Sunday, September 23, 2007

TCAF follow-up: "The Luxury of Living"

I never followed-up on the books that I picked up at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, so I'll write about one today and another in the next day or two. (Since committing to blogging tomorrow is never a good idea.)

The first is one toward which I feel rather ambivalent - Michael Noonan's "The Luxury of Living". I'll start with a brief comment on the visuals, toward which I feel absolutely no ambivalence. Noonan's pencils remind me of David Mazzucchelli, which is no small compliment. I don't know if it's that Noonan's lines seem somewhat scratchier than Mazzucchelli's, or that the directness of his prose - while the entire piece is a letter, of sorts, he occasionally speaks directly to the reader - is creating the connection in my brain, but I'm also reminded of "Waking Life" aesthetic. And so Noonan's carefully composed line-work, seeming to barely contain the anxiety that creeps out through those lines and that's likewise expressed in his text, appears to shake and undulate as if a part of that (equally anxious, paranoid) film. (One minor problem? The computer-typed text - it has the opposite effect, given that it is clean and uniform, often ill-fitting, sometimes misspelled, and simply disruptive of the experience.)

Of course, "Waking Life" is something of a precocious and precious film - and so too is
"The Luxury of Living". The book is, in almost equal parts it would seem, an expression of love for his daughter and disgust for his ex-wife. And this is something of a problem, as the latter seems to necessarily drain some of the sincerity from the former. I don't doubt Noonan's emotions, but the comic seems to be implicated in the custody battle that Noonan describes - it makes for a problematic and discomforting experience. It feels as if this if the daughter herself is secondary to striking back at charges that he's the poorer parent. And arguing that, in fact, the reverse is the case.

Well intentioned as he might have been, Noonan's book feels like a thinly-veiled attempt to drag his daughter into the fight, though indirectly. And whether he's totally conscious of the book's instrumentalism, he at least acknowledges his inability to keep her entirely sheltered from the fighting. In the book's first short narrative, Noonan argues with his ex-wife's boyfriend over the phone. He checks on his sleeping daughter afterward, hoping that she hasn't overheard. Satisfied that she's asleep, he closes the door - and her eyes open.

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