Monte Schulz's prose novel opens in the spring of 1929, as the 19-year-old consumptive farm boy Alvin Pendergast attends an ill-fated dance marathon he's too sickly to participate in. After a year of his life has been stolen by a sanitarium, Alvin knows he's relapsing, and dreads not only the drudgery of his family's homestead, but a return to the hospital. In this state of mind, an invitation for a late-night slice of pie is too seductive to pass up and before he knows it, Alvin crosses the Mississippi River and finds himself working for a slick con artist named Chester Burke.
Alvin is no match for Chester, who's not merely a con man, but a gangster from Chicago, following the bootleg liquor trade through the small towns of America's middle border. With Alvin in tow, Chester's insouciant disregard for life serves him well as he embarks upon a series of bank robberies and senseless murders. All summer long, Chester assumes the role of a dark angel on Judgment day, cleansing the scrolls of those whose sad fortune had drawn them across his path. Too ill to flee, too morally weak to object, Alvin resigns himself to what seems like certain doom somewhere down the road. Fortunately, Alvin finds another companion on his journey, a lonely, eccentric, and grandiloquent dwarf named Rascal, whose own infirmity binds his and the farm boy's destiny together. Drawn deeper and deeper into Chester's murderous frolic, they come across a curious assortment of characters, from small town businessmen and religious kooks to wayward girls and dance contestants, spiritualists and sideshow freaks. Caught between Chester's villainy and Alvin's own physical deterioration, the young farm boy must make a decision: stick with Chester, who would surely kill him at the slightest hint of betrayal, or muster the courage to stake his life on faith in Rascal's clever plan to save them both. Tired of being afraid, Alvin finally grasps the need not only to outwit the gangster but to find another road to travel. What he discovers about the meaning of home offers a solution to escape and freedom.
This Side of Jordan is a thoroughly American novel told in the voice of a lost generation hurtling toward the Great Depression, and evokes a long ago America of crowded Main Streets and tourist camps, miles of cornfields, rural churches, and musty parlors. It ends on the fairgrounds of a traveling wagon circus that beckons gangster, farm boy, and dwarf toward a startling resolution, and a hard-fought absolution for the two young, frightened collaborators. The narrative of this novel has the momentum of a freight train, but told in the seductive, rhythmic tradition of Southern lyricism reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote, and filled with vivid, outsized literary characters. If Jim Thompson and Carson McCullers went on a collaborative bender by kidnapping Holden Caulfield, Perry Smith, and Ignatius J. Reilly, they'd have come up with something like This Side of Jordan.
All and Sundry corrals critically-acclaimed author and artist Paul Hornschemeier’s work from the last five years — work previously ungathered, and in many cases never before seen in print.
These works span the globe, from periodicals to museums, including: conceptual drawings and comics of Ulysses S. Grant created for an exhibit in Paris; an award-winning cover exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the seventeen-part serialized tale of divine intervention, non-linearity, and social webs “Huge Suit Visits the People” created for the celebrated German newspaper Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung; and comic strips for The Wall Street Journal and CNN featuring the unlikely cartoon protagonists of Michael Jackson, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, and the “gray fox,” Anderson Cooper. In addition to these oddities, All and Sundry collects covers and designs from multiple foreign editions of Paul’s books, ranging from Holland to Korea; recent album art for David Byrne's Luaka Bop record label; a collaboration with celebrated comics humorist Michael Kupperman (Tales Designed to Thrizzle); as well as short, illustrated prose (thus far seen only in the pages of the anthology Mome).
The collection concludes with extensive selections from sketches and sketchbooks, providing an unusual glimpse at the chaotic world of Hornschemeier’s work, before the polishing of lines and colors of the printed page. Here we see how works have developed and what the future holds for still gestating projects.
All and Sundry, perhaps more than any previous collection of Hornschemeier’s work, demonstrates the variety and depth of the artist’s interests and pursuits, and invites an examination of the entirety of his process, from first fevered scrawl to final, pristine brush line.
Things have gotten about as dark as they can get in this week's installment of Steven Weissman's in-progress pages from "Blue Jay," an epic 51-page story from Chocolate Cheeks, the next collection of the Yikes! gang's adventures....
• Review: "From Wonderland with Love collects some of the last decade's best Danish comics in one big beautiful book.… You'll happily leave the book 'accidentally' lying around on your coffee table, as it is exquisitely designed and invites being leafed through and studied.… From Wonderland with Love at times is very avant-garde and goes where we are talking less comics and more comics-inspired art. But if you are ready to be challenged, it is hard not to be seduced by this work.… From Wonderland with Love might be a bit of an advertisement, but this exposure certainly is deserved, because why should the rest of the world be cheated out of such an assured demonstration of comic's many forms of expression and artistic potential?" - Christian Rasmussen, Litteraturnu (translated from Danish)
It's time for your Online Commentary & Diversions:
• Review: "[Editor Andrei] Molotiu has created a fun and accessible anthology here, one that’s smart and well-researched but not in the slightest bit obtuse. You don’t need to be an art snob to appreciate it; you just need an open mind. With that, the reward for Abstract Comics is quite lovely. And quite possibly a good opportunity for you to increase your appreciation for the comics format exponentially." - John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "...Giraffes in My Hair is a pleasure to read. The insights are genuine and the humanity is quite bare. Once I started reading, I didn’t stop until the book was over. This survivor’s tales were well worth the journey, once again, through two well-trodden decades." - John Hogan, Graphic Novel Reporter
• Review: "West Coast Blues... gets under your skin and remains impossible to resist from start to finish... Darkly amusing and undeniably entertaining, West Coast Blues keeps the mystery and interest alive by carefully doling out pieces of the story and introducing intriguing characters with loads of personality... Tardi does an excellent job of adapting what must be a massively entertaining book into a graphic novel form for all who seek a slightly different but no less thrilling mystery/adventure story to enjoy." - Avril Brown, Comics Waiting Room
• Review: "The Squirrel Machine should be called nothing less than a masterpiece: a true culmination and maturation of illustrative style and story. The atmosphere portrayed in black and white is meticulous and unsettling. Even the banal moments of the story have depth and direction... [a] lovely and blasphemous affair." - R.M. Rollston, Panel to Panel
The proceeds will go to Democracy for America Now, a national advocacy group running television ads to push the Public Option in democratic swing districts and offering support to congressional members who take a stand for the policy.
Cool cover on the current issue of Seattle alternative weekly the Stranger featuring hand cut art from Eroyn Franklin's Xeric award-winning graphic novel Another Glorious Day at the Nothing Factory. This amazing new book, limited to a numbered edition of 1,000 copies, is available exclusively at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery.
A short-n-sweet Online Commentary & Diversions update:
• Review: "While Prison Pit does, in fact, have a definable story throughout, it’s one that feels as though it were crafted in the margins of a spiral-bound notebooks stowed safely away in some backpack littered with the Sharpie penned names of metal bands. And though Ryan didn’t go so far as to in append a listening soundtrack to the back of this volume, one can almost certainly be assured that it contains its share of Cannibal Corpse and Slayer tracks." - Brian Heater, The Daily Cross Hatch
• Events: The Seattle Weekly recommends that you see the "dark, cynical, ornery, a tad cantankerous" Comics Savants exhibit at our Bookstore & Gallery today
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