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