Thursday, July 08, 2010

Daniel Clowes: Wilson

Daniel Clowes
Click Image Once, Twice to Enlarge
(Image from New York Times)

I'm a sucker for the literary allusion, as in the one below from Sam Lipsyte's New York Times review, "Dyspeptic Living," of the graphic novel Wilson, by Daniel Clowes:
Say hello to Wilson, the eponymous hero of Daniel Clowes's latest novel-­in-comics. Perhaps he is a hero of our time. But if that phrase makes all you comp-lit majors think of Lermontov's Pechorin, think again: this haggard, middle-­aged fellow is no dashingly depressive duelist or seducer. Wilson hectors people in coffee shops and hits on his ex-wife with sweet nothings like, "As you know, I certainly never minded a larger woman."
Lipsyte's Russian-literature allusion to Lermontov's Hero of Our Time -- which I read as a sophomore many years ago during my Russian literature phase -- makes me want to read Clowes's graphic novel . . . though, of course, the two books have little in common because Wilson, unlike Pechorin, is no Byronic hero:
He is a rich mix of states and traits: lonely, alienated, obsessed with his dog and the mistakes of his past, unjustifiably smug, genuinely funny, nettlesome, under­handed, empathetic and always all too human. Does he stand for a generation, like Pechorin? No, he stands for Wilson -- a glorious swirl of confusion, hypocrisy and simple yearning. Wilson may seem like an everyman, but he is soaked in idiosyncrasy, and not necessarily the kind that leads to some imagined universal. Instead we get a flawed and conflicted individual, whose laments, even when tainted by ego, or maybe especially when tainted by ego, are deeply affecting.
I even kind of like the comical sequence above, "Marriage." I'm less certain about some of the others that I've seen, such as "Fellowship" and "Gate 27," which you can also see, along with "Marriage," in this pdf.

If anything appeals to me about Wilson personally, maybe it's because (as Lipsyte describes him) he seems "like many reasonably smart if not completely self-aware people responding to the world with bile" -- not because that sort of person appeals to me but because I might have grown into one of those people if I hadn't met Sun-Ae, so having Wilson around as a reminder and a warning renders him useful to me.

Fortunately, I didn't turn out like Wilson. Granted, I might be one of those "reasonably smart if not completely self-aware people responding to the world with bile," but I'm at least one of those "reasonably smart if not completely self-aware people responding to the world with bile" who also has a lovely wife and two great kids.

So, I'm different.

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At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something off-topic, but which you may find of interest.

The PBS Newshour gave a nice report today on the upcoming publication of Mark Twain's autobiography.

The Newshour's website also publisheda previously unpublished essay by the great American humorist.

In the report, the folks at Bancroft Library reads brief passages from the autobiography concerning Twain's strategy against writer's block, his disgust with Christianity, his disgust with a man who lost him money, and with an episode during the Spanish-American War when Theodore Roosevelt and the American military massacred 600 unarmed Filipino guerrillas.

This should complete my Mark Twain collection for my library.


At 5:45 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Lollabrats. I see you've been busy.

Jeffery Hodges

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