Or Else 3 by K. Huizenga (review)

This book is a mix of new work and stories reprinted from earlier comics but somehow Huizenga makes them all seem parts of a whole. Part of this could be the craft - his drawings match his writing - seemingly casual but very careful and precise. It's easy to look at and read his work but he always keeps something there that doesn't allow a reader to merely skim by. In this book there's what seems to be standard slice-of-life poignant comics - his elderly neighbors, his mom's disease recurrence. We've read things like these before, but Huizenga adds something more, something that overarches all the stories in the book, something that ties together these seemingly disparate stories. He makes the non-fiction feel like fiction: artificial, non-mimetic and, somehow, more real.

I think the key is in an adaptation of an excerpt from Franz Kafka's diary where Huizenga draws a man encountering strange things on the street. The man seems amazed by it all, but separate from it, removed. He say to himself while watching two men fight "Stop fighting, gentleman." Huizenga repeats this panel later in the book, having the man and then a cartoon animal both say it. It's a thin strand but it seems to be a tiny fiber of a poem woven through the stories - "Stop fighting, gentlemen." The dying neighbor, the sick mother, the soul-sucking job: "Stop fighting, gentlemen."

PS I read this book in a crowded mini-van while being shuttled from home to my car which had been serviced. On a multi-lane sprawl street we all heard the droning monotone of some weird song from a car stuck next to us in traffic. One lady next to me giggled, then I did. I looked back down to the book and thought, "I should draw that in Huizenga's style."

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