Thursday, September 10

Campbell's Sticky Tape Soup

Eddie Campbell with God: "I knew it! All of existence is held together with paper clips and sticky tape."

While waiting in the dentist's office last weekend, I realized I didn't bring any books with me. I snuck into the Powerbooks branch downstairs and went through their sale pile. And there, waiting for me was a copy of Eddie Campbell's The Fate of the Artist (New York: First Second Books, 2006). At 85% off and Php119--and a first edition at that--it's a steal and very much worth it. Managed to finish it over two dental visits.

The book's title page declares that this is "an autobiographical novel (1) , with typographical anomalies (2), in which the author does not appear as himself (3)."

What this means:

(1) The author has suffered a kind of "domestic apocalypse." He has disappeared, and what's left on the floor of his storage space was this scrawled picture of god as a smiley. We hear about Campbell's various neuroses through vignettes told by his daughter Halley, old Honeybee comic strips which portray the travails of a married couple from the last century, and other passages which portray the author as a hypochondriac, depressive, obssessive artist. But then again, which artist is not like that?

(2) The book is a collage of sorts. You have the aforementioned Honeybee strips, the interviews with Halley, the brief prose passages which are bookended with found objects, and sections which look into the tradition of comedy, humor and obscure artists, and even a comics dramatization of O. Henry's "Confessions of a Humorist" featuring Eddie Campbell who is not exactly played by Eddie Campbell.

(3) It's not Eddie Campbell because there's a guy named Richard Seigrist who appears as Eddie Campbell.

It's a very playful book. At 96 pages, it's a short one, but manages to give us a sustained meditation on "the lonely demands of art amid the realities of everyday life."

You can read an excerpt here.

1 comment:

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