erasing clouds

Book Reviews

by Anna Battista, Dave heaton

Kirk Alex, Working The Hard Side of the Street: Selected Stories/Poems/Screams (Tucumcari Press)

Kirk Alex isn't kidding when he refers to the "hard side of the street" in his book's title. This collection of stories and poems shows us the streets of L.A. through the eyes of a tough yet world-weary taxi driver. His stories offer an endless stream of down-on-their luck people, including prostitutes, wanna-be actors, eccentrics and, not least of all, the narrator, who is as lonely and hurt as the people he meets but more self-aware. He's hardened to life, bitter from heartbreak and years of struggling just to get by, but also wise…yet at the same time, always on the verge of suicide. These hard-luck tales have a working-class realism that at times recalls a less-repetitive, not-quite-as-alcohol-and-sex-obsessed Bukowski. The short stories--generally only a few pages in length each--are introspective and moving but also filled with humor, surreal moments and oddball characters. It's a compelling read that successfully brings you into the mind of a conflicted, complicated man.--dave heaton

Daniel Clowes, David Boring (Jonathan Cape)

The basic division in three acts of drams and screenplays is based on the division Aristotle made in his Poetics. Well, Aristotle wasn't referring to comics when he wrote about the division in three acts, but, after all, Daniel Clowes might be considered a proper screenwriter rather than a cartoonist. Better known for the graphic novel Ghost World and for the strips recently collected in the volume 20th Century Eightball, Daniel Clowes has finally published also in Great Britain his latest fatigue, David Boring. Classically divided in three acts like a Greek tragedy, David Boring detaches from any possible comparison with a classical text since it is saturated with the usual alienated characters that make Clowes' comics so great. David, the main character of the story seems to find his only consolation in an obsession for women's bottoms and in his scrapbook, at least until he meets the woman of his life who accidentally will reshape his destiny and be almost the cause of his death. This cinematic graphic novel includes also a story in the story, the comic "Yellow Streak", written by David's father, that seems to be for David the only clue he's got to shape the personality of his long lost parent. Guns, murders and an island where the main characters take refuge to escape a scary apocalypse are all included in the story. Clowes has recently finished a new screenplay, Art School Confidential, and he's working on a new graphic novel. It is unlikely that a film taken from David Boring will come out, but, honestly, who cares. David Boring already IS a movie. Just grab it and see. --anna battista

Neil Gaiman, Coraline (Bloomsbury)

After having scared his readers with his masterpiece American Gods, a modern odyssey with mythological gods as protagonists, Neil Gaiman, creator of the acclaimed graphic novel Sandman, seems to have decided to go back to write children's books. The problem is that his books for children are so enthralling that adults will steal them from children's hands, read them and collect them in their personal libraries. Coraline is the story of a little girl living in a flat with his parents who finds behind a closed door in their flat an alternative reality. In this alternative world Coraline's "other" parents have buttons for eyes, pretend they love her but only want to steal her soul and end up in kidnapping her real parents. Coraline will have to be brave and even fight against the evil forces that populate the nightmarish alternative reality behind her door to save her parents. Despite the comparisons that might naturally come to mind, Coraline is not a new version of Carroll's Alice in Wonderland with its own peculiar Cheshire Cat, Gaiman's new novel is a very scary and sometimes disturbing book, that proves that children are always innocent and brave and adults are too often evil and petty but at the same time incredibly funny.--anna battista

Jamming with Aleksandar Zograf, with Charles Alverson, Peter Blegvad, Robert Crumb, Thierry Guitard, Bob Kathman, Lee Kennedy, Chris Lanier, Pat Moriarity, Jim Woodring, Wostok…and Zograf!

Let's play a game: write a word on a piece of paper, then ask a friend of yours to write another word. Then it will be your turn again, so, please, feel free to add another word and ask your friend to do the same right after you. In a few minutes you'll have a line, then a proper poem. And sometimes the results will even be better than what you expected. This is the idea behind Jamming with Aleksandar Zograf, a collection of brilliant comic stories written by Serbian artist Sasa Rakezic, better known as Aleksandar Zograf, together with a bunch of equally talented cartoonists from all over the world. Zograf claims in the introduction to the booklet that the writing experiments he did with his friends years before, inspired him to experiment later in his life, this time with cartoons. The result is a booklet that includes eight comics, each generated in collaboration with another artist: "On The Other Side" was conceived during a visit from cartoonist Bob Kathman with whom Zograf co-edited an anthology of dream inspired comics; "More Punny Dialogues With Mr Natural" came out of correspondence with Robert Crumb and it involves Crumb's character Mr Natural meeting Zograf in Belgrade. Honourable mentions go to "Pivotal Moments in History" written by Charles Alverson and completed by Zograf and Serbian underground artist Wostok and to "Brainstorming", a comic in the comic, inspired by cartoonist Lee Kennedy's dreams. Nothing is impossible in "Jamming With Zograf", Aleksandar flies, is swallowed by a box of cereals, dreams of being a nice boy or meets Peter Blegvad's "Leviathan Baby" and Thierry Guitard's superhero, "Expectore". What astonishes you about crazy, dreamy and hypnagogical Zograf is that Aleksandar, who became through his "Bulletins from Serbia" a true chronicler of the war in the ex-Yugoslavia, wove through his comics a net of connections with other great artists living all over the world. "Jamming With Aleksandar Zograf" is a brave experiment that doesn't prove that comics can destroy all the barriers: it proves that internationalism and a genuine collaboration between artists with different styles and characters can destroy all the barriers, geographical and cultural ones, but also barriers between comics. So, be experimental. Be brave. Above all, be international. {For further information, please contact Aleksandar Zograf at}--anna battista

Issue 12, January 2003 | next article

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds