Books Are Pretty

Friday, August 11, 2006

They Found the Car.

When I was a child, one of my favorite ways to pass the time on long nighttime car trips was to stare out the window at the darkened houses we zipped past. We would drive on and on, the evenly spaced mailboxes ticking off the time in visually rhythmic increments. Depending on the lateness of the hour, most of the houses were dark. In some, a light would burn from behind a closed curtain. Every now and then, a light would be on, and the curtain in the room would still be open. I loved waiting for these flashing glimpses into other people’s lives. Most of the time, the room would be empty. Occasionally, someone would be sitting on a couch, watching TV or talking on the phone. Once, just once, I saw an elderly couple dancing in their living room and laughing. I spent these road trips wondering about these people, how they decorated their houses, what was important to them. It felt both detached and intimate at the same time.

I once mentioned the secret way I passed my time in the car to my tennis coach one evening on our way home from a tournament.

“It’s disappointing sometimes when the curtains are drawn,” I admitted shyly.

“The nerve of those people,” he snorted, “how dare they want privacy.”

I sighed, somewhat abashed but not really very sorry.

Italian artist Gipi’s mysteriously tense and dreamy They Found the Car reminds me of those moments in the darkened car, where I get one brief glimpse of someone’s life, and, like the elderly couple I saw who showed so much love in that one flashing glimpse, this brief story, the latest in Fantagraphic’s Ignatz collection, offers a full plate of love, fear, violence, and humor.

The nameless protagonist is awakened late one night by a voice from the past waking him up with a phone call.

“They found the car,” the voice tells him, and with that one sentence the entirety of his past opens up underneath him, forcing him out of his warm bed and into the rain, where he meets up with the man who called him, identified only as “The Calm Man.” Many years have gone by since, for reasons that are never explained, they hid the car, and now the Calm Man pulls in the protagonist into an increasingly tense mission to “tie up loose ends.”

The tension swells in the spaces where trivialities are discussed and as the men discuss subjects such as the qualities of diner food versus Arabic food, the protagonist’s paranoia and grief grow as he begins to wonder if he, too, is a loose end that must be tied. And if true, how will he reconcile the man he was with the religious, gentle pacifist he is now?

They Found the Car is perfectly done, creating as many mysteries as it solves, yet satisfying completely. Setting off the storyline are Gipi’s cloudy grey illustrations, moving from peaceful puffy light ash to a grimmer darker stormcloud wash and back again.

The Ignatz series gets better with each issue. Honestly, if you haven’t started collecting the Ignatz series by now, what are you waiting for?

Review first published at the Journal for the Lincoln Heights Literary Society

Buy the Book!

They Found the Car
by Gipi
2006 by Fantagraphics
32pp 8 ½ x11 softcover
saddle stitching
ISBN: 1-56097-801-5

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