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How To Be Happy h/c

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Eleanor Davis


Page 45 Review by Stephen

We are all going to cry tonight!

I hereby nominate this cover as the best so far in 2014!

Its composition is immaculately weighted and its colours are as warm as a travelling rug and equallly as embracing. It makes me happy.

The comics inside make me so happy too, but few of its protagonists.

As Eleanor Davis is swift to point out before you've even begun, This is not actually a book about How To Be Happy. Instead it's a graphic novel full of people looking for happiness in all the wrong places, and either failing or fooling themselves into the easily led lie that they've succeeded.

Take 'No Tears, No Sorrow' in which a gullible group of individuals, desperate to feel anything, fall for the fraud of a man making money from their disengaged doubts. 'No Tears, No Sorrow. No Sorrow, No Joy!' is title of his facile and fatuous book, and his workshop is worse. He presents them with abstractions to which he wants them to connect, and so determined are they in a competitive way to not be the ones falling short that they rewire their own brains leaving their emotions, forced here, to get the better of them outside.

It's artfully swathed in a cacophony of light and bright colours contrasted by the emotions evoked: mostly anger rather than empathy. Anger at themselves for failing to feel the masterly manipulated mass hysteria all around them.

Now have a listen to this. It's from 'Darlng, I've Realised I Don't Love You' in black and white in which a couple commune. Sort of.

If I loved anyone, it would be you. But I love no one.
I've come to understand I don't care about anything except myself.
Any kindness I've ever shown has been in my own self-interest.
The very existence of other people seems doubtful.
I wanted more from life than this.

Let's have a baby.

'Stick And String' doesn't reflect well on the strengh of a relationship, either. Told in line and rich, tree-trunk colours, a lute player enchants his countryside audience by day then is lured into the depths of forest at night by the bom-bom of drums being beaten round a crackling fire. The wild wood creatures scatter but one woman is tentatively drawn back as the man strums his lute anew…

'In Our Eden' sees a small group gradually disperse as their self-proclaimed leader - who's ditched the name Darryl in favour of Adam! - rages at them in blood-vessel-bursting red to return to the bliss that was Eden. Hmmm. 'Nita Goes Home', meanwhile, harks to a future when the organic / genetically engineered produce debate is far from over and, with her father ailing, a sister returns from Satorispace to a city so toxic that you have to wear full-body bio-hazard suits in order to venture outside. Naturally, fashionistas have been catered for. Here (and elsewhere) I was put in mind of Dash Shaw but the variety of styles being employed within HOW TO BE HAPPY is mind-melting.

A lakeside tale of longing and love was so poignant; another black and white tale, 'Thomas The Leader', less so, examining as it does the hegemony of boyhood friendship, both mental and physical.

Finally (although there are many, many more), 'Seven Sacks' was for me the most beautiful and unnerving. A ferryman is hailed by a succession of nasty-looking (and if one case, nasty-smelling) creatures to take them and their wriggling sacks across the river in his small punt. Apparently the sacks contain rabbits. I have my doubts. My favourite of the critters is either the whiffy, dark woollen one with eight dangling arms and an odour that curls and swirls out behind it (I'm thinking camel pong at the very least) or the brown, beaked beastie cloaked in the skin and plumage of some poor speckled bird, its evil eye glaring through the sewn-back socket, the overall effect being of a 17th century plague doctor.
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