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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

'one last stab at romance'



Mister Wonderful 
by Daniel Clowes

After the misadventures of the glorious Wilson comes another Clowesian anti-hero, Marshall. Previously serialised in the New York Times, this collection of strips is brought together in his latest book through Jonathan Cape and presents an opportunity for us in the UK to follow another middle-aged man with a unique take on the world around him. With one failed marriage behind him ('I won't go into detail but let's just say my wife had some issues with fidelity, and several of my friends were involved, and when it ended I had neither wife nor friends.') and without having been on a date for six years it could well have been a future of 'increasing irrelevance' for Marshall had he not been recently bolstered by the evening he was '"befriended" by a strange woman' ('It was sort of like "Breakfast at Tiffany's," except in this version, Holly Golightly is an unstable, crack-snorting sociopath.'). So we join Marshall as he waits alone at a table for the blind date that has been organised by his friends.



His date is late however so we are thrown straight into Marshall's interior monologue which will dominate the story, sometimes riding over the speech bubbles themselves so that we get a sense of his losing track of the conversation as he comments on how the evening is going. After having virtually given up on his date and downed a couple of beers she suddenly appears. Natalie is a good-looking woman and so Marshall is simultaneously smitten and convinced he doesn't stand a chance ('Jesus, why am I self-deprecating even in my own interior monologue?'). This book is subtitled 'A Love Story' and described as a 'romance' by Clowes but anyone who has read any of his work before will know that things are never that simple. Damaged in their own ways, Marshall and Natalie stumble their way through an evening that always threatens to derail completely, events finally coming to a head at a party that Natalie had arranged to go to previously and to which she brings Marshall.


Marshall's fantasies about where this meeting may lead are dotted throughout, as is his tendency to let his temper get the better of him. There is certainly a more positive outlook to this book compared to Wilson but there is enough of that sharp humour to stop things getting too sappy. What is lovely is that Clowes wants to show that no matter what relationship disasters may lie in the past there is always the hope that there will be someone out there to help us make a better fist of things - even on a potentially disastrous evening where fists themselves will come into play on more than one occasion. Ah well, 'The course of true love never did run smooth.'

7 comments:

Max Cairnduff 6 May 2011 at 14:08  

I was just over at The Asylum commenting that I must read more Clowes and then I saw you'd covered this. I've only read his Ghostworld (before the film, I add for reasons of vanity).

I'm not sure if this should be my next or another one, but this does reinforce my desire to read more.

By the way, I'm not sure why but leaving comments is proving a total pain. The comment box keeps hanging. Do you prefer blogger to Wordpress? I must admit I've found the latter a lot more user friendly since switching.

William Rycroft 6 May 2011 at 19:26  

Ah! Maybe that's why the number of comments seems to have fallen recently (he said hopefully). I flirted with the idea of switching to Wordpress a while ago but never did it properly. Perhaps when I have some time (ha ha!) I'll look into it some more.

Anyway. Clowes. I enjoyed this one but I reckon the next one to read, and I'm sure the man at the Asylum would agree with me, is Wilson which is utterly brilliant and far more of a graphic novel than this collection of strips.

Max Cairnduff 6 May 2011 at 20:43  

Wilson next then, thanks. Ease of posting can be an issue. There's also just chance though. If you happen to cover books that are minority interest for a patch then readers drop off. It's certainly happened to me before.

The conversion to Wordpress took almost no time at all for me. Perhaps an hour, maybe less. It's basically automated, if you do go down that path.

William Rycroft 7 May 2011 at 00:17  

I know a lot of people read blog posts through rss feeds now which can cut down on comments. I also simply don't have the time to comment as much as I would like so I know I shouldn't gripe.

I did set up a Wordpress transfer but I seem to remember something weird happened to the labelling or something. The domain is still there (somewhere) I may well try again. My main problem with blogger was that it looked so awful until I found another template, but if the commenting is glitchy then maybe it's time to move on. You certainly don't hear people singing Blogger's praises!

Lee Shin 27 June 2013 at 03:01  

spot on with this write-up, i like the way you discuss the things. i'm impressed, i must say. i'll probably be back again to read more. thanks for sharing this with us.

Lee Shin
www.trendone.net

lee woo 15 March 2014 at 01:29  
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laviña 26 March 2014 at 01:40  
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