Thursday, June 18, 2015

Mini Fiction: Reed, Lindner, Trower

The Titular Hero, by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill. For a writer who got her start doing slice-of-life comics, Reed certainly has a talent for writing fantasy. This mini that originally appeared online not only gets at the mechanics of being a fantasy adventurer, it also takes the piss out of the ridiculous amounts of sexism that pervades the genre. Hill can draw anything Reed throws at him, in this story about a party going to a seedy part of town and being exposed to certain seedy books. The "Lady Bosoms" title is a particular best-seller, and Hill drawing the spoof of big-breasted heroine while the adventurers critique it incredulously works quite well. Like all of the fantasy excerpts that Reed has written, I found myself wanting to find out what happens next with this group of characters.

The Black Feather Falls, Book Two, by Ellen Lindner. Lindner's elegant and stylish whodunnit continues, as her two female protagonists (a boutique worker and a secretary) follow the trail of a murder up to a remote island near Scotland. The book is part murder mystery, part buddy action story and part exploration of dark, personal roots. The two women overcome some rather extreme sexism in hilarious and dogged fashion as they piece together clues to essentially solve some of the whys and hows of the case, setting up the climactic third book. The story is really about trying to create a new identity and running away from one's past. In the case of Tina Swift, the protagonist, she hints that she was able to create a new life for herself after a life of abuse and horrible circumstances. Of course, the surprise ending of this book showed that she couldn't quite outrun every aspect of her past. Once again, the use of vivid and rich colors as well as the stylized character designs and lettering, give this comic a distinct and powerful sense of time and place. That's true of both the backgrounds but especially the fashions. Lindner is truly hitting her stride with this series.

REM Pt. 1, by M.R. Trower. Speaking of leaping forward, REM is Trower's best work to date. Like many of their comics, REM is a story about finding one's identity in a culture that demands that one fits into a set of rigorously defined categories. The story follows a young person named Rem who's about to go through the process of being sorted into a profession/caste by means of the mark placed their body by the "holy beast". When there's no mark to be found, Rem runs away, eventually finding safety with a group of fellow "deviants". The end of this chapter finds Rem embracing their new role, even as their future is uncertain. This is a story that begins with the nagging sense of not fitting in but that quickly moves on to its hero having a new sense of purpose, one filled with mystery, awe and wonder. Trower lists Moebius as an influence, and that's apparent both in terms of the intricacy of the line drawings & character design, as well as the trippiness of the backgrounds. Moebius' stories also tend to be about transformation and struggle, though Trower's take on this is uniquely theirs.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Check Your Privilege: Angie Bongiolatti

(In the interest of full disclosure, I was thanked by the author for offering him some suggestions after reading an earlier draft of the final book.)

Angie Bongiolatti (published by Secret Acres) is Mike Dawson's most interesting and challenging book. Dawson's comics tend to have a surface story covering up his real goals. (For example, Freddie and Me is on the surface a memoir about growing up as a fan of Queen but is really about the nature of memory.) On the surface, the book has two distinct threads: one follows a group of 20-somethings immediately post 9/11 amidst a great deal of personal and political turmoil, and the other follows the ways in which sex and relationships color our beliefs. Both threads center around the titular character, who is the one character who remains somewhat opaque in terms of her personal thoughts and dreams. Indeed, in my initial assessment of the book, I thought she was given too little to do. In thinking about Dawson's meta-story for this book, it became clearer that this book is really about the ways in which our points of view are inevitably colored by a number of sociopolitical factors, factors that are difficult to understand and empathize with.

There are a variety of political viewpoints espoused in this book. Dawson is careful not to turn characters into caricatures, however. For example, her boss (jon) at the online learning firm that's one of the hubs of the story is a little older and depicted as being politically conservative as well as kind of an asshole. However, his home life reveals a man under a great deal of stress with a new baby and the very real fears of losing his job. The intersection between sex and politics is often hilariously navigated, as a guy (Matt) from Angie's job attends a protest meeting in an attempt to get to hang out with her. Former college friends Amol and Malcolm are also in the mix, and flashbacks reveal how Angie and her then-boyfriend got them involved in a three-way. The privacy and secrecy of sex is strongly contrasted against the public nature of political activism, though Angie makes it clear that she's not ashamed of either.

