Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Beverly by Nick Drnaso

When one is reading a book of low-key, lightly interconnected stories about regular ordinary people in a quiet, literary style, it's disconcerting to realize that several pages have been ripped right out of the book you're reading, right in the middle of a story. (And worse when you realize it happened in three places in that same story.) But such are the dangers of library books -- a previous patron must have loved, or hated, those pages so much that they had to come out right now.

So I want to be very circumspect in writing about Beverly: it seemed to be a smart, well-observed collection of literary comics stories, written in the mode of Adrian Tomine and drawn in something that seems to be influenced equally by ligne clair and by Adult Swim. But it also looked like those stories were lightly connected, at least some of them to some of them, and I have no idea what connections were on those lost pages.

All in all, it's probably smartest of me to claim this is a masterpiece, not be too specific, and get out quickly. A lot of other people have been praising Beverly this year -- that's why I read it in the first place, actually -- so it would fit in with the general tone of coverage.

And I did enjoy Beverly -- the art is slightly more primitivist than I usually prefer, but it works for these stark stories: Drnaso's people are almost abstracted, visual sketches of themselves, which tends to make them Everypeople. Those people are mostly losers, I suppose, like most art-comics characters -- from Chris Ware or Seth or Daniel Clowes -- but they're losers like the rest of us are: people who don't quite get what we want, when we even know what we want.

So I'm not going to get too deeply into Beverly: I think it's good for what it is, despite my personal dislike for the art style. And I'm sure I missed some connections and important moments from those lost pages. But this is definitely good for its type -- for anyone who's enjoyed the other cartoonists I've mentioned here, Beverly is a great showcase for the arrival of a new strong talent in that same vein.

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