THE PUSH MAN reviewed in Newsday

“Newsday Review - The Pushman” / Newsday / Richard Gehr / September 4, 2005

'The Push Man" concerns relationships. But that really seems an overly polite word to characterize the desperate gropings and violent consequences depicted in these 16 short stories written and drawn by Japanese artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi in 1969. Edited, designed and lettered by Brooklyn cartoonist Adrian Tomine, "The Push Man" evokes the dead-end fury of Hubert Selby's downbeat classic "Last Exit to Brooklyn." This comes as no surprise, since Tatsumi admits that police and news reports of working-class life are his main inspiration.

Tatsumi relates quick, grim tales of a naked city crowded with anonymous salary men, factory workers, sewer cleaners, murderers, pimps, cocktail waitresses and call girls. "To survive in the crowd, you have to struggle alone," declares the less than despondent killer of his pregnant wife in "The Burden." In "Piranha," a miserable husband sacrifices his left hand so that his unfaithful wife can buy a nightclub and give him the heave-ho. And the title tale's push man, whose job consists of forcing passengers into already crowded subway cars, finds a strange sort of serenity after he's violated by a trio of molestation victims in a rather sexy fantasy.

The book's last and longest story, "My Hitler," is a 24-page, upside-down nature tale fraught with urban anxiety. A loner sacrifices his cocktail-hostess girlfriend for an oversized, almost heroically rendered pregnant sewer rat, preferring the rodent's desperate yet more honorable company to that of a species capable of producing a mass murderer. Is Tatsumi suggesting that his cast of alienated souls has a pestilent nature? "I myself am a very normal person," he reassures us in an interview with Tomine. "Please do not interpret these stories as representative of the author's personality."

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