Newsday Reviews Seth's CLYDE FANS & BANNOCK, BEANS & BLACK TEA

“The Sunday Book section of the New York Newsday features reviews by Richard Gehr of Seth's Clyde Fans and Bannock, Beans & Black Tea” / Newsday / Newsday Staff / July 13, 2004

CLYDE FANS BOOK ONE, by Seth. Drawn & Quarterly, 156 pp., $19.95.
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BANNOCK, BEANS AND BLACK TEA: Memories of a Prince Edward Island Childhood in the Great Depression, by John Gallant and Seth. Drawn & Quarterly, 160 pp., $19.95.
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Single-named Canadian artist Seth is a marvelous draftsman mired in nostalgia. Last year's "It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" recounted his fictional search for an obscure (and imaginary) early New Yorker cartoonist named Kalo, who served as an idealized model for Seth's own unfashionably skillful art. In the first of the two books collecting the "Clyde Fans" stories being serialized in his Palookaville comic, Seth ponders the past once again, this time through the eyes of Abraham and Simon Matchcard, brother heirs to the titular fan company.

The two-part book begins with Abraham meandering through a lonely 1997 day, soliloquizing about the science of salesmanship, how air-conditioning killed the company, and his brother's business inadequacy. The second half, set in 1953, depicts Simon's wrenchingly painful attempt to sell Clyde products during his single sales outing, concluding with a dejected Simon wallowing in failure.

The theme of swimming upstream against the cultural and commercial current reflects a particular sort of Canadian karma. Its genesis is suggested in "Bannock, Beans and Black Tea," Seth's elegantly designed book of heartbreaking autobiographical vignettes told (and retold) by his father, John Gallant, and accompanied by Seth's poignant daguerreotype-like illustrations. Simon Matchcard's despair can't hold a candle to what Seth characterizes as these "tales of awful desperation." Deprivations that include cold, hunger and the storyteller's hateful father make even Seth's most unfortunate fictional creations seem like happy-go-lucky daisy sniffers in comparison.

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