Clumsy, Another Great From Top Shelf Comix

The story of a romance that lurches from summer 2000 until summer 2001, Clumsy – A Novel would be an accomplished debut for any writer. The story is moving and funny: the characters awkward, yet likeable: the whole book magical, believable and well-paced. That all this is achieved in a comic strip is proof that yet again, publishers Top Shelf Comix know how to pick them.

Jeffrey Brown’s debut, Clumsy – A Novel tells the true story of the author’s doomed relationship with Theresa. It’s an incredibly intimate portrait: there must be as many frames of the couple having sex as of them sitting eating, drinking and chatting on the phone.

Like all long-distance relationships, it’s the phone that keeps artist Jeff and Theresa together and eventually lets them break up.

Another recurring theme is travel (cars and airport terminals are spread throughout the book). And the whole stop-start travelling theme conveys the disjointed nature of long-distance relationships perfectly.

Jeff’s sketchbooks, the source material (presumably) for this very novel, provide another motif throughout the book

An easy read, thanks to Jeffrey Brown’s superb sense of pacing, you can take in the whole year of Clumsy – A Novel in one short sitting, but you don’t miss out on the depth of the characterisation if you do. Jeff’s awkwardness is conveyed brilliantly, not just in his character’s dialogue and body langauge but also in the sketchy frames and the rough line of the pen used.

And Theresa’s health problems and her very personal nerviness and uncertainty underlie key moments, without the reader ever feeling that Jeff loves her any the less for her faults.

All in all, an excellent read, and - as with all Top Shelf publications -  a beautiful book to own.

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