Clumsy: A Novel
by Jeffrey Brown
BW, 226 pgs, $10.00 US / Higher in Canada
Failed relationships are a hard thing. In some relationships you can never exactly tell where they’re headed and when they do finally breakdown you look back and wonder if things could have worked out differently; if you did some action differently or said some unknown magic word that could’ve fixed it all.
In Clumsy, Jeffrey Brown gives us an autobiographical look at one relationship that ended only a few years ago. This relationship failed a few days shy of its one-year anniversary. I saw it as a very strong relationship, dysfunctional but very caring and sincere. Jeffrey takes us on a tour of how he and Theresa met and the roller coaster ride of moments that defined their relationship. They plan their life together, but the strains of everyday life take their toll and the relationship ends abruptly.
No one really knows what happens when a relationship fails. Some people might tell you they know, but really if both people are truly into it, it is never one set of actions or one single shining moment when it all falls apart. In my experience, it is never that simple. Sometimes it just ends without you ever knowing why.
Clumsy is Brown’s first published comic work, truly a great little novel that breaks your heart. Brown reveals every little detail of his and Theresa’s relationship; even the most painful moments and emotions, the mutual growth they shared, the sex and the dysfunctionality of it all. So much of it hit home. I felt empathetic to Jeffrey’s pain.
Clumsy is not your average autobiographical story; never does Jeffrey look at his audience and exclaim at the happiness and terrible sadness he felt. Nor did I ever feel the need to question how relevant this story was in the scheme of things. As the story unfolds you wonder at the honesty of it all, not about the way it was handled but at how Jeffrey could bare his soul and write about his failed relationship with such unblinking truth; unashamed of revealing his fears, quirks and his incompatibility.
At first glance, you’ll notice the art as simple squiggles and pass it off as amateurish trite. But it’s not. Jeffrey captures every moment with the skills of a master storyteller. He is able to convey the moment with uncanny adroitness. James Kochalka says, “The frailty of the drawn line perfectly matches the human frailty portrayed within the story.”
Jeffrey inscribes his novel, “For everyone who has ever loved and lost.” Is it better to have loved and to have lost then to have never loved at all? Sometimes I wonder about that and question if the pain is really worth it.
This book is truly for everyone. Jeffrey Brown’s novel is worth it. (Dana Tillusz)