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posted May 13, 2009
Edward Sorel, Adam Begley, Christopher Hitchens
Harmony Books, hardcover, 120 pages, 2009, $19.99
This is a quality little (literally; it's manga-sized) gift book that I hope people will remember come the holidays. Adam Begley's to-the-point profiles are basically dinner speech introductions where the object is to humiliate rather than venerate their subject. They're hit pieces, straight and to the point, built around the premise that when people are really, really sure of something, the two likely end results are evil or schadenfreude. The book's momentum comes from bouncing back and forth between those two outcomes, a parade of buffoons and madmen. The Edward Sorel portraiture is what makes this of any interest to the comics fan. It's a fine selection of Sorel profiles -- hardly exhaustive, and not even one for every mini-essay, but serviceable. With Sorel the nice thing is that he can do people like Madonna but there's a weight to his drawings that makes his historical portraits even more insouciant fun. His Emma Goldman barrels off the page and into your face like a tossed, wet washcloth; his George Custer is a lumpen pile of gold betrayed by attackers that take the shape of the entire world. The size and restrictive nature of the book keep this from being a must-buy -- it's hardly a visual showcase -- and it feels slightly over-expensive, but I can't imagine any literate adults of my acquaintance failing to be amused by something
in here. Also: Sorel actually pulls of an author's photo while wearing a hat, which all by itself is a lifetime achievement.