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Jar of Fools Paperback – 2008
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A lovely, short picture novel exploring the tenacious bond between an alcoholic stage magician and his cranky mentor. -- The New York Times Book Review
A piece of literature that speaks to the emotional core. -- Wired Magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
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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.
The title Jar of Fools is, I suspect, an intentional gesture on Lutes' part at the 15th century Ship of Fools allegory whose point is that humans frequently sail through life rudderlessly. I wonder if this suggests another theme in the novel: that no matter how in control of our destiny we think we are, the ocean currents of life ultimately take us where they will.
All in all, a moving artwork. Highly recommended.
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.
Though this Jason Lutes graphic novel did not live up to its potential, do not let it deter you from his other works. The series Berlin, of which only two of the eight are out in America, is one of the best graphic novels I have ever read. The series takes place in Berlin right before WWII. The characters are beautifully portrayed and all give a different view of the city on the verge of disaster. Unlike Jar of Fools, Berlin is a must-read for all graphic novel and/or history lovers. It is everything that Jar of Fool isn't, and a lot more!
Most recent customer reviews
I've read some pretty good graphic novels in the past couple of months, but Jar of Fools was impressive on levels...Read more