30 January 2004

Two stories almost about me

Such is the nature of my generational / social class / cultural / tempermental position that few novels I have read really express the the tenor of my own life experience. But there are a couple of stories on the web which really get it.

One is by the dazzling web cartoonist Patrick Farley, whose Electric Sheep is a showcase of inventiveness and skillful comics storytelling often, but not always, laced with humor. In a later post, I introduce all of my favorite stories of his, but for today I just want to bring The Guy I Almost Was to your attention.

It's a long story for a web comic: give yourself 20 or 30 minutes to read it. Along the way it evokes the magic of a slightly geeky childhood, the economic desperation Generation X experienced in the early ’90s, the appeal and the absurdity of Mondo 2000 back in the days of “cyber-culture,” and the deep strange seductive power of the Beat era for intense young men. A tiny novel, in web comic form. It works for me. Maybe it will work for you.

My other offering in the tales of smart, weird, intense young men is The Serial Killer Jailbait Airline Lotto by the astonishing Igloowhite. Again, I'll be coming back to some of my favorite things of his in a later blog post. But for now, let me just introduce this one story about sharing a flight with a pretty young girl who, it turns out, is fascinated by serial killers.

At first, I thought this might be a conversational gambit, a feigned interest. But no — she was true to her word, tirelessly questioning me on everything I knew about the perpetrators of serial violence. She wanted to know why I knew so much, and I admitted that I was also obsessed with serial killers — to the extent that I (sheepishly) consider myself something of an armchair profiler.

So I spoke with her like I speak with all teenagers, like an adult. To say that she was amped was something of an understatement.

This odd encounter turns into a moment of clarity in which Igloo realizes that being smart, weird, and intense is a nightmare as a teenager, but eventually you grow into it, that it takes you to extraordinary places where ordinary folks cannot go — like a random conversation with a pretty girl about random murder. This is the kind of weird that turns up in my life, and Igloowhite captures it perfectly.

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