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The Three Paradoxes

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  727 ratings  ·  80 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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Average rating 3.32  · 
Rating details
 ·  727 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Mar 10, 2008 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
Sam Quixote
Feb 09, 2012 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
Aug 04, 2007 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
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
Dec 20, 2008 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 01, 2013 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.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Mother, Come Home sounded so good that as i waited for it to be delivered to my lieberry, i plucked this one from the shelves because it sounded good. Alas, i merely enjoyed it as a visual experience. The ideas conveyed via The Word never cohered for me. ...more
Aug 16, 2007 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 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.

Nate Gruz
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh. The illustrations and their various styles are impressive, but the story is slight and the message, if there is one, was totally lost on me. I couldn’t fathom paying list price for this book, as it took less than half an hour to read (and that’s with lingering to admire the artwork!).

I’m fairly certain I can toss this on the massive heap of “boring, sad people are fascinating, right?” graphic novels.
Jeff Lewonczyk
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm still chewing on this one, to be honest. It's about change, or lack of change, or the impossibility of change, or the inevitability of change despite the appearance of impossibility. It contains stories in five distinct styles branching off from a common narrative. It's kind of maddeningly inscrutable as a whole, yet I was completely taken in by most of the individual pieces. It's worth spending an hour with.
Katya Kazbek
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, comixology
Attempts to do a few things at once without being great at either. The juxtaposition of a quietly dark American upbringing with Zeno's paradoxes seemed a little heavyhanded and unoriginal, and I couldn't enjoy either separately because there was not enough. Reminded me of American indie films where nothing happens but everyone is sure they're making smart references.
This autobiographical graphic novel left me with a feeling of emptiness. Not because the story was filled with angst, but because the whole thing felt unfinished. Loved the cartoons and graphics, but the story was dry.
Daniel Watkins
Dec 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Interesting and nice artistic style. I felt like it was a chapter in a longer book - I feel like the themes of the book could have been developed more.
Ellen Kozisek
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Enjoyable in the reading, but it didn't come together into anything meaningful. Left me thinking "huh?" when I got to the end.
Oct 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Ho hum at best
C Pure
Dec 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am always a fan of Paul Hornschemeier’s stories they really make you think... I may not understand it fully but I always learn something new. I also just love the mix of styles in this one.
Feb 15, 2008 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
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
Jan 13, 2008 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
Jan 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
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
Aug 29, 2007 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.]
Sep 11, 2010 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
Aug 18, 2007 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.
Spike Dunn
Feb 04, 2008 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.”
Lars Guthrie
Apr 06, 2008 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 ...more
Melissa Shelley
Oct 17, 2009 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). ...more
Bryce Holt
Sep 08, 2010 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.
Jul 02, 2013 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.
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
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.
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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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