COLUMNS

Comics Chronicles Comics Chronicles

A Chester Brown Notebook

I’ve already written about Chester Brown’s Paying for It in a column for the Globe and Mail, which meant missing out on last week’s Brown deluge at TCJ.com. But the Globe and Mail column dealt with the political and social implications of the book. Below are some notes that try to tease out a fuller account of Chester’s remarkable “comic-strip memoir.” Since I deal with the cartoonist’s personal life and am friends with him, I’m just going to call him Chester — Brown or Mr. Brown seem too formal.

Chester Brown as Robinson Crusoe. Daniel Defoe’s famous novel about a castaway sailor can easily be seen as a parable about how civilization can be recreated even in the state of nature. Although Crusoe is shipwrecked, he slowly over time builds for himself the accouterments of civilization and eventually even acquires a servant named Friday. Chester was a sexual castaway in the late 1990s, left stranded by the break-up of his relation with Sook-Yin Lee. Alienated from the complex social codes that govern courtship and romance, Chester decided to have as bare-bone (pun alert!) a sex life as possible, one based on the basic principal of monetary trade. A self-willed Crusoe, Chester seemed content with the desert island sex life he had created for himself. But just as Crusoe started building a shack and interacting with his servant Friday, Chester develops an emotional bond with one of his call girls. Inadvertently, Chester ends up re-creating a rudimentary form of monogamy based on paid sex, not unlike the rough-and-ready habitation that Crusoe constructed for himself. In both Defoe’s novel and Brown’s comic-strip memoir, much of the readerly pleasure of the narrative comes from watching how the resourceful hero overcomes difficulties and solves problems. As with Robinson Crusoe, the hidden lesson of Paying for It is that the basic patterns of civilized life are so ingrained that they reassert themselves even after a catastrophe.

A Work of Art or a Polemic? Reviewers have been wavering on the issue of whether Paying for It should be judged as a work of art or whether is should be considered a polemic. It is, of course, both. But it’s hard to deal with the two dimensions of the work at once. Chester’s interest in policy and politics sets him apart from most of the major cartoonists of the last three decades (with the major exception of Joe Sacco, and the possible exception of Peter Bagge, whose best work isn’t his political strips in any case). While there are political implications to be drawn from the work of Jaime Hernandez, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware — three random examples that could be multiplied by many more names — it’s fair to say that these artists are mainly focused on telling character driven narratives. Whatever politics one can see in their work is an outgrowth of a concern with telling stories. To put it another way, it’s hard to imagine Chris Ware running for political office. Chester’s concern is much more explicitly political: he wants to change people’s minds about an important issue. Chester is closer not just to Sacco and to Bagge but also to artists like Steve Ditko (on the right) and Spain Rodriguez (on the left).

The Underground Comics Tradition. This sort of politically engaged, narrative cartooning hasn’t ever been very fashionable, except perhaps for a brief efflorescence in the underground comics during the politically polarized days of the Vietnam War and Nixon. It’s hard to remember this now, but when Chester first started cartooning he did seem to be a late-born underground cartoonist, someone whose roots were clearly in the comics of Crumb and Justin Green. In chronological terms, Chester’s earliest work is much closer to the heyday of the undergrounds (say 1968-1974) than we are to Chester’s first published work. The sexual radicalism of Chester’s art, his enjoyment at shocking his audience, and his direct political engagement all place him still in the underground comics tradition. The fact that Paying for It has an introduction by Crumb is entirely apt.

The Mark of Ditko, The Masks of Ditko. Ditko, for good or ill, has left a strong mark on Chester. In fact, the Ditko of the Mr. A stories can be seen as a kind of early-born renegade underground cartoonist of the Randian right, similar to how Chester is a late-born renegade underground cartoonist of the libertarian right. Paying for It begins in uncertainty and doubt. Fresh from the break-up with Sook-Yin Lee, Chester isn’t sure of what to do and his early experiences of paying for sex are a process of discovery. But in the second half of the book, all doubt has disappeared: black is black, white is white, a is a, prostitution is great, possessive monogamy is evil. The implacable Chester who relentlessly argues for the merits of paid sex is a crusading Mr. A figure, unmasked but still wearing an inscrutable face that might as well be cloaked. Ditko is all about masks, as indeed is Chester’s other great precursor, Harold Gray. As Donald Phelps long ago observed, the famously blank eyes in Little Orphan Annie created a mask effect. Interestingly in connection with masks, Chester enjoys having sex with a prostitute he calls “Gwendolyn” because her face is “an impassive mask” during intimacy, although friendly enough before intercourse. “I can respect a prostitute who’s not going to put on a show of pretending to enjoy an experience she’s not enjoying,” Chester thinks. “It’s honest.” The sexiness of masks and emotional restraint is one of the subthemes of the book.

An Aesthetic Judgment: The Art. The controversial nature of the subject matter has led most reviewers to focus on the politics of the book and skirt discussing the art, a shame because this is Chester’s best drawn work and contains his strongest cartooning. The influence of Harold Gray’s work, so evident in Louis Riel, was already pushing Chester towards icon-like images of characters who seem almost frozen in ice, displaying a figurative “monumentality” (to borrow a word from Chris Ware). But in Paying for It, Chester pushes these tendencies to another level of intensity, making the art elegantly distilled. Some of the effects are quite subtle, like the lockstep manner Seth, Joe Matt and Chester walk through the street (suggesting a hidden affinity between the three even as they disagree about the ethics of prostitution). Conversely, when Chester and his former girlfriend Kris walk down the street, their legs move in counterpoint (i.e., when Chester’s right leg is the forward one, the panel will show Kris’s left leg forward). This minute detail brings out the gender divide.

An Aesthetic Judgement: The Narrative. Artistically, the only problem with Paying for It comes from Chester’s admirable decision to protect the identities of the women he buys sex from. It would have been quite wonderful to get to know more about the prostitutes Chester slept with, to get a fleshed out sense of their lives and personalities. It would also be good to have more details about how he became emotionally attached to “Denise” (the pseudonym given to his long time call girl, with whom he now has a paying monogamous relation). The dearth of details is perfectly understandable – indeed commendable in its consideration for the privacy rights of prostitutes – but also regrettable artistically. Certainly a major achievement of Paying for It is that it humanizes the experience of being a john, which will make it much easier to have rational discussions about prostitution in the future.  All in all, one of the great autobiographical comics, up there with Crumb’s work and Brown’s own I Never Liked You. So far, Paying For It is the book of the year and is likely to remain so unless George Herriman returns from the dead and offers Fantagraphics a chance to publish the graphic novel he’s been working on in the afterlife.

Polemical Problems. Although I’m unreservedly enthusiastic about Paying for It as a work of art, I do think that as a polemic it occasionally misfires, especially in a few of the notes in the back. Part of the problem is that Chester is heavily relying on his own (arguably very peculiar) case history, which means giving emphasis to his objections against possessive monogamy. This leads to statements like “I think marriage is an evil institution.” This assertion is very interesting for the light it sheds on Chester’s decision to go to prostitutes but it’s unlikely to win many friends to the cause. Although many people are unhappy in their marriages or fail to achieve happiness in marriage, very few would agree that it is an “evil” institution. I’m actually much closer to Chester than most people are in questioning possessive monogamy. The tyranny of coupledom that we all live in is oppressive to all sorts of nonconformists, so that its impossible for people to openly celebrate choices like celibacy, a ménage à trois, an open marriage, lifelong sexual experimentation outside of marriage, among other paths to contentment. But even I think it’s a smidgen too stark to say that marriage is “evil.”

Reframing the Argument. If you’re trying to make an effective argument for gay rights, you wouldn’t normally start off by saying heterosexuality is evil and that ideally all heterosexuals should be having gay sex. Rather, you argue that some people are made happier by gay sex and that the non-harmful actions of consenting adults shouldn’t be prohibited. When I make the argument for the normalization and decriminalization of sex work, I try to frame it in terms of human sexual diversity (i.e., different people have different ways of being sexually happy) rather than as part of an argument against romantic love or possessive monogamy. Not that I’m completely unsympathetic to the arguments against romantic love or possessive monogamy – just that I think those are separate issues. You have to pitch your battles on the terrain where they can be won.

