Page 45 Review by Mark
The first three autobiographical collections which spoke, for many years, to a whole generation of Page 45 customers - and very much to our Mark who championed Jeffrey Brown's poignantly self-aware, fragile and intimate work with the same passion which he devoted to John Porcellino's short stories. These, then, are Mark's original reviews.
Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown
Over two hundred pages of love, happiness, sulking, lust, pottery and travelling.
Documenting a year in Jeffrey's life and a year in Theresa's, there's a lot of interesting editing going on here and it's not to hide the truth or point the finger unfairly. Kochalka rightly says that "the frailty of the line perfectly matches the human frailty portrayed in the story". And they are frail. Two straggly little people commuting from his place to hers, catching what time together they can. The scenes are episodic and out of order but perfectly put together. It could have so easily fallen into the category of indie-kid whining but there's something about the water-damaged, mid-period Chester Brown artwork that holds it all together and leaves me a little winded after reading it just now.
Unlikely by Jeffrey Brown
"260 pages of young love, sex, drugs, heartbreak & comedy."
The alternative title is 'How I Lost My Virginity' so we're into honest autobiography here. Somehow a better book than Brown's previous CLUMSY, this too matches fragile art and figures with delicate emotions and all the stupid things that we do early on in relationships. I bought a friend one of those Brian Ralph t-shirts that says 'I'm too nice' and you get the feeling that Brown should be bought one too. In a different art style, a heavier hand writing this bare-all confession of sweet love & physical mishaps would either feel too dismal and grimy or forcefully pathetic. Maybe it's the wide-eyed depiction of him and his girlfriend that keeps it all on an apparently innocent level. Like CLUMSY, you can feel the ending coming a mile off (well, twenty pages), you know what's going to happen but you sit and you read because you care and empathise.
AEIOU by Jeffrey Brown
AEIOU, or Any Easy Intimacy, is another book about a girl, the start of the relationship, jealousy issues, sex and need. It follows the same sort of path that we've seen in CLUMSY and UNLIKELY (more the latter really) but it's more disjointed. With this one you really have to fill in the gaps between panels, between scenes. It feels as if it was a book twice the size and, for whatever reason, Brown has chopped it down. This initially came out as a limited edition last year. Each copy had original art representing one of the interior panels (390 panels, 390 copies) and you'd get a tiny segment from what might be a love letter. Like the other books you kinda feel that maybe you shouldn't be reading it, it's too private.
"The reason for the short print run was conceptual... the book is really about intimacy and then parallels the relationship itself, and the relationship with the reader mirrors that intimacy, in that the same way I didn't get all the information from the girl that I should've during the relationship, the reader doesn't get all the information. The hand-drawn covers and inserted pieces of notes and things adds to the idea, so each copy is one of a kind... something like that."