Douglas Noble’s Live Static – difficult, complex, brilliant.
Strip For Me: Live Static
“It’s a horror story about love. It’s a romance about memory. It’s a dream of forgetting.”
That’s how Noble describes the 3 part Live Static – told in issues 28-30 of his Strip For Me series.
There’s a man, there’s a woman, they live together in something that may once have been a good, loving relationship. But now it all seems lost, they communicate so badly, disconnected from each other. He watches too much television, seeing programmes full of strange, apocalyptic messages, shows unlike those he’s seen before, he imagines giant spiders that reach out from behind the screen and take him inside. Is he in the middle of some sort of breakdown? Or is it something stranger?
The couple bicker, they argue, they go on holiday to a deserted beach where they continue to converse in ever increasing frustration, never really talking to each other, just going through the motions of togetherness.
And that’s just the first issue. From there it get’s stranger. Reality and fantasy begin to blur and we’re left wondering what we’re seeing. Is he hallucinating, is he divorced, are they together, does he really carry out those murderous thoughts or is he just imagining it all? Perhaps it’s all just the memories of a man who killed his love. But was it a murderously violent physical death or merely an emotional, metaphorical killing of the love they had together? That’s left to the reader to decide.
(A picture of domestic disintegration. From Live Static issue 1 by Douglas Noble)
In three issues, seventy odd pages in total, Noble tells a fascinating, compelling and really haunting story of love, loss, desperation and melancholic isolation. There’s also layer after layer of deliberately disconnected ambiguous events and nightmarish fantasy interludes that make this a difficult and confusing read – in all the best ways – intriguing enough to get me to read it three times to properly get a handle on it.
Except I’m still not sure how much of a handle I have… the first time I read it I saw something dark, dreamlike and murderous in it, the second time something tragic and telling of lost loves and a relationship beyond repair and the third time…… well, I’m just not sure.
So one thing is certain with Live Static, it’s a compelling work and Noble certainly tells his tale with depth and multiple layers, making it a haunting, complex work that demands your attention.
(Darker, stranger, more disconnected. A couple falling apart – but how will it end? From Live Static 1 by Douglas Noble)
Of course, to do this so effectively takes great skill and craft, and this makes Live Static so much more than just the story it tells – the real talent on show here is Noble’s ability to perfectly capture all the dark emotions of a couple dealing with the realisation that their love is lost and the naturalistic and dramatic dialogue he delivers through his characters. These are people you believe in, people you empathise with and people you want to understand. On top of that he adds the extra dreamlike layers of ambiguity, with that potential for something dark and nasty going on.
Or possibly I’m reading far too much into it. If so, Noble’s still managed to create a work that allows that sort of over-analysis by keeping everything uncertain and not spelled out to the casual reader. Each reading of it gave me something new, something different, some new layer and question about the events I was reading. There’s a fine line between writing difficult, complex work and writing overindulgent nonsense. Noble’s Live Static is most definitely the former, and that’s a very skilful and rare thing for a work, especially something this small, to be able to do.
Live Static is a complex, difficult, ambiguous work, but it’s an extremely rewarding one that will leave you determined to unravel it’s mysteries. It’s excellent stuff.
Unfortunately Live Static has sold out right now but Noble tells me that this year he’s planning to self-publish two books; the first containing the recent issues of Strip For Me and a new story and the second containing these three issues of Live Static and more which should be called “What We Know about Falling Apart”. Difficult but essential reading.