Thursday, January 19, 2012

PAYING FOR IT by Chester Brown

I've been reading a lot lately, meaning to write up those books that have really "wowed" me for the site here, and I just haven't found the time for it.   A lot of these books I've been getting through the library "inter-library loan" services where I work, which means many have been returned.  That said, I'm going to attempt to capture a bit of what I felt and why I enjoyed these books in the next few days.  Please bear with me, if I am rather vague in some of my descriptions or reasoning.

So, one of the best books I read in recent weeks was Chester Brown's most recent offering - Paying For It, from Drawn & Quarterly.  

This was an incredibly compelling read.  Brown's intelligence and cartooning acumen are fully on display in this book.  Brown isn't flashy, isn't pushing the boundaries of what a comic page can be, but he is very good at what he does - telling stories in comic format.

Paying For It follows Brown as his long-term relationship dissolves, and he turns to propositioning prostitutes in order to find what he wants in a relationship, i.e. none of the possessiveness that so often encompasses "loving relationships," as Brown puts it.  We watch Brown as he goes through a succession of girls in an attempt to better understand himself and society, while interspersing these trysts with philosophical dialogues Brown has with his friends and fellow cartoonists Seth and Joe Matt, along with other friends and family members who make cameo appearances.

The questions broached in this book are intriguing and ones that are not easily answered.  it was this aspect of the book that I found most invigorating and refreshing.  Brown brings up some very tough questions, and through the narrative it becomes obvious that he has thought about these questions long and hard.  He makes some very good points, points not easily ignored.

That said, I found myself unable to agree with Brown on his overall point, that substituting our current "romantic" view of love and relationships with a "retail" model, as seen in his interactions with these prostitutes.  Brown's evolution over the course of this story was extremely interesting, and he made his point with fervor and intelligence, but I found many of those arguments seeming to cherry-pick analogies in order for him to make his point, and I felt that Brown's arguments would fall apart under too harsh scrutiny.

Unlike some reviewers, I didn't find Brown to be a pitiable character that one should fell sorry for.  I believe he has found a situation that works very well for him.  And, although I can't subscribe to his viewpoint, I heartily recommend this book.  It's engaging and will make you think, two things that don't always go hand in hand.


No comments: