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Three Paradoxes Hardcover – September 15, 2006

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Hornschemeier's third major work, the clearly inked panels of a framing story show the main character, a comics artist named Paul, on a walk with his father. The touchingly honest conversation between father and son is intercut with stories that include childhood memories and Zeno's presentation of his three paradoxes to a group of Athenian philosophers. The book's funniest moment comes when Socrates, upon hearing the paradoxes, interrupts to say, Man, no offense, but are you guys retarded? and then goes on to berate Zeno for his insistence on the impossibility of change. A young luminary of experimental comics, Hornschemeier offers a brilliant narrative demonstration of the paradoxes in this graphic personal essay, in which the protagonist simultaneously connects with his past, mulls over his present and anticipates the future. The book is formally brilliant as well, with a dust jacket that peels back to reveal preparatory sketches on the hard cover of the book and stories that are each told in a different, fully realized style. Childhood memories are shown in newsprint comic color-dot style while Zeno's story is presented as pages torn from old comics, their frayed edges laid out on the white pages of the book. (July)
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From Booklist

In this structurally complicated memoir, Hornschemeier portrays the last evening of a visit with his parents in Ohio that, casual in itself, carries the tensions of his ambitions and of meeting, when he returns to Chicago, longtime correspondent-fan Juliane. "Paul and the Magic Pencil," a comics story resembling Jay Ward's Peabody and Sherman cartoons, which Hornschemeier is drafting seemingly as an exercise in self-encouragement, frames the main action, a nighttime walk with his father. The walk in turn encompasses Paul's mental flashbacks to "Paul and the Magic Pencil," a confrontation with a bigger boy when he was about sixth-grade age, the story behind the scar on the neck of a convenience-store clerk, and a comic-book account of the paradoxes of Zeno. The visit is the most realistically rendered narrative element, and each flashback is differently styled in figuration and coloration. If there is an educible point to this calm slice of common life, it is that memory, like arithmetical logic in Zeno's paradoxes, dissolves time. The artist, however, proves more impressive than the philosopher. Olson, Ray
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; 1St Edition edition (September 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560976535
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560976530
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.7 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,380,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jamie S. Rich on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An interesting rumination on the concept of change and how it relates to the act of creation. Hornschemeier, on a walk with his father, mixes his observations of his old neighborhood with his struggles to finish a comic strip about youth, all the while indulging in memory and whimsy. Encounters with other people, stray bits of conversation, everything inspires some kind of mental tangent, what could be new fictional ideas, false memories, or something truly remembered. In one panel, Paul's young self passes on the street behind his current self, suggesting we are here now and we are here then, and we are always the same, like the three Zeno paradoxes of the title pulled through Vonnegut. (In another sequence of panels, do we break point of view and go into the head of Paul's father? If we do, for shame--but it could also be more mental meandering by Paul.) All the while, THE THREE PARADOXES is expertly drawn, shifting from a precise Tomine-esque style to parodies of old comic books for the backstory, as well as sublime little glimpses at the blue-pencilled pages Paul is working on. Still, by the end, even with all the heaviness of design, the book is a tad slight. Again, maybe by intention? Because it certainly does linger, like one of its narrator's memories, playing on the brain even as the book is reshelved
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Format: Hardcover
Paul Hornschemeier, The Three Paradoxes (Fantagraphics, 2007)

So, the underlying question of Hornschemeier's graphic novel asks us: was Zeno, in fact, right? Even when we reach our destination, have we really reached our destination? We are here given five linked (some more firmly than others) stories: the main story details a visit from our protagonist (Paul, natch) to his parents. The one most firmly linked is a memory Paul has while walking through town with his father of a childhood memory; a second involves a comic the adult Paul is trying to draw that focuses on what we must surmise is an idealized form of his childhood self- radically different from the child we get to see; a third involves a car accident, which may or may not have happened to Paul (I couldn't tell, and no other review of the book I've read trying to figure it out touches on this); the fourth is a comic-book retelling of Zeno presenting his paradoxes (and being rebuffed by Socrates).

I didn't have nearly as much of a problem with the caesura motif as a lot of reviewers seem to have; it picks up on the paradox of the arrow in flight, and the traversing of each half-distance, never reaching the target. Every time Paul wants to say something, it has to travel half the distance from brain to mouth, then half that distance, then etc., which usually ends up with him blurting out something that bears little, if any, resemblance to what he's actually thinking. I can buy that. But then, on the same level, the thing I did have the most problem with here works in exactly the same way, and it still bugged me (the conclusion to the main storyline is absent-- because, of course, if Zeno was right, we can never reach our destination, see?). A paradox in itself, I guess. What we do get, on the other hand, is very well done, and deeply felt; I just wanted more of it. That, however, would have derailed the entire novel. What's the answer? There isn't one. Another paradox! ***
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By M. Salter on September 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Ok, so everyone's favorite game these days is to bash Hornshemeier for being a Ware ripoff. Honestly, people either aren't looking close enough or completely miss the point.
I found his latest collection of work to be profoundly gripping and fluid in a way that I don't think I've ever read Ware. Ware's a master of detail, complexity and meta/self-reference. Hornshemeier has those at times, as Ware can also maintain a quicker pace, but it's rare that I don't get caught up in ware's details and miniature geometry. And here is where Hornshemeier really shines. While his space is usually limited to flat color, his writing and character development sometimes really float you through. The flashbacks in Three Paradoxes are like that for me in this book, and quite a nice countermeasure to the other elements of the book that read a bit slower.
And he's just a beautiful illustrator in general. His faces, and the times he does take liberties with abstraction are always successful.
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Format: Hardcover
The book tells the simple story of a hometown visit for the artist of the book to his parents, along the way reminiscing about his childhood and incorporating daydreams and tangents that crop up during a conversation with his father. The drawing styles change with each story from the polished and clean look of the main story to the draft style of a story involving the artist, a monster, and the wise man in the sky, to a four colour style for flashbacks to his youth, to cutesy Manga-esque art for a story on the Greek philosopher Zeno.

The book would be dull without the changing styles as it's not really a story, but then I think the book is more of an artistic experiment rather than a fully formed book. With the title and the inclusion of Zeno explaining his paradoxes theory (a failed idea where he posits that essentially nothing changes because nothing can change), Hornschemeier seems to be saying that despite the three stories (one about wanting to change, one about someone who was changed, and one about immediate change), he is still feels unchanged, still the same person. I think that's what he's trying to say with the stories and I'll give him credit for taking an original and interesting approach to the book.

Overall though it feels slight, as if its less than the sum of its parts. I like Paul Hornschemeier, I think he's clearly a talented artist, but as a storyteller he needs more development. "The Three Paradoxes" is an interesting novella (comivella?) but the art overwhelms the story, leaving pretty pictures in place of anything more substantial. Hornschemeier looks like he'll produce something brilliant one day but "Paradoxes" is not that.
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