Each month we host a Graphic Novel Book Club meeting, open to all, during which we hang out and informally discuss a featured graphic novel. Our pick for August 2019 was Clyde Fans by Seth.
Twenty years in the making, Clyde Fans peels back the optimism of mid-twentieth century capitalism. Legendary Canadian cartoonist Seth lovingly shows the rituals, hopes, and delusions of a middle-class that has long ceased to exist in North America—garrulous men in wool suits extolling the virtues of the wares to taciturn shopkeepers with an eye on the door. Much like the myth of an ever-growing economy, the Clyde Fans family unit is a fraud—the patriarch has abandoned the business to mismatched sons, one who strives to keep the business afloat and the other who retreats into the arms of the remaining parent.
Abe and Simon Matchcard are brothers, the second generation struggling to save their archaic family business of selling oscillating fans in a world switching to air conditioning. At Clyde Fans’ center is Simon, who flirts with becoming a salesman as a last-ditch effort to leave the protective walls of the family home, but is ultimately unable to escape Abe’s critical voice in his head. As the business crumbles so does any remaining relationship between the two men, both of whom choose very different life paths but still end up utterly unhappy.
The discussion tonight was amazing! We had the executive editor of the book, Tom Devlin hosting. We were given a lot of insider information on how Seth thinks and acts, and how that translates into his work. We discussed why it was such a hard book for Seth to finish, and how it took him 20 years. We all had our questions about how a book is put out into the world. Devlin also gave a very interesting history lesson on graphic novels and Drawn and Quarterly.
One of the topics that came up frequently was how Clyde Fans seems almost like a study on nostalgia. Seth himself, as we were told, is a very nostalgic person himself. He collects Canadiana, such as old ads from the Hutson Bay Company. At the end of the book there is an author photo of Seth standing in from the of the real Clyde Fans, long closed down. And he is wearing an old timey outfit like his character in the book. Apparently he always dresses like this, but his style has evolved since the photo was taken in the 90s. He wears gloves during the summer and an old timely hat indoors. I personally love an artist who is character in themselves.
This led us to talk about stores in our neighborhood that make us nostalgic, like Clyde Fans made Seth feel. We named the obvious Saint Viateur Bagels, Wilensky, and Beauties. All of these are still open however. We are thankful that they didn't close like the poor Clyde Fans in Toronto, put out of business by air conditioning companies.
Join us next time to discuss Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell on September 12th 2019
You can order the book here, and pick them up in store. Receive a 20% discount on all books being read for a book club!
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