Let's delve deeper into those sex scenes, because they're key moments in the book. The first, with the funny Amol, winds up being played for laughs, as he ejaculates on himself before anything even gets started and winds up going home. The second, with Malcolm, winds up being the real thing, but it turns out Angie's boyfriend was cooler with polyamorous activity more in theory than in practice. Angie sensed this when he kicked Malcolm in the head "accidentally" and later starts singing the song "You Don't Own Me" as a way of indicating just that--that her sexuality was hers and no one else's. When he grumbles about what he "let Malcolm do", that's Angie's breaking point: she's not owned by anyone. It's one of many cases in the book where a character utterly fails to recognize a divergent point of view and simultaneously fails to recognize the ways in which their social standing gives them a certain degree of privilege.

Dawson's visual choices were interesting. He went even cartoonier than usual, giving characters big heads in proportion to their bodies as a way of emphasizing emotions and the subtleties of slight facial tics--much like a caricaturist might. Angie in particular gives away everything with her facial expressions, and the scene in which she and her boyfriend have the confrontation that leads to them breaking up is especially masterful. Dawson wants us to look as these characters as people, small actors in a larger world stage but whose own point of view paints each of them as important players. It should also be noted that the slice-of-life situations Dawson puts his characters into are frequently quite funny; Dawson's gift for dialogue is crucial here, as it prevents the book from ever falling into didacticism.

Throughout the book, there are illustrated excerpts from the writer Arthur Koestler on the nature of the revolutionary, and how it related to both the religious zealot and the neurotic. The fuzzy, penciled art stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the book. The smart but cynical analysis is presented with no comment, other than its juxtaposition against the activities of the characters in the book. After 9/11, Angie joins a socialist organization and encourages those at work to attend. Koestler's comments seem to comment on Angie in particular, initially making her into a sort of naive figure. Matt and Amol hope that their attending the socialist meeting will get her attention, her boss Jon holds her views in contempt, and her radical friend Kim holds her views in contempt for entirely different reasons while still wanting to be around her. As the reader slowly discovers, Angie is no one's tool and has no time for fools. She more-or-less ditches both Matt and Amol at the meeting (she gets them to sit together!), she sneers at her boss and she winds up cutting Kim out of her life when she disparages Angie's attempts at being an activist while holding a cushy job.

Kim also winds up quoting Koestler's friend Orwell when she sees Amol while looking for Angie, a quote that essentially resigns one to the machine of the state and capitalism being all but impossible to change and advocates simply recording what one sees. In a sense, it's a nihilistic confirmation of Koestler's point of view, one sparked by a visit to the USSR as a witness to a Stalinist purging trial. The various layers of story and especially of Angie's history are crucial to Dawson's next move: quoting Langston Hughes' visit to the USSR at the same time Koestler was there. He notes Koestler's discomfort in areas of true deprivation and was less interested in that same trial than he delighted in the fact that he could walk around outside the courtroom and not have his behaviors monitored or prohibited in any way--a degree of respect and dignity for his personhood that he did not receive in his home country.

This story was brought up by a speaker at a socialist meeting attended by Angie, and gets to a key point: we talk about the importance of freedom, a somewhat abstract concept. (I'm not about to write off the Stalinist purges as glibly as the speaker does, considering how many millions were killed--though I think this may have been another intentional device by Dawson to indicate that she's as unable to see the point of view of the other side as the pro-capitalist set is). She notes that in a capitalist society, freedom is considered to be an absolute, while racism, poverty, etc are considered to be unfortunate but not priorities. Again, it's a matter of understanding how privilege informs one's worldview, even when one is not aware of it. The bottom line is that both points of view to some degree ignore simple humanism: respecting, nurturing and collaborating with others. Dawson seems to be saying that it's not enough to not do harm to others; we must actively help. The key word here is "active": Angie tries to change things, and Matt actually comes around to her point of view when he witnesses police brutality firsthand.

