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Our Ever Improving Living Room
posted July 18, 2013
Kevin Budnik, Ivan Brunetti (Introduction)
Yeti Press, softcover, 372 pages, 2013, $20.
I read this in a bunch of different settings. The first time I read about 50 pages and decided to put the book down, with a last stop by Ivan Brunetti's introduction. Brunetti's extremely generous write-up on cartoonist Kevin Budnik and this work made me read the book front cover to back. Finally, I read about 200 pages of this material while awake during a specific, low-level dark night of the soul. It was that third reading where I finally got at some of the strengths Brunetti sees here. Budnik displays a consistent, appealing outlook on life that seems honest in its lack of verve. If there are quiet people that boil and rage inside, Budnik comes across as a quiet person even more tamped down once you get to know him. There's little here that's self-flattery.
The 366 cartoons in Our Ever Improving Living Room
remain a tough slog at times. While the tone remains steady, the quality of Budnik's observations ricochets from gutter to gutter. If the day offers a funny anecdote, such a scene where Budnik accidentally triggers a CTA train alert intercom much to the delight of two of his fellow travelers, Budnik's work picks up. Left to dwell in his own head we frequently get something summary and ordinary about his loneliness or past relationships or an inability to touch women. This may make for better art given the idea of a diary: all of worlds are filled with the banal right next to the wonderful. It still doesn't make those strips any easier to read. I'd like to see future work from the cartoonist, and I'd also like to see a bit less of it published, if only for Budnik's sake.