Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Push Man and Other Stories (Tatsumi Yoshihiro)

Not for the faint of heart, Tatsumi's work uses simplicity of line and expression to evoke the depths of human emotion.

And I mean depths.

Infanticide, rape, and fecal matter are par for the course in any Tatsumi compendium (those published by Drawn and Quarterly), although not requisite. For instance, the titular tale concerns a man whose job it is to push people onto the Japanese subways, to cram in as many passengers as possible. He begins to question the nature of his role in society, and loosens the bonds on his concept of conformity, with hauntingly poetic results.

Born at the beginning of the second world war Tatsumi grew up a witness of Japan's ugly side. But even by the time he was in his twenties he was disturbed by the morality of his people as it expressed itself in the cities. The stories in Push Man (as well as his other compendiums of shorts, Abandon the Old In Tokyo and Good-Bye) are all rooted in real things he'd witnessed, and in that way they're justifiably presented: entertainment as horrifying historical enlightenment.

If you can stomach putting your arm around Tatsumi's shoulder you might find it stuck there.

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