A friend of mine who's a college professor, when discussing the French revolution with his students, enjoyed putting them to the test in an interesting manner. He discussed the three ideals of the revolution: liberty, equality, fraternity. He asked the class to close their eyes and raise their hands as to which of the three was most important to them. Invariably, the men chose liberty, the women chose equality, and hardly anyone ever chose fraternity. That sense of brotherly and sisterly love for one's fellow person is so often left behind when there's a paradigm shift of ideas, yet it seems to be the crucial bridge between liberty and equality co-existing as ideals. It's also an ideal that must filter down to every aspect of human relations, be it race, gender, sexuality or something else. It's interesting that Koestler himself was notorious for being a ladies' man, using his status as a famous writer to bed star-struck fans. It's one more way that his focus regarding freedom was a narrow one, indeed.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Give Me The Music: Dmitri Jackson and Ricky Miller/Julia Scheele

Blackwax Boulevard 1 and 2, by Dmitri Jackson. Originally and still currently a web series, these minis feature an incredibly sharply-defined set of characters who work at a dying indie record store. There's an obvious debt to Nick Hornby's High Fidelity here, but each member of the ensemble cast gets plenty of time and room to develop and prove that they're more than just one-note cartoons. While young Marsalis "Mars" Parker is ostensibly the main character of the strip, in no way is he simply a mouthpiece for the cartoonist or established as the character who's always right. Set in a decaying city, Blackwax Boulevard (the name of the store) is doing everything it can to stay in business, including stocking mainstream pop that Marsalis finds repulsive.

What Jackson does best is slowly generate stories out of character interactions; a woman Marsalis has a crush on turns out is going out with a glib street protester. We learn about the plight of the owner of the shop, who's lost a leg that he lost to diabetes replaced by an electric guitar. There are eccentric regulars and characters of various ages, genders and races. Race, gender, gentrification and other political issues are certainly addressed in this comic, but in a matter so organic that it never comes off as didactic. Jackson has an exaggerated, cartoony style that reminds me a bit of Kyle Baker by way of Ralph Bakshi. It's also clear that Jackson knows a lot about music, because the passionate arguments that various characters make come off as entirely authentic. The pace of the comic is pleasantly rambling and episodic, as though Jackson is trying to find out about his characters at the same time the reader is, but he never drifts so far as to get self-indulgent the way that so many webcomics can. This is a comic that's certainly deserving of wider recognition.

Metroland #1, by Ricky Miller & Julia Scheele. A rock 'n roll fairy tale is such an obvious mash-up that it's a wonder that it hasn't been attempted very often. Writer Ricky Miller credits the film Eddie and the Cruisers as an inspiration for his story of an alcoholic musician and the woman who took him on magical journeys through a window in a club called Metroland. The expressive character work of Scheele is an ideal match for this sort of dreamy story, especially with regard to the specifics of clothing as well as the muted pink and blue pastels that dominate the color scheme. While this is very much an introductory issue, the slow reveal of the series' more fantastic elements (the first hint being a modern-day poster on a wall advertising the new Beatles tour) turns this from simply a downbeat, slice-of-life story about being in a band into something else. Certainly, this comic is very much about that as well, and the particulars of being in a local scene are sharply observed and drolly written, but the fantasy aspects of the series take the metaphor of becoming a part of a scene as a means of escape make this comic especially intriguing. I'll be interested in seeing just what happens in the fantasy escape world, how and why the mysterious avatar of escape (Jessica) comes to leave the band, and whether the plot becomes tighter or simply revolves around the past. I also quite enjoyed the "bonus tracks" in this comic: one a flashback to how the main character (Ricky Stardust) and Jessica came to meet, and another about future, obsessed fans of the band.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Humanizing A Cartoon Legend: Andre The Giant: Life And Legend

Box Brown's attempt at making sense of pro wrestler Andre the Giant's life was a noble attempt that tried a number of different techniques, but it ultimately doesn't quite cohere. This is not entirely his fault, and in fact it has quite a lot to do with his attempt to make this look at Andre something more than just a recitation of tall tales. However, in doing a book on a wrestler who died in the early 90s, he started with a foundation laid over quicksand. Pro wrestling is a spectacle that's part live-action superhero comic, part improv performance and part circus. Its job is to sell a lie to a crowd that wants to believe it. Brown notes how difficult it is to do credible research, given that it's difficult to discern whether or not the sources of information are telling the truth or spinning tales.

It does help that Brown drew the book in his trademark stripped-down style that's a descendant of the Chris Ware/Ivan Brunetti aesthetic. The simplicity of the figures is given some weight by a heavy used of spotting blacks as well as a fairly thick line weight for his character designs. What he sacrifices in depicting the visceral qualities of watching wrestling (especially a live match) he gains in creating narrative clarity and continuity. There were times that I wished for multiple visual approaches in the book, much like Brown used a variety of narrative approaches.