Sexual Diversity. The best argument for normalizing prostitution is the undeniable fact of human sexual diversity and the obvious benefits of allowing people to pursue their own paths to happiness. Chester is without question a happier person since he’s started paying for sex. There are undoubtedly many other men and women who would have happier lives if they too could buy a little nookie, especially if the legal and moral strictures against prostitution were lifted. That’s a real benefit that needs to be put on the table. Equally crucial is the argument that decriminalization and normalization will make the lives of prostitutes safer and easier, which Chester touches on in Paying For It but could have developed at greater length.

(continued)

FILED UNDER: , ,

31 Responses to A Chester Brown Notebook

  1. RobClough says:

    This book has inspired a lot of interesting reviews and notes, but this is probably my favorite article to date. (I'm honestly still formulating my feelings on the book, and it will require another reading to do so.

    A couple of points that you touch on…I think you're right to note that Brown is giving up more than romance in seeing escorts, he's giving up the pleasure of simple intimate physical contact–touching, kissing, the sensation of being lost in another person. Although it is possible that he now has this with "Denise" but chose not to depict it. It may well be that this sort of thing simply isn't important to him, that he prefers to more or less get straight to the act without traditional foreplay or simple physical affection. (continued)

  2. RobClough says:

    The problem, which may stem from a libertarian viewpoint in the sense that if **I** feel this way, it must be a universal maxim, is that this sort of physical affection is a mainstay of romantic love. The stereotype is that this is indeed what women prefer/need more than the actual act of sex itself, which is true in some cases but far less often than one would think. Rather than look at his own romantic failures or failed marriages in general and declare them evil, a more interesting question is to ask why they fail. Brown suggests that it's inherent to the structure, but if that were true, why don't all marriages fail or wind up with two unhappy partners. (continued)

  3. RobClough says:

    The answer, I think, goes to what you said about different kinds of pleasure. A successful couple is one that understands what their own sexual/pleasure needs are as well as their partners, and tries to find ways to satisfy those needs. In extreme cases, when one partner's sexual drive has greatly dwindled, this is when a pay-for-sex situation can actually be beneficial. For whatever reason, many people are simply uncomfortable in discussing what their actual needs are.

    One last bit on libertarian cartooning regarding Gray. His other major libertarian tendency is something you've noted before in a different context: he was avidly pro-immigration. This is a standard libertarian position.

  4. patford says:

    Jeet do you suppose your opinion of the book is being coloured by your deep affection for Chester?
    The book was a disappointment for me. Going in I already knew the subject matter was something I simply wasn't interested in, but I'm always willing to concede an artist his choice of topics, and judge the work on it's merits.
    In the end the book seemed light weight to me. It almost inevitably would come across that way, because it is limited by it's choice of subject matter to being superficial. The long series of repetitive brief encounters just aren't very interesting, and it's hard to imagine any way in which they could be. It wouldn't be much different if Chester had decided to go around town and sample the wares of a series of street vendors selling hotdogs from push-carts.
    Chester is telling the story well, but the story is so limited there is no way I could imagine making it very interesting.
    Even if Chester wasn't concerned about violating the privacy of the prostitutes in the book, he'd still be limited by the fact that the transactions are brief, and artificial.
    Most readers also have the disadvantage of engaging the story without knowing much of anything about Chester.
    This changes the perspective of how one sees the story. Most specifically in the instance of Chester's long term monogamous relationship with his paid-girlfriend. The introduction of that aspect of the story brings up a host of unanswered questions which makes the reading experience completely different for a reader who doesn't know Chester the way Jeet does. Jeet has a personally informed perspective, and others are in the dark making the reading experience drastically different.
    The casual reader has no idea what the parameters are of Chester's relationship with his paid-girlfriend. It isn't being nosy to wonder if Chester pays her for every moment they are together. Someone (I think Jeet) mentioned that Chester never takes his paid-girlfriend out socially. Are we to assume then that it's because (as pointed out in the comments) she would expect her usual hourly rate if Chester invited her to dinner, and a movie, or over to the house of a friend for a dinner and talk? It's impossible to make sense of the role the paid-girlfriend plays in the story knowing so little about the extent of the relationship.
    The paid relationship with "D" strikes me as ominous. I'm left wondering how Chester would react if a woman he pays for sex one day sends him a dear john letter?

