In which a self-important, lovestruck teenager is soundly (though rarely undeservedly, or cruelly for that matter) humiliated at every turn.
I've neveIn which a self-important, lovestruck teenager is soundly (though rarely undeservedly, or cruelly for that matter) humiliated at every turn.
I've never had the patience for most things written before, say, 1972, and over the past few years I've begun to hate that about myself. I happened to read "Seventeen" aloud to my wife (which has proven to be a more restful pre-slumber activity than watching "The Two Coreys"), and we laughed and were terrifically entertained throughout, despite deep, old-timey text that I would have dinkishly glazed over were I reading it silently to myself.
Tarkington had a very dry, impish sense of humor that put me in mind of Garrison Keillor, whose "Book of Guys" I'd recently also read aloud and liked a lot. (I understand a more fitting contemporary to mention here would have been Mark Twain, but as he never wrote any Choose Your Own Adventure books I've been forced to leave him off my summer reading list). We were quite sad to see "Seventeen" end, but on the plus side it did allow us to start reading "The Dirt" by Motley Crue, so all in all, a bittersweet departure.
In conclusion, reading old books aloud helps if you're a history-hating ding-dong like myself. Also, Booth Tarkington was a funny guy. ...more
I came to "Gasoline Alley" by way of that "Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories" collection that recently came out, in which a beaI came to "Gasoline Alley" by way of that "Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories" collection that recently came out, in which a beautiful, beautiful Sunday page of the strip is included. This fat, cumbersome rectangle collects two of the strip's earliest years (omitting the pre-Skeezix debut year), focusing on the black and white daily strips. Not every strip leads to a punchline, and the jokes that are there, with a few notable exceptions, will most likely elicit warm smiles at best. King could certainly draw and craft a decent gag, but where he especially excelled was in character development, and his remarkable devotion to ensuring that the lives of his little people passed in real time served this purpose perfectly.
We observe incurable bachelor and all around stand-up guy Walt Wallet as he deals with the initial shock of finding an abandoned infant on his doorstep, followed by the alternately hilarious and disgusting daily surprises that lie in wait for a new parent. Initially (and somewhat sensibly) applying his vast knowledge of auto mechanics to the realm of child rearing, Walt soon becomes attached to the little guy, to the point where neither he nor his neighbors can remember or fathom a time when he wasn't wheeling Skeezix (whose name is never really explained, at least not in this volume; he's just Skeezix, and even a reader poll suggesting alternate, more appropriate name for the baby does nothing to change the situation, and Walt, after allowing Skeezix to pick a name out of a hat full of mailed-in ideas from around the world, eventually outright refuses to acknowledge the contest altogether, congratulating the winner while tossing the whole thing aside) around in a stroller, or picking up the spoons the baby repeatedly throws on the floor, or gabbing and conferring with other neighborhood mothers as to the baby's progress. Walt's just a great guy, and as much of the time it's just himself and a currently mute (or non-verbal, anyway) infant occupying the panels of the strip, he'll talk right to you, confiding his fears and pet peeves and hopes. He wants to do the right thing, and you have no doubt that he will. I can't remember liking a cartoon character more.
Skeezix, for his part, is no garish, goofy Rugrats type of cartoon character, but an honest-to-goodness baby, completely lacking in self-awareness. Oftentimes you'll see him toddling around in the back or foreground, silently getting into something while Walt discourses on something that might not even have anything to do with Skeezix, or just sitting in the stroller, distracted by an alley cat while the grownups talk women and cars. As Skeezix grows over the course of the strip, I found myself sharing Walt's pride and delighted surprise with each new development. The baby's first attempts at speaking aren't treated as a main plot point, they simply occur, so that when Skeezix calmly replied to a neighbor's playful question of "Who's little boy are you today?" with "Unca Walt!", with his back turned to the reader and en route to picking up a toy car, I actually gasped a little. Subtlety isn't something one often encounters on the funny pages, and King's everyday approach to his material feels well ahead of its time.
I really didn't want this book to end, but reading slower was not an option. A nice spring day, a good home-cooked dinner, a shirt that fits perfectly, & these cartoons. Those funnybook-drawin' fellers have done a good deed, giving Frank King's work some long overdue credit. Kudos to Joe Matt for sharing and to Chris Ware for getting the job done. I can't wait to plow through the rest of the series....more
I love it when classics aren't a letdown. This is a great and funny little book about how control isA guy turns into a bug and it makes things hard.
I love it when classics aren't a letdown. This is a great and funny little book about how control is an illusion and about how impossible it is to really get to know anyone. I borrowed a copy from the library that had formica boomerangs on the inside cover and smelled awesome. ...more
Or "The Guy Who Liked to Go Outside and Do Stuff". If Thoreau were alive today, I bet he'd be one of those guys who won't shut up about how he "doesn'Or "The Guy Who Liked to Go Outside and Do Stuff". If Thoreau were alive today, I bet he'd be one of those guys who won't shut up about how he "doesn't even own" a television. Curiously, however, I don't think he'd smell bad. And he'd find Radiohead neither overrated nor God's gift to modern music. Just a talented band with a few fairly interesting ideas. ...more