Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"The lettering, the title, the cover... this is the best zine. Good thing I printed twenty thousand of these puppies! That ought to be enough for now!"
The literary legend - in his own boozy endless lunchtime, that is - returns to titillate us with his latest set of trials and tribulations in attempting to write the 'Great American Novel' and find stellar fame and Croesus-like wealth into the bargain. Moving on from the scene of his previous spectacular failure, as chronicled in FANTE BUKOWSKI, this time he's mooching around that well known literary hotbed of Columbus, Ohio, where all the greats have seemingly spent time, or indeed, currently live!
Columbus, Ohio, being where a certain Noah Van Sciver happens to reside... I've been there oddly enough and let me tell you, not a lot happens... Still, it's an amusing conceit, but one that's promptly and brutally bettered in the rib-tickles department by said Noah Van Sciver, replete with the now sadly shaved off, sarcastically self-proclaimed 4th best moustache in comics, appearing in this volume as a larger-than-life and I'm sure, entirely more odious version of himself as the romantic makeweight for Fante's former flame, Audrey. Who just so happens to be on that very self-same meteoric rise to stardom that Fante so desperately craves. Audrey, for some strange unknown reason, as she freely acknowledges to herself, despite Fante abandoning her in volume one, still harbours some fond affection for him.
Fante, meanwhile, is living in a cockroach-infested hotel with some delightful boutique features such as a profusion of voyeurs' peepholes and a kleptomaniac junkie manager. The Ritz it is not. Still, it's all grist to the metaphorical mill for a future Pulitzer Prize winner... In fact, were it not for Fante's steadfast, unshakeable belief that his own prodigious, innate talent will eventually be enough that the whole world will recognise his genius and thus provide him with his very own happy ending, he might consider giving it all up. Oh, and so long as his parents don't cancel his credit card that they pay off each month... Hmm... now, I wonder what they'll do when they see a streetwalker's personal services on the next bill?
As before, there's so much additional chortle-worthy nonsense packed in on every single page such as excerpts of Fante's own poetry, of which there are several suitably dreadful examples scattered throughout. Mainly reflecting upon just how tortured his chosen life is, musing on the likes of facing the insurmountable existential crisis of running out of beer and having to brave the sarcastically dismissive cashier at the corner store.
Another little conceit I loved, was the occasional artistic nod to a comics' creator or a classic panel. If you know your stuff you might spot as diverse references as Robert Crumb and the final page of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50! There are also some other choice real-world comics cameos, besides Noah himself, that only add to the fun. In fact one of which proves hilariously crucial to the farcical denouement.
If any creator ever wanted an example of how not to waste a single bit of space, they should look at this work. Even the inside cover has a brilliant little visual gag, which I won't spoil, that completely initially fooled me. There was also supposed to be an additional visual gag on the rear cover, involving a fake label but hilariously it was mis-printed requiring Fantagraphics to then actually print a genuine additional ISBN label to stick over it!
Plus, as with volume one, there's innumerate pearls of wisdom from the great and good dispensed like self-motivational medication for poor old Fante with disturbing frequency as page headers. Not that he's paying the slightest bit of attention being entirely wrapped up in his epic travails... In fact, I'll leave the last word to Fante. It's about himself of course...
"How can the world have so little faith in me? It's like nobody wants me to be the famous writer I'm meant to be..."