The Left Bank Gang by Jason

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The Left Bank Gang
By Jason
Fantagraphics

JasonEver though you had something pegged, only to have the rug pulled out from under you? It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with Jason books. Those gaunt, French, anthropomorphic animals, chain smoking and acting all existential-like, victims of their own ever-trendy Parisian malaise. You think that you’ve pretty much got the point, by page two.

Granted, the initial conceit seems a little harder to accept, this time out. Jason’s now-familiar cast of animal actors are portraying some of 20th century’s best-known wordsmiths: Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, the Fitzgeralds, etc., living the life of ex-pat cartoonists on Paris’s left bank, a point that the author goes to great lengths to reinforce over the first few pages.

The story plays out as two to three page vignettes—brief encounters between the struggling writers, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but nothing too far out of the ordinary, once temporary suspension of disbelief sets in.

And then, somewhere near the halfway mark, thanks to a plan hatched by Hemingway, our storyline gets a firm yank, launching us into something altogether different.

‘Caper’ seems appropriate. Rashomon meets Reservoir Dogs, maybe? Jason manages, in a few short panels, to take us about as far from our original trajectory as humanily possible, whilst maintain all of the key factors of his storyline. The rhythmic ennui of the first 20-odd pages is swapped out for an open-ended tenseness that doesn’t let up until the final panel.

One suspects that, perhaps the author grew tired of his storyline, and decided halfway in that it was time to start entertaining himself, flipping channels on his own plotline. Whatever his motivation, it’s clear that by the end of the book, Jason is having a good deal of fun with his own plot twists, crafting something half-Hitchcock, half-indie heist flick. It’s a ride that you didn’t know you had signed up for, when you bought the ticket, and after 46 pages, it’s one that ends far too soon.

–Brian Heater

No Comments to “The Left Bank Gang by Jason”

  1. Nissen | February 22nd, 2007 at 2:50 am

    About the second half: You should see Stanley Kubricks film The Killing. The storyline is straight from this classic film.

    Funny idea and a great book altogether.

  2. MarkAndrew | February 22nd, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    You could be right. Jason’s stuff is usually soooo-o-o-o-o tightly plotted. And here was Left Bank Gang, and I end with “what the hell is THIS, then.”

    Great idea. Didn’t really work for me in the end.

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