Title: I Never Liked You
Writer and Artist: Chester Brown
Chester Brown was a big part of my A-Z Challenge this year as artist and writer for four of the 26 comic books I featured, including two of my favorites: Louis Riel #4 and Yummy Fur #27. As noted in my A-Z post, Yummy Fur issues 26-30 were collected in graphic novel form as I Never Liked You. The story is an autobiographical account of Brown's teenage years in the Montreal suburb of Chateauguay.
Chester's a quiet guy. Kids at school make fun of him because they know he never swears - strictly forbidden by his parents to do so even away from school. He has friends, though, many of them female. One of the girls, Carrie, is clearly in love with him but he has no idea how to respond to it. His true affections are directed towards another girl in the neighborhood, Sly. Much of the story revolves around Chester's inability to relate to the women in his life, especially his mother, whose struggles with mental illness feature prominently in the narrative.
Just as I wrote in regards to Louis Riel, much of the power of Brown's work derives from its simplicity. Dialogue is sparse, the black and white panels uncomplicated and to the point. Chester shuts the people in his life out but as the readers, we are afforded an intimate view. He doesn't divulge many secrets but he doesn't need to. For us, at least, the important details are made plain enough.
I'm still undecided as to how I feel about Chester Brown. While I thoroughly enjoyed both this book and Louis Riel, the other works I've explored thus far have either disgusted me (Ed the Happy Clown #2) or left me cold (Underwater #2). I suppose I can say that I prefer his non-fiction to his fiction. I am genuinely curious about his other autobiographical works.