  5. Jeet Heer says:

    @Rob Clough. Thanks for the kind words. Looking forward to your review.
    @Pat Ford. It's impossible for me to separate my response to the book with my knowledge of Chester, but to the exent I can, I think its a remarkable work of art, largely because it humanizes the experience of being a john. There are tens of millions of me in the world who sleep with prostitutes, so its valuable to find out what the experience is like. I would suggest you re-read the book, perhaps slowly. There are depths there that a first reading doesn't show.
    About Chester's relationship with "Denise": it really isn't our business but he talks about the parameters of the relationship in this excellent interview with Benjamin Walker: http://soundcloud.com/bwalker/the-difference-betw

  6. patrick ford says:

    Jeet, Thanks for the link. Chester’s points about the relationship with “D’ at around the 28 min. mark aren’t very convincing. Again what I’m wondering about is how much time he spends with “D.”
    My life has shown we people argue with people they spend a great deal of time with in close quarters. Parents, roommates, co-workers, etc. it has nothing to do with sex. So I’m assuming that Chester sees “D” once or twice a month for an hour?

  7. patrick ford says:

    BTW, Chester’s justification for accepting a Government grant at around the 47 min. mark of the interview is at the absolute end of the rope in terms of being laughable (given that he’s a Libertarian). There may be millions of things as ridiculous, but they’re all at the same 0% level in terms of logic.

  8. Jeet Heer says:

    Well, living with people can contribute to arguments. But Chester continued to live with Sook-Yin Lee for years after their breakup and says that it was a happy arrangement. In fact, as he shows in Paying For It, he was initially unhappy at the thought of moving away from Sook-Yin’s place when the time came for him to move out. So Chester’s problem is not that he can’t live with someone; rather its that he doesn’t want a conventional romantic relationship and is much happier with the paying arrangement he currently has.

  9. Jeet Heer says:

    Well, I’m not unsympathetic with Chester here. If you are a libertarian living in a welfare state, you’ll have to receive some level of government money at one time or another, just as if you are a socialist living in a capitalist society (i.e. Marx and Engels) you have to find a way to make money. You can’t expect people who live in societies whose basic arrangements they don’t accept to live like hermits. As is now well known, even Ayn Rand had to accept medicare late in life.

  10. Chris Mautner says:

    “Is Chester the unlikeliest of all fertility gods?”

    Oh dear god I hope not.

  11. patrick ford says:

    Specifically Chester said there was a distinction between giving, and “taking.” In fact he says he would work to abolish the very grants he received if he had political power.
    Clearly Chester doesn’t ascribe to the idea, “It is better to give than to receive.”
    We American’s can only dream of living in a developed nation like Canada. If Chester were living in a Third World country like the United States I wonder if it might affect his political opinions.
    As for Rand the fact that she accepted government assistance to treat an illness brought on by smoking only compounds her hypocrisy.

  12. patrick ford says:

    Jeet, My thought is that Chester saw far less of Sook-Yin after they “broke-up” even though he continued to live in her place. It isn’t a matter of living with a person, it’s being in close contact for many hours at a time, that’s why I mentioned co-workers.
    There isn’t anything in the book which addresses the off the clock “time spent” with Sook-Yin” or “D.” Is Chester seeing Sook-Yin far less than he used to? Is he paying for every hour he spends with “D” in which case he probably sees her a few hours each month?
    Let’s say Joe Matt showed up at Chester’s door and moved in “until he could find a place.”
    How would that go? I’m thinking of the old Joe Matt story where he house sits for friends, and they return to find the cat box filled with “tootsie-rolls” and the house trashed, because Joe has spent the whole time drinking and watching porno. What sounds funny from a distance isn’t so funny up close.

