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The Three Paradoxes

3.36  ·  Rating Details  ·  540 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
The Three Paradoxes is an intricate and complex autobiographical comic by one of the most talented and innovative young cartoonists today. The story begins with a story inside the story: the cartoon character Paul Hornschemeier is trying to finish a story called "Paul and the Magic Pencil." Paul has been granted a magical implement, a pencil, and is trying to figure out wh ...more
Hardcover, 80 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Fantagraphics (first published September 15th 2006)
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Josephus FromPlacitas
I'm not going to comment about this very closely, it was sufficiently understated that I didn't come away with much of an impression, even after reading it twice. It had nice-looking art, very clever use of image, background surface, and comics-making techniques to differentiate the imaginary and the "realistic". For example, he's working on a new story in rough blue pencil outline as he tries to work out his artistic demons on paper. His real life is darkly colored and relatively realistic, whi ...more
Sam Quixote
Feb 09, 2012 Sam Quixote rated it liked it
The book tells the simple story of a hometown visit for the artist of the book to his parents, along the way reminiscing about his childhood and incorporating daydreams and tangents that crop up during a conversation with his father. The drawing styles change with each story from the polished and clean look of the main story to the draft style of a story involving the artist, a monster, and the wise man in the sky, to a four colour style for flashbacks to his youth, to cutesy Manga-esque art for ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Lilburninbean rated it it was ok
Definitely not as good as Mother Come Home. Here’s what interested me: I like the way PH weaves between five different narratives (childhood sketches in blue ink; present-day visit with parents; red/orange pixilated memories of childhood; retro-brown flashback of neighbourhood child’s accident; “antique” pages of cartoon depictions of Zeno, Parmenides, and Socrates in Athens). Though rather simple, I also think the act of drawing as a strategy for defeating childhood demons could have been inter ...more
Aug 01, 2013 Ademption rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
2.5 stars rounded up to 3. Minor Hornschemeier. There are multiple narratives with clever transitions, using different drawing styles to move between the present, the past, and creative imaginings. But for all the neat pomo transitions, there isn't much happening on each plane. Paul the Author worries about finishing a comic and being a writer while hanging out with his father, and also remembering a moment from childhood. This book is technically well done, but narratively thin.
May 15, 2010 Abby rated it liked it
A beautiful book to behold, but lacking a story that left any real impression on me. I like how Hornschemeier depicted the four separate story strands in completely different styles and color schemes, but I found the connections between them tenuous and not very interesting. Also, I am sick of reading semi-autobiographical comics about nerdy, socially awkward young white dudes who were bullied as kids and have difficulty relating to women.
Aug 16, 2007 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: philosophy students and comics fans
Shelves: comics
This is the book where Paul Hornschemeier finally pulls together all his experimenting in style and form and wraps it into one seemless narrative. Like most good comics or graphic novels, the 80 pages seem like a lot more, and warrant repeated readings. Funny and thoughtful.
Emilia P
Aug 16, 2007 Emilia P rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: hometown romantics
Shelves: comic-books
By far Horschen-whatevers best book that I've read.
Sad, sweet walks around town with his dad, reminisces on childhood in a different drawing style, and Zeno's paradox.

Robert Beveridge
Paul Hornschemeier, The Three Paradoxes (Fantagraphics, 2007)

So, the underlying question of Hornschemeier's graphic novel asks us: was Zeno, in fact, right? Even when we reach our destination, have we really reached our destination? We are here given five linked (some more firmly than others) stories: the main story details a visit from our protagonist (Paul, natch) to his parents. The one most firmly linked is a memory Paul has while walking through town with his father of a childhood memory; a
Aug 11, 2007 Jamie rated it liked it
Shelves: graphicnovels
An interesting rumination on the concept of change and how it relates to the act of creation. Hornschemeier, on a walk with his father, mixes his observations of his old neighborhood with his struggles to finish a comic strip about youth, all the while indulging in memory and whimsy. Encounters with other people, stray bits of conversation, everything inspires some kind of mental tangent, what could be new fictional ideas, false memories, or something truly remembered. In one panel, Paul's young ...more
Mar 17, 2008 Jace rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: pretentious indie kids who get off to Wes Anderson movies
Shelves: comics
I fear that this book may turn the next generation off to graphic novels. I left this at my parents' house and my 14 year-old brother tried to read it. He put it down pretty quickly because it was, in his words, "boring and pointless." Out of the mouth of babes, they say...

