Aug 05, 2008
Swallow Me Whole
By Nate Powell
Growing up, of course, is never simple. But for the bright kids—the artists, the thinkers, the introverts, the social outcasts—said complexity is oft times unwittingly compounded, as resistance toward conformity, be it conscious or accidental, does battle with bodies in a state of constant physical, social, and emotional flux. Tackling the emotional schizophrenia that is growing up in prose is an intensely difficult task. Coupling that with a visual representation can prove even more complex.
Joshua Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest, arguably the most affecting and affective coming of age story that the medium has been offered up this year thus far, addressed the topic powerfully by means of fantasy, blurring the lines between the real and the imagined through his protagonist’s frequent flights into visual escapism. That same tool is employed by Nate Powell with more troubling results in Swallow Me Whole. The book lives on the thin line that separates healthy childhood escapism from serious emotional disorder.
After a senile grandmother is moved into their home, the delusions begin simply enough, as daydreams, perhaps, or manifestations of stress. Powell’s young protagonist, Ruthy, is visited in her room by a cloud of cicadas, the American South variation on locusts, those Old Testament harbingers of plague.
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