Twenty years in the making, Clyde Fans peels back the optimism of mid-twentieth century capitalism. Abe and Simon Matchcard are brothers, the second generation struggling to save their archaic family business of selling oscillating fans in a world switching to air-conditioning. As the business crumbles, so does any remaining relationship between the brothers, both of whom choose very different life paths but still end up utterly unhappy.
Seth is the pen name of the Canadian cartoonist Gregory Gallant, and I think he’s a genius ... nothing could have prepared me for Clyde Fans ... There is a kind of magic in this one. For a long time – it runs to almost 500 pages – you think you’re reading the story of two elderly brothers. It’s a terribly sad story, but it also feels quite small and clenched and familiar. Only when you finally put it down, do you realise you were utterly wrong. Out of the particular springs the universal. What Seth has given us is nothing short of the story of mid-20th century capitalism: of all that it promised, and all that it failed to deliver ... Seth draws in shades of blue and black – the colours of melancholy, and of (to me) smoky jazz – and he pays special attention to things like advertising hoardings, rotary telephones and greasy diners. The look of Clyde Fans like all his books, is nostalgic without being sentimental. But it’s his extraordinary empathy that marks this one out: the way he depicts the queasy churn of his characters’ emotional lives; their delusions and missteps and repressed rage ... It opens with an interior monologue that runs to almost 100 pages, something that should be practically illegal in a comic, but which, in his hands, makes you feel as if you’re sitting in a theatre, watching some brilliant actor perform Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. Truly, it’s a masterpiece.
Clyde Fans, is a brilliant trip that also plays tricks on you, slowing down, speeding up, going backward, creating endless loops ... Seth draws time out, both literally and metaphorically. It took him over 20 years to finish this book ... His drawing style changed over those years. It’s as if Clyde Fans itself is a monument to passing time ...Open Clyde Fans and let Seth take you into his time machine. The technology is relatively simple: cardboard, binding, glue, thread, paper and ink, words and pictures. Most of the drawings are in black and blue, as if the entire novel were composed of bruises. Perhaps we’re being reminded that the past can be a painful place to visit. There’s no room for nostalgia in Seth’s vision. The past is as sharp and painful as the present. In fact, the past is the present, conjured in words and pictures, existing in the spaces between what’s said and unsaid, what’s seen and unseen. It’s in these spaces where Seth knows alchemical reactions occur. In the end, as we close the pages on Simon and Abe and step back into our own lives, we might feel — even for just a moment — that we finally know what time looks like.
[Seth] calls it 'the biggest book I will ever make'. This collected edition pulls it all together for the first time. It is a deeply realised labour of love ... Clyde Fans is packed with affectionate detail: models of fans, contemporary adverts, wonderfully realised street scenes and re-creations of the hokey 20s postcards that Simon collects ... The result is a sad symphony in blue and grey, drawn in a style that harks back to postwar newspaper strips. Thick lines form expressive faces and art deco facades, and panels linger on shadows, empty streets and daily rituals, lending the graphic novel a gentle but compelling rhythm ... This is a book about nostalgia and regret, but it finds magic in all manner of places ... This artful and heartfelt book balances rosiness and realism, making precious fiction from the stuff of ordinary lives.