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AEIOU: Any Easy Intimacy (The Girlfriend Trilogy) Paperback
by Jeffrey Brown (Author, Artist)
The final chapter of Jeffrey Brown's so-called "Girlfriend Trilogy." AEIOU continues to explore the subtleties of relationships examined in Clumsy and Unlikely, concentrating this time on the differences between knowing and loving someone, invoking the reader's relationship with the book as a parallel to being involved with someone. The story is told with Brown's trademark expressive drawings and juxtaposition of humor and heartache.
Apparently, one of the side effects of dating Brown is that he draws a comics memoir about you afterwards. This work, originally published in a limited edition, is Brown's follow-up to his previous dating books Clumsy and Unlikely, and documents the author's relationship with his third girlfriend (a co-worker at a video store) in detail, dredging up some emotionally loaded details. Like those other works, it's drawn in a deceptively low-key, dashed-off-looking way, with one or two little square panels on each page; and it again focuses on the banalities of predate small talk, mid-relationship kidding around and angsty postcoital chatter. Brown and Sophia hang out, have sex, break up, talk on the phone about their relationship, get back together, break up again, make out, argue, etc. There's no plot and no resolution, just a series of snapshots of the moments of intimacy that stick in a lover's memory. Brown draws beautifully—offhand-looking doodles have a magisterial sureness. There are a couple of fine set pieces, too, especially a section called "The Long Pause Before a First Kiss."
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Top Shelf
I really enjoyed ANY EASY INTIMACY. The emotion of this book clicked with me in ways I would have never expected. Brown tells a disjointed, autobiographical story of his relationship with Sophie, a somewhat neurotic graduate student. It's a warts-and-all confession, chronicling their ups and downs as a couple. With no substantial outside narration, there is no blame dropped at anyone's feet, only the reader's reaction to the characters' actions. One feels for Brown as he is repeatedly jerked around, but we also grow frustrated with his often inappropriate responses. Which isn't to say ANY EASY INTIMACY is some kind of downer. Things are good for the bulk of the book as Brown lovingly details the pair's idiosyncrasies and how their relationship is defined by the way those quirks fit together. It's romantic in its own odd way.
There were still hurdles to my enjoying this graphic novel. The art is just as woefully inadequate as I remembered, and it took me about a quarter of the book to get past the "sketchbook diaries" style. Even after I did, I groaned at some of the cloying sweetness of the moments Brown chose to show, which reminded me of cartoon diary pioneer James Kochalka's hamfisted strips about love. Yet, I kept feeling compelled to turn the page, and as the story grew more honest, I grew consistently more involved. There's a real heart that any quibbles about craft can't cover up.
Regardless of whether or not you liked Jeffrey Brown before--and let's be honest, those of us who didn't may never click with any of his future work, either--ANY EASY INTIMACY is a book that deserves your attention. While its rawness may initially be this comic book's biggest stumbling block, it will ultimately prove to be its greatest reward.
Jeffrey Brown is not the most talented artist around. I'm sure he'd probably be the first to admit that fact. His art is simplistic and unrefined. Brown's true talent is as a writer and in conveying those painful, real-life emotions and experiences that we all go through. Brown has always allowed readers to get a glimpse into his life to see the good, the bad, and the painful.
Sometimes sweet, sometimes insightful, and sometimes agonizing in it's sheer emotion, his latest work, "An Easy Intimacy" is a book-length tale of an up and down, and then really down, relationship between Jeffrey and Sophia. Jeffrey is a video store clerk, in his twenties who is introduced to Sophia, a younger, bohemian type. Their relationship progresses from playful petting to their first night of sex where Sophia admits to it being her first time...with a man. Over the course of the 200 plus page book, the story unfolds in an episodic format with one no more than two or three pages devoted to a single segment. These segments can be wildly disjointed in their tone and one makes the assumption that this was also the case between Jeffrey and Sophia. Still, if I can find one thing to nitpick with it would be rapid fire scene changes which seem to leave some issues unresolved.
Sophia suffers from bouts of depression and threatens to hurt herself as she had in the past. She at once seems to be deeply depressed every time they have sex, and yet she often is the one who initiates it with Jeffrey, leading to ever growing frustration on his part. She further frustrates Jeffrey by having coffee with another guy claiming it's just as friends. Men know full well it's rarely just as friends. It's truly excruciating watching their relationship's highs and lows because it is so very true to life. There are certainly aspects that all of us can identify with.
Crude art aside, Brown is certainly skilled at drawing on life's experiences to put the reader on an emotional rollercoaster. Another fine effort from Brown.
Rest assured that the titles and pictures of all the items up are accurate. Each book was photographed individually...the picture you're seeing is of the ACTUAL ITEM!