  13. R. Fiore says:

    The thing about Chester, or a thing about Chester, is that he has a weakness for crackpot ideas. The Shakespeare authorship “controversy” is a classic marker for that. I remember when he did his schizophrenia strip I was sorely tempted to take issue with the hippie bullshit notions about mental illness, but I refrained (a) because I would be arguing with his opinions rather than making an aesthetic value judgment, but more importantly (b) I feared that pressing him to defend his ideas might lead him to become obsessed with them, the way Dave Sim has become obsessed with his. Thankfully that doesn’t happen.

    I wouldn’t put libertarianism quite in that category, but it is an ideology that tends to take a reasonable idea and expand it into unreasonability. The thing about libertarianism is that it’s an unpopular belief that’s presented with a high degree of arrogance. The arrogance will lead the majority who don’t agree to counterattack as if it were some powerful force in the world, and the end result has the character of bullying. For all practical purposes, while it’s useful to the right for its knack of coming up with new rationalizations for indifference to suffering, an atheistic ideology of the right is a lead balloon. Harold Gray was not a libertarian. Actually his political thinking was too incoherent to define ideologically, but he was too much of a moralist to be called a libertarian. In the latest volume of the Complete Annie the labor unionists and do-gooders could indeed have come straight out of Atlas Shrugged, but Daddy Warbucks has a highly un-Galtian philanthropic streak. While he wasn’t authoritarian, Gray had this temptation for creating power figures that were so powerful that they made stories impossible — Warbucks, Punjab, the Asp, even God himself.

    In Paying for It Chester doesn’t say that monogamy is evil and prostitution is good, he’s saying that monogamy is evil and prostitution is an alternative. A convenient aspect of this is that it makes a virtue out of necessity, since no woman on earth is going to put up with a romantic partner who frequents prostitutes. (You can imagine a gay couple splitting one, but that might just be stereotypes talking.) Chester ultimately presents a situation with no need of reform. The de facto unofficial official position on prostitution is that it’s against the law, but nobody’s stopping you. The forest that tends to get lost in the trees of Paying for It is that Chester frequents prostitutes regularly for over ten years and never has the least bit of trouble with the authorities over it. The only time officialdom seems to go after it seriously is when it’s done on the streets or when a particular prostitution ring threatens to become a big business. The most significant thing governments have done regarding prostitution over the last 20 years is to create a communications medium that facilitates it.

    Like I said, people don’t want to take yes for an answer on this issue. The social expectation from a memoir like this is that the whoremonger sees the error of his ways, and Chester confounds it. While the business with Denise tends to reflect a hardwired desire to mate for life even if it’s impractical in practice, so long as romance stays on a business basis Chester hasn’t surrendered his principles.

    I like Paying for It well enough, but as for it being the book of the year for my part I’ve already read two I was more impressed with, though in their home countries they were books of last year and of the year before that — The Sky Over the Louvre and the Winshluss Pinocchio.

  14. Andrew McIntosh says:

    I loved the book, but at the same time I find myself agreeing with most of what patford said—we’re just given far too little information.

    I’ve been reading basically every review and interview I’ve come across, and I find that greatly enhances the reading of the book, because it fills in so many of the gaps—I already knew most of what happens in the book, along with a great deal of additional commentary, even before I had a copy in my hands.

    But for someone who wasn’t already obsessed enough with Brown’s work to hunt down all these articles; for someone who was opening up this book blind, there really is far too much important information missing for it to really make it’s point. Denise shows up, and the next thing you know, they’re monogamous. Just like that.

    Also, I have trouble reading the scene with Gwendolyn the way you did. I don’t see any hint of Chester finding “sexiness” in the “impassive mask”—each time I’ve read it, I’ve read disappointment in Brown’s comments, as in everything’s great but for this “impassive mask”. Do you have privileged information from the man himself to give you that way of reading it? Because no matter how many times I read those pages, I can’t get that interpretation out of it.