The book is essentially less a narrative than it is a series of biographical vignettes. The amusing story of Andre being driven to school as a teenager by Samuel Beckett was simply too good not to put in the narrative, even if it only served to provide a tiny bit of detail regarding Andre's early life. It's clear that Brown was not trying to write a hagiography, because he points out a number of unsettling incidents regarding the wrestler: being an absentee father to a child born out of wedlock, making a racist comment in front of an African-American wrestler, or getting drunk and frequently surly with those around him. This is all done to paint a portrait of Andre as human, above all else, capable of ugly behavior.

At the same time, there's not doubt that Brown overall is enormously sympathetic toward Andre. All wrestlers have a larger-than-life persona to some degree, but as someone who saw Andre wrestle live a child, Andre the Giant was something else altogether. It's almost as though one couldn't quite believe their eyes when they saw him in the ring, which is why he added so many comedic gimmicks in his matches. The fact that he was constantly stared at, mocked, challenged, etc. ate at him. Brown gets at his constant, aching loneliness. The problem was that the tonal shifts in the book are so sudden and jarring, and there's so little stringing together the vignettes other than the interstitial material that Brown himself provides, that the book sometimes reads like a writer trying to do a "realistic" version of Superman who has a lot of unseemly personal flaws. Brown is the only one in the book who's not trying to spin tall tales, which makes his analysis of a typical Andre match and a late-career appearance on David Letterman so interesting. A book filled that kind of analysis would not have the same kind of appeal than the book that Brown wrote, but it might have been more cohesive and perhaps accurate. This is a book where many of its parts are fascinating, but the book isn't greater than the sum of those parts.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Autobio: Jep, Hayden, Nichols, Bean/Viola

Jep Comix 4, by Jep. The cartoonist draws slice-of-life autobio vignettes featuring a stripped-down self-caricature and frequent anthropomorphic versions of friends. These are comics featuring small but pointed moments, like a memory from high school spent playing a video game, avoiding his father. Another interesting bit was one where the cartoonist has a number of awkward interactions with a man from across the street who weirdly hits on him after he tells him he's getting married. Even a talking head strip featuring him talking to his sister about flooding basements and Moses parting the Red Sea is interesting because of his thick, simple line that's not unlike a Sam Brown figure. These comics are modest, charming and utterly lacking in pretension.

Rushes, by Jennifer Hayden. This is a collection of good ol' four-panel diary comics. They remind me a bit of Jesse Reklaw's strips in that the reader is more or less dropped in media res into Hayden's life and expected to figure things out as she goes along and that it's a process strip. That is, it's Hayden recording her progress finishing a long book about her experience with breast cancer (The Story Of My Tits, out in September from IDW/Top Shelf), as well as a document of everyday family life. This particular volume is also an account of the preparations for as well as an actual trip to London and Paris, so that gives the reader a bit of value-added above simply watching Hayden draw comics or talk on the phone for several panels. Hayden's voice is distinct and powerful, and it's well-matched to her stripped-down but still dense style of cartooning. Her use of negative space in particular is impressive in depicting a busy, cluttered and full life with comics, her family, playing music and a clear identity as the family organizer. Allowing the reader to fill in some lines allows her comics some space to breathe, letting the eye pass quicker from panel to panel without getting bogged down in each panel's details. The personal details are mostly of a quotidian nature, with occasional reminders about her surviving cancer; in these strips, Hayden is more interested in getting down the basics than reflecting too long on what it all means. That immediacy is what makes the strip-to-strip flow so effective.

Heart Farts, by Cara Bean and Rebecca & Jason Viola. This is a two-woman anthology featuring Bean and R.Viola (comics drawn by her husband Jason). The strips are pleasant and lightweight, featuring topics like dreams about Tom Brady and the satisfaction received in creating bento boxes for others' lunches. One of the bigger treats here is a chance to see more of Bean's classroom comics and her bean-shaped self-caricature; one of the strips is about being a teacher and trying to get her students to love what she's teaching as much as she does, getting away from the feeling that she's torturing them. The Violas' bento box strip is about how having an opportunity to make something unique and nourishing for someone else is in itself a nourishing activity. Bean's classroom strip addressed the idea of "flow": how purposeful, creative activity creates positive energy not only for oneself, but for one's associates as well. While Viola's comic doesn't address this explicitly, there's no question that her comic is a demonstration of this idea in action. That synergy of ideas makes the mini greater than the sum of its parts, as it features slightly diverging points of view on the same set of ideas. The versatility of Jason Viola meant that Rebecca could write about anything and the result would inevitably look great.

