Tragi-comic adventures

Tragi-comic adventures
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First Published: Fri, Dec 09 2011. 09 47 PM IST

A light pen: This graphic novel exceeds expectations.
A light pen: This graphic novel exceeds expectations.
Updated: Fri, Dec 09 2011. 09 47 PM IST
It’s not new, and it’s small, but it’s a bittersweet little graphic novel (and I am on a Top Shelf trip right now), so this edition of CF is about Cry Yourself to Sleepby Jeremy Tinder (published by Top Shelf in 2005).
Cry... is what could be called a slice-of-life comic book. It is the sad but humorous story of three characters—a failed novelist who works in a video store, a rabbit who has difficulty holding down even basic jobs because of a disability (he is a rabbit, see?) and a robot who wants to be human. The three are friends and the book seems to suggest that they live together (although this isn’t completely clear).
A light pen: This graphic novel exceeds expectations.
Tinder uses a light pen to tell the trio’s story. His illustrations are in black and white, and basic, and his writing is clean and shorn of the melodrama (or even drama) one would associate with a product like this. The story conveys a sense of restlessness and anxiety one would typically associate with young people trying to find direction and purpose and that’s probably the core around which Tinder has constructed his story.
As a non-graphic (or ordinary) novel, a plot such as this is unlikely to have worked. Indeed, it may not even have worked as a short story. As a graphic novel, albeit a small one, it surpassed my initial expectations—perhaps the matter-of-fact bitterness and humour works at this scale and in this format. The sadness that runs through Cry... is, interestingly, not the main point of the book (the best way to describe the main point would be to quote Lennon about life being something that happens to you when you are busy making other plans). And it ends on a positive note with the robot saving the rabbit’s life and the writer going for a walk with a girl who frequents the video store. “So, what did you do today?” the writer asks the robot towards the end of the comic. “Saved my friend’s life; Helped build a next. You?”.
“Nothing that heroic .... But I think I finally figured out how to make my book really great.” The themes at the core of Cry... are not particularly new and were a favourite of a lot of writers in the late 1990s and 2000s (Gilbert Hernandez, for one). Yet Tinder’s book managed to get my attention, maybe simply because it isn’t overwrought or pretentious.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint.
Write to him at cultfiction@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Dec 09 2011. 09 47 PM IST