Seth, for those of you who don’t know, is a very particular graphic artist with a genuinely distinctive eye and an offbeat interest in the past – both in the general and the specific. You pick up any Seth book you’ll quickly get the impression Seth has something of an obsession with how things used to be and what has been lost in getting us to where we are. This manifests itself in the collection of obscure comic strips from the 30s and 40s (or earlier), in the construction of small scale versions of city buildings (if you watch Seth: Dominion, you’ll see how Seth has been building his own mini city in the basement of his home) but also in a kind of ennui, for his childhood and the way he imagines or remembers the world to have been back then.
Palookaville is Seth’s ongoing periodical, which began in pamphlet form in April 1991 and continued more or less annually until 2010 when Seth changed tack and released Palookaville 20 as a hardback book. As such, Palookaville‘s 20-23 are relatively easy to get your hands on. Pre-issue 20, much harder. These books stand, to an extent, to the side of books such as It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken, George Sprott or Wimbledon Green, in that they present glimpses and excerpts from works in progress, images of Seth’s art and slight returns to previous stories. We are stopping by Seth here, raising our hat, enjoying a passing word. Palookaville 23 presents us with the latest instalment of Seth’s memoir, Nothing Lasts (which again we’d imagine will be collected in its entirety at some point – but which functions as a standalone reminiscence about Seth’s childhood), some paintings which Seth has exhibited recently, and a final, ghostly chapter that concludes Clyde Fans – the life of which is as good an example of the peripatetic way Seth’s narratives evolve as you are likely to find, starting out as segments in early Palookavilles before being collected as Clyde Fans Part One and Part Two (in 2000 and 2003 respectively) and then Clyde Fans Book One (issued 2004).
“This night has been a lesson,” the transient narrator of that final Clyde Fans segment tells us, “a classroom,
“So that I might understand… The beauty and solemnity… That comes with solitude, estrangement, decay… The charm of that which is veiled and private. The hushed perfection of retreat… And the grace that comes… With willing surrender to invisibility.”
This is as good an introduction to Seth as you could want. You don’t have to be put off by the 23. You can start here and then push off from the bank with the heels of your feet and read all the rest. There really is no one else like him and Palookaville 23 is as good an explanation of why you should check him out as you are likely to find.
Any Cop?: Sweet, solemn and sad, the latest Seth sees him shoulder his genius like a burden to explore the dark cavities of his past.