What a pleasure it is to finally finish a talented author’s magnum opus as it appears complete in print for the first time, knowing it is going to be something absolutely spectacular. This occurred as I completed Seth’s newest release of Clyde Fans – a book I started with I read the first half in 2014, but one that took the artist two decades to complete. You can read my first review at Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1001125540?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1 and listen to one of two Virtual Memories Show interviews with Seth that inspired my diving into the work here: http://www.vmspod.com/tag/seth/
Clyde Fans is a graphic novel story set in the early 20th century and explores the decline of the 20th century way of life, from memories to family, industry to intimacy, main street to the expectations of the home. It tells the story of a company and the two brothers that inherited it from their absent father while juggling responsibilities that lie beyond the ledger page. As salesmen and the value of family-owned workmanship seem to dwindle alongside Toronto’s storefronts, the stakes are raised as memories flood back in dreamy grayscale. On every page, the stark realities of expectations and how those can shape our concept of our relationships with one another and with time come to a striking head as Seth peels back the inciting incidents that brought his protagonist to the dreary and confusing state he is in when we meet him. The end dissolves into a gorgeous visual poem unveiling the strange motivating factors our characters carried for decades.
Time dances with memory and Seth’s presentation of the timeline and how memories and the events of his characters intersect while carrying forward a beautifully structured plot is nothing less than genius. His illustrations are somehow visually Shakespearean, in that there is a simplicity in their composition, yet the way shadows bend across even the tiniest of frames in this book took my breath away with its geometric subtlety in communicating so much so well – these illustrations are misleadingly simple, but in diving into this book their complexity is all in the patience of your travels across the page. The edition I read was the slipcased hardcover, and as always, Drawn and Quarterly have constructed not only a sturdy monster of a book but have done it so beautifully and so well that it helps transport the reader to the time and place of the piece. There is no better respect for the work than I could imagine.
A beautiful, beautiful work that is a masterpiece for Seth’s work – and Canadian culture as a whole.