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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/14/2004 Archived Entry: "Graphic novel review: Tell Me Something"

Tell Me Something
by Jason
48 pages, $8.95
Published by Fantagraphics Books

Reviewed by Laurel Sutton

So here's the thing I don't understand: Why is it that in every story/movie/TV show/play, when Character #1 is confronted with evidence of Character #2's infidelity via photos, they immediately believe it's true, and break off the engagement/miss the wedding/leave on a westbound train/sleep with Character #2's worst enemy? I mean, really. If that person was someone you loved, wouldn't you want to confront them, ask for an explanation, and give them a chance to show you that it's not true? Are we that ready to believe the worst about the people we care about the most?

Not to mention the fact that in said story/movie/TV show/play the photos are always FAKED. By Evil Character #3. It's not even a theme anymore - it's a cliché, for Chrissake. This is why I can't watch romantic comedies made after 1970.

Anyway, I mention all this because that cliché is a central part of "Tell Me Something", a new book-length narrative by Jason, who apparently lost or gave away his last name. I quite like this book, which is in clean and lovely black and white, and which has about 50 words of dialogue. The characters are all anthropomorphic birds and cats and dogs that look like a cross between early Disney animals and Tin Tin. They also have empty eyes, like Little Orphan Annie. It's a story of love and loss and betrayal and it has a sad ending - hey, the artist is Norweigian, what did you expect? The art is very controlled and stylized; Jason manages to convey all the characters' emotions through body movement and posture, since their faces are virtually expressionless. I also like the fact that despite the simplicity of the panels, there's a lot of subtley in them, and after reading the book several times I was still finding new details to admire and consider.

That said, I was totally befuddled by the structure. See, there are two story threads. At first I thought that the pages were printed in the wrong order, but then it dawned on me that the white-bordered pages were one thread and the black-bordered pages were a different thread. Then I couldn't figure out if they were separate stories, or alternate timelines, or alternate universes, or somebody's dream (there is actually a dream sequence in here, further complicating things). So I finally decided to RTFM, and there on the back cover is a blurb informing me that the story "slips back and forth between two distinct time periods". OH. Well, I wouldn't call them visually distinct, but I don't do PR for Fantagraphics. Thanks, back cover blurb!

PS. If you like Jason's work, you can buy original panels here.

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