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Jar of Fools: A Picture Story Paperback – September, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly (September 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1896597726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896597720
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #863,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A lovely, short 'picture novel' exploring the tenacious bond between an alcoholic stage magician and his cranky mentor." --New York Times Book Review

"Jar of Fools is full of people trying to stop things they care about from melting away, like estranged lovers and old-fashioned jobs...all the main characters—the magician, a coffee-shop cashier, a small time con-man--are in danger of ending up beaten down and swallowed up by the silences of life which Lutes’ well-paced art evokes so effectively" --Details

"The story itself is so masterfully told that it could stand alone as a novella in Harper's. When combined with Lutes’ spare black-and-white line drawings and creative use of the comic book medium, it becomes something transcendent--a piece of literature that speaks to the emotional core." --Wired

"Employing the lost skills of mood, sparseness, and language, Lutes' stunning comic Jar of Fools transcends the usually mealy-mouthed limits of graphic novels and, in the process, winds up being a damn good read." --Spin Magazine

"Reading Jar of Fools is like getting a slow motion punch in the face. There's plenty of time to get out of the way, but something compels you to wait and find out of it’s actually going to hurt as much when it hits. And, of course, it does." --Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan

From the Publisher

Jason Lutes was born in New Jersey in 1967, and started reading and drawing comics as soon as he was able. The European comics he encountered during childhood visits to France made a great impression on him, and have proven a strong influence on his adult work. The first time he gave up comics was to attend the Rhode Island School of Design(BFA in Illustration, 1991), but publications such as R. Crumb's Weirdo, Art Spiegelman's RAW, and Chester Brown's Yummy Fur lured him back. Upon graduation, he moved to Seattle, lost his spleen in a bike accident, and washed dishes until he was hired by Fantagraphics Books.The second time he gave up comics was a year later, when he became disillusioned with the comics industry and quit Fantagraphics to wash more dishes. He was lured back by the opportunity to draw a strip for "The Stranger", a Seattle weekly, and that strip was later collected in the book "Jar of Fools". In 1995, after a stint as art director at "The Stranger", he quit to try his hand at being a full-time cartoonist. He currently lives in Seattle, where he infrequently produces chapters in the comics novel "Berlin" and fondly recalls happier days as a dishwasher. In 1996 Lutes started work on Berlin, a projected 600 page story set in Germany during the twilight years of the Weimar Republic. Berlin; Book One, collecting the first part of the trilogy, has just been published by Drawn & Quarterly. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 12, 2006
Jason Lutes, Jar of Fools (Drawn and Quarterly, 2003)

I've read some pretty good graphic novels in the past couple of months, but Jar of Fools was impressive on levels that a number of them never even thought to explore; it was definitely the best of the early-January batch. You have a burned-out magician, dangerously close to being homeless, pining over his lost girlfriend. You have the lost girlfriend, also pining. You have the mentor, stuck in a rest home. You have the con man, trying to get money to feed his kid, who shortchanges the lost girlfriend. And in weaving this tapestry, you have a wonderful little story about love, loss, and sacrifice.

Lutes' touch is spare when he's drawing, and light when he's writing. There's enough here for you to understand what's going on without having to go back and re-read anything, but you'll make a mental leap or two while you're going through it (this is a good thing). Everyone here is rather simple, though in no way does that mean they're two-dimensional; Lutes creates complex characters, but the timespan of the book is so short that we only get to see what he wants us to. It's a subtle, and impressive, move.

This is really a fantastic book; definitely one worth checking out, whether you're a fan of the graphic novel form or not. This might be the perfect book to show you that they do stand as literature; it's not quite on the level of something like Charles Burns' Black Hole, but you're not going to invest as much time, either. A perfect place to begin. ****
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 20, 2008
Verified Purchase
I came to Jason Lutes' Jar of Fools after having my socks knocked off by the first volume of his Berlin trilogy. Jar isn't as masterful a work as Berlin--it's less structured, for example--but it displays the same kind of written sensitivity and visual subtlety that Berlin does. Especially noteworthy is the seamless flow between dreams and wakefulness (for example, pp. 13-18, 41-42, or 93-95) that Lutes achieves.

The story is ostensibly about a handful of people whose lives seem to be dead-ended: a young magician haunted by his brother's suicide and the end of a love affair; the young magician's ex, seething with anger and a sense of meaningless; an aged magician who teeters between lucidity and senility; a con man who lives in his car with his young daughter. Events in the novel bring them together for a short time, and then split them apart again. There are hints of salvation, and more than a hint in the con man's case. But as another reviewer observes, the story ends without (thankfully) a nice, antiseptic wrap-up in which all the loose strings get tied together.

On a different level, though, both the story line and the visuals suggest that an underlying theme is the unresolvable ambiguity of what it means to be a human. On the one hand, we sometimes want to live quietly, painlessly, anonymously--to live without making a ripple, as one of the characters says in a pivotal moment in the story (pp. 33-35). We want to be escape artists. But sooner or later, something in us rebels against this quietitude, and we long to make ripples--splashes, in fact--to live passionately, even if it means enduring great suffering.
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Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes tells the story of a magician and his mentor. Ernest, a magician in his 20s or 30s is out of a job and down on his luck when his old mentor, Al, arrives on his doorstep. Al has run away from a retirement home and doesn't have the sharpest mind anymore. When the two men get in a scuffle with some other men, a stranger named Nathan throws Ernest and Al into Nathan's car. With Nathan's daughter, Claire, the foursome decide to live out of Nathan's car. Parallel to this story is that of Ernest's ex-girlfriend who is still heart broken from their breakup and decides to start her own journey.

Yes, this graphic novel is as confusing and convoluted as it sounds. The entire book is very text-heavy which does not work for graphic novels. The majority of the pictures are close-ups of the character when they are speaking to each other. For a graphic novel that is uncharacteristically text-heavy, there is little actually said or developed. Out of the six characters, only Nathan develops.

In addition, there are as many plots as there are characters and in only 142 pages, none of the plots are rightfully resolved. There is the issue of an aging mentor revisiting his alcoholic and downtrodden aprentice; a heartbroken love story; the mysterious disappearance and possible reappearance of Ernest's brother; the repercussions of a messy divorce; and homelessness. Typically, graphic novels choose a theme or plot that is less complex than that of a full-length novel. That way, the story can be explored textually as well as visually. All of these themes could not be appropriately handled in a 142 pure-text novella. Therefore, it is no shock that it was unsuccessful in the same-length graphic novel.
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