Monday, February 03, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #34: Aesthetics: A Memoir by Ivan Brunetti

Even in a field full of misery and woe, Ivan Brunetti is legendary in comics for his pessimism and self-loathing. I haven't read as many of his comics as I'd like, but it's pretty clear Brunetti hasn't made as many comics as he'd like, and that he isn't satisfied with anything he has created. (So maybe I've done him a favor by not reading more?)

Aesthetics: A Memoir isn't really a memoir, and it's not a treatise on aesthetics, either. It grew out of a gallery exhibit of Brunetti's work, under the same name, back in 2008 -- and this book emerged about five years later, something like an expanded, final edition of that exhibit's catalog. It collects Bunetti's illustrative work, sketches, preliminary drawings, doodles, 3D work, his collections of ephemera and toys, and other odds and ends -- and only a handful of actual comics panels or pages -- with the author's commentary on most of those items.

As usual, Brunetti is not happy with most of the material he presents: if something came out well, it was because of someone else's input, most usually New Yorker art director Francoise Mouly. And he's relentlessly negative about his own work, artistic ability, capacity to function in society, psyche, and any other aspect of himself that he can think to comment on.

Now, I'm a pretty negative person myself, generally, but I need to just step out of the way when Brunetti is in the room, because he takes self-loathing to the level of art. There's literally no criticism I could make of this book that Brunetti has not already made -- nastier and more viciously -- within the book itself. You do have to wade through Brunetti's attacks on himself to enjoy this book -- to look at his art directly, and find things in it that the creator can't see himself.

This is a small book, and a lot of it is taken up with pictures of things Brunetti collected rather than created. And Brunetti's tone can be an issue for readers who would like to be able to enjoy his work. But his uniquely simplified, pessimistic view of life is compelling, and there's a lot of good work here for those who can find it through the self-loathing.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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