Page 45 Review by Stephen
"What, have you been using your phone?
"That is against the retreat rules.
"You're being so disrespectful.
"Let's go somewhere else. She has just ruined my zen feel."
Welcome to the outer suburbs of Something City. Even the endpapers made my eyes burst with joy.
Each individual, colourful community comes with its own distinct identity, but they're all interconnected through family, friendships and relations - except maybe the Amish one which removes itself from the world to such a strict degree that Pokemon playing cards prove utterly baffling.
Each of these ten short stories also comes with its own colour scheme, our Amish friends in plum purple, custard yellow and green. The panels are relatively free from lines so that they resemble silk-screen prints. Your eyes are invited to explore the chapters' initial full-page landscapes which are open and actively populated by those going about their daily routines, some dancing, shopping, or stopping to throw up in the street after far too much booze.
The amenities are many and varied, the homes well appointed. There are dogs and cats and fountains and flowerbeds. Any fences or privet hedges are low, with neighbours gaily interacting. It's all ever so relaxed.
Pffft! Beneath its gentle veneer, Something City is a hotbed of bitching, disgruntlement and conflict - except, perhaps, in its prison. The book-end chapters come with a bite but otherwise Weaver gleans a great deal of comedy in these surprisingly satirical short stories, full of the unexpected, with deft turns which will delight you.
Take the opening quotation from a tale set in a nudist retreat where everyone roams merrily liberated from the constraint of clothing, taking yoga classes naked and revelling in the shared freedom and tranquillity which engenders a bonding and bonhomie. Or: where almost everyone vies to be holier than thou in their heavily proscriptive, self-righteous judgementalism. You're going to be enlightened, whether you like it or not.
Speaking of proscriptive, self-righteous judgementalism, the very opposite of nakedness rears its artificial head in the form of the latest, hot-trending Face Action App which upgrades your appearance to an earlier age and it's all the rage amongst those ploughing into the realm of wrinkles and furrowed brows. It's like an extreme daily make-up routine, foundation-free, at the click of a switch as long as your dates are on Skype. Face Action Enabled and...
"Hey gorgeous, you caught me before I leave for work."
"Oh you big shot. I was wondering if you're still free for our date tonight?"
"Of course I am. Same time as usual. Can't wait to chat. You look amazing by the way. Have you done something new?"
"I got the 'fuller mouth' update from the Face Action site."
"Knew it! It suits you, babe."
Of course you have to cover up outside in hats, scarves and sunglasses and those who flagrantly choose to eschew are viewed with the same embarrassment and outrage as if they'd ditched all their clothes. Now, I did sort of suspect how this episode might end, but the rebuttal is so much juicer than I'd anticipated.
Lies are also Matt's stock in trade down at the fishmongers. Or at least, he does seem to be a compulsive liar, claiming to be friends with Eminem and a former genius at Apple but what he truly lacks is a sense of proportion. His lover, on the other hand...! Again, a terrific punchline.
Some encounters are much more poignant: the girl who won't go outside, so keen on astronomy but cut off from the village star-gazing party by her fear of disease which she is convinced is made all the more virulent by the moon. Instead, she watches Star Trek re-runs. Fictions and fantasies, eh?
The rest I'll leave for your unearthing, like that lady throwing up in the street.
There's a wonderful fleshiness to the forms here - and a whole lot of flesh - and a frailty in old age plus a heavy weight of sadness which some characters come close to being crushed by.
Many an attempt is made to move on, but more often than not it is thwarted by outside circumstances or their own vulnerability.
Overlaps abound, right to the end.