Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Celebrated Summer by Charles Forsman

I didn't plan to read Charles Forsman's comics backwards.

I found I Am Not Okay With This a few years back, and was really impressed by it. Later that year, I read his The End of the Fucking World, at the time his most famous book. There's been TV series of both of those since then, so I'm not sure which is the zingier in the Zeitgeist.

He might have had new work since then, but it's not reflected on Wikipedia, and everything I haven't seen yet is self-published, which means it's more of a pain to find. Don't get the idea I'm against creators taking control of the means of production! But if the only way I can get a book is to go to the guy's table at Comic Arts West Bumfuck and pay cash, I am much less likely to ever see it.

The digital system my library uses does have Forsman's 2014 book Celebrated Summer available, which I think was created before TEOTFW but broadly published later. So I read that.

It's another book about restless, disaffected teenagers: I expect Forsman will need to find another set of protagonists eventually (he's turning 40 next year; that might be the time), but he's good at it, and it clearly comes for a place of real knowledge. Celebrated Summer might even be non-fiction, or close to it: it's about two boys, one of whom either is the young Forsman or modeled so closely on him as to make no difference. That's "Wolf," the larger, lumbering one of the duo - the whippier, more talkative guy is Mike.

This is not the story of a summer. It's not the story of their whole lives. It takes place within about twenty-four hours, mostly on one day off during the summer: both of them are about 17-18, I guess: Wolf has just graduated highschool and Mike apparently has not. They're both still stuck in that mode of life. They decide to drop a couple of tabs of acid each, and wander around and talk while waiting for it to hit them...and then afterward.

(They do take a long drive in the car while under the effects of the LSD, which I suppose I'm expected to condemn as a responsible adult. OK.)

It's a book about the cadence of their conversation, about what two teen boys deep in Pennsylvania (Forsman grew up in Mechanicsburg, in the southwest distribution-center belt of the state [1]) do when they don't have anything to do, and, maybe, don't really want to do much of anything.

I don't know if all of us were once kids like that. There are probably some grinds out there who knew exactly what they wanted from the time the obstetrician smacked their asses, and were working in that direction every second afterward. I was like this, at least some of the time: less drugs, more aimless wandering. But not that different.

Forsman is good at the rhythms of the conversation of people like that, about that time of life. His line is clean, mostly thin, with some crosshatching for dark areas but a lot of white space. His people have big cartoony faces with dot eyes, especially Wolf.

This is a quiet book, without the genre elements of his larger, later serialized works. No one here has psychic powers or goes on a cross-country murder spree. They're just two young guys, like any other two young guys anywhere in the US, trying to get through a day and find something interesting to do. That's enough. Real life, when depicted closely and clearly, will always be enough

[1] When I worked in publishing, my company's big warehouse was in Mechanicsburg, and I was always not quite qualified for the big annual trip out there to see the facilities. Later, we merged with a company that had a warehouse in the neighboring town of Camp Hill. I never got to that one, either.

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