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posted October 27, 2004
Esoteric Tales, No Price Given, 16 pages, 2004
is a very slight mini-comic given an equally slight package, approximately two and half inches wide by three and half inches tall. As a result it is a little but very proper book. The narrator -- perhaps a stand-in for Mr. Bennett -- comes out of a downpour, rides the elevator up to his place, and goes about his post-soaked business. What passes for conflict arises from the neighbors with whom he rides up in the elevator. They fail to communicate with him in any way, but fight and bicker in a loud and annoying way that continues to be heard through the apartment walls.
allows Bennett to explore a few lucid moments of the mundane of the type that fascinated the great wave of autobiographical cartoonists in the 1990s. The pacing stays very deliberate, and at one point our hero turns to a mirror and shouts "Turbana!" in a way that's weird and familiar. The little story also gives its author a chance to work through some pretty blunt connections. Like the rainstorm outside, the downpour of overheard, inane bickering from the neighbors doesn't stop. At story's end, Bennett has covered himself in his own protective shell of pillows that barely do the job intended. His safe harbor has become just as unsafe and intrusive as his shoddy rain hat.
Bennett may turn out to be a consistently interesting cartoonist if he can resist his tendency to present things in an over precious fashion, and continues to be vigilant about distinctions between tedium and universality. For all its modesty in terms of narrative ambition, packaging and scope, this is a better book than the most recent issue of his Esoteric Tales
, with a sharp but understated '60s gag-book look an added bonus.