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Daniel Clowes

Daniel Clowes is a celebrated graphic novelist (Ghost World, Wilson, David Boring), Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, and frequent cover artist for the New Yorker.

Blurbs

“Clowes plumbs the depths of science fiction in this intriguingly bizarre love story…Another strong entry in an already stunning body of work, and one that will surely be hailed as one of the best releases of 2016.”

– Publisher's Weekly

“Daniel Clowes’s new graphic novel is a time-travel thriller filtered through his own furiously warped sensibility. … Nobody draws reality curdling around its edges like Clowes… and Jack’s all-devouring quest for vengeance mutates his story from a sci-fi whodunit to psychedelic psychological horror.”

– Playboy

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Patience

Capturing Life in Colors

05/02/16

The kinds of books that hit me the hardest are the ones that tackle the full range of life. I like to see my fictional friends in public and in private. I want to know their earlier thoughts and their later decisions. Really, I like understanding what makes their fictional hearts tick and their minds process. These kinds of narratives usually appear in the form of a massive tome that occupies a certainextra durable, solid, and near-the-bottom-of-the-bookshelfshelf, but, as the grand and timeless colloquialism reminds everyone now and then, big things can come in small packages. And 2016 has delivered one of the greatest small gifts under 200 pages that I’ve ever received: Daniel Clowes’ beautifully written and spectacularly drawn graphic novel Patience.

Clowes opens his graphic novel just like how life begins—with conception. It’s 2012, and Jack and Patience, the young couple who serve as dual protagonists, are going to be parents. After receiving the news, Patience says to Jack, “I never thought I’d ever be happy.” Her kind of reaction is both exciting and upsetting. She has a promise of happiness, but it’s a promise that is probably unable to be kept. After all, I ask, can having a child really give a grown adult self-fulfillment?

For Patience, life is difficult. She grapples with difficult ideas about what could happen to her and her family. Patience asks, “Do you worry about the future? Like, what if global warming gets really bad?” She continues, “We’ll be dead before then, probably, but what about the poor baby?” And again, “I don’t want her to feel like a loser all her life.” Patience is a perfect example of a young American woman edging closer and closer to some kind of early-life crisis. She is so honest about her fears and her dreams, but her honesty serves as a kind of shield that keeps her separated from actually living her life. She’s been too present in a world of technology and worry. The hyper-reactive world has worn her down.

For Jack, life doesn’t seem as difficult. He’s a young person who is stuck in a mindless and seemingly endless job, but he’s going to be a father. He has the hopes of a bright future. Until, suddenly, he doesn’t. He comes home to find Patience deadkilled. She and the couple’s unborn child have been brutally murdered.

Patience’s death is not a spoiler. It happens too early in the book for it to be considered such. What unfolds after her death is beautiful and powerful to unravel. Instead of Patience standing as a graphic novel about a new family burgeoning on adulthood and adapting to the required changes, Clowes’ work turns into a psychedelic, science fiction, vengeance-bound love story that somehowmiraculouslymanages to be hopeful and, yes, romantic.

After finding Patience’s body on the floor, Jack appears in split panels, saying first, “I couldn’t move for what seemed like hours, like I was stuck in drying concrete. Probably just a trick by my DNA to keep me from bashing my brains in.” Then, he says, “The fact is, I didn’t want to kill myself. My memories were all that was left of her. I couldn’t bear to snuff those out too.” His honesty is striking, but the emotional sentiment behind his words is downright tear-inducing.

Jack sets out to find who could have killed Patience and why someone would have wanted to commit such an atrocious crime. He travels ahead to 2029, and he goes back to 1985 and 2006. Each section of time shows Jack becoming more and more determined to understand the woman he so loved. As Jack encounters Patience in these different time periods, he approaches her with ease and kindness. He tries to help the woman he loves, but he always tries to respect the past that made her. Jack works a delicate balance in shifting from past to future, but he never falters on his reasoning for giving up his life to understand how someone could end the one he held the dearest.

The images populating Clowes’ graphic novel are totally immersing. The colors pop, as Clowes uses sharp, bright coloring. They, in their naturally kind tones, work to illustrate the fact that Patienceeven with its scene of murder and moments of revenge, is foremost a love story.

Clowes uses a variety of approaches in his drawings. In most of the more contemplative and internal segments, the panels appear closed off and centered. These images appear bolder and with a more focused vision. In other sections, the ones set in different times and the ones with a more boisterous narrative occurring, the drawings often become larger and more playful. The edges are more varied, with shapes less defined.

Yes, Patience is a short piece of fiction, but it’s one that spans decades and captures life in all of its glory and pain. Patience examines happiness, hurt, guilt, power, and hope. It’s a masterwork of the genre.

Daniel Clowes knows life. He writes about it and draws it so authentically. Patience is an extraordinary testament to how beautiful and selfless life and love can be.

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