This Will All End in Tears
by Joe Ollmann
BW, 166 pgs, $16.95 US / Higher in Canada
This Will All End in Tears is a collection of five stories that tell the reader so much about the way life is lived without making us feel like we’re being told everything. Joe Ollmann knows what he and his stories are about and he has enough faith in his readers to allow them to take what they will from each. He avoids the conceit that his opinion and interpretation is gospel. Yes, these stories are his creation, but what you take from them is your own.
These stories aren’t pretty. The characters and their situations are hard on the eyes and nerves, with a confessional tone typically found only in the most introspective autobiographies. Ollmann pulls no punches, but not to mock or shock. He tells it like it is because these are messy, uncomfortable contents of real human lives. As such these stories never feel exploitative or exaggerated. They feel all too natural, which makes them resonant long after the last page is turned.
The fives tales aren’t connected in any narrative fashion except perhaps as an affectionate look at humanity, warts and all. Ollmann respects and sympathizes with his protagonists but never pities and never mocks, even when certain situations incite giggles and sometimes outright laughter. The easiest laughs come in “Oh Deer” in which a cubicle jockey embarks on a hunting trip, shoots a deer, and then brings said deer home but can’t bring himself to butcher it and thus is lies in his garage for days on end; but, there are other chuckles to be had too – a turn of phrase, a sudden surprise or even an uneasy laugh at life’s difficulties. That comedic bent, however always accentuates the drama, the realness of the situation and its players. It never mocks, never seeks to belittle.
Ollman’s artwork is very cartoony in its basic nature. Studying it, I am reminded once again at the depth that can be given to and communicated through cartoon figures. His characters at first appear to be a collection of misfits but closer inspection reveals they only seem as such when compared to the manufactured perfection we wrongly perceive as the norm. Walk down any street and you’ll see people like these characters all around you. This again tells me that Ollmann is in tune to the humanity around him.
In this book’s introduction, Ollmann says This Will All End in Tears was five years in the making, though he does admit there was ample amount of lost time on the couch. Perhaps then it is suitable this review was almost a year in the making, with ample amount of lost time as other books kept bumping this one to the bottom of the review pile. It’s a shame it took me so long to get around to it because it’s one fine collection of stories. I tell myself though that what’s important is Ollmann finished creating it and Insomniac Press released it. Then there is the part of me that says my review will draw more readers to This Will All End in Tears, and though the notion is a conceit I do hope it’s true because this book deserves to be read. I can find no flaw within its form, and certainly none within its message because the message is of my own making, helped into being by Ollman’s perceptive tales. (Chad Boudreau)