Written and Illustrated by Seth
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
This is a book I first started reading from the first chapter that appeared in the comic series Palookaville.
I had just finished Seth’s graphic novel It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, which I loved. This thing is, this first chapter of Clyde Fans was produced in the late 1990’s.
I picked up with Clyde Fans when Drawn and Quarterly produced Volume One in a hardcover back in 2004. It contained the first two chapters of the book.
From there, I hadn’t even looked at or reread any of it til this past week. That is when my copy of the Clyde Fans: Slipcase Edition came in the mail. So then I read the entire thing in one sitting.
And let me just tell you, it’s a masterpiece beyond words.
Seth creates a lived-in world which feels real. What he does with his work is he focuses on the details. He may tell us the complete story of a toy that’s on a shelf for instance and how it got there. He might focus on the different parts of a made up city. It all lends itself to the narrative and is intertwined in the story in a brilliant way.
The narrative of the book focuses on Abe and Simon Matchcard, two brothers, whose father Clyde owned the Clyde Fans Company. The company produced quality fans for many years. Abe is an extrovert and takes over for his father running the company. Simon is an introvert who eventually has problems dealing with the real world and resolves in taking care of their ailing mother. From there, Seth spins his story of the two brothers in a creative and inspired way.
The book consists of five chapters. The first chapter is almost a monologue from Abe. It introduces the world and shows us the setup of the entire epic.
The second chapter shows Simon in 1957 in one of the most painful moments of his life. Simon has been sent by his brother Abe on a business trip and fails miserably as a salesperson. Seth doesn’t hold back on the anxiety Simon feels in this scene and the last bits of the chapter are especially profound.
The third chapter focuses on the boys in the late 1970s as the Clyde Fans Company is failing and air conditioning is taking over in the world. We also get to see the decline in the mother’s health as Abe makes a brutal but necessary decision. Simon is completely introverted in his life at this point and focuses on his post card collection and a failed book attempt about them.
By the fourth chapter, the fan company is on its last legs. We get to see Abe struggling to come to terms with that idea. We also see him wax nostalgic about his life a little bit. It’s beautifully handled and never forced.
The fifth chapter is a contemplative look at the city of Dominion, where much of the story takes place. It shows the magic of the city and the effects it had on the main character’s lives. It’s beautifully composed and has a lyrical quality. This is the most beautiful part of the book and where Seth pulls all the strings tight to finish the book in an unexpected way.
This book meant a lot to me personally. I started reading this book before I had met my wife and before I had a family. To be able to see this work to fruition and to read the whole story finally? That’s amazing. It’s a very personal story that Seth tells and to me I related to every panel and every line. This book proves why Seth’s work is up there with such comic book luminaries as Charles Burns or Chris Ware.
I waited a long time to read it in full.
And you know what? It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read and it was completely worth the wait.