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Twentieth Century Eightball by Daniel Clowes

Trailing the success of the movie based on Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World (1997) comes this collection of shorter stories from his alternative comic book Eightball. Many of the pieces are tirades, albeit entertaining ones, about things Clowes despises (perhaps the comic should have been called Hateball). “On Sports” details his contempt for professional athletics, and “Art School Confidential” is an expose of pretentious, talentless poseurs. This approach is carried to its logical peak in “I Hate You Deeply,” a litany of the “types” that annoy Clowes, from “fashion plates” to “crybabies, whiners, and sensitive people.” Clowes puts his misanthropy in abeyance for slice-of-life stories in which he ruminates during a stroll around his neighborhood or fantasizes about his fellow passengers on a subway. Worthwhile enough, these earlier stories merely presage Clowes’ far-more-impressive recent work in which cynicism is presented more subtly, leavened with sympathy, and voiced by well-developed characters. If these pieces lack the heft of Clowes’ longer, more ambitious efforts, the best of them are still masterful miniatures.

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