“But then, I’ve never felt so useful.”
The title story of this collection, first published in Kramer’s Ergot 5, is one of my favorite comic stories. Cutting sharp-eyed realism with fantasy, it showcases the unique cruelty that New York dishes out to newcomers, as well as the wearing effect romantic relationships can have on their participants. Bell has a keen ear for dialog in her fictional stories and here it serves to give us just enough back story to make the main character, Cecil, situation heartbreaking. The story is also in vibrant color and this adds a nice liveliness to the story.
The rest of the book is a mix of fiction and autobio stories with main characters that are like Cecil—underappreciated and harassed by life. However, none of the rest of the stories resonate with me. An overwhelming bleakness pervades much of Bell’s work, including this collection. Although I love the way she draws and her ability to tease out a telling detail I don’t enjoy spending time with her characters. The desire to give them all a violent shake is too distracting!
*photo from drawn & quarterly because I already returned this to the library