Clumsy: A Novel
Jeffrey Brown

"Clumsy: A Novel" is a wonderful and very personal "comic book novel" by Jeffrey Brown. In it, using a relatively primitive drawing style, he records dozens of "slices of life" of him and his girlfriend, from their first night together to telephone conversations, from farewells at airports to making love. (To be fair, there is a lot of sex in this novel, like you'd expect to get form a story about two young people in love, but the drawings are simple enough to not be particularly titillating.) Each chapter is short, many consist of only one six-panel page, and few are more than two or three pages long. So theoretically, this would be a good pick-up-and-read book, but it's so compelling you're like to want to read it straight through.

The book has been getting some national attention lately, spotlighted in a recent episode of NPR's This American Life. You can listen to that episode online. (The segment starts at around minute 50 of the RealAudio feed.) In it, the author talks through some of the novel's episodes, and explains how he was finishing the book, mean to be a tribute to the relationship he and his girlfriend had, and how he had to keep writing even after the romance had fallen apart. He says that everyone but him could read the warning signals that, in retrospect, stand out as you read the book.

On the other hand, it does seem like they had a nice romance. This is the book of two people working to keep their connection, and learning and growing together. Knowing about the final ending of the couple makes it all a bit bittersweet.

This seems to be a "small press" book, and isn't available at Amazon. Your local comic shop might have it-- (the one in Harvard Square did, at least until the piece on NPR brought to all the Camridgistas' attention) and you should check out the current graphic novel scene Harvey Pekar said, "Comics are just words and pictures; you can do anything with words and pictures." I ordered my copy online from Jeffrey Brown's page at there are a few sample pages there --I especially liked "She's Strong", the first one linked.

Anyway, I'd strongly recommend this book, whether your a fan of "indie comics" or not, it's a great read that I think many people can relate to.

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