Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Review: Red Eye, Black Eye by K Thor Jensen

New Yorker K. Thor Jensen goes through a lot in the span of a few short days: the turmoil of 9/11, losing his apartment, getting dumped by his girlfriend and getting fired from his job. While any one of these would depress your average person Jensen takes it as an opportunity. After dubbing himself a professional hobo he buys an Ameripass---a ticket giving him unlimited bus travel for two months---and journeys from New York City to Seattle and back, making stops in just about every major city along the way.


He uses the internet to find people to stay with in each city, turning the bulk of Jensen’s graphic novel/memoir into a collection of vignettes as he retells the stories of the Gen X slackers he stays with. Jensen wisely shies away from idealizing anything or anyone, giving us fabulously odd anecdotes like the woman who keeps an aborted fetus on a necklace pendant and a deadhead who quits following his favorite band. Jensen goes through plenty of adventures of his own as he discovers the local color of each city by hanging out in bars, eating bbq in Kansas City and riding a flaming sofa as it's dragged behind a pick-up truck in Birmingham. Thematically he borrows a lot from Kerouac---always questioning the meaning behind his journey and hoping to discover some hidden truth about himself and the U.S. While it's a little obvious at times it's still an idea Jensen has a lot of fun with.

With its hard outlines and slightly cartoony faces the drawing style appears to have been drawn in the moment, adding to the spontaneous nature of Jensen's story. Jensen skillfully works subtle details into the background lending his adventure memoir an odd sense of realism. I would normally post some images of Jensen's work to illustrate, but his own website offers reproductions of the first 16 pages in much better quality than I can offer here.

The only negative criticism I can really offer is the price. For $19.95 readers might be expecting some over-arching plot line or deep message on the order of Craig Thompson's Blankets. It was originally published as an e-serial, and still reads that way. It's very anecdotal and while that didn't bother me, it might bother other people.



maxfrost70 said...

Anonymous said...

k thor jensen is retarded. he can't help it. he's been an idiot since birth.