Sean Maher's Quality Control

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Top Shelf Week: Tricked

Here it is, the last day of Top Shelf Week - the last day to enter the AEIOU giveaway, which should be ridiculously easy since y'all are surely comic-shop-bound this afternoon - and I hope everyone's been diggin' it a tiny little fraction as much as I've enjoyed discovering these books. For a long time I had kind of a "Top Shelf issue" that kept me from reading their stuff. Today's book is a perfect example.

I've heard about Alex Robinson's work. How could I avoid hearing about it? Everyone and their mother was flipping out over Box Office Poison a while back. I even picked that book up and flipped through it... but I just didn't want to read it. The damn thing was too long and, to be honest, it seemed a little too "indie" to me. Does that make any sense? Some books just give me that snotty vibe at first, that too-cool-for-school, "I don't need to be actually entertaining because this is the true stuff, the real dirt, and if you're not into it you should just stick with your Britney Spears and your bubble-gum" kind of impression. The last time I fell for that, I literally passed out from boredom watching Fellini's 8 ½ at a friend's house. It was her favorite movie and it was totally awkward and I didn't want to get into that kind of scene again.

Well, as loyal readers will have no doubt concluded already, I'm a jackass. I'm wrong almost all the time. I was dead wrong about Robinson, and Tricked is the book that proved it to me.

The book is really well outlined in a feature Robinson put together at Comicon, so you might wanna take a look there and check out the summaries of all the characters and catch some great interior pages like this one:

Everyone who's seen Magnolia or Short Cuts will get the format - Tricked is the story of six totally different people all connected through various events and relationships in their lives, though many of them remain unaware of the connections. Each story is woven together with the others very gradually, and five of these stories are immensely satisfying. I especially enjoyed the darker passages, the stories of the counterfeiter getting in over his head and the hardcore music fan giving up his medication and beginning his own downward spiral... in the vein of novelist Hubert Selby Jr., Robinson writes the darker elements, the more unforgivable and ugly elements of his characters, with compassion and thoughtfulness, but this is tempered with a sober tone, an acknowledgement that while these characters are to be understood, they aren't necessarily right. Refreshing, layered work here.

I don't really care for the Demure Poor Latina Girl Overwhelmed By The White Guy Who Loves Her For Being So Real storyline. It wasn't bad, really, but after that godawful movie, Spanglish, I've had more than enough of that particular character.

Aside from that, this is a spectacular success, I think. All five of the other characters are written with a sympathetic ear, but the voice of the book itself remains strong. It's an epic book that reads smoothly and easily, and my worries of indie-arrogance were 100% unfounded (at least, if this book is any indication).

So, yeah. I'll be going back and picking up Box Office Poison again.
FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from