I was looking to read something a little different, and WILSON by Daniel Clowes fits into that category. Definitely different.
It’s a graphic novel told in one page, comic strip-like chunks, that zips through years in the life of a guy named Wilson, who when the book opens is a 43-year-old misanthropic loner living in Oakland. He’s estranged from his father, his wife left him 16 years earlier when she was pregnant, he apparently has no job (although he’s not homeless or even very poor, for some unexplained reason), and he spends his time wandering around talking to strangers. He’s the kind of guy who has an opinion about everything, usually negative, and never shuts up. He also has no filter on his comments, so he offends nearly everybody he meets. His only friend is his dog Pepper.
Then he gets word that his dad is on his deathbed in Chicago, so he flies back for one last visit and as a result of that decides to try to locate his ex-wife and find out what happened to the child she was carrying when she left him.
From there things do not work out well.
I’ll be honest with you, this is one of the most depressing things I’ve read in a long time. Wilson is an utterly repellent character, but at the same time he’s fascinating and you almost start to root for him, even though most of his troubles are completely of his own making. And some of the time he’s saying things that a lot of us have thought but are too polite to put into words. Bleak or not, this is a well-written book. Clowes’ art is interesting, too, varying from page to page. Sometimes it’s fairly realistic, and at others it’s bizarrely cartoonish.
Most of my graphic novel reading will continue to concentrate on superheroes, I’m sure. That’s what I grew up reading and still enjoy. But it’s good to try other things, too, and while it would be hard to say that I actually liked this book, I was impressed by it and I’m glad I read it. If you’re drawn to bleak, slice-of-life stories, by all means give it a try.
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