Flocks 4, by L.Nichols.This is the most powerful chapter yet in Nichols' account of growing up queer and Christian. In this issue, Nichols lays out why simply excoriating her parents and others in their rural Louisiana community for condemning homosexuality isn't so simple. Their parents, teachers and people in their church, who made Nichols' life hellish in some respects, were the same people who encouraged them to excel in school. Being an intellectual of size in school made Nichols an easy target, and that support from adults turned out to be a crucial factor in becoming a success and realizing their dream of attending MIT. In one sense, Flocks is a document about pain: the pain of not fitting in, the pain of knowing that those people you love might not love you for what you truly are.

In another sense, Flocks is about pressure and balance, cleverly represented through mathematical notations. It's about the pressures that all of the various groups of whom we are a member put on us, for good ("you can do it!") and ill ("nerd!", "queer!", etc) and how to balance the negative pressures with the positive support. Nichols describes how they "fit in enough not to be rejected" and "fit in enough to gain support when needed" in hopes that "everything would get better one day". However, this wasn't simply a matter of things getting better by means of escape. Rather, things got better in part because of Nichols' amazing ability to take what nourished them and discard the rest. Even now, the even-handedness regarding faith, family and Nichols' upbringing is remarkable, considering how easy it would to be bitter. As per usual, Nichols' self-caricature as a sort of rag doll remains one of my favorites in autobio comics; it's a figure that's both capable of absorbing a tremendous amount of abuse as well as a tremendous amount of love, often from the same person. Though each issue stood on its own well, the cumulative effect really pays off in this issue in particular, since Nichols so wisely lays out that relationships are far more complicated than they seem on the surface and that the same person can give out support in one way and unwittingly undermine you in another.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hard-Hitting: Ullman, Keller, Chad

Old-Timey Hockey Tales, Volume Two, by Rob Ullman. The only thing wrong with this loving, polished and consistently funny love letter to Ullman's favorite sport is that it's not in full color. Ullman teased the reader a bit with a few f color pages that add some extra zip to his already sharply paced vignettes from the weird world of hockey's history. The slightly muted nature of his palette happily lends itself to that sense of watching old but surprisingly sharp footage from the past. Published by Wide Awake Press, the production values on this one are first-class all the way, from the use of color to the french flap on the front cover. Ullman's stories work both for the fan and the novice, partly because of the way they break down in a narrative sense.

First, he has an eye for finding the stories of unusual athletes, and he's lucky that hockey has a long history of employing weirdos, maniacs and generally colorful characters. Second, his naturalistic but slightly cartoony style is appealing to the eye. Going too cartoony would turn off sports fans, but going too far in the other direction would render his art lifeless. Above all else, he's able to portray the kinetic punch of hockey, a sport with rapid and often violent movement that's perfectly suited to a sequential art treatment in a way that other sports aren't. Third, his deep understanding and respect for the sport's history means that big-time fans aren't insulted by his treatment of the players. Most importantly, he's able to extract a story hook for non-sports fans. For example, in the story of "Ulcers" McCool, the fact that this goalie suffered from debilitating ulcers that required him to drink quarts of milk before the game and during intermission. Ullman also varies some of his visuals throughout the issue, going with a thin line in one story, greyscaling in another and a thicker, almost rubbery line in yet another. Some stories use a number of panels crammed in a page and others are more leisurely laid out, with two panels to a page. What's hard to believe is that this well-executed and stylish comic hasn't been picked up by a book publisher, because it would be perfect sell in places like Detroit, Montreal, Chicago, Boston, etc.

