on February 16, 2005
Clowes artwork on David Boring is, as usual, immaculate and he consistently manages to draw characters whose faces emote a sense of ennui yet manage to evoke in me a feeling of compassion that borders on pity. This interplay intrigues me in that it serves to both endear and distance me to almost every major player in the book. Whether or not that feature of Clowes' art best serves the narrative, and whether it should, remains left to the individual. For me, the result is a positive and heightens the slightly surreal nature of Boring's world.
Stripped down, David Boring is a love story. Artfully dressed up by Clowes' craftsmanship, however, the standard love story is complicated by all manner of fixation, fetishism and obsessiveness in addition to the possible end of the world.
As a character, David Boring's only remarkable traits are his fetish for fat-bottomed girls and the single issue of his father's comic that he happens to own. This sexual fetish leads to expected relationship problems as David constantly risks letting his obsession for the physical overshadow any and all other aspects of his relationships with women. David's fetish for his father's comic, and subsequent obsession to learn about the man from the remaining scraps of his work, leads to one to speculate about the triadic, feedback-loop-like relationship between creator, creation and reader.
And so this theme of destructive fetishism runs rampant through David Boring as Clowes explores various characters, their fetishes and the nuanced situations that result from such behavior. Clowes fetishists include: Boring, Boring's best friend Dot (whose obsession is saved for a graceful and quiet denouement), Boring's girlfriend Wanda, Wanda's lover, the Professor, Boring's mother and possibly Boring's father (although I haven't looked too closely at this possibility).
The plot is set against a backdrop of impending world destruction by terrorists. Nice, huh? Come to think of it, terrorist activity may be viewed as a type of destructive fetishism whose idealistic single-mindedness overlooks the complexities of the world. This backdrop, though, allows Clowes a surreal, albeit convenient, way in which to resolve his story while pardoning any remaining social mores his characters may breech during the resolution process.
Clowes always delivers quality art and story. If you're already a fan of comix, you know this. If you've yet to sample the delights of graphic novels you'd do well to jump in right away with David Boring.
on September 12, 2000
Daniel Clowes has outdone himself in this volume,collecting and improving upon the three part story David Boring.This is a challenging saga of a young man's attempt to organize his reality into a sort of personal movie,with himself as the protagonist.He deals obsessively with love and lust,and other human relationships with confusion.The focus on David and his love life is framed with a description of a violent and unpredictable world,complete with murder,intrigue,and war.The meticulous drawings merit close scrutiny for the detail they contain.This is a comic that tells as much without words as it does with them.The improvements in this book (it was previously serialized in pamphlet form) include the addition of color in certain panels,and overall an excellently designed package,including dust cover,spine,endpapers,and chapter headings.This is a book that will stand up to the many readings you're sure to want to give it.If you have any doubts as to the richness and depth available in the comics medium,this book with put them to rest.
on December 12, 2002
Although Daniel Clowes' GHOST WORLD wasn't that appealing to me, DAVID BORING was surprisingly engaging. Like Chris Ware's JIMMY CORRIGAN, it begins by introducing the reader to reminders of traditional comic book superheros, and although the rest of the book is anything but a stereotypical comic, it retains various aspects of superhero comic books. It's wonderfully dramatic and fantastic, transitioning from a story situated in reality to one that's dominated by mysterious deaths, apocalyptic fears, and taboo relationships. With BORING, Clowes shows life as at once dreamy, vacuous, adventurous, and painful. He ends up with a moving tale that is deeply structured and well worth the hour or two it takes to read.
on May 16, 2001
Falling halfway between the surrealism of "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron" and the realism of "Ghostworld", David Boring is a story about a young man who, on the one hand, has an inability to adapt to change because of his obsessiveness, but who nevertheless remains stable no matter what is thrown at him because of his very faults (although that means remaining constantly dissatisfied with life). I don't believe that David Boring (whose name I assume is a nod to the great Superman artist of the 1950s Wayne Boring) is meant to be as interesting as the events around him, but is meant to illustrate a person stuck in a rut no matter what goes on around him. Instead of moving on to a new girlfriend, for example, he continues to obsess about the one who has just dumped him, and instead of living his own life, he obsesses about his father through his old Yellow Streak comics. What makes this story depressing is that many of us can see a little of ourselves in David Boring. But underneath it all, David Boring is, at least, a survivor. It is this sort of imposed self-examination that makes this an important and effecting work of literature and the accompanying artwork by Clowes is simple but moody and emotional.
on July 2, 2002
The whole story is set against the year of 1999, leading to its end. The threat of a terrorist act and killings underscore the human follies of this funny, but sad story. The cataclysmic apocalypse of the world takes a secondary importance to being left over by love, in loneliness. A very lyrical and interesting juxtaposition.