  15. Mike Hunter says:

    ————————
    RobClough says:
    …Brown is giving up more than romance in seeing escorts, he’s giving up the pleasure of simple intimate physical contact–touching, kissing, the sensation of being lost in another person…. It may well be that this sort of thing simply isn’t important to him, that he prefers to more or less get straight to the act without traditional foreplay or simple physical affection.
    ————————

    Which reminds of a cartoon: A middle-aged, executive-looking man is in bed with a dismayed-looking woman. He tells her, “Of course I ejaculated prematurely… I’m a very busy man!”

    ————————
    Jeet Heer says:
    …If you are a libertarian living in a welfare state, you’ll have to receive some level of government money at one time or another… As is now well known, even Ayn Rand had to accept medicare late in life.
    ———————–

    “Have to”? “Had to”? Yeah, I can see some Nanny State bureaucrat ordering a cop to wrench their arms half out of their sockets, and brutally forcing Brown and Rand to take that money.

    In Chester’s case, he could’ve skipped a few sessions with hookers in order to save some money…

  16. patrick ford says:

    If only I had been born in Xanada. If the choice is between living in a corporatist country which “forces” you to go out and get a job, as opposed to a socialist country where the government “forces” you to accept large cash gifts, well let’s just say I’m envious.

  17. Jeet Heer says:

    Well, the reason I think Chester found the “impassive mask” sexy is that he keeps going to Gwendolyn, suggesting that there was something attractive about her bedroom behaviour. I’m not working from any privileged information here, just extrapolating from Chester’s behaviour as shown and also his larger tendency to draw people as if they had masks.

  18. Jeet Heer says:

    About Gray as a libertarian. It’s complicated because his worldview jelled in the 1920 and 1930s while official libertarianism came together after World War II. And as you say, there are other strains in is ideology (populism, moralism, and authoritarianism). But still, Gray anticipated many elements of libertarian thought. I’ll talk about this more in future introductions to the Little Orphan Annie series. Brian Doherty, a historian of libertarianism, told me that Gray was “ahead of the curve” on many matters.

  19. Andrew McIntosh says:

    Fair enough. The problem I have reading it that way comes from a) in 145:1 when he says “but now her face is an impassive mask.” Why “but”? b) he closes the scene in 147:3 with him saying “This is my fifth time with her, and her face is still like a mask during sex”, after which he never sees her again. Right in the next scene, he talks about “Alexis” being less attractive than “Gwendolyn”. The entire scene with “Gwendolyn” paints her in a more positive light than just about any of the other prostitutes—she’ s “STUNNING”, she’s friendly, they like to talk. Why did he ditch her, if not for the “impassive mask”?

    Of course, this could all come down to the same problem—not enough critical information. Maybe Brown did like the mask and ditched her for some other reason, but failed to communicate that, just as he fails to make the reader understand his relationship with “Denise”. Brown’s always been a master of “show, don’t tell”, but in PFI, there are far too many scenes where we just simply have to take his word.

    On a completely different note—did anyone else find it weird that Brown would choose to use a page for the cover from a scene where he didn’t get laid and lost his whoring money in the process? What a way to advertise what a “positive” thing the world of prostitution is!

  20. MZA says:

    about “Gwendolyn”, Chester says, “She’s more beautiful than any of the prostitutes I’ve been with so far.” That seems like a plausible enough reason for multiple return visits, without any extra extrapolating.

    –mza.

  21. Superb article, Jeet.

    I agree that Chester’s polemics are inseparable from his comics, and I find them fascinating (even when I profoundly disagree with them). Paying For It is an extraordinary book – the kind of book I prefer to read and re-read and think about as it is. Elements which some might see as a flaw (the hidden faces, the impassive masks, the evasiveness about “Denise,” the ‘controversial’ opinions) – all of these are to me a part of the whole, and just add to the fascinating complexity of yet another Chester Brown masterpiece.

    It’s hard to imagine anyone reading this book and soon forgetting it. It’s lodged itself deep into my brain and will never leave.

    Also: loved the discussion of how Brown uses light and shading. Really a beautiful article; so full of ideas and interesting responses.

