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Little Nothings, Volume Three: Uneasy Happiness
posted February 23, 2010
NBM, softcover, 128 pages, February 2010, $14.95
1561635766 (ISBN10), 9781561635764 (ISBN13)
I am a fairly unreliable critic when it comes to the Lewis Trondheim Little Nothings
books. It's one of the few series that vaults to the head of the reading pile whenever it shows up in the mailbox, this despite the fact that I've followed it on-line in its original French-language incarnation. For whatever reason, Trondheim's diary comics play to a number of things I nearly always find enjoyable in comics: an acerbic and idiosyncratic world view, pretty pictures, frequent gags, places I've never visited, comics industry backstage anecdotes made real. It's smart and well-executed, and I always laugh despite myself at least once -- in this volume it was the punchline to the strip about how cool it might be to be a caveman.
So while it may be more difficult than usual to come to a grand, critical summing-up, I still enjoy mentioning new volumes because I suspect that a lot of what I like is a lot of what would make something good. Also, we don't really have anything else like this comic right now, not in North America, not someone this talented working this particular territory with such reliable clarity. As we enter volume three in the series, any attentive reader should be able to point out many of the commonly repeating motifs: Trondheim feels old, he switches between over confidence and self-recrimination, he gently chides himself for certain expressions of a juvenile mindset, his conception of having fun outdoors rarely matches the reality, and so on. They're all here. He even goes back to Angouleme.
What keeps Little Nothings
from becoming dull -- and there were a couple of sequences in this book (the mouse; Fiji) that were probably the least engaging of the entire series thus far -- is that Trondheim is an immensely successful artist, seems to have a stable personal life, and comes across as a fairly affable, reasonable person. This means that these sometimes-fussy moments of introspection aren't automatically processed as windows into some greater, crippling, personal truth as much as they remain portraits of incidental reality. Trondheim's also really good about nailing the specifics that fall his way, such as an ability to find the red-light district in any new city that's apparently so refined he even encounters one on a rural highway. You can almost feel Trondheim seizing on the quirkier incidents. Another thing I noticed this time around were more strips that commented on the act of creation, and even this specific project, like his discovery he left a tape recorder running and points out what it's like to listen to moments of your life that would otherwise be headed into oblivion. Something tells me that even those moments might be more amusing on Trondheim's tape than something similar from most people I know.