The Pogo­stick is a cult clas­sic de­spite an un­re­solved cliff-hanger

The Sunday Guardian - - Bookbeat -

Fan­ta­graph­ics Writer: Al Columbia Artist: Ethan Per­soff Freudian metaphors and se­quences are a pow­er­ful tool in the hands of con­tem­po­rary writ­ers. In nov­els like Portnoy’s Com­plaint we have seen how they can bring out the neu­roses of a char­ac­ter in an un­usu­ally ac­cu­rate way; the phrase “dream logic” is quite lit­eral in these cases. The graphic novel medium gives artists the li­cense to go a step fur­ther and di­rectly in­clude sit­u­a­tions that Freud dis­cussed in In­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dreams. In Al Columbia and Ethan Per­soff’s The Pogo­stick, we see the pro­tag­o­nist, a melan­choly lit­tle man called Au­drey Grin­field (the irony of the name be­comes obvi- ous fairly early on, when we see that Au­drey isn’t likely to break into a grin any­time soon) who does what can only be de­scribed as grunt work at a de­sign firm that spe­cialises in “nuts, screws, wash­ers, bolts and riv­ets.”

We are told that about a year ago, Grin­field had to choose a night shift at his firm due to a brain freeze mo­ment where he walked through the of­fice with his penis ex­posed, not re­al­is­ing that he for­got to zip up his pants in the toi­let. This, then, forms the crux of The Pogo­stick: it is the nu­cleus of Grin­field’s mousy, clean­f­reak, deeply in­se­cure be­hav­iour tics. The se­quence, aided by Per­soff’s car­toon­ish grotesque art, be­comes a Freudian ther­apy ses­sion by proxy. Grin­field un­der­goes what Freud calls “The Em­bar­rass­ment-Dream of Naked­ness”, only in real life.

Freud writes, in The In­ter­pre­ta­tion of Dreams: “The dreamer’s em­bar­rass­ment and the spec­ta­tor’s in­dif­fer­ence con­sti­tute a con­tradic- tion such as of­ten oc­curs in dreams. It would be more in keep­ing with the dreamer’s feel­ings if the strangers were to look at him in as­ton­ish­ment, or were to laugh at him, or be out­raged. I think, how­ever, that this ob­nox­ious fea­ture has been dis­placed by wish-ful­fil­ment, while the em­bar­rass­ment is for some rea­son re­tained, so that the two com­po­nents are not in agree­ment.”

Hence, when Columbia tells us “He walked through all of Mogg’s be­fore he no­ticed his mis­take”, he is sug­gest­ing that be­cause of Grin­field’s al­ready frag­ile men­tal health, he ex­pe­ri­enced the early part of his episode in a dream-like state, where the “wish-ful­fil­ment” part of his brain switched off a re­al­ity that hit home later, with dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences: peo­ple were look­ing, and some of them were dis­gusted enough to lodge a com­plaint.

Columbia is bet­ter known for his art­work ( The Biologic Show, Pim and Fran­cie) but here, his writ­ing is near peak form, per­haps be­cause of the re­duced work­load. The Pogo­stick was can­celled af­ter two is­sues, leav­ing the se­ries on a bit of a cliff-hanger. This slight blem­ish aside, it is a com­pelling read, one that might even cause you to re-eval­u­ate your pri­or­i­ties in life.

We are told that about a year ago, Grin­field had to choose a night shift at his firm due to a brain freeze mo­ment where he walked through the of­fice with his penis ex­posed, not re­al­is­ing that he for­got to zip up in the toi­let. This is the nu­cleus of Grin­field’s mousy, clean-freak, deeply in­se­cure be­hav­iour tics.

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