Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chronic Guest Review: Paying For It!

Paying For It
Drawn & Quarterly Press
Script/Art:    Chester Brown
288 pages for $24.95

Way back in the good old days of the 1980s, there was a small place in the Pacific Northwest that nobody thought about too much; a little coffeehouse called "Starbucks" had just opened, a kid named Kurt Cobain was learning how to play a cheap guitar that his aunt bought for him, and a small publishing house called Fantagraphics opened its doors.

Fantagraphics quickly raised the standards for comics publishing with titles like Love & Rockets, Hate! and Eightball, all of which were to become counter-culture staples (any hipster from that time had to have at least heard of one of those titles) and were also noticed by the mainstream press (Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek) because of the intelligent writing and "revolutionary" lack of superheroic nonsense.  As Fantagraphics grew into the "thinking man's publishing house" of the comics industry, it also started to recruit international talent.

There was a trio of Canadians that were given the Fantagraphics spotlight: Seth was the writer/artist behind the amazing Palookaville comic (he went on to do covers and interior illos for the New Yorker magazine), Joe Matt was the degenerate, disgusting pervert who reveals both his penury and his overwhelming porn addiction in Peepshow, and Chester Brown's childhood experiences mixed with surreal clown stories were shown in Yummy Fur.

Now, in Chester Brown's new hardcover OGN Paying For It by D&Q, the good old days are back, baby!  I know that the Chronic Insomnia guys have a hockey puck on their shoulders for Canadians, but Chester Brown does his nation proud with this beautifully understated story.  This is Chester's autobiographical tale of how he came to reject the conventional notion of romantic relationships altogether and started becoming a "john" (or client) of hookers in the Toronto area.

He stays close to his female friends (he even lives with his ex-girlfriend), and while he decides to give up the pursuit of romantic love, he cannot possibly practice celibacy as his need for intercourse is too much for him to squelch.  Brown decides that his past hang-ups about soliciting ladies of the night are silly, and as he becomes more and more "experienced" with his "shopping technique" (going from ads in the free weekly paper to hooker review sites on the web), he also starts to have deep, personal conversations with his "service" providers.

In an excellent introduction, Brown reveals that he has edited the conversations for the sake of hiding the identity of each hooker.  However, the dialogue that he chose to include is funny, sad, revealing and strange...just like in real life.  If I had one problem with the book, it would be the somewhat abrupt ending that seems to come out of nowhere.  Otherwise, this is a highly enjoyable look into a weird world that not many of us get to see.

-  Miracle Keith

Ryan says:   Thanks once again to Miracle Keith, who may not be a stand up comedian, but remains Jewish at an Olympic level! 

I have insane gaps in my Classics readings, and Chester Brown surely qualifies.  I've never read Yummy Fur, and until Keith had me interested enough to dig into it a little, I didn't know that Brown was lacing those old issues with comic adaptations of the Gospels.

What is it about these hyper-alternative types and their fascination with the scriptures?  (I'm thinking now of Robert Crumb, who contributed commentary to Paying For It and also produced a lavish and faithful adaptation of Genesis recently)  I suppose it shouldn't be that surprising - a casual run through the texts will reveal some of the most perverse characters and stories in all of literature.

And as for Paying For It ...a sexually frustrated man soured on the concept of traditional romantic relationships?  Well, I'm sure I don't relate.

- Ryan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said indeed, Sir Ryan! Just a note: it's not just the "hyper-alternative" types that dig into the scrips, baby. Super Metal-Head/uber-illustrator Simon "The Biz" Bisley also did a book of Bible stories with over-muscled characters running through the tired old morality tales of yore. Glad you gave Yummy Fur a try; you should give the latter issues of Eightball a try - start with the "Death Ray" one-shot ish and you just may be hooked.

- Love and knishes, Miracle Keith