Jar of Fools

I sat down to read Jar of Fools last night and after smiling, frowning, and hoping my way through it from cover to cover in one sitting, it is still on my mind.

I’m not sure how Jason Lutes managed to create something so poignant without any melodrama, something so moving without cliche. Obviously, I found this little story to be terrifically moving. I haven’t had my waking thoughts so invaded by a story since I read “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger last year. These two works (one a graphic novel, the other a novel) stand out as relatively recent books that manage to paint a hopeful, if sometimes melancholy, picture of life.

My greatest complaint about contemporary literature is that so much of it is utterly bleak in outlook. Since I’ve been on a bit of a comics binge lately, I’m interested in seeing any recommendations for graphic novels that manage to avoid the post-modernist pit of dispair that seems to define the genre (at least to my uninformed, poorly read mind).

Hey Ryan,

I haven’t looked in this forum in a while, and I was surprised to see my book mentioned here. I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed it. About the best thing an author could hope for is that his work have even the barest of residual effects on a reader’s experience, so I’m very grateful for that. And also, despite my regular presence on these boards, I hope you’ll let me know any criticisms of the book you might have, because any constructive feedback is good feedback.

As to your question about other graphic novels worth reading in a similar vein, I can recommend a few off the top of my head:

EPILEPTIC, by David B. The story of the author’s family as he grows up in France in the 70s, centered around his older, epileptic brother. It can get pretty grim and bleak at times, but contains none of the irony or cynicism that seems to pervade popular American culture. Brutal and ultimately, I think, enlightening in its honesty.

NAUSICCA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND, by Hayao Miyazaki. Probably my favorite graphic novel of all time, and among my favorite narratives in any medium. If you know Miyazaki’s films, then you’ll know what to expect in terms of theme and content. The difference here is that it’s truly epic in breadth an depth, going places his movies can’t reach within the confines of a 90-minute running time.

LOUIS RIEL, by Chester Brown. Chester’s work was a huge influence on me when I was learning the ropes of the medium. I credit him with being the first person to really “slow down” comics, stretching out scenes and altering pacing in a way that has profoundly affected the medium at large. Louis Riel is his fascinating and highly idiosyncratic account of the man who led the Métis people in their resistance against the Canadian government in the late 1800s.

PAUL HAS A SUMMER JOB, by Michel Rabgliati. Too easily written off as light entertainment, this is the understated, heartfelt story of the personal growth a young man undergoes as a summer camp counselor in Canada.

There’s also a young upstart by the name of Kevin Huizenga who is among my favorite cartoonists working today. His stories are scattered among various hard-to-find anthologies, but there’s good one in DRAWN AND QUARTERLY SHOWCASE #1.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that the last three books are all put out by my publisher, Drawn and Quarterly. Also, Epileptic and Louis Riel may not come across as “hopeful” narratives at first, but I think their cumulative effect is a positive one.

If you like any of these, come back and let me know, and I’ll recommend some more. I should warn you, though, that you will be able to run through the entire library of the greatest “alternative” graphic novels in a fairly short time, so try to savor them.

Have you read much Haruki Murakami? I love his stuff to death, and it’s not comics, but he strikes a tone that seems to be along the lines of what you’re looking for.

Hey Jason

You have just gain $45 or parts thereof. I don’t really know how they handle accounts on your end.

Either way, my weekend is in your hands.
I can’t wait.

Holy shit, I didn’t know you were that Jason Lutes! I discovered Jar of Fools about a year ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite graphic novels ever. Excellent, excellent work. My reading list is hugely backlogged, but I hope to take on Berlin sometime soon.

I second Paul Has a Summer Job. My girlfriend got it for my birthday, and I was initially put off by the style. However, I stuck with it and found it utterly charming.

Two other recent recommendations:

Blankets by Craig Thompson - At roughly 600 pages, it’s a commitment, but it’s well worth the time. A masterful “coming-of-age” novel that transcends that hackneyed phrase and becomes something infinitely richer.

Isaac the Pirate by Christophe Blain - I’m a sucker for pirates, but this is really the story of one man thrust from the mundane to the fantastic and how it affects both him and his loved ones. Errol Flynn it’s not, as the protagonist is a painter, but I daresay you’ll find it more compelling than your average pirate movie. Vol. 2 just came out, but both volumes may be a bit difficult to find since orders were probably low (they were in my neck of the woods).

Yeah, I’m working on Berlin right now. I’ve done quite a bit of reading on both Bismarck and the unification, and WW1-WW2 Germany, so it’s pretty interesting. The research involved must have been daunting, though.

My only complaint is that it needs more superheroes.

Eek, I hope your weekend went okay, Equis. I got about 10% of the cash you threw down, so my weekend netted me about $4.50.

Thanks, Justin. I don’t have many fanboys, so your slavish admiration is valued and appreciated :)

Don’t worry Raife, the aliens invade around issue 22, and Doc Tomorrow swoops in just in time to save the Weimar Republic.

Yeah, I didn’t realize you were that Jason Lutes, either. I received Jar of Fools as a birthday gift last year with an accompanying “Trust me, you’ll like it.” I didn’t get around to reading it until about six months later, but I was very happily surprised. Some very excellent work, and I have in turn given other copies of it to friends as birthday/Christmas gifts since.

In fact, I think I’ll read it again this week.

That was very nice work Jason.

Touching, poignant, funny.

I really would like to know though, where you draw your inspirations from?

P.S. Berlin is next, I just have to finish writing this damn paper…

Awesome. See, that’s what should have happened when those kids were after Schwartz, and when the bakers were attacked. Some real superhero action. I guess aliens are a bigger threat, though. The Earth has to take some licks to survive aliens.

In all seriousness, it’s a poignant story, and I think it succeeds in bringing the history down to a personal level.

Hey Jason,

I was putting together my order pack from the November Issue of Previews and I noticed that they were soliciting orders for Jar of Fools and Berlin. I almost added them to my list when I remembered that you made money when the books are ordered from a website that I couldn’t remember at the time.

I decided to order directly from the site instead of from Previews. Hopefully it was the right call.

Thanks VR – hope you enjoy the books! Generally speaking, you did the right thing by ordering from D&Q. I actually make the same amount regardless of where you buy from, but my publisher makes a little more when you order direct.

Who is D&Q?

D&Q is Drawn & Quarterly, my Canadian publisher.

That explains the way the order form was formatted.

Huh. Somehow lurking here I’d never made the connection that you were THAT Jason Lutes. Neat. Enjoyed Jar of Fools; it’s one of my wife’s favorites as well.

Thanks, selfnoise!

Quit dilly-dallying around on these forums and get Berlin vol. 2 finished! :twisted:


Oh, you’re THAT… I keed.
Yeah, Berlin, vol. 2. Unless you want to start writing the adventures of Liberty Schild.

dude… Secret Saint totally has dibs