Posts Tagged ‘Out of Print

03
Apr
09

Drain Pig And The Glow Boys In Critical Mess – Dan Pearce

dp1

Drain Pig is the first and most memorable graphic novel I have ever read and oddly, one nobody has even heard about. When my father delivered it into my hands after chancing upon it in a used book stall in Fountain, Bombay, the black and white cover of the squint eyed porker jutting out of a man hole with a squeamish expression on its face was not very impressive. A round badge pinned to its shirt had the words, “Nuclear Power? No Thanks” curved around a smiling sun. With little exposure to anything outside the usual range of comics about Super Heroes, Folk Tales or American High school, the strong political message, dark humor, mordant satire and bleak existence portrayed in Drain Pig, the debut work of British cartoonist Dan Pearce, presented a startling revelation to my 11 years of relatively sheltered upbringing.

strip1

My first encounter with the graphic novel strangely coincided with my own entry into adolescence, a wretched time when my body was undergoing transformations that I was struggling to accept. Even otherwise, it was one of the most miserable periods of my life as I was new to the city of Bombay (though I was born there), imprisoned in a concrete jungle and innocent to the vulgarity of my peers. Coming from a slower, less-noxious part of the country, the city was to me a museum of horrors : Public displays of desperation on beaches upon whose sands infinite quantities of plastic bags and feces were deposited in the morning after the tide’s withdrawal. I was never enthusiastic about attending school but the school I was in back then was a veritable mad-house with a psychotic principal who enjoyed barging into the class room to impart jaw-breaking slaps to anyone who wasn’t in his bench and nauseatingly boring bench mates with whom I seldom conversed. To add to the repression, it was an only-boys school, another thing I wasn’t used to . On the other hand, the kids in my building were smart asses who were better than me at everything. In the torment and confusion of those days, I could, in some way, relate to the brutal world of Drain Pig, the terrible injustice done to an animal whose only mistake was to have been born intelligent. My grudge on the other hand, was to have been born dumb.

Having said why the book means a lot to me, I’m providing a summary :

In the first illustration, we are shown the back of a woman, wearing high heels in all likelihood, (the author’s “TIC TAC TIC TAC” tells us that), as she walks along a street that seems to be up-slope during some ungodly hour with cars parked on sidewalks next to box-shaped buildings suggesting that the district is commercial. In the following sections, a man hole cover opens and a pig’s head pops out.

dp2The solitary figure on the road is visible now-a portly middle-aged woman with a fur coat wrapped around her, carries a handbag : She appears strikingly bourgeoisie, has a cigar-shaped nose, thick lips and make-up on her face. The pig, now fully outside the drain, the initials “DP” stitched into the back of his shirt, affectionately lunges at the shocked woman as he calls her “M-M-Mummy!”. While the woman proceeds to beat the shit out of our protagonist with her hand bag, their sounds attract a policeman who gallantly comes to the rescue of the lady by giving DP a whack on his skull with a baton. The policeman’s words – “Gotcha this time drain pig…” indicate that Drain Pig has been a wanted felon even before this incident. Drain pig gets thrown into the cooler and the gallant policeman drives the lady, whose name happens to be Mrs.Hunt, to her opulent house.

At this point, the question looming in the reader’s mind is what is the relationship between DP and this woman? Is there anything at all or does “Mummy” have no significance? The author, departing from the traditional story line, chooses to explore the roots of this relationship through flashback later on.

The main characters in the graphic novel are Drain Pig and Mag, an upcoming reporter who works for a rag. Although fundamentally different beings, their destinies eventually inter-twine as the Nuclear Plant Mag is investigating turns out to be annexed to a high security jail where Drain Pig is locked up with other convicts for being a constant source of trouble to previous jailers. These convicts, called Glow Boys, are treated relatively better than in their previous correctional facility, as they perform the highly dangerous job of changing leaky reactors.

The secret of Drain Pig’s origin is revealed when Mag, who is Mrs.Hunt’s daughter, visits her parents. Being a reporter, she covers the court hearing where her Mother testifies against Drain Pig. Refusing her mother’s story, Mag pushes Mrs.Hunt for the truth till she eventually tells Mag how she was working as a servant for a Professor who kept pigs as a hobby when one day he discovers an intelligent piglet whom he teaches to speak and christens “Danny”. Being an old man, the professor fears for Danny’s future and entrusts his wealth to Mrs.Hunt stipulating on the will that she be responsible for Danny. Once the Professor dies, Mrs.Hunt feels increasingly embarrassed to care for a pig and in a fit of rage, flushes Danny down the toilet awakening his love for sewers. Mag, with her sense of integrity, is appalled by this story of her mother and decides to fight for Danny.

As the meeting between Danny and Mag draws to a close, we encounter several interesting characters and critters : Judge Strangeways with a penchant for kinky at Madame Fifi’s correctional establishment,

DrainPig011

Mag’s repulsive editor- Kevin Grit of “The Daily Dross”, Bernie- a peace camp member who apparently designed the power plant and whom his assistant Sophie calls “ a real Buckminster, Fuller Freak”, mutant crabs, Fingers-Danny’s best friend who turns blind after a dose of radiation, Mr.Hunt-Mag’s moronic father, Robinson-the unscrupulous manager of the power plant and his naive, alcoholic colleague, Walt.

Mr.Pearce’s extraordinary illustrations are incisive in capturing twisted expressions of sadism and in creating an utterly believable atmosphere of despondency, corruption and apathy, overflowing with satirical brilliance . At the same time, they provide glimpses of rare innocence, such as in the defeated character of Fingers , in crusaders like Bernie fighting losing battles and in the intense longing for freedom in Danny’s eyes.

But the real horror in the graphic novel that matched the horror strewn on the beach every morning in Bombay was in the depiction of Mag’s dream as she dozes off reading a book titled “Nuclear Nightmare”

DrainPig012

where she encounters glow boys, hordes of mutant crabs inching towards her and Danny the Drain Pig, who safely lifts away her naked body only to drop her into the polluted sea. This, for me, is where the book transcended fiction as the pollution of Pearce’s Sizemould Bay was metaphorical of everything happening in my life at that time.

 

Note: You can reach Dan at dan@mirandan.com

His website is http://www.mirandan.com/

I have a copy of the rare book with me and will soon be uploading it on ISSU.

01
Jul
07

Something To Answer For by P.H.Newby

This out of print novel by P.H.Newby, was the first book to win the prestigious booker prize. After a brief search on Google, I found a few sites that were selling it for around $250. Much as I wanted to read it, I couldn’t find it in my paltry stipend to provide for such steeply priced antiquarian literature. I therefore decided to search my university library for it, having found in the past, impressive volumes I could never find in conventional book stores.  When I did find a copy in the library, I felt numbed seeing the status show that it was available and regretted not having searched for the book in the library sooner. It didn’t surprise me to discover that I was the first to have borrowed the book since it arrived at the university library on the year of its publication-1969.

The reason I wanted to read this book was because I wanted to explore its archetypical stlye that might have set the tone for its successors; whether or not it actually did is debatable. Newby’s novel is set in Port Said, which was a part of the formerly known United Arab Republic, a joint state constituting the republics of Egypt and Syrria. The protagonist is an Englishman (who claims to be Irish) named Townrow who is visiting the widow of Elie Khoury, a friend. The widow herself is an English woman in her sixties whose property is in danger of being confiscated by the Egyptian authorities. It is important to note that the story takes place during Naseer’s reign since the novel heavily relies on the politics surrounding the Canalization. My ignorance of the politics of the region certainly made it very difficult for me to maintain my interest level. Even as the narrative progressed, I hadn’t formed an adequate impression of the principal characters: Townrow Mrs.Khoury, Abravanel and Leah and except for a few incidents, most of the details have escaped my memory. I think this is partly because the author’s dry style of prose didn’t do much to bridge the gaps created by my own ignorance of the history of Port Said. That is not to say that the writing is deficient in the wit that normally characterizes most Booker winners. Consider this exchange between Leah and Townrow:

“Another thing, what did I say to offend you?” 

 “When?”

“In the car. You got out and walked off”

“You called me English. No Irishman likes that”

“Are you Irish?”

He frowned. He wished he could be sure.

 Finally, I’m not sure if “Something to Answer For” is worthy of the prize (I’ve read far better and far worse) but it is certainly worth a read, if not for anything else, just to be able to obtain a glimpse into the mood of the time and to try to find interest in the characters’ tensions. I also feel it would be worthwhile to trace why this book couldn’t find enough readership to stay in print since it might provide a clue into the workings of time on literary interest and popularity.  




Pages

April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Recent Comments

Prabhavathy Krishnam… on Remembering MISHA
Keva Vasconcelos on Remembering MISHA
Pranjit Bora on Remembering MISHA
Aprajita on Remembering MISHA
Julia Coronado Pin on Remembering MISHA

Categories