Well, I'm not going to spend much time arguing with my brother. Ok, so I get what this book is supposed to be about. Introspection, the past, loss, uncertainty about the future, hope, etc, etc. Yeah, I get it. But Jesus, quit
May 31, 2015 Beverly rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel, 2015
Paul Hornschemeier is still one of my favorite graphic artists, but this book was difficult. It's short, but packs in a lot about change and growth and the difficulty of doing both. It sort of non-liner, jumping between past and present, and on second thought though quite poignant. In one unforgettable section a (non-Hornschemeier) boy tries very hard to restore his life after an accident but doesn't get very far. I'm going to read this book again and I'm increasing from three to four stars.
Jan 22, 2008 kubby added it
well, this was my friend's library book. it's a quick read. it had a different feel from mother, come home, but it still left me wanting more. mostly there are flashbacks of sorts from the character paul visiting his hometown. there are different drawing styles employed throughout and i do like when stories weave together. it seems like this could be a chapter of a longer work.
i wouldn't recommend this to everyone. it may have a draw for cartoonists for the frustration portrayed in the comics-ma
Feb 27, 2014 Rachel rated it liked it
i'll rate this 3 stars until i understand this because i just didn't get it. i am reading it again and maybe i will ask the english teacher at school. it had gorgeous illustrations, character development and comic-style scenes but the ends just made no sense. i'm sure it has an amazing meaning bc of all the good reviews.
Sophie D
Aug 07, 2015 Sophie D rated it really liked it
I really really liked this book. I finished it still not knowing the entire story but I actually thought it was part of the enjoyment of the book. It was funny but also serious. I loved the art and the different stories within it. Very well done.
I'm going to have to have my husband and son read it, so I can talk to someone about it. I think I missed the point or the message.
Jan 12, 2009 Shreyas rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Interesting graphic novel. It was fun to go back and forth across various timelines and perspectives, with the artwork shifting along with you.

But you were still stuck with a bit of a meh story. I think I've finally reached the point where the insecurities of a 20-something post-collegiate urbanite fail to make for a compelling narrative.

This was too much about process (including the process of insecurity). Which could be interesting if that process uncovers deeper truths or goes somewhere or a
Sep 11, 2010 Jason rated it really liked it
This book broke my heart again and again, and I could not put it down. Stories within stories about the relationship of a cartoonist with his father, about the persistence of the past in the present and of the present in the future, and about the impossibility and inevitability of change. Many of the images--usually those without text--in this book convey such rich, nuanced experiences and emotions that they truly are worth thousands of words. This is one of the more moving graphic novels that I ...more
Oct 23, 2007 Matt rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Not as disappointing a follow-up to Mother, Come Home as some reviews have suggested.

Not nearly as good as I wanted it to be.

Some really, really interesting ideas coupled with some lovely art. Just didn't have quite the emotional punch as some of Hornschemeier's other work.

