I’m on a life raft floating across a sea of words, pulled into swirling tidal pools to observe the rich, vibrant forms spawning like phantasmagoric alI’m on a life raft floating across a sea of words, pulled into swirling tidal pools to observe the rich, vibrant forms spawning like phantasmagoric aliens (forms that once appeared mundane but only because, previously, no one had observed them as closely), pulled deep down by the undertow—note the hilarious mating habits in-situ of the foolish Parrot Fish—pulled out across hyaline waters sparkling like blue diamonds to drift peacefully in the doldrums before being abruptly dashed over great cataclysms of horror and despair; I’m a fool, a madman, an obsessive-compulsive; I’m fragile like a porcelain flower, a mother whose son was taken from her before it could breast-feed; I’m a laser, a microscope, a telescope, a catalog, a representation of the inner life of an artist much deeper than any Portrait of. I am going Swann’s Way.
If one were a close observer of both (in)humanity and other (in)organic states with an addiction to the documentation of one’s thoughts, one might spend a lifetime writing a never-ending story in an inevitable (and eternally recurring in its inevitability because words can never capture the entirety of reality) failed attempt to capture all of life in a mad swoop. Much of literature (if not all) is an attempt to capture at least some corner of this life (whether it be outer or inner), but for Proust that corner bursts out tesseract to encompass the very existence of a man from childhood until elderhood through the prism of memory (and not just anyone’s memory, but clearly the memory of an autistic savant who can conjure up the texture of a grain of sand in the crease of the toe of a boot worn on the day a particular slant of light reached through a window that was normally closed but on this particular day was opened due to some certain random but explicable convergence of events). The unfurling of these thoughts is as delicate as the dance of a sea anemone in a gentle undersea breeze, if a breeze that occasionally rips the limbs off the anemone and taunts you with the inner juices dripping from the dismembered tentacle. At times, I could not take this torture, the agony and horror of Swann’s idiotic, naïve love (and, perhaps, even more so, the horror of seeing my own reflection in Swann’s way); and knowing how he ends up if not knowing how he gets to ending up that way (because I have not yet read the subsequent books of In Search of Lost Time), made it all the more painful. Thank Proust for the slapstick hypochondria of Auntie Leonie and the aristocratic wit and folly to brighten the murder of love.
Softly flowing linguistic slitherings mingle with crisp literary devices, even mundane ones—such as cliffhangers—profoundly philosophical musings that achieve near Zen-states of enlightenment, and an unparalleled grasp of language induces me to declare Swann’s Way to be the work of a schizophrenic witch, and the greatest work of literature ever written…and this is only book one. But nothing I’ve ever read, certainly, compares to it. Which isn’t to say I haven’t received a greater degree of pleasure from other works, but pleasure is not the only measure of success. In fact, as Buddhism would ask you to consider, pleasure is ephemeral and disappointing. One doesn’t read Proust for “fun.” One reads Proust to become lost, amazed, and weakened, to learn, struggle, and grow, and, in the end, to admire what it is possible to create with dedication and passion and skill.
On a final mundane note, I do highly recommend this edition. Although I have not read the Moncrieff version, based upon the quality of Lydia Davis’ gorgeous translation, and the notes in the preface regarding the errors and personal emendations made by Moncrieff to Proust’s writing, I would hazard that this is a superior version. Welcome to a peculiar world....more
Kabuki is a series about transformation. Yes, it has beautiful art. Yes, it has great writing. And while the central theme of the narrative is transfoKabuki is a series about transformation. Yes, it has beautiful art. Yes, it has great writing. And while the central theme of the narrative is transformation, what I found even more powerful is the way the art of the stories transforms from collection to collection, seeming to mirror the character’s evolution.
I have met David Mack a couple times at Comicon, and I’ve been meaning to ask him if he always intended from the beginning for the story to be about transformation and to move from standard comic style to collage. I like to think that it’s something he came up with as he went along, and the writing of the story transformed as he developed it. That the book evolved him as the story itself evolved.
On a plot level, the story begins in rather mainstream comic fashion. Kabuki is set slightly in the future, primarily in Japan. The main character, Kabuki, is one of a group of eight female assassins called The Noh who wear iconic masks and stylized costumes. They are a team managed by the government and sent out to instill fear and kill gangsters and various corporate criminals. However ... not all is as it appears. A multi-layered conspiracy ensues. Seven graphic novels complete the story.
Kabuki Circle of Blood. Mack wrote and drew. Black & white. Has a grim, raw style. The art seems a bit underdeveloped to my eye. Has a bit of Sin City tone but more surreal. With more emphasis on emotions. The story is overall, fairly straightforward to this point.
Kabuki Dreams. Mack wrote and drew. Takes a huge leap forward in style and has more of the Mack signature look. Collage style begins, color is introduced. Blends pencil sketching, ink drawings, painting and even photography. This is a book of interior monologue and, as the title would lead you to believe, is trippy.
Kabuki Masks of Noh. Mack writes and draws some scenes, but this is primarily guest drawn. The style returns to black & white, but overall more refined, precise and graphic than Circle of Blood. Rick Mays draws a pretty phenomenal Scarab. The various artists seem to be chosen to help represent the style of each of the assassins. This sequence consists of short stories introducing us further to the other members of the Noh.
Kabuki Skin Deep. Mack returns to both draw and write. In Skin Deep his incredible artistic skills beginning to shine. He can morph like a chameleon from cartoonish renderings to realist representational paintings to pencil sketches.
Kabuki Metamorphosis. Mack writes, draws, letters and designs. For the sheer brilliance on display, I think Metamorphosis is the most beautiful of the series and my favorite. The diversity of techniques is breathtaking.
Kabuki Scarab Lost in Translation. An action-packed side-step featuring everyone's favorite assassin, Scarab. Illustrated in graphic black & white by Rick Mays, the coolest artist from the Masks collection. Just as the art harkens to outstanding comic illustration style, it doesn't push the envelope in content or technique. A fun diversion.
Kabuki The Alchemy. Mack takes his signature collage style even further, using cut up items and diverse materials including envelopes and letters sent to him from fans of the series to tell the existentialist, inspirational conclusion of Kabuki's epic story. Although visually, I prefer Metamorphosis, I truly admire The Alchemy for showing the potential of comics. Yes, many artists like R. Crumb and Chris Ware have achieved fame for non-superhero stories. But Mack essentially demonstrates the potential before our eyes to move beyond the dictates of the superhero form. A series that begins with ultra-violent superhumans fighting battles for stereotypical reasons ends with artistic explorations of our inner potential as creative beings. Kabuki moves beyond standard comic book “hero” tropes into a story of heroic action as self-transformation, moving beyond the dictatorship of the system, the fear of change and the psychological control of the past. The hero is one who evolves not one who kills everything. And Mack says we each have the potential, regardless of what has come before, to evolve. Perhaps best of all, the transformation that takes place goes much further than within the narrative; it is a transformation of the form of graphic storytelling. Now that is truly inspirational.