Force Majeure #1, by Keenan Marshall Keller. Keller's work is very much in the vein of Benjamin Marra, as he both satirizes and displays warm affection for the ultra-violent and sex-drenched cheeseball action movies of the 70s. Unlike Marra, whose work (while absurd) is deliberately vague in its delivery, Keller unapologetically goes all-in on crazy and over-the-top action. His tough cop anti-hero, Chuck Narley, starts the comic by kicking a child rapist/serial killer so hard into a wall that his head pops off. His bad-assery and skirting of the law fully established, Narley is rewarded with a completely superfluous sex scene before the real villains of the comic are introduced. That would be a group of nihilists called Force Majeure, who perform ridiculously brutal killings of innocent children as part of their upcoming "war". The issue ends with battle lines being drawn and little else, essentially, yet Keller packs a remarkable amount of cartoony but bloody violence and gore into just a few pages. He offsets the gore with garish coloring, day-glo lettering that blends right in with the action, and framed shots that are clear send-ups of action movie tropes. One can almost sense Keller chuckling as he drew this comic, because there's a sense of ridiculous glee on every page, as though he couldn't help himself when drawing blood spurting out or heads on pikes in a manner that somehow registers as good, clean fun.

Mezmer 2, by Jon Chad. This is the second big issue of Chad's fascinating and fragmented epic sci-fi series. Ostensibly narrated by the villain, Maxer, the reader is shown tantalizing glimpses of various conflicts between the robot Maxer and the warrior Mumfot, his arch enemy. The reader is shown some back story that adds depth and substance to the characters introduced in the first issue as well as fleshing out some character that were simply name-checked but not introduced in that issue. Chad's strategy of using a non-linear storytelling technique focuses the reader's attention on immediate details in order to create a character-based series of vignettes. Above all else, he wants the reader to luxuriate in the weirdness of Maxer and his minions, as well as the doomed and betrayed Makerrat. Using an ultra-fine line with few blacks adds to the fragility of the narrative, as though the reader was examining a document on the verge of falling apart. Adding in other bits of continuity and character-advancing business with the "great speech" interludes is a clever way of slowly building up a confusing and fascinating world built on technology and spirituality alike.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mall Rodent: Bunny Man

The most interesting thing about Sean Seamus McWhinny's Bunny Man: My Life In The Easter Charade was not that his job dressing up as the Easter Bunny at a mall was terrible, but how he endured it with a remarkable sense of calm. In a comic that subtly reminds the reader of Easter Egg colors with a different pastel wash for each chapter, McWhinny doesn't bore the reader with complaints or a woe-is-me attitude as he's forced to sweat like crazy, never speak, deal with out-of-control children with little or no supervision and fulfill his given task of "creating memories". Instead, he simply gives the reader a remarkably dispassionate account of making the best out of a horrible situation because he desperately needed the money. He's very much the straight man in his own story, surrounded by weirdos, creeps and parents surprisingly willing to put tiny babies in his oversized paws; the Easter Bunny himself is the least cartoony character in this narrative.

Playing it as straight and dry as possible was certainly the way to go, because the odd people he encountered really spoke for themselves in terms of their eccentricity. From the beginning, where he dealt with a remarkably high level of secrecy and security for the job of dressing up in a bunny suit, to his job in a dying mall to his creepy "handler", the grandson of a Navajo "medicine woman" who claimed to be able to hear the thoughts of animals, McWhinny simply adapted to the idea of there being a new normal in this job. He later revealed that more supposedly bad ass people than him either freaked out on the first day or that seemingly nice people went to jail; by virtue of his steadiness and a real concentration on deep breathing and other yoga tactics, he managed to survive while keeping his sanity.

McWhinny's line is effective. The thing that he rendered in the most naturalistic manner was the bunny suit itself, and his ability to get across to the reader precisely what it was like to look at the suit from the outside as well as what it looked like from his perspective in the suit was absolutely crucial to making the book work. Without a real sense of the mechanics of what the experience was like, McWhinny's narrative wouldn't have been nearly as visceral. Every other character is drawn in a far more cartoony style, allowing McWhinny a little license in playing up their behaviors, like the family of twin girls with a monstrous mother. That said, McWhinny is careful not to condemn most of the people who came to see him, especially the children. For every out of control "Megan" who threatened to pull off his head and step on his feet, there was a sweet and shy Nicole who gave him a personalized note thanking him. McWhinny is careful to avoid repetitive anecdotes and paces the book languidly but with enough momentum in each chapter's vignette to keep the reader turning the page. The book acts, without harping on it too much, as a critique of consumer culture and the ways in which it's indistinguishable from simple snake oil salesmanship. It's a personal account that doesn't navel-gaze, keeping the reader's focus solely on the actual experience of being in the bunny suit. It's funny, cringe-inducing and sobering all at once.