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Talking Lines

by R.O. Blechman

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Format: Hardcover, 6x9, black & white, $39.99

ISBN: 978-1-897299-85-2

Reviewed by: Publishers Weekly

Whether appearing in Harvey Kurtzman's short-lived comic magazine Humbug in the late 1950s, or the New York Times Book Review in 2004, Blechman's graphic stories are remarkably consistent. His simple yet sophisticated style is inimitable and instantly recognizable: jittery lines, barely sketched-out settings and deadpan sensibility. Blechman’s characters are frequently clueless sorts, hurling ridiculous actions into the winds of the time and being judged harshly for it by their creator. His sense of the satiric crops up frequently, and it is rarely applied with much subtlety. With the exception of "Contamination," a longer piece from 1964 about the nuclear arms race, most of Blechman’s political work falls flat. His stories about famous literary figures range from the meaningful (Virginia Woolf as utterly dependent on her husband) to playfully absurd (Shakespeare as potential advertising copy writer). Though an uneven collection over all, the scale comes down in Blechman's favor due to the inclusion of "Georgie," which takes up the bulk of the book’s second half. A previously unpublished piece from 1992 about a man who loses just about everything in life but for his exceptional dog, it’s somehow wholly sentimental and yet astonishingly wise in its sprawling sadness.