Friday, October 11, 2013
Fantasy Is Reality: Dear Beloved Stranger
Dino Pai's Dear Beloved Stranger (Top Shelf) was one of the final books to receive a Xeric grant. It's a fascinating and complicated story about the ways in which dreams intersect with and obstruct reality, especially with regard to the creative process. Indeed, the story is about a young man (Dino) who has recently graduated from art school and is finally free to work on his own stories. He finds himself drawn to but afraid of connecting with Cathy, a fellow recent graduate who is also drawn to him, mostly by his intense shyness and sense that he has things to say but can't express them. The story slips into that story/dream, involving a boy looking for the source of a beautiful voice. Pai essentially alternates between a quotidian comic about the creative process and the world of creativity as an actual, living force. He links the ability to create closely with the ability to communicate and build connections; when he's stuck on both of them, Pai marvelously depicts the kind of bored, time-wasting trivialities one engages in in an effort to make projects magically fix themselves.
The only real problem I had with the book is that Pai circles back around the same ideas and themes several times before the climax. I think he could have gotten across the same ideas and made the book much more powerful by paring down the middle, which drags quite a bit. Pai's visuals are compelling and powerful, but some of that initial impact is watered down when the same effects are repeated throughout the story. I understand that Pai was trying to convey a certain kind of pacing and ennui at several points throughout the story, but I wish he had had the confidence in his readers to pick up on the subtleties and nuances of his story without having to repeat them multiple times.