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Monsters Monsters

Monsters back

Ken Dahl


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"Dahl's excellent cartooning and humour make this book required reading for anyone who has had sex, is going to have sex, or wants to have sex."

- Jeffrey Brown (FUNNY, MISSHAPEN BODY etc.)

If you're prepared for the nightmares, anyway: if you begin this book for god's sake please read it right until the end, then the epilogue. If you don't, you'll be left with so many misconceptions or, at the very least, puzzled.

And if you don't already adore the NHS, you will once you've read this. The things we take for granted...

Top-shelf trauma, this is Ken Dahl's autobiographical account of his ordeal with a strain of herpes which doesn't just occasionally give you the odd cold sore: it gives you a mouth full of agonising monstrous pustules, and the same downstairs, both front and back. These are depicted. Explicitly.

He passes it on to his girlfriend then, when she experiences a very painful outbreak herself, he scrambles to suggest that it was she who gave herpes to him instead. Nice.

Communication breaks down into a precarious silence. Terrific sense of alienation: there are things much more lonely than being alone.

Single, he gets drunk with work colleagues, and then is so plastered at another party that when he's approached by a girl who's depicted as positively radiant with health... he kisses her too.

So I guess the titular Monsters aren't just the sores, though they too come alive in some spectacularly grotesque, morphing art.

There are plenty of similar "Noooooooo!" moments here, but some of them are funny, like the panel when Dahl's dog licks the milk out of his cereal bowl and his formerly dozing cat's eyes open wide. It's so subtle you might miss it.

Then, without medical insurance, there's his constant search for alternative treatments to at least alleviate the symptoms.

"None of them really seemed to do anything... But that doesn't stop them from charging top dollar. Because ever snake-oil merchant knows that, when you're in pain and without access to proper healthcare, you'll swallow pretty much anything that promises a cure."

Which is witty. There's a sign below one tonic which reads:

"So Fucking Expensive It MUST Work!"

Finally scraping together some degree of self-control he tries dating by disease - i.e. other people with herpes. Turns out that defining yourself by your disease don't give you even a clue as to character. Who'd have thunk it?

Stats on offer include that 75% of Americans are thought to have herpes and if that then starts making your eyes narrow slightly at what you've been reading, mine did too... so do please wait for the epilogue.