Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Man, I Hate Cursive by Jim Benton

I don't have much new to say today, so I'm going to indulge my inner Andy Rooney [1]. I already regret it.

My library app has several kinds of things in it: books, comics, movies, and audiobooks. From the user side, they're just categories of things, but I'm pretty sure what's important, on the back end, is that they're different kinds of files: probably epub and PDF and MP4 and MP3. I don't really hit the movie and audiobook categories; I haven't been much into passive audiovisual formats for a while and listening to people talk at me (audiobook, podcast, etc.) makes my skin crawl.

Most of what I get from this app - it's called Hoopla, by the way, and it's awesome - is in the comics category, so that's the interface I'm used to. There, it replicates the physical look of a book - every page is there, just like the physical book, in the same order and in the size ratio of the book, that whole deal - and it's what I'm used to in reading comics digitally. Sure, sometimes I need to zoom and pan, especially where a two-page spread has been rendered as a single image, but it's all there and it looks like a book and I know how to interact with it.

Jim Benton's two books of miscellaneous cartoons - first Dog Buts and Love. And Stuff Like That. And Cats. , which I read a few weeks back, and now Man, I Hate Cursive - are in Hoopla as "books." What that means, as far as I can tell, is that each cartoon is a separate image (I'm going to guess JPEG), and they flow onto pages depending on settings in the Hoopla app, or maybe screen resolution, or stuff like that. So there are random blank pages throughout, I think because there's a blank line or two after cartoons, and sometimes they get shoved onto another page. (Or maybe those blanks are intentional? I have seen books of cartoons with blank pages - the Steve Martin/Harry Bliss Number One Is Walking mostly sticks to right-hand pages to make it look longer than it actually is, for example - but it's not consistent here, so I think it's an artifact of pageflow.)

As an experiment, I turned my tablet from portrait to landscape, and the pagecount jumped from 129 to 186, and blanks popped in after ever cartoon I checked. So I'm counting that as something like proof my theory is correct.

None of that has anything to do with the content of the book, of course. I just typed four paragraphs of random bullshit, only of interest to the few people who might read this book, or similar books, on the Hoopla app.

But what else do I have to say about Cursive? It's exactly the same kind of book as Dog Butts: comics by Jim Benton in a variety of formats (there's a clutch of New Yorker-y single panels, but they're mostly multi-panel single pagers), which are funny, generally for adults, and with the same snarky tone as his work for younger readers.

In other words: what I said about Dog Butts at greater length, that's true here, too. Good stuff: funny, vigorous drawing in a variety of styles, zippy jokes, lots of different tropes at play. Benton makes funny cartoons. If you like funny cartoons, read this. And I'm hoping we get another book like this before long: this one is from 2016, so I suspect he's got more than enough material already.

[1] If this doesn't already tell you how old I am, that's how young you are.

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