Dreams And Everyday Life
By Aviv Ratzin
Dreams and Everyday Life is the first graphic novel by Israeli animator and artist Aviv Ratzin. It’s part surreal view on the everyday, part poetic flight of fancy and part philosophical (internal) debate. All of these things I am pre-disposed to like.
The art is strangely reminiscent of McCloud’s self-image in Understanding Comics, as Ratzin includes himself as a faceless, top-hatted figure, capable of literally flying through his narrative as he jumps and flies from place to place, idea to idea. A 2D image given voice, flesh, form and dimension.
And the style, Ratzin’s voice throughout reminds me a little of comedian Steven Wright’s comedy here, maybe a bit of Izzard …. there’s that same pattern of random ideas, non-sequiturs and surreal silliness. That same mix of nonsense and philosophy. All of these things I like as well.
Except it doesn’t particularly work here, too many times I just felt a little non-plussed by the disconnectedness of it all. Which, I know, is partly the point, and I know I’ve expressed great fondness for comics exploring the joy in the everyday before. This is meant to be a series of non-intrconnected musings on the quiet moments of life…. but it just didn’t have the spark it needed to make the individual moments gel and work as a unit. Instead of enchanting me, making me think and having each moment stand alone whilst simultaneously building on what had gone before, this just felt like someone giving me a disconnected list of things.
It starts very promisingly, with Ratzin musing on the nature of his work, effectively an introduction to the book itself, as you can see from the two pages above. Notice also the tiny little dialogue going on at the foot of that second page – that’s a regular, and damn funny feature all the way through.
But from here we’re racing, too fast, through Ratzen’s ideaspace – clothing choices, restaurant choices, errands in a heatwave, cleaning, competitive backgammon with friends, heat and companionship, hitchhikers who wont leave his car, parking trouble, cubist digestive troubles, the problems of chasing love, the difficulty of a mental block, shopping, drifting, visiting Grandma, the cliche of a bird in the hand, the problem of animator having no literal Hebrew translation, and getting back to work. Phew. And that lot all gets covered, a page or two each, in the first 36 pages.
You see what I mean about it jumping about perhaps a little too much? Disconnection sometimes works as a narrative device, but here it’s just disconnection.
Yet despite this problem, it’s readable, it’s artistically rather attractive and appropriately loose. The inevitable comparison to McCloud’s Understanding Comics is one I made early on, but there’s more to it than that; a nice touch finds Ratzin sharply inking his main characters and foreground action whilst leaving the (often dreamlike) environment hazy in muted greytones.
And once Ratzen does focus a little tighter, in the second story involving a particularly Hulk-like character rampagigng through the book (above) and especially by the final story (The Bubble – below) where Ratzin spends a good number of pages philosophising to great effect on the ubiquity of modern tech and it’s impact upon our lives, it shows he can certainly put a story together mixing all the philosophical musing with a tight narrative.
But by that stage, I fear my attention was lacking somewhat, lost in the earlier meanderings. It’s good, but I wanted it to be more than that. I honestly feel that with a little less free-wheeling in those earllier stages, a little mixing up of his pacing, a little more distinction between ideas, this would have been something really potentially great. As it is, it merely serves as an interesting first work. Enough to make a note of the name and hope for a second, better book from a developing artist, but nothing more.