Book Review

David Boring by Daniel Clowes

David Boring by Daniel Clowes

One of the most important - and best - writers in the comic field working today, Daniel Clowes is probably best known for his book Ghost World (made into a film by Terry Zwigoff and starring the now Bafta award-winning Scarlett Johansson, as Rebecca, memorably supporting Thora Birch spot-on Enid). David Boring tells the story of our "eponymous narrator" and his struggle against his mother, to learn more about his father (the creator of the Yellow Streak comic, of which David has but one Annual, and whom is mother really hates) and to find love (in the very particular shape of the women pasted into his "pervers scrapbook"). After the perplexing death of his friend Whitey, after his hard-won girlfriend Wanda leaves him for no clearly apparent reason and after being shot for reasons that, again, are not made immediately clear, David spends time recuperating at the family summer escape of Hulligan's Wharf.

The central part of the book (Act II, of three) details the (often sexual) tensions that well-up on the island, particularly after the appearance of Uncle August who claims that a germ warfare attack has widely contaminated the North American mainland. David's mother, his mother's cousin Mrs Capon, her 16 year old daughter Iris and Manfred Rolan her new husband share the island with David and his best friend Dot, a lesbian. Mrs Capon's disappearance and the growing affection between Dot and Iris lead to arguments, accusations and the end of the brief island idyll.

In the final part an increasing melodrama infects the comic overtaking David's life (the very antithesis of his moniker). And whilst this gives the final frames a slightly rushed feeling (with an over neat, if provisional, ending) Clowes' writing and mostly black & white drawing combine beautifully and Boring is a great comic.

David's sexual proclivities form an important theme throughout the book and Clowes plays this very well. But are "big asses" really David's sole motivation? Initially the search for his father seems like it will be a key narrative thread but David himself curtails this arc. This renders him rather flatter as a character than he should be and he never quite comes alive for us as clearly as do Enid and her best friend Rebecca in Ghost World. Indeed it is Dot who feels the more rounded character although she is only glimpsed compared to how much via the first person we get from David; which throws up the interesting insight that, perhaps, Clowes is actually better at characterising women than he is men. Notwithstanding these criticisms this is an excellent read. Clowes is a seriously good writer who is able to address a numbe of important issues within a form hardly renowned for its ability to question as well as it undoubtedly entertains.

-- Reviewed by Mark Thwaite on 18/07/2005

Further Information
ISBN-10: 0224063235
ISBN-13: 9780224063234
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Publication Date: 14/02/2005
Binding: Paperback
Number of pages: 124

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