By Don Nace.
Soft Skull, $21.95.
Don Nace's artwork is famous without you knowing it, thanks to its use in film. In both Fatal Attraction and the recent remake of The Manchurian Candidate, his work has shown up anonymously as the sketchings of madmen.
Nace's first book, Drawn Out, is a diffuse tale of a middle-aged man; a guy who has two teenage sons, a job in the city and health worries. It begins with an introduction to his sons and wife, then rips back through time into a childhood marked by the early illness and death of a father, and the subsequent emotional paralysis of the protagonist.
Drawn Out isn't a standard, panel-by-panel graphic novel, but rather a slide show of unsettling portraiture with a narrative running beneath. After the protagonist is told by a psychiatrist that his reckless life until 30 was an attempt to imitate his father's death, he settles down. "By now everybody else was ready for their second marriage," he writes. "I was ready for my first kiss." The accompanying frenetic drawing shows a snake in a tree, a woman in a white dress and the slinking outline of a man saying, "I move my tongue and hope for the best."
Nace's ink drawings are often obscuring rather than elucidating, which makes for a slower, more contemplative read. After the death of his brother, the protagonist begins acting out—going to strip clubs and sleeping around—and the narrative becomes more discursive. After apparently confessing his sins to his wife, and realizing that "forgiveness was not going to come," one particularly gorgeous page shows a woman hurling a man overhead, bowling pins scuttled in the air, the man noting, "Maybe we should have rehearsed."
It's a typically deadpan moment before the storm. Nace prefers to document the emotion of his narrator in short, simple declarations and allow his crazed drawings to tell the full story. And though the story is fairly common, the storyteller's methods are creepy enough to keep the reader worried about what follows on the next page.—Jonathan Messinger