Page 45 Review by Stephen
Self-contained selection of autobiographical musings, highly recommended to fans of Adrian Tomine, Kevin Huizenga, Andi Watson, Joe,Decie etc. There may be a little that's made up here too!
"I want Top 40 pop song money. I want to be absurdly, confusingly rich so I can buy an island."
The remote island floats in the middle of an idyllically calm ocean, its dense, tropical foliage barely spoiled but for the single, enormous mansion complex rising up the hill above a jetty.
"And throw a phenomenal party there, bringing together the most courageous thinkers and artists of our time."
It's already celebration time as the guests approach the island by boat at night.
"There will be heart-pounding music and relentless, blissed out dancing. And by sunrise, everyone will have surrendered themselves to an all new understanding of L-O-V-E."
They sure are getting their joyous groove on beneath the bright, roving spotlights!
"I would not go to my party."
Hartely Lin is out walking his dog, which has stopped to pee in a park.
That's your opening single-page salvo, setting the tone perfectly for the short stories to follow, most especially the last one - the third in an interspersed trilogy - which had me chuckling heartily at its deadpan calamity.
All of which is a complete departure for Hartley Lin and his sporadic periodical POPE HATS, some of which were collected in YOUNG FRANCES, the comedic tale of two female friends heading in divergent directions: one to stardom in a ludicrous TV show about a vigilante District Attorney called 'Bad Prosecutor', the other climbing ever higher up the ladder in an equally absurd legal corporation whose behavioural quirks smacked satirically of early Evelyn Waugh novels like 'Scoop' and 'Black Mischief'. Highly recommended, all three!
I relished this just as much, but I'm hoping it'll bring Lin more readers by dint of its difference, except that the comedy's still here.
We've already established that Hartley really isn't a party guy, but he is now a husband and father. Both of these developments have sparked in him relevant contemplations of the present, recent past, and early childhood, for example, when he was prone to worry. About worms. It was bad enough when his mate Dane would surgically divide their segments in his driveway, declaring with glee "It's still alive!" Hartley: "Ha. 'Fun'." To himself: "God, make it stop."
The patter of rain drives worms to the surface, so on desultory days it wasn't just cracks in the paving which the boy had to studiously avoid. (Side-note: a mass movement of stilettos on grass have the same effect. True fact.) This didn't go unnoticed. "Vulnerability is different between children. It is basically appropriate to exploit any hint of fear." I think you can imagine...
One English Lit class required the school kids write down a major fear, but "I'm prone to category error" so whilst his peers declared bears, tarantulas and snakes to be terrifying, serious-minded young Lin wrote down - no, not worms, but - "Becoming my parents". That's a neatly dodged all-too-obvious repetition of worms. Still, as a father trying to avoid instilling the same fears in his son, he imagines in two years time being gleefully given and handful of slimy, wriggling worms.
"Ha, that's right, worms."
To himself: "God, make it stop."
There's plenty more discussion between friends about changes made to your life when you become a parent, plus attendant worries with self-deprecating humour, an adorable memory about his wedding day, recollections of past friends' unexpected trajectories given their early inclinations, a meditation upon meditation, and one exceptional piece of lateral thinking called 'Settlers Imagined' in which a husband lies sleepless at night in bed with his wife, fretting that she might not love him. He asks her point-blank in modern mode, while she replies at length, in pen-and-ink handwriting, archaic language and purely practical concerns specific to the patriarchy of those times. The husband's unconvinced, the more emotional final line is hilarious.
The visual delivery is crystal clear, warm and quiet, leaving the thoughts to speak for themselves. But there are also some exquisite scenes in the 'Driving Through Vermont' trilogy which I touched on earlier, during which Lin drives either alone at night or with his family by day, along a vast highway through the countryside, and I have never before seen so perfectly represented the effect of snowflake flurries as seen from a first-person perspective when driving through them in the dark, picked out by your car's headlights. Whoosh!