A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins


Posted on February 26, 2005

Comprising a symbiotic selection of images derived mostly from Paul (Mooncat) Schroeder’s sketch/doodle-a-day site, Sketchbook offers visual narratives which are provided a pseudo-storytelling impetus courtesy of a sequenced, panelled presentation. The elusiveness of these once-random sequences could either have readers delighted by the mystery or dismayed by the impenetrableness; but even when viewed primarily on an aesthetic level, there is much to admire in the kinetic energy of these connected drawings.

Schroeder sketches with urgent marker-strokes, not looking at the world directly, but absorbing it in fevered glimpses: the redbrick suburbia, the wind through startled trees, our weather. And as with Chris Reynolds and Richard Brautigan, these insinuations of life and landscape and atmosphere are like the stuff of eidetic memory; like ghosts that drift through us on their way to someplace else. In essence, Sketchbook is a reminder of things that slip our minds when we’re convinced there’s nothing to hold on to. It’s both oddly reassuring and quietly inspiring.

20 A5 pages, £1 - check availability at http://monocat.livejournal.com