[edit: I just read it again and added another star to my previous review. I think this is a work that might need a little bit of time to sink in. Like an album that grows on you the more times you play it.]
Melissa Shelley
Oct 17, 2009 Melissa Shelley rated it really liked it
I didn't think this graphic novel deserved 4 stars when i first read it, but the more reviews I read, the more I understood it. It really is genuis. His memories and his current self intermingle as if to prove one of the paradoxes correct (same now as in past & future). Even the lack of a good ending (which is why I didn't like it at first) supports the idea of the arrow in flight paradox (has to travel 1/2 distance of whole and thus never reaching the target, aka, the end of the story).
Bryce Holt
Sep 09, 2010 Bryce Holt rated it it was ok
Where "Mother, Come Home," absolutely stole my heart away, this just kind of made no sense as to why it was created in the first place. It's 60 or so pages of a guy walking around some city, accomplishing nothing, and worrying about things. If I wanted that, I'll just rewatch "The Big Lebowski" for the 200th time. Outside of the artistic approach taken here, I was really disappointed. Not that you're going to find it in too many places, but if/when you do, get "Mother, Come Home" instead.
Lars Guthrie
Apr 06, 2008 Lars Guthrie rated it really liked it
Clever. There are some things in this that couldn't be done in any other medium as effectively, which is a demonstration of the medium's power. If it's still just a comic book, comic books can do things prose novels and movies can't. Hornschemeier's style is quite similar to Daniel Clowes, a graphic novelist I like even better, whose recent New York Times serialized "Mister Wonderful" is available in full at
Jul 04, 2015 Claire rated it liked it
poignant. I wanted there to be more.
Spike Dunn
Feb 04, 2008 Spike Dunn rated it really liked it
Calm, detached, mysterious. Four different styles for telling four different stories, which don't often interweave but interrupt and comment on each other. It doesn’t take the reader in as deep as “Mother” but neither does it subject one to such abject nihilism. There’s hope in this one, if a rather cloudy kind. Favorite bit is the “Lil’ Philosophers” comic that casts the aspirations of philosophy against the impending sorrow of death. And Socrates says, “fuck.”
Oct 20, 2007 Brad rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
A step back from Mother, Come Home, I think.
Hornshemeier excels at blending different comic styles, and uses them here to mix a narrative with the lead character's daydreams and location-triggered memories. His art is still great, and there are some good bits of dialogue (especially the last line, "you're less blurry in person"), but the side stories are far too long and often distracting from the main story.
Jul 05, 2013 Colin rated it liked it
Still processing this one, therefore my rating is just first reaction. Actually I'd have given it three and a half stars. It really is a dense and poignant novel. A very honest and convicting picture of our generation in Paul's (semi-autobiographical?) main character juxtaposed with the father. His use of Zeno's paradoxes is genius (more thoughts to come on that). Reading it through a second time now.
Aug 30, 2015 Joe rated it it was ok
I really like Hornschemeier's clean style, but his story is from the Chris Ware school of comics: dudes living with their parents, the occasional liberal arts post-modern riff, and a lot of people staring blankly at nothing. A lot of modern short stories, comics, and independent films suffer from this "I am not sure what to say, so I will just portray people staring a lot" theme. Too bad.
sweet pea
Jun 08, 2009 sweet pea rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-content
ultimately, despite its premise, i didn't feel this book relayed any deep meaning. but the interposing of the various narratives between the present-day story, was deftly done. plus the different styles of art in each narrative were visually-pleasing. the book didn't floor me. but it was still an interesting exploration of childhood and how it effects our present life.
Paul Jensen
Dec 01, 2007 Paul Jensen rated it liked it
Wasn't the kicked-in-the-stomach, emotionally wrenching experience like "Mother, Come Home" was, but this little novel is still a unique gift from an extremely talented artist. There's a sense of loss and sadness throughout, but the artist doesn't delve deep enough. It's far too short. I can't wait to read more from him - he's quickly becoming my favorite graphic novelist.
May 30, 2010 Erik rated it it was ok
Rolling Stone’s assessment is dead-on that Hornschemeier is the “avant-garde of graphic novelists.” Although he masterfully blends several unique comic book styles when embedding different sub-narratives within the main quasi-autobiographical story-line, I’m not entirely convinced that he’s the next Daniel Clowes or Chris Ware.
Apr 15, 2009 Raina rated it it was ok
I really liked the way the creator uses various illustration styles to communicate various sources for the story/memories/etc. But I'm not sure I "got" it, and I never connected emotionally with the story in any way. I did enjoy the depiction of the parents and the long-distance relationship - that rang very true.
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Paul Hornschemeier was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1977 and raised in nearby rural Georgetown, Ohio. As a child he liked to draw, dreaming that he might publish his own comic books one day. While majoring in philosophy and psychology at The Ohio State University, Hornschemeier was introduced to the graphic novel Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and began exploring underground and literary comics. He s ...more
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