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by David Greenberger
Fantagraphics Books, 2003
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Aug 11th 2003

No More Shaves

David Greenberger transcribed the words of elderly men living in the Duplex Nursing Home in Boston and published them in The Duplex Planet. AfterDan Clowes asked if he could turn use of the men's words in comic format, Greenberger asked a number of comic book artists to illustrate those words. The art was published in The Duplex Planet Illustrated; the words of six men are collected here in No More Shaves.

Greenberger chooses the words carefully -- often for comic effect. Some of the quotations are funny because they are nonsense. William "Fergie" Ferguson says "My feet are like your head -- empty," and "Squeegee -- that means 'take it all' in French." But he also said "We are all sweethearts -- some of us are fresh sweethearts, and some of us are stale"; which is a great aphorism. These words are on a page at the start of the section devoted to Ferguson. This is followed by the work of seven artists illustrating his words. J. R. Williams' piece "Snakes" shows Fergie making a number of bizarre claims about snakes -- "You can talk to a snake and a snake will nod to you yes or no." It's an imaginative approach that remains cheerful despite the oddity of the words. Jeff Johnson's piece "What is embarrassment?" is far darker -- Fergie is rambling and unable to give a clear answer to the question. The art shows two men taking a giant head off a body and trying to load it onto a boat, but the head is too large and capsizes the boat, sinking to the bottom of the water. It's a somber depiction of the loss of mental clarity that often comes with old age. This is a central theme for all these artists, and it is fascinating to see the different ways they approach it.

No More Shaves contains a wide variety of black and white graphic art. The work is of high quality: especially notable is that by Wayno, Doug Allen, Paul Nitsche, George Parsons, and Pat Moriarity. Some of the more ambitious work is done by Greg Ruth, in dark and ugly portraits, and Dave Cooper, in his typical exaggerated gross-out style. Three pieces by Dean Rohrer illustrating the words of Arthur Wallace are also particularly impressive -- vibrant and detailed images that really bring to life Wallace's exchanges with other people. This is an innovative collection of art that gives an utterly different perspective on the loosening thought processes of the old. Recommended.

 

2003 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.

 

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Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.