    Also also: congratulations on the newborn!

  22. Jeet Heer says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Dylan. Absolutely agree that Paying For It has to be seen as an integrated whole, take it or leave it. And, yes, its a book that sears into you and doesn’t leave after you put it down. I actualy think that most of the reviews, even the positive ones, haven’t yet done justice to how primordial it is.

  23. Paul Mason says:

    I fear for the rest of his creative output regardless of quality of this book. Ditko and Sim did some interesting work once their basically authoritarian and moronic world views began to coalesce, but it wasn’t long till their work became insufferable despite maintaining most of their basic cartooning chops.

  24. FrF says:

    After reading Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts by Jonathan Franzen I couldn’t help but see his and Chester’s take on romantic love as antipodal. Quotation from the above essay: “The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.”

  25. Pingback: Autobio Comics Bookshelf: When Reasonableness Fails | The Panelists

  26. Pingback: Thoughts on Paying For It, and Chester Brown’s Polemic « Manga Widget

  27. Pingback: Panelists Archive: When Reasonableness Fails « See Hatfield

  28. Pingback: Panelists Archive: When Reasonableness Fails « See Hatfield

  29. Charlie Brown says:

    This is an interesting article and I agree raises some points that other reviewers have not addressed.

    However, I disagree with its core thesis that Chester Brown is ignoring his inner self and motivations and thus creating a relatively sterile work.

    As I see it, for people to survive they obviously need to breath, eat, drink, sleep and defecate. But, there is one other requirement, I think: sex.

    Now, of course people survive without sex, but I would propose most are profoundly neurotic as a result. As an example whom the author makes reference to: Dave Sim.

    He supposedly has renounced sex but, as the author points out, is (to be generous) deeply neurotic.

    Now, are there cases of people renouncing sex who are “normal”?

    I’m sure there are, but I’m saying as a whole, to give up sex seems to be to give up a part of life that is required for emotional health.

    Chester gave relationships a shot and they didn’t work out.

    I don’t think this reflects his shortcoming; I know only a very few happy couples but know countless dysfunctional and miserable ones.

    The core issue is ego; most people appear to me to be profoundly self centered and narcissistic.

    So, perhaps Chester is right that romantic relationships are a losing proposition.

    We were meant to live to age 25, have sex and die.

    Now that we are living longer we have to deal with romantic constructs that are simply that: constructs.

    So, the author’s contention that Brown’s lack of a relationship is a result (or may be the result) of his childhood seems to me possible but not the bottom line.

    Brown simply accepts reality as it is: most relationships are false constructs and sex is a normal part of a healthy life.

    The rights of sex workers are important and I agree it is horrible to view Brown dispassionately hurting a prostitute during sex and hoping deep down for underage girls.

    This to me is the most disturbing part of his work; he is frequently fearful of stings if the girls are underage but not concerned if they really are and simply takes their word that they are not.

    Chester Brown is an ass, a self-centered cretin, a disgusting excuse for a human being.

    But, in this he is no different from 99% of people.

  30. Charlie Brown says:

    I don’t understand the assertion that no couple on earth would stand for a partner seeing a prostitute. Think of R. Crumb who has written and spoken of his relationship with his wife who is happy to let him engage with a prostitute (or I think he prefers the term “courtesan”). That is because the courtesan allows for a level of sadomasochism that would be hard for a partner to sustain. Also, many women have affairs – I think the stereotype is that women in France pride themselves on their “lovers”, which is little different in execution if the mechanics are more subtle (the exchanging of “gifts” and the unspoken limits of the arrangements). The author’s assertion that, however, she could see such an arrangement for a gay couple is extraordinary in its inaneness, and undermines her entire article for its stark level of undercover homophobia.

    Finally, Chester Brown NEVER says “monogamy is evil” as the author asserts. He says romantic relationships aren’t for him. Thus, the author is trying to create a thesis where none exists and her article only underscores her own neuroses, rather than the merits (or lack thereof) of Chester Brown’s work.

  31. Studs Dix says:

    Thus indeed, my friend, or should we say, ergo? It is 2013 after all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>