Sunday, October 09, 2005

Spiral Bound

New at the Galaxy, and reprinted here just because I love you all so much:

Spiral Bound (Top Secret Summer)
Written and Drawn by Aaron Renier
Published by Top Shelf; $14.95 USD

Spiral Bound is a multitude of stories that zig-zag through one another and eventually merge. It’s the story of Ana, a young rabbit who it seems will be friendless for the summer, until she gets a job working for the town’s underground newspaper. It’s the story of Turnip, an elephant trying to find his place in the world when a new friend leads him to the art of sculpting. It’s the story of Stucky, a hound dog whose one goal in life is to build a ceramic submarine. It’s the story of the Pond Monster and how he influences the lives of these kids.
But, it’s more than just their story; it’s the story of the entire town, of how this one thing affects so many different people in so many different ways. It’s a mystery that’s not really about solving the mystery but rather what the mystery brings out in the characters.

Renier does a fantastic job of establishing not just his main cast but the supporting characters as well. The plot is simple and fluid, the dialogue never feels forced. The book’s only real downside is the art, which is mostly great, very clean, easily identifiable characters and, as much as I hate the word, very adorable. But, at times there’s too much going on for the eye to follow the story. It can be distracting and I lost my place a few times because my eyes kept wandering. It does give the world he’s created a much more “lived-in” quality though, so it’s definitely not the worst flaw to have.

All of that just affirms the technical skills of the storyteller though, it really doesn’t describe the greatness of the book, for me at least. To do that, I have to tell you a little story about my own life.

When I was a kid we lived across the street from a few cousins on my Mother’s side of the family. Behind their house was what we affectionately used to refer to as “The Woods”, a place we were never supposed to go. But, like most kids, eventually our curiosity got the best of us and we began to make frequent treks into the unknown. It wasn’t a forest really, just a very small patch of wooded area, tons of overgrown weeds and bushes, large oak trees and the like. There really weren’t very many clearings before we started making our trips either, but by the time we moved away we’d put quite a dent in the place.

It became sort of a hangout whenever we were left to our own devices (which, frankly, was probably too often). Half-hearted forts were built, endless games of tag were played, and toys that would be worth a bundle today were surely lost. As far as I remember we were only busted on our adventures a few times, and paid dearly for them, but it never stopped us from going back.

As an adult I can now see why it was no place for children, and to tell the truth if given the chance now I severely doubt I’d set one foot back there. Now I’d be afraid of the threats that might be, but as a kid I just had to know what was back there. We didn’t see the danger, or maybe the danger was part of the fascination, I’m not sure, we just wanted to know. Not knowing seemed much more devastating than anything else.

And while that’s not exactly what Spiral Bound is about, it is the place that it brings me back to. It’s rare that a book can make me stop and reflect on my own life; and not in that “What does it all mean?” way, but in a “Yeah, those really were the best days of my life” way. Grade: 4.5/5

And, while you're at it, check out Johnny B's latest Last Call, CA's new Breakdowns, Mick's Overdue Books and the TWO Harvey Pekar interviews!

So, get busy readin'!


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