Currently- I am reading Essex County by Jeff Lemire for my English Class at Yukon School of Visual Arts. As you can tell by my forced formality- This is a homework post. So far- I have read book one: Tales from the Farm, and started into book two: Ghost Stories. And so far- I have just not been reeled into the story. No biscuit. No cheese. Nada. I absolutely LOVE the illustrations, truly, illustration ENVY. I was also intrigued by the cover art and choice of colours. Feeling like I was missing the boat on something, since it seemed like everyone else was enjoying the graphic novel ~ I did a little research via CBC. And here is what CBC had to say:
“Jeff Lemire’s Essex County is composed of three interconnected graphic novels — Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories and The Country Nurse. Winner of several major awards in the world of comics, including a Joe Shuster Award, it was hailed by reviewers as “the comics medium at its best” (Booklist) and “a quiet, somber, haunting masterpiece” (The Oregonian). The minimalistic though intensely emotional trilogy gives form to the author’s inspired vision of what it means to live, work, dream and even die in a Southwestern Ontario rural community.
The population of Lemire’s fictional landscape is represented from childhood to old age through the characters of Lester, Lou and Anne. Their external world is rendered in stark black-and-white lines. The vividness of their interior lives, however, is what gives the graphic novel its colour and vitality.
After the death of his mother, 10-year-old Lester, the central character of Tales from the Farm, is sent to live with his Uncle Ken, a rural bachelor and a man of few words. For the sensitive boy, comic books and superheroes are a welcome distraction from the painful circumstances of his life.
Lou LeBeuf, protagonist of Ghost Stories, is an aged hockey player living out his last days alone at his farm. Isolated and full of regret, he replays the turning points of his life once again.
Anne Quenneville is the focus of The Country Nurse. A travelling nurse in Essex County, she has seen her share of suffering. Perhaps that’s what makes her such a force for good. Through Anne, the trilogy finds resolution and its heartbreaking characters find much-needed connection.”
I caught myself thinking something was wrong with me to not be enjoying this book. But then again- what I am reviewing is how I am engaging with the image and text, rather than the creator’s work. And to be frank- where I am at with my depression and anxiety, I feel like I just cannot and will not allow myself to absorb any more suffering if I can help it. Enough already- the thoughts in my mind do not need inspiration for regret and suffering. Even if it isn’t relevant to life events that I have gone through- depressing stuff just adds to the ever-growing laundry pile of anxiety triggers and a feeling of being uncomfortable. Sort of like sitting in a bath too long. Not my idea of enjoyment. I would not have read this if I had a choice, at least at this particular time in my life. I am sure that there is possibility to enjoy it, but not in the situation that I have found myself in right now. It was the same with the other books assigned in class- full of heart wrenching psychological ponderings, uncomfortable periods of self loathing, and a sense of negativity but also a cryptic secret commentary on politics, society, you name it. And I just could not focus, I tried, but there is nothing worse than trying to write an educated blog post on a graphic novel that you feel not so sparkly about, let alone an essay on a final exam. But I am not the kind of human to give up, so I will keep reading, and try to step into the world of Jeff Lemire. Where are the positive books? Okay Okay, I don’t expect cotton candy and happily ever afters. Hell- Where is David Sedaris? Now there’s an author I admire. (Don’t get me wrong, I like reading books that have an edge of darkness to them, but it depends on how the author communicates it to the reader. And so far with Essex County, no cheese. I like a Humorist’s approach to dark matters) Where are the authors who delve into less dark matters? [Would that be considered Grey matter?] This is an improvement from Beautiful Losers, but I still find myself knitting my eyebrows together when asked to “make a comment”. So I conclude: I liked the illustrations. And like any other homework assignment which makes pulling fingernails off with pliers look like spa treatment- I will carry on. Maybe my opinion will change once I finish this book- who knows.
Photo of David Sedaris