Page 45 Review by Stephen
Reveries, perspectives, freedoms, constraints...
Bodies, faces, fiction and fabrication...
Illusion, isolation, engagement and disconnection...
There's so much to absorb in this phenomenally rich and varied collection of searching short stories. You neither know what you'll get next nor know how it will be presented or indeed how each will end - except unexpectedly.
It's bookended on either side with two vertical, vertiginous tales, the first being a seeming celebration of newly discovered World-Class City life, away from home, as a fledgling woman enjoys heady independence...
"I'm gonna live in a World-Class City
"Not gonna leave
"'til my mom comes and gets me."
... up to a point.
The forms are brave, bold and weighty, but if you look closely, in spite of what the author contends, a price is being paid.
'Boundless', meanwhile, is life seen from sky-level by a bird, ground-level by a squirrel and the point of view of a house fly very much aware of its mortality, further jeopardised by the irate attention it attracts on the move. The bird luxuriates in the freedom flight affords, un-confined to "a lateral axis", but it must beware of where webs are woven.
"Most webs are so finely spun as to be completely undetectable and of no consequence to most organisms. We must avoid them at all costs. A simple lapse of attention or care can be deadly."
That's worth bearing in mind throughout this collection and, of course, life. Webs of deceit are being woven throughout 'The ClairFree System' which seeks to ensnare the unsuspecting with sincerity, which is a neat trick if you can pull it off. And the narrator can. There is a blindingly brilliant moment in the middle involving a hands-on approach whose intimate touch is reprised as the punchline. You're not quite reading what you're presented with at the beginning.
Further illusions are examined in '1.Jenny', this time in the mirror-life that is Facebook, where the facts and stats begin to diverge from reality. Well, they do that, don't they? What was it Charlie Brooker said about Twitter being an interactive game where one presents an approximation of oneself in order to win the most followers? Something like that.
"The mirror Facebook was all anyone could talk about for two weeks.
"At first it looked like an exact duplicate of the main Facebook, But soon small changes started to appear in everyone's profiles...
"1.Katie's liked National Broccoli Day
"(Katie hated broccoli.)
"1.Jonah was married to 1.Caroline
"(Jonah was 16, openly gay, and not yet dating.)"
These departures are amusing enough to observe in others but when 1.Jenny's life begins to deviate dramatically from Jenny's, Jenny becomes obsessed with following her mirror self, judging it and finding it wanting. Her therapist wants to discuss Jenny's home life, her past; Jenny would rather discuss 1.Jenny's.
As with almost all of these stories - a dozen or so including one on the back of the book - I'm still processing it and will do for months to come.
'Half Life' I knew I recognised - it's from the NOBROW 7 anthology - but it's even more fascinating in this context, as a woman gradually becomes more conscious of her own body, just as it starts to diminish, to physically shrink and doesn't stop. What happens with her relationship to the outside world is riveting and goes far further than you would anticipate. It's not an unhappy tale. The narrator is relatively equanimous to her situation, calmly observing its details before becoming fascinated by where its trajectory unexpectedly takes her. It's really quite sensual.
Rarely does one encounter such a variety of visual styles as well as narrative approaches in a single creator's compendium, although Eleanor Davis' HOW TO BE HAPPY immediately springs to mind.
Here we are treated to the soft forms and fleshy colour apposite for the reminiscence by its producer of the short-lived but bright and bouncy sitcom-porno created for television. But there's more than a little up in 'bedbug', haggard husband Jeremy drawn very differently to his narrator wife - slashes of line and a clueless, open mouth as opposed to her more voluptuous, fully realised physique.
"I got bitten first, on my lower leg. We assumed mosquitoes - Jeremy closed the bedroom window. But soon, we both had bites in the tell-tale rows.
"We stripped the bed. No sign, not even a hollow moulted shell. The internet said that was common, though."
Nothing here is accidental. Jenny's lines are much, much looser in '1.Jenny' - again, approximations - while 'The ClairFree System' is in black and white and quite precise, hailing the Holy Grail of a perfect skin and creepy, cult-like images too. Full-page poster panels, the lot of them.
For more Jillian Tamaki, please see SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY, SKIM and THIS ONE SUMMER with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, each as different from the other as the tales told here.
Jillian Tamiki and Mariko Tamaki will both be at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2017 this October. Come join us; it's fun!