Daniel Clowes has a tremendous gift as a storyteller, and in this comic book, he conscientiously chooses the 3-act screenplay form, both using it as a legitimate vehicle for his story and also as a deconstructive techinique. His characters are wonderfully three-dimensional, and the way they go in and out of love is always shown through a sympathetic, but detached view. The mistakes the characters make, the yearnings and losses... approximate the real human experience. The ending is a hopeful one - even as the end-time seems to be near, another possibility of love keeps David Boring afloat. Although Chris Ware seems to have caught the public and critical acclaim, when it comes to telling stories of modern alienation, there is no graphic artist to best Daniel Clowes. Not yet. Impressive.
on November 28, 2000
this is a tour de force in the way that eraserhead or blue velvet is--a romp on the wild surreal side, though grounded in hyperrealism of sad sack lives, prurience, lust, obsession, crime, madness, war--you know the good things in life that keep the NRA in business and scared folks at home behind gated windows and locked doors. the focus of this bizarre yet well-told tale is a sex-obsessed slacker in some make-believe dystopia who has a lesbian roommate, the hots for a stranger, and a tortured relationship with his mother. so many themes swirl about here, and adding to the confusion are the jumpcuts in time and narrative panels. the most touching and heart-felt panels are those involving a comic book--yellow streak-- that his long-gone father had drawn. a great gift for all david lynch fans and those who endured the film "pi"; the drawing and graphic appeal here are top-drawer.
If you like Robbe-Grillet or David Lynch, you'll like David Boring. Surrealism isn't my cup of tea, and so I found myself alternately put off and bored by the book. But I can appreciate the thought that went into planning its seeming disjointedness.
There's no plot to speak of, and what storyline there is is one that seems a parody of hardboiled detective stories. Panels abruptly break into different narrative threads. Interpolations that make no sense whatsoever interject themselves. The "Yellow Streak" comic/missing father subtheme is baffling. There are tons of nonsequitors: Wanda's disappearance in a sexual/religious cult; Manfred's running off with David's mother; Mrs. Capin's seduction of David; the affair with Naomi; the abrupt termination of Dot's lesbian affair; and the never-developed hints at apocalyptic disaster. Temporal sequence seems unimportant, chance encounters carry mysterious weight, characters appear and vanish with magical realism fluidity. Sometimes it's intriguing, sometimes perplexing, sometimes quite tiresome. And the woodenness of the drawing--again deliberate, one suspects--only adds to the surreality of the story. Facial expressions seem frozen, bodies pre-pubescent. Even in the love-making scenes, the characters look like store front mannikins. (And what's up with all the socks? Can Clowes not draw feet?)
Is there a point here? The absurdity of existence? The deep and futile human longing for love? creative expression (David is a failed screenwriter)? deep meaning? Is David a kind of Camusean l'etranger, unable to connect with anyone on a deep emotional level? Or in fact is there no message at all to "David Boring"? Is the negative reviewer who said that the book seemed to have been dreamt up panel by panel as Daniel Clowes proceeded on the money? I don't want to think this is how the book was actually written, but ultimately it's so artificially mysterious that it might as well have been.
* Clowes' own description of his novel.
on February 9, 2003
I read "David Boring" after being impressed by Clowes's previous graphic novel, "Ghost World," but I was somewhat disappointed. Unlike the cynical and terminally ironic teenage protagonists of the earlier book, the title character of "David Boring" never really comes to life, and neither do the lesser characters. (One of the notable achievements of "Ghost World" was the way in which even the minor characters who appeared in only a few panels would take on sharply defined and believable personalities.) The story also never really takes off, and often seems to be a series of random, improbable incidents intended to give David Boring more reasons for his sullen depression- though the background narrative (never clearly defined) about mysterious terrorist bombings and biological attacks seems prophetic, since the book was published in 2000.
on April 14, 2008
I just got done reading this about an hour ago, so everything is still pretty fresh in my mind. The art work is fantastic, and the writing is MOSTLY pretty good. But there are these occasional spots throughout the story that just kind of come out of nowhere, it becomes very difficult to follow after a while, so I'm not sure how good I should say the writing really is. The dialogue is generally enjoyable at least, even if you're not always sure whats going on. I would still recommend this to anyone looking for a good, non-superhero graphic novel, but you should still be aware that there quite a few instances of panels not really transitioning very well into one another, giving way to confusion in the story.
on May 15, 2002
"Ghost World" is widely responsible for the recent gush of indy fanboys and girls who wouldn't otherwise be reading comics flocking towards Daniel Clowes' books, but 'David Boring' is one of, if not the most well-structured, cerebral and calculating collection in the Clowes oeuvre. I won't give a plot description because I think that the book's title and Clowes' overall style is telling enough, but I will say that the themes this book covers are expansive, as well as provocative and eloquently discussed. The story is charming in what seems ostensibly to be a meandering, misanthropic narrative about ennui and apathy, but manages to discuss so much more about the difference that mediums like film and comic books have on culture, as well the internal structure of their own realities. The book has such a curious pace that the ending seems like it can't possibly be satisfactory, and yet Clowes concludes this book in the most sublime and beautiful fashion, and in a way that I realized was a perfect and fitting ending for the story. David Boring's self-concious narrative quirks were performed so often and were overt enough to almost irritate me, but I feel in the end that Clowes allowed the story's self-concious tendencies to be tactful and done in a way that is pertinent to the subject matter. Also, if you are someone who does not normally purchase a hardcover book but often flirts with the idea, I would reccomend going with those desires on this occasion. The book feels so literary and authentic that it almost feels better to own a more prestigous print of it. Wonderfully detailed illustrations as well. If there were any doubts that Clowes is producing books that should remain a part of our literary canon for years to come, this book does away with them.