Monday, 9 July 2012

Books: Dan and Larry in Don't Do That!


Dan and Larry in Don't Do That!
By David Charles Cooper

Available now from Islington Libraries
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So I was working at Mildmay Library and - when there was a bit of free time - I checked their graphic novel stock to see if there was anything I could nab for the good folks at the Comic Forum and I saw this - Dan and Larry in Don't Do That! It was a slim volume with crazy-looking black and white artwork that kinda reminded me of the hyper-berserk-weirdness of Ren and Stimpy [1] which I guess is both a good thing and a bad thing [2].

I kinda let it sit on the side for a while - until - eventually - stuck with nothing else to read - I decided to pick it up. And well - It's a very slim little book that only took about 15 minutes to get through. And for most of my time reading it I struggled to see what the point was. At the time I was a little worried that I had never even heard of "Dan and Larry" and thought that maybe it was part of a wider thing - maybe there was a TV show that I didn't know about that it was connected to? Or maybe there were more books that preceded this that I needed to have read in order to get what was going on? But no - checking things out afterwards it seems that the title is deliberately misleading and that (well - so far at least) there are no other Dan and Larry books out there. 

The other thing that sorta tickled the edges of my brain was that - even tho everything takes place in a mutant world where the main character is a duck and the other guy has this big oozy mushroom head: there was this certain - I dunno - aspect to it that made it seem like it wasn't just a bunch of crazy cartoon adventures. Of course it was at that point that flicked to look at the cover and saw the little subheading: "A surreal mixture of dreams and memories." at which point I was like - oh - right. Because yeah - judged as little mini-adventure of two best friends - well - there's loads of pieces that don't quite fit and all these strange sort of tangents that go nowhere - but when you look at it and realise that it's bits of someone's life that they've refashioned into a new shape (with a bunch of dream imagery mixed in) then - yeah - it takes on a new dimension and becomes a lot more powerful and - frankly - disturbing. And by the time it ended I felt like I'd been dragged all the way through the tubes and guts of this guy's unconscious mind and learnt a few things that most people like to keep hidden away. 

Make no mistake: It's a very harsh and unforgiving book: one review (the Christian Perring, Ph.D metapsychology one below) says: "This work will certainly appeal to a good number of deviants." (and I can't tell if he's joking when he says: "It goes without saying that most right-thinking Americans will view this artwork as typical of the odious creations of countercultural slackers, and it is no surprise to learn that the artist lives in Canada."): normally the stuff I like to read is clear and to-the-point - and this is muddled and woozy: like when you full asleep on a hot sunny day while you're still wearing all your clothes - it's certainly different: but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't recommend it. 

[1] Man. Ren and Stimpy (Brrrrrr!). I was just a kid when they first started showing Ren and Stimpy on TV (wow - all the way back in 1991) and even tho I watched every episode and used to hang around the next day in the playground quoting the best bits with my friends ("Don't whiz on the electric fence!") I don't know if I could say that I ever really enjoyed watching it - it was all so strange and surreal with all these unpalatable undertones and extreme gross-out close-ups and an all pervasive sense of loneliness and desperation and despair - that it was more like something I forced myself to undergo (for whatever now unknown reasons) - with the unintended effect of giving myself (no doubt) somesort of deeply buried permanent psychological damage (or as me and my friends like to say in a semi-wistful fashion when we watch some kind of crazy action film/french spooky thriller/or whatever where the characters encounter intense and crazy situations: "man - years of therapy.": (as in - (random example) you think that Home Alone's Kevin McCallister is going to live a peaceful little picket-fence life once that film (yes and the sequel) is over? No way. There's gonna be all sorts of abandonment issues and problems with aggresion and physical violence that he's going to have to spend his whole life working out with a shrink ("And then I made the blowtorch go on his head - I can still smell the burning flesh every time I close my eyes. Oh god. Every time I close my eyes." "Huh huh. I see. And how does that make you feel?")): so yeah - Ren and Stimpy - years of therapy).  

[2]  "Take this object, but beware it carries a terrible curse!" "Ooh, that's bad." "But it comes with a free frogurt!" "That's good." "The frogurt is also cursed." "That's bad." "But you get your choice of toppings." "That's good!" "The toppings contain potassium benzoate."

Links: Metapsychology Review, Revolution Science Fiction Review, Canada.Com Interview.

Further reading: Black Hole, The Tale of One Bad Rat, David Boring.

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