 with more to come. Here we're shown revealing snap-shots from across the 50-odd years of his life which can't help but inform our reading of Rusty's childhood later on, for the adult Rusty Brown is quite the most physically and spiritually repulsive comicbook creation ever to sully our shelves. Like Jimmy Corrigan he's a Mummy's Boy: a product of poor parenting whose emotional development has been arrested in childhood. But unlike Jimmy, it hasn't just turned him into a mouse. It's something a little more icky than that - a little more sexual, and it's just Not Nice. He's a balding, bloated, middle-aged whale of a 'man' with a miniscule penis and an indescribably unsettling propensity for taking his clothes off to squat around the panels naked. Also, in spite of the fact that you just know this epitome of self-delusion would never make a single friend other than kind fellow comicbook and plastic figure collector Chalky White, he's systematically disloyal to him - lying, swindling and sponging his way through their friendship for his own selfish gain. And just when you think he can't get any worse, he weasels his way into Chalky's own marital home where their daughter is assaulted by 'gifts' from under the bathroom door... <shuddder>
Rusty Brown is perhaps an even more masterful creation than Corrigan, but there's plenty more Jimmy on offer too, as well as Quimby, Frank Phosphate and Doctor Science. I really should move on to reviewing something else now, shouldn't I? It's so difficult to look away.