Yearlong Best of the Year: Little Nothings: Uneasy Happiness By Lewis Trondheim

Posted by on May 19th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

NBM/ComicsLit; 126 pp.; $14.95; Color; Softcover (ISBN: 9781561635764)

I don’t read much from the internet so the following observation will be fairly unscientific. Factor in that what I do read comes from the TCJ site as fortified by “Journalista!” with insufficient attention to The Comics Reporter and this will appear even more objectively suspect. That said: since its release in January I can’t think of a book more reviewed, critiqued and commented upon than Lewis Trondheim’s third volume of his series Little Nothings: Uneasy Happiness.

And the question is, why?

Oh, I’ve got my theories, all right. But I think they can all be subsumed under one big umbrella rationale, which is that the book is a perfectly designed instigator of Internet response.

Much flows from the fact that it’s a good book and good comics. It’s lively, engaging and accomplished. As such, anyone would want the happy news to get around and the most get-around medium is just sitting there! That plays directly into a prevalent trait of humanity (if maybe not of criticism) whereby most folks would rather light a candle, alert their friends and party down than curse the darkness, stew by themselves and wreak terrible vengeance for their disappointment. Even if that’s not the dominant gene of any population, at least it is an easier one to adopt as muse.

Moreover Uneasy Happiness presents an eminently accessible idea. Conceptually it’s loaded with entry points and hooks for would-be commentators. It’s easy to describe. The Little Nothings books are diaries of one-page strips in which Trondheim offers his reflections, sometimes developed, sometimes not, on moments of his daily life.

In print, that’s a more active life than most have and Trondheim conveys it, gratifyingly, as more intrinsically interesting than most. Still there are empathetic touchstones with which all may identify: routines and obligations, mundane frustrations as well as intriguingly exotic ones, distinct triumphs over an uncaring cosmos, wry observations, shared recognition of mysteries and so forth. Even better: There are instances of great familiarity and identification if not outright intimacy. In one sequence, Trondheim regards his cat sprawled across the floor, addressing it as “You big pile of crap” and with other more piquant insults, all delivered in word balloons formed of rings of flowers and blooms, which is exactly the sort of thing that will resonate with a certain kind of loving pet owner. The world must know! To the keyboards!

It’s easy to have a personal response to this kind of material and by that I mean it’s easy to have a reaction. You can relate or — if you’ve never done a signing at Angoulême — not, but either way you can still have a take. You can describe: such deft and transporting depictions of foreign locales! If you’ve read the prior volumes you may detect artistic development. (I’ve seen reviews that some found Uneasy Happiness to be somewhat darker, more tinged, more uneasy than prior Nothings. I don’t see it, perhaps because I’m aging at roughly the same rate as Trondheim.)

So while this is a trim, completely entertaining book, its intent is, as announced, circumscribed. It is mature and can challenge, but Trondheim keeps it conversational which keeps it well away from being intimidating. It’s too congenial and open to be daunting. There are implicit beliefs, profound themes and more cultivated thoughts to be gleaned, but that sort of heavy lifting can be left for those who swing that way and for the academic press and meantime lookit this!

Like the other members of the series, Uneasy Happiness is a book of democratic appeal, one of immediate charm and attraction for the masses. It implies and in turn relies upon an egalitarian (if technologically advanced) humanism as advanced in a genial vernacular (that’d be comics). So it’s perfectly understandable that such a work would be embraced in the come-one-come-all forum of the Internet. For funnybook commentators the fact that it’s foreign (and not manga) and doesn’t feature superheroes can be even more of a boundary-stretching bonus.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.