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Not Really More Eightball #23

So, this weekend I read Eightball #23, and I’m still not sure what to say about it. I can’t say I’ve ever liked anything I’ve read by Dan Clowes, and yet I keep reading his books. So here I am, with yet another story I’d describe as vapid just because it’s nothing but surface and not a surface I find interesting. Here’s another story in which there’s no internal life for the protagonist and no external world, either, since he interacts only with his delusions. I’d call the work soulless, except that that implies I think there are souls in other things. For me, Clowes’s work here and elsewhere is always flat, dull, uninspiring, and I haven’t been able to figure out what it is that causes such a spark in other readers.

I don’t want to play the gender card because this I don’t think this is about my gender, but because of my own experiences and general orientation toward the world, I’m just not really interested in seeing any stories about how great men think they are when they sadistically protect women from the Big Bad Male World. This goes for Identity Crisis, too, and more so. I’m sick of reading about poor, oppressed boring white men and their whiny hangups about how much women suck. I just really don’t care. At all. I suppose I’d be happy enough reading things like this if I didn’t ever have to come across it in real/internet life, if it were some exotic phenomenon and therefore had some peculiar depth and insight, but that’s not the way things seem to go. And depth and insight are what I’m looking for here, some evidence that maybe the people who do these sorts of things have at least the possibility of looking at themselves and realizing how stupid and cruel and self-defeating their actions are, but I probably shouldn’t go to literature looking for false hope.

I’m not saying I can’t come up with a critique of Eightball, only that I get so annoyed or bored by other concerns that I don’t want to bother. So this isn’t backlash or review, just bemusement and a reminder that I don’t have whatever thing it is that allows people to love Dan Clowes, and I think I’m ok with that anyway and will be if it changes too. Then again, this moving is getting to me and I’m clearly not myself. I spent part of the weekend actually wanting to dust and vacuum. Weird.


  1. Dave Intermittent says:

    Still haven’t read the new Eightball yet–a one week vacation and I’m suddently behind the times, it seems; but your take on Eightball sounds accurate, at least as compared to my own reactions to my only prior brush with Clowes, his Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Same problems there as you describe in Eightball #23: no life to the characters, tepid grotesques trotted out in lieu of any interaction with anything real, a work sealed off from anyting other than itself.

    Though it did have pretty pictures.

    Now I suppose I should go and buy Eightball, at risk of having my blogger card revoked.

    — 19 July 2004 at 7:28 pm (Permalink)

  2. Rose says:

    I’m glad you got a break, at least. I’ve been not blogging but also not vacationing.

    I will be interested to hear anything you say about Eightball #23, especially since it’s interesting to see the kinds of characterization all the responders are choosing for themselves. Mine is whiny!

    — 19 July 2004 at 8:00 pm (Permalink)

  3. Johnny B says:

    Myself, I admire Clowes’ craft, dry and clinical as it is…I suppose I fall somewhere in between you and Alan David Doane on this issue. I liked, but didn’t think it was anywhere nearly as good as its predecessor, even though I will say it compels me to think about it pretty often, less so since it’s been discussed to distraction here in the Blogosphereiverse.

    #22 had a lot more resonance and depth, for me anyway.

    — 20 July 2004 at 2:30 am (Permalink)

  4. Rose says:

    Johnny, I admire his craft as well, but nothing seems to click for me in terms of story. There’s plenty I could talk about here, but I’d rather focus on other things just because everyone’s already talking about this. I guess I should say I appreciated the absence of weird penis-driven stories like the ones that populate Twentieth Century Eightball, because I especially dislike those.

    I wouldn’t say I hated Eightball #23 or anything like that, only that I didn’t find it interesting. It wasn’t that it was badly executed, only that its appeal is inscrutable to me. I probably shouldn’t have written anyhting about it, but I’m hoping one of the serious Clowes supporters, most likely David Allison, will be able to show me what they find enticing.

    — 20 July 2004 at 12:00 pm (Permalink)

  5. David says:

    Eep — I’m feeling the weight of expectation on my shoulders now Rose!

    I will get around to writing about David Boring on my blog, but as I’ve not been in the mood to re-read the book recently, that particular piece will have to wait for now.

    As to Eightball #23, the more people’s responses to the book I read, the more I think that I should wait until the dust has settled before I write anything major about it.

    I’m not sure why I’m feeling this way exactly, but… I dunno, I think maybe I’m enjoying soaking up other people’s thoughts on the book too much to sort out exactly what I think about it right now, if that makes any sense at all.

    — 20 July 2004 at 7:12 pm (Permalink)

  6. David says:

    Just out of interest — have you read any Chris Ware, and is your reaction to his work similar?

    — 20 July 2004 at 7:12 pm (Permalink)

  7. Rose says:

    I’m only teasing and don’t mean to pressure you at all. I don’t even write the things I say I should write about, so I certainly don’t expect others to follow through on my wishes.

    I have read very little Chris Ware and did have a basically similar reaction. I think part of it is that I deal very badly with a certain kind of masculinity, and it brings out a bitterness in me. Don DeLillo’s Underworld wasn’t quite the same, but prompted similar annoyance.

    So basically I can understand wanting to be in a certain mood to read something and discuss it, and I’m never sure how much of my Dan Clowes apathy is my specific mood and how much is my general orientation.

    — 20 July 2004 at 7:26 pm (Permalink)

  8. Shane says:

    I really enjoy Chris Ware’s art, design and layouts. Same for Clowes, but the only story I’ve really enjoyed by Clowes has been Ghost World and that may have been cause I identified with the characters in the movie and then reread the book. They are both really talented artists though. I haven’t bought the new Eightball yet and don’t know if I plan to at $7.50.

    — 22 July 2004 at 8:41 pm (Permalink)