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A book by Daniel Clowes

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Uneven genius

  • Jan 18, 2000
  • by
Pros: Brilliant stories, talented artist

Cons: Bizarrely inconsistent

A frequent critique of Daniel Clowes will involve some sort of pandering item about how 'in tune' or 'focused' he is with youth (see especially his Ghost World). Speaking as somebody closer to that period than him: he's not. His late adolescence is my early adolescence.

Still, to my knowledge Clowes himself never makes that claim himself. He does re-cycle the theme a fair bit, though.

Caricature is a strange work. The title story is brilliant, but then chops off unfinished -- not in a 'reader dangling' sense, but in a 'author could not finish it' one. The best in the book is 'Blue Italian Sh|t,' which is also about the shortest -- I think Clowes might be ill-suited to longer narratives. 'Blue Italian Sh|t' ends in a somewhat choppy manner as well, but not irritatingly so like the eponymous 'Caricature' story.

The other 'uneven' aspect of Caricature is the lack of cohesion between the stories -- realism segues into surrealism ('The Gold Mommy') without warning. It's not a collection of stories to read sequentially, or even in one sitting. The ordering seems random, and the stories inchoate.

His drawing style is exquisite to my eye; thankfully, for once, not entirely derivative. There is a problem again with consistency: the pretty 'Green Eyeliner' comes right after the unarguably ugly 'Immortal, Invisible.' It's almost as if Clowes was trying to scoop up the largest possible audience -- the 'comix' crowd and the DC/Marvel comics crowd.

The net effect of all this is confusion on the first reading, followed by a better understanding on the second go: don't read the stories in sequence, don't read them all at once. I really wish this didn't suffer from this...inconsistency, since Caricature is really worth a read or three, even at the extorbitant hardcover price of US$30.

(Yes, the author realizes that this review is also uneven)


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About the reviewer
K. Mennie ()
Ranked #679
Member Since: Oct 27, 2010
Last Login: Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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About this book


A collection of tales populated by misanthropic loners, including the title story in which a county fair caricaturist develops a relationship with an unstable girl who may or may not be the teenage daughter of a famous artist.
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ISBN-13: 978-1560974581
Author: Daniel Clowes
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Date Published: July 01, 2002
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"Uneven genius"
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