Created by George Wylesol
Avery Hill 2023
BASEMENT HOSPITAL CORRIDORS go on for fifty, one hundred, maybe more miles and miles of corridors, with one person at night on duty centered in a small office where he has a desk and a computer, surrounded by winding emptiness. This is the first long story in the book CURSES, inviting you gradually, quietly, into a collection of short comics by creator George Wylesol that runs 276 pages, and churns steadily forward.
One gets the feeling some place like that night office is where this meandering edifice emerged, where the mad creator pours himself into lives he lived, and imaginary lives he might have lived. It all feels wackily authentic.
The number of stories is hard to tell. The details are hard to tell. The first page lists a dozen curses, each with a plain, somewhat crude, stamp-sized graphic and label. The page looks like a table of contents, but the curses never reappear. Maybe as currents. It must be rather a story on its own, a final signature to say the mad creator is done with this set. Such fractures, and multiplicity of details, disrupts a good count or mere list of what to expect.
The motif of arranging rows and columns of graphic stamps with a label, or short word bar on the edge, is repeated throughout. Series of things are pictured and labeled, like a scrapbook of flickering memories; and the multiple pointillist blots strangely blend into a semi-luminous phenomenal whole.
The eyes follow. Panels and pages are sometimes blank, or almost blank. Empty space is ever our friend. Backgrounds change, streak and grow, and occasionally overpower the panels. Then the style changes, fills the space, changes again, and effuses into smashing full-page spreads of sharp colors jammed together.
Come sober for the first chapter in the hospital basement. There you first meet the theme of the drapery, a garment of the self, left over to ghost the hallways. I wanted to review just that one story, with its layers of meaning, and realms of interpretation, but then I hit the next one, “The Rabbit”: a totally psychedelic, ploddingly compelling trip, following a small boy exploring the woods near his summer home, where numerous watching eyes—the organ where tiny creatures concentrate their intelligence—speak to him. He experiences the voices, and voice of nature.
Get high for that one. Maybe higher for what follows. Sometimes I laughed out loud at the truth portrayed in the crude squiggles and frames, positioned and spaced so well the mind floats over it all on one’s own personal wave, borne on the tide of asteroidal impressions.
The velocity of details is continually interrupted by purposeful ambiguity. Nonsense intrudes to jar reality just enough so the symbolism of the space takes hold, inviting one’s own experiences to fill in the blanks. The best use of the technique, among numerous varieties, is in a collection of memo-sized stories placed in columns, with parts redacted by some omniscient censor, maybe the diarist not wishing to relive those parts.
Other word art in titles, stories, and graphics is enchanting. Epistemologies shake. Language totters. Balance trembles. All with potentially pleasing results. As in a square holding the word “b e re f t” letters scattered to the corners with “re” in the center; and in the title “Por N” changed on the next page to “Prom”—one in clear block letters, the other in a barely intelligible swish—intertwining related stories that occur at the same time. Here the word play excels. No labels on the images that flicker by, so occasional declarations, broken words, and redacted memos become one more image in the panoply.
“I knew this would happen.”
I pumped through this whole massively illustrated book in full daylight, which seemed somehow wrong, after the first story “Ghosts” set the mood. Adding a music playlist of the whole folder Alternative Rock supplied the right fuel. I only had a digital copy of the book. For best impact, you will want to hold CURSES in your hands.
For safety reasons, administer in regulated doses. Store the book close by, where you can replace it by muscle memory without knowing quite where you are. Do not in g est at the wo rkpl ace. You will be sent home.
[Editor’s note: Curses is available on Avery Hill’s sales platform: Curses by George Wylesol | Avery Hill Publishing (bigcartel.com)]