Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park ...When You're 29 and Unemployed
- Words: Aneurin Wright
- Art: Aneurin Wright
- Colors: Aneurin Wright
- Publisher: Myriad Editions
- Price: £19.99
- Release Date: Jan 19, 2012
Posted by Andy Oliver on Jan 9, 2012
Honest, inventive and resonant, this is a confident and impressive debut; a remarkable breakout work that speaks to the reader on many different levels.
Two of 2011’s most memorable graphic novels for this reader were Com.x’s Seeds and Myriad’s Billy, Me & You; two books that dealt with the loss of loved ones from entirely different perspectives. While Aneurin ‘Nye’ Wright’s lengthily titled, autobiographical Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park …When You’re 29 and Unemployed covers similar thematic ground, his approach to the subject matter is distinctively different, eschewing a rigidly realistic depiction of the events surrounding his father’s terminal illness by adopting more stylised storytelling techniques and intermittent flights of fancy.
Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park opens with a fateful phone call from Wright’s father Neil announcing that he has been “certified for hospice” as his physical condition continues to deteriorate through the effects of emphysema. Unemployed, Nye takes the decision to become his father’s full-time carer and moves into the trailer park home where he resides. The book is then structured into thirty-one chapters detailing the “activities” the author engages in during this period, which range from those directly involved in his father’s care – dealing with his medication or doctor house calls for example – to those more symbolic of his own state of mind in coming to terms with his father’s impending death.
Where the book diverges from some of its contemporaries in this area is in the creator’s more playful use of the comic strip form and frequent allegorical digressions from the main narrative. To begin with, father and son are drawn as, respectively, a debilitated rhino and a musclebound minotaur. As I remarked recently in a review of small press writer/artist Howard Hardiman’s The Lengths, the anthropomorphism factor is a long-standing and highly effective tool in comics for, ironically, emphasising a character’s humanity all the more intensely by superficially stripping them of it. In Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park, Wright’s employment of this old comics stand-by is utilised to great measure and its conceptual denouement, in a scene later on in the book, is both unforgettably powerful and deeply moving.
Wright works in a deliberately limited colour palette of blues and reds, giving the world of Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park an idiosyncratic look that draws the reader in with its carefully crafted and eye-catching design sense. Occasional divergent trips into symbolic fantasy abound throughout. In one memorable sequence Nye daydreams of himself as a grim and gritty ‘90s-style superhero taking on the porcine tobacco barons of Carcinogenia who played their part in his father’s illness. But there are quieter moments of more reflective metaphor as well, pertaining to the strained relationship and history of the two men and the journey his father is taking towards the inevitable end.
Things to Do is not just a poignant study of the complexities of the father-son dynamic or of coming to terms with parental mortality, it’s also an often very funny memoir. Not least because of Nye Wright’s portrayal of his father’s irascibility, his own self-deprecating wit and some choice moments of darkly humorous dialogue. Honest, inventive and resonant, this is a confident and impressive debut; a remarkable breakout work that speaks to the reader on many different levels and, even this early in 2012, one that I suspect will be on many people’s best of the year lists in